Food + Movies: Harry's Birthday Cake

By Brooke Bailey

Today, Harry Potter turns 37 (in fictional time, that is).

The beloved book series made its debut 20 years ago, and the world was introduced to a young Daniel Radcliffe almost 17 years ago.

(Peter Mountain / Warner Bros.)

(Peter Mountain / Warner Bros.)

There’s no doubt that the series has left a major impact on our generation. We grew up reading the books as they were released, attending the midnight movie premieres (with our parents because we couldn’t drive, of course), and waiting for our own Hogwarts letter to arrive. While the book series is extremely popular and beloved, the movie series is what cemented our love for the characters and the story; the Harry Potter movies gave us Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe (shameless BWFF 2017 plug), and introduced us to so many more legendary actors.

Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite food moments from the first Harry Potter movie: Harry's 11th birthday cake. To most, this small cake is insignificant, just another prop in the movie; at most, a kind gesture from the large intruder to the shack on the rock. To me, and to Harry, the cake means so much more.

I don’t want to get too sappy on ya’ll but I love Harry Potter and I love this cake.

This slightly squashed cake is the very first birthday present that Harry can ever remember receiving; it’s his first glimpse into life beyond his miserable circumstance. It’s also his first gift from any part of the magical world, and it’s not even magical itself. The cake signifies the first step that Harry takes into the wizarding world; he receives this cake right before he learns that he is much more important than he ever thought he was. The cake is hope for Harry.

Let’s get straight into the baking

This cake was super simple to make (because I used boxed cake mix + pre-made frosting) so it’ll be super simple for you to recreate in your own home.

I also have some hot tips for you if you too decide to make this cake: 

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1. Flour. your pans. 

Take a paper towel and rub butter (or shortening) on your pans, spoon some flour in and tap your pan until it's fully coated (I recommend doing this over a sink). This makes removing your cakes a whole lot easier.

2. Level one of the layers out.

Pick your bottom layer and, using a knife, very carefully cut the round top off, making the layer as flat as you can. This helps when icing your cake because there won't be a giant gap between layers, and your whole cake will be more even. It's honestly not a huge deal if it isn't perfectly level (see tip #4).

3. Use a ziplock bag to write on the cake

I ~happened~ to have a large stock of fancy icing bags, but you really don't need one to write the message on top. Fold the opening of the bag over a cup, scoop your icing in and then cut one of the corners off (be careful not to cut off too much). We're not aiming for bakery-level perfection here, so this method is easy and works just fine.

4. It doesn't need to be perfect

Honor the spirit of Rubeus Hagrid by making this cake a lil messy! It doesn't need to be exactly like it was in the movie; if you run out of icing (like I did) and it's a little thin in places, that's fine! Hagrid would be proud of your messy cake.

If you want to go all-out and make a homemade chocolate cake and icing, here's a recipe for chocolate cake that my sources tell me is great (+ a frosting) and here is the full recreation recipe that I used for my inspiration.

What you need:

  • Chocolate cake mix (+ ingredients it calls for)
  • 1 can of pre-made white or vanilla frosting
  • Pink and green food coloring
  • Piping bag (or ziplock bag)
  • Toothpick

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to your cake mix's specification. Butter and flour two 8-inch (or whatever you have) cake pans.

  2. Following the instructions for your cake mix, make the batter for your cake. 

  3. Pour the cake batter as evenly as you can between your two pans and bake in the preheated oven for the amount of time specified for your cake mix.

  4. While your layers are cooling on racks, divide your frosting. Put most of it in one bowl and leave around 1 or 2 tablespoons in the frosting can. In the bowl with the majority of the frosting, add several drops of red food coloring. You're going for a dark pink, so mix until you feel you have the correct color. Add green food coloring to the rest of the frosting until you achieve a medium to dark green.

  5. Once your layers have cooled, use a sharp knife to level off one of the layers (to the best of your ability).

  6. Place your bottom layer on whatever you're going to store / display your cake on (so you don't have to move it later). Add the pink frosting to middle and spread to the edges of the cake. Add your top layer and continue frosting until the entire cake is covered in pink frosting.

  7. I don't like to live my life too dangerously, so I lightly sketched out the message on top with a toothpick to make sure it all fit.

  8. After filling your piping / ziplock bag with the green frosting, pipe the message on. Take not! The message on the original cake is not spelled correctly.

  9. DONE! You did it! Congrats!

You can send my questions and pictures of your finished creations on Twitter @brookelbailey.

Happy Birthday, Harry!