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Cauldron Cakes, Cockroach Clusters, and Licorice Wands

14 Jul

Oh, bittersweet day. The last film of the Harry Potter series will be released at midnight, and I am both incredibly excited, but also sad that after I see the film… well, that’s it. No more movies, no more books. A character — no, an entire universe — that I grew up with will come to an end.

When I say that my generation grew up with Harry Potter, I mean my generation. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone was released in 1997, 2 months after my 11th birthday; within the first few chapters, Harry celebrates his 11th birthday. I am the HP generation.

In my humble opinion, I am intense about Harry Potter, but I’m not insane about Harry Potter. I attended one midnight book release party once with my cousins, I think maybe for the 6th book. I’ve never been to a midnight movie release, but I have always seen the movies within a week of their release, and I own all the so-far released DVDs. I was briefly addicted to two different HP computer games. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment of the series, was released, I read the entire book in two days, which was may attempt to pace myself and savor it. And I dragged the BF to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter a couple months after it opened at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure. So… maybe a little crazy.

In honor of the end of an era, I have a few Harry Potter-themed recipes to share with you. I have planned entire HP-themed Halloween parties in the past, and trust me, if you need more HP recipes, there are plenty online. These three will get you started though. I’ll be taking these with me to an outdoor screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which will set me up perfectly to see Part 2 in a few days. If you haven’t seen the Hogwarts Express tea trolley come by and you don’t have time to run over to Honeydukes, try out these recipes yourself. And if any Muggles ask you for the recipe, just tell them they were made with magic.

Cauldron Cakes

Chocolate cupcakes (cauldrons) filled with liquid chocolate are the simple concept behind these cakes. You can use whatever recipe you’d like, homemade or boxed. This recipe is for a basic chocolate cake. 

I started by preheating the oven to 350 F and lining a cupcake pan with papers. Then I whisked together 1 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.

In another bowl, I beat 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter with my hand mixer on medium for about 30 seconds. Then I gradually added  1 1/4 cup sugar, scraping the sides of the bowl, mixing for 2-3 minutes. I added 2 eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Then I beat in 1 tsp vanilla. To finish the batter, I alternated adding the flour mixture and 1 cup milk, beating until well incorporated. 

Cauldron Cake Batter

I filled cupcake tins not too full — I didn’t want a muffin top puffing out from the cupcakes. This batch made for about 20 cupcakes. I baked them for about 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through.

I used my magic wand to fill these evenly and perfectly.

I pulled the cupcakes out and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then I removed them from the pan and let them cool completely. Now for the contents of the cauldron: chocolate ganache. My ganache recipe is a simple 2:1 ratio of chocolate to butter. So for this recipe, I melted 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter with my simple microwave technique: dump it in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave it on 20-second intervals, stirring well after each round, until it’s smooth.

I used a cupcake corer to scoop a hole out of the middle of each cupcake. I spooned some ganache in and let it cool. The butter will allow it to firm up without getting hard. Abracadabra! A chocolate cauldron filled to the brim with liquid dark chocolate.

You won't need a Vanishing Spell to clear out these Cauldron Cakes.


Cockroach Clusters

These are super easy and make a great addition to a Harry Potter or Halloween spread. Only 2 ingredients, and very few steps.

First start out by melting some chocolate — I used Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate chips. Same process as for the ganache above: microwave on 20-second intervals, stirring well after each round, until it’s smooth.

Melting some chocolateOnce I had smooth chocolate, I mixed in a handful of dried chow mein noodles. (You can use wheat or rice, either works fine).

The ingredients.Don’t worry about specific measurements, just mix in what looks right. You want them to be sufficiently crunchy without any of the noodles sticking out too much. As I stirred them together, I used the spoon to crunch up some of the bigger pieces. Then I just scooped out spoonfuls and plopped them on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and left them to harden. I had a tiny bit of chocolate left in the bottom of the bowl, so I added a few dollops to the clusters that looked like they could use some extra glue.

Cockroach Clusters

Licorice Wands

These are also super easy. With the same chocolate melting process, I melted some white chocolate chips: microwave on 20-second intervals, stirring well after each round, until it’s smooth. I seem to have more difficulty with white chocolate than regular chocolate, so make sure you’re doing shorter intervals and stirring a little more vigorously.

Then I coated one end of a piece of licorice, making sure it was quite thick so it would resemble a handle.

Licorice WandsObviously these would look more convincing with black licorice, but I can’t stand the stuff, so I went with Twizzlers instead.

Safety first! Keep those wands pointed away from grabbing hands.

Now enjoy your cakes and candies, grab your wand, and practice your spells!

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Halloween Cake Pops

28 Oct

Last weekend we had two major baking projects going on at the same time, both of which were pretty messy. The kitchen was even more of a disaster than usual, and that’s saying something. While Betsy took the lead on Mini Mocha Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze, I led the charge on these Halloween Cake Pops.

A word about the cake pops. This was our attempt to replicate Bakerella’s famous cake balls on a stick, and as the BF had a pumpkin carving party coming up at his work,  I decided to make pumpkins for him. The project took forever – upwards of 4 hours – but they were a HUGE hit. They disappeared so fast, people arriving late at the party were fresh out of luck. So if you have a whole day looking for something to do, try this. But if you need something for your kid’s class party tomorrow morning, just bake some cookies. As always, the recipe below is how we made them, which is not necessarily what the original recipe recommends.

Supplies:

  • baking stuff
  • 5″ lollipop sticks
  • orange (vanilla-flavored) candy melts
  • styrofoam
  • black gel food coloring
  • tiny paintbrush

The Process

First, we baked a cake. We used a prepared mix of extra moist devil’s food cake and baked according to package directions. (Trust us, this process is complicated enough, you will thank yourself for using a mix. There’s no need for scratch-made here.) Then we crumbled up the cake into a big mixing bowl (though a cookie sheet may have been better) and stuffed it in the fridge to help it cool faster. Once it was completely cooled, we mixed in about 3/4 of a can of buttercream icing. I may or may not have eaten the rest of the can after Betsy left.

Baking a Chocolate CakeAfter we got our hands in there and got the cake/icing mixture to a nice smooth consistency, we rolled the mixture into balls and placed them on wax-covered cookie sheets. Then I melted just a few orange candy melts (we bought them at A.C. Moore) and dipped the tip of the lollipop sticks (also A.C. Moore) in the orange candy, then speared the cake balls about 3/4 of the way through the ball. Bakerella recommends this little process of candy coating before spearing so that the stick stays put in the cake ball. The speared cake balls went in the fridge to firm up.

Spearing the balls with lollipop sticks

A few hours later, after driving to my sister’s for family dinner, I returned to finish the cake pops. I melted the rest of the orange candy melts and rolled each cake ball until they were completely coated. I thought it was easier to use the back of a spoon to make sure everything was covered instead of trying to actually roll them. If I got a little too much, a few soft taps on the side of the bowl got all the drips off. Then I added a chocolate sprinkle on top for a stem and stuck the pops into styrofoam to let them firm up. The orange candy hardens quickly enough that when the last pop was rolled, I could start painting the first pop.

Coating the cake pops with melted orange candy

I took the jar of Wilton’s black gel food coloring and put a bit into a small bowl. It turns out that black food coloring turns your fingers purple for a couple days and stains jeans, so I would suggest being careful here. I added a tiny splash of vodka until I achieved a good consistency. Then I dipped my paintbrush in and got to work. Vodka?! What?! Yep — this was Betsy’s idea, and it worked out fantastically. You need liquid to make the ink smooth enough to paint with, but water makes it runny. The vodka achieves the right consistency, and as it dries, the alcohol completely evaporates away, leaving the thick paint-like ink behind. Cool, huh?

Making jack-o-lanterns!

Ta-da! They’re done!

Spooky!Pumpkin Patch

How Sue Sees It:

  • Estimating for supplies was difficult. Of course batches will vary, but here’s some numbers that might help if you try to make some cake pops: The cake/icing mixture made 53 balls. One bag of orange candy melts covered 39 balls. I had to use chocolate – which I always keep on hand – to cover the rest. And I greatly underestimated the need for styrofoam. I used a 12″ by 9″ piece of greenHalloween Cake Balls styrofoam to make my pumpkin patch, and rested it on top of a cookie sheet. Spaced about 2″ apart, I only fit 24 pops. Because I was rushing to have them the next day, I didn’t go out for more supplies. Instead, I took the leftover orange and chocolate pops, let them harden, and then served them on a tray in paper mini muffin cups.Colanders come in handy!
  • And without styrofoam, I didn’t have anywhere to let them dry, so I turned a colander upside down and stuck the sticks through the biggest holes.
  • They are soooo delicious and soooo rich! Because the cake is rolled down into balls, it’s very dense. Pace yourself — it’s very easy to eat a few quickly and then regret it. One cake pop is like a whole slice of cake.