Just back from Hogwarts and what a visit it’s been! This week’s blog has everything you’d ever need to throw the best Harry Potter party ever.
This week, I launched a baking competition with Renshaw to tie in with Father’s Day next Sunday. I’ll be judging your best baking entries on the theme of hobbies. There are some incredible prizes up for grabs including a virtual reality headset and a drone, as well as plenty of Renshaw products, so get your entries in. I wrote a guest blog for Renshaw (see here) all about how I made the gardening cake pictured above. It was a lot of fun to make so if you fancy making Dad a hobby-themed cake for Father’s Day next week, it’s full of my top tips.
Speaking of Father’s Day, I always look forward to a breakfast in bed of the video recipe above. It’s delicious! And if you’re trying to decide what flavour cake to make Dad, you can’t go wrong with my coffee and walnut flavour cake recipe here.
Today was our eldest daughter’s 8th birthday party. Our kids’ birthday parties are annual highlights for us. Last year, she had a Roald Dahl themed party for her 7th birthday and she decided the following day that her 8th birthday this year would be Harry Potter themed.
As with most of their birthday parties, planning for this one started with the cake. Thankfully my friends at Renshaw sent me a parcel full of different coloured fondant icings this week – perfect timing! I drew a template for the Hogwarts crest and laid it on my worktop with a layer of cling film over the top. I then cut the fondant pieces out on top of the cling film and transferred these to the top of the cake. Top tip: if you’re nervous about your fondanting skills on cakes, it’s a good idea to pipe decoration on the edges where the fondant might crack.
I’ve been growing my beard for the past three months to be ‘Dadgrid’ at the party today but I’ve made the decision the whiskers are coming off today. I’m not saying I’ll rule out growing one again, but what with the beard and my Hagrid (actually, Moana!) wig today, I’ve found being very hairy isn’t so comfortable in hot weather!
We’ve been planning today’s party for weeks and it was all hands on deck – we’re so lucky to have so many great friends and family to help muck in and between me, my wife Sarah and our nanny Charlotte, we’ve had a few late nights party-prepping this week. As the children arrived, they went straight to Diagon Alley to choose their pet owls. This kept them all busy for the first 10 minutes while we finished setting up the Great Hall. Elizabeth’s Brown Owl from Brownies loaned us the brick wall sheet above, so that the children could pass through to Platform 9 3/4 to catch the Hogwarts Express.
Their party bags were gold paper bags with their names on them, that became their own personal ‘vaults’ at Gringotts Bank, where they could deposit all the things they made at the party. And as Charlotte’s mum is a primary school teacher, we were lucky enough to borrow all sorts of backdrops for turning the hall into Hogwarts.
Gifts were put on the Owl Post table (above), with a couple of helium balloons with owl designs drawn onto them in pen. Once the children had entered the Great Hall, we sorted them into their Hogwarts houses. Sarah had found some chopsticks from Tiger, where the bottoms of them were either red (Gryffindor), yellow (Hufflepuff – the birthday girl’s house), green (Slytherin – Sarah’s house) or blue (Ravenclaw – my house). These were put coloured end-down into a witch’s hat for the children to pull our their ‘wand’ and be sorted into houses. It was one of those wonderful moments where you could hear some kids saying “please be Gryffindor” to themselves before choosing. Only one child strongly objected to being a Slytherin so we let her swap to Hufflepuff!
The children then rotated in their houses around four Hogwarts classes, getting a go on each:
- Herbology: in my class (above), I’d made chocolate cupcakes (from my egg-free chocolate cake recipe) and the children had to make their own fondant mandrakes to pot into the cakes and bed-in with chocolate soil (see my gardening cake tutorial for my chocolate soil recipe). They then had to put their finished cakes in their Gringotts vaults before moving to the next class.
- Charms: in this class they had to choose from different Harry Potter spells laid out for them and write their chosen spell on paper in white crayons. They then passed them to their friends to paint over them in watercolour paint to reveal the spell and for the spell to take effect on their friends. They rolled their spell scrolls up to pop in their vaults too.
- Potions: this was most of the kids’ favourite class. They had an empty jar each [*side note: empty jars are ridiculously expensive. Instead we bought value jars of cooking sauce from Asda for about 30p each and cooked with them this week, froze the contents, or used them for the party food chicken drumstick marinades. Then we ran the jars through the dishwasher a couple of times to clean them]. They had to invent a potion to make, writing this on a label for the jar. They then had to mix a little bit of poster paint, glitter, water, bicarbonate of soda and washing up liquid, and stir this together with their wands. They then each added white vinegar to their jars and the potions fizzed up with glittery bubbles. They loved this and came up with really imaginative potions, which they got to take home with them too.
- Defence Against The Dark Arts: For this, the kids had a black balloon each (representing a Dementor) and with their wands, had to bat the balloon all the way across the hall and back in a race against each other. Once they’d done this, they queued up for candy floss (to be eaten off their wands – they first had to wash their chopstick wands after Potions class) and sweets from Honeydukes Wizarding Sweet Shop in Hogsmeade. The candy floss maker we bought on a whim for about 20 quid a few years ago is finally coming into its own for kids’ parties!
For the banquet food in the Great Hall, the kids had sweet and sour chicken drumsticks, mini wands and Quidditch hoops (i.e. Twiglets and potato rings), and vegetables with houmous. Charlotte brought remote controlled candles for the table that she’d borrowed from her mum. These were amazing, as the kids really believed they were switching the flames on and off with their wands.
It was so interesting watching the kids eating, as they all started making vegetable faces on their plates with their food – lots of Harry Potters and Hagrids going on particularly. As well as the owl platters above, we also had fruit platters for all of them, with strawberries, blueberries and grapes, and these went down a treat too. To drink, they had a big glass drink dispenser filled with ‘Butterbeer’ (cloudy lemonade) that they could serve themselves from, and jugs of water and squash too.
The cake itself was eight layers of vanilla sponge in the colours of the Hogwarts houses, sandwiched with popping candy buttercream. The leftover popping candy all went into the kids’ party bags with their other goodies, including owl gliders and Golden Snitches.
Our eldest daughter has two little sisters (today they were ‘Rhonda’ Weasley and Hedwig, above) and lots of younger cousins so with all the help we’ve had from her aunts and uncles today, we’ve promised we’ll put all this on again for one of them in future. The final activity after the banquet was the Quidditch tournament. The kids went back into their houses and had a relay race. They had a different coloured Quidditch ball each and had to fly on a broomstick to one side of the room then sweep the ball back to their teams in a relay. The winning team (Slytherin – Sarah, the very strict Slytherin Professor / Mistress of Ceremonies was pleased!) all won a Quidditch cup to take home.
We’re all absolutely exhausted this evening but hats off to Sarah and Charlotte, who have been planning this with our daughter Elizabeth for so long. I was responsible for all the food but as I mentioned last week, staying up and baking into the small hours is the norm for me nowadays! Sarah and Charlotte took over running our local Rainbows group together a few months ago so spent all day yesterday taking Rainbows and Brownies on an outing to the zoo, then all night planning for today’s party.
It made it so worthwhile to see the way the kids reacted to everything today – even the ones who were too scared to use the bathrooms in case they bumped into Moaning Myrtle! And our daughter Elizabeth (above) was so appreciative of every little detail. She is such a warm-hearted Hufflepuff. But I have to say, I’m pretty glad it’s more than six months until the next kid’s party we’ll have to think about! I hope tonight’s blog has given you loads of ideas for throwing your own Harry Potter party – do let me know if it does. Until next week, Happy Baking!