Thursday, December 22, 2011


Harry Potter and the Liniment Layer Cake of Secrets

Hello Pinners! We are back to share even more foods from literature with you, this time with a “holiday” focus. And by “holiday” we mean we really stretched some of these recipes to make them festive/timely/edible. Once again we open a page in Turkish Delight & Treasure Hunts by Jane Brocket ... and stare at it with mild confusion.

Emily: Our original plan was to make the most wintry treat in the index, which is “Sugar on Snow” from Little House on the Prairie. We assumed that, since we live in Minneapolis, we would have an endless supply of both ingredients, since it is cold like seven months out of the year here and Katie’s parents play members of British Parliament in their Revolutionary War Reenactment group. But alas, we have had a string of 40 degree days, so even though Katie’s parents were keeping us rich in rock candy, we had no snow to speak of. We decided that “Ma’s Hand-Sweetened Cornbread” sounded reasonably appropriate.

Katie: (My parents don’t really do that.) But yes, cornbread is something people eat at Christmas, right? I feel like they probably eat it in A Christmas Carol. It is warm, and merry-seeming. Plus, the recipe was relatively straightforward. Except for when we mixed everything together and it was basically just powder. We kept looking to the recipe for some wet ingredient we’d left out, and all we could find was a part that suggested using “a wet hand” to flatten the dough in the pan. I wanted the wet hand to be enough to solve the dryness issues (“maybe if it’s REALLY wet?”), but Emily insisted that it was not.

Emily: No amount of hand-wetness was going to result in a cake-like (remember Cake Like?) texture, so I added another egg and a cup and a half of buttermilk. I also insisted that we use my VERY ADORABLE mini-muffin pan for the cornbread, which I am certain Ma would not have had access to. Remember that this was a time when children got precious oranges as gifts in their stockings and getting scalped was a still a real possibility.

Katie: Right? I bet Laura and Caddie Woodlawn were neighbors. So this recipe’s name led us both to believe that the cornbread would taste like ... anything? But then we realized that the “hand-sweetened” part is named not for actual sweeteners, but because Ma served the cornbread with “a sweet smile.” Ugh, I mean, I know things were tough out there on the Prairie, but this is the future. We decided to sprinkle the tops of our cornbread muffins with sugar. They still tasted like hardened cornmeal, so ... if you’re into that, hooray! It’s the sort of thing that I might be okay with tying up in a kerchief and attaching to a stick, for a prairie journey. Like, I could see me being glad to have them in those circumstances.

Katie: This pan used up approximately one eighth of the batter, by the way. Emily, will you be spoon-feeding Ma’s cornbread batter to your cats this holiday season? Beeny seemed interested. Ollie was like, “I don’t have time for this, I have work to do.” (He was wearing a tie.)

Emily: Beeny was initially very interested when I was lining up the mini only-a-martyr-would-eat-them muffins in the basket, but after a sniff, he decided to pass. The batter had hardened in the bowl by the time I got around to cleaning up, so it met its goopy, violent end in my garbage disposal.

Katie: Our next effort was the decidedly less wintry Liniment Layer Cake from Anne of Green Gables, which is apparently what Anne herself prepared for the visit of the new minister and his wife. There’s a scandal where Anne pours Anodyne Liniment into the batter instead of vanilla, because of stupid Marilla. Everyone laughs, even though they all pretty much nearly died. This recipe, thankfully, did not stay faithful to the original text. Plus, we had special plans to spruce (get it??) the whole thing up, holiday-wise.

Emily: Seriously Katie, this friendship of ours is relatively new, so if you call Marilla Cuthbert “stupid” ever again, I’ll have to pound on you a little bit. Feel free to let the insults fly when it comes to Josie Pye, though. This cake is really a very summery strawberry shortbread layer cake. The batter is super sticky and has two sticks of butter and four whole eggs in it. It is frosted with a pint of whipped heavy cream. It’s not really a thing you would eat at Christmas. Luckily, Katie and I are nothing if not problem-solvers and I had a bunch of candy canes on my Christmas tree and just busted a twenty dollar Harry Potter commemorative ornament.

Katie: I also suggested making use of the pine trees out back, and Emily headed out like a trooper to find/rip off (sorry) some of the finest miniature-tree-looking branches in the Midwest. Emily then smashed up some candy canes with a giant butcher knife while I worked on the frosting, careful to save some of the cream for the snow peaks I planned to build later on. It is important, when you’ve decided that you're basically the Minnesota version of Cake Boss, to be conservative with your ingredients.

Emily: Katie was pleased/concerned that we had at least one misadventure at this point, which is that I choked on and then subsequently swallowed a sizable piece of cellophane from the candy cane wrapper. It was too far gone to cough it up so I submitting to dealing with some very weird heartburn later in the night. Katie’s mouth said “OHMYGOD” but her eyes said “Yes! Something weird is happening!” Then she told me to stop opening things with my mouth, which is sound advice. I only did it one other time during the course of the afternoon.

Katie: I sort of saw it happening in slow motion. It was sort of like YOUR life flashed before MY eyes. Never again! But aside from that whole thing, the decorating process went pretty smoothly. I even got frosting to go around the sides of the cake, thanks to Emily’s special brick-laying tools. And then it was time for the details. We were going for a “Quidditch match on Christmas Eve” feel, just to throw in another ode to literature. But because the Harry Potter pieces were broken, we had to ... improvise. For instance, I wanted Hermione half-crashed in snow/cake, because as we all know, Hermione does not know how to play Quidditch. Also, her disembodied hand was attached to her head, and it would’ve looked creepy otherwise.

Emily: Right, because this totally doesn’t look creepy as is.

For our last order of business (aside from trying the cake, which was actually not too weird), we had to bust into the bar of Turkish Delight that my boyfriend brought back for us from his recent trip to the UK.

Katie: I liked the peppermint and strawberry in the cake, although it was a bit dry. I like weird things that go well together, as has been well-documented on this very website. What I do not like together is Cadbury chocolate and rose soap gel. No amount of chocolate can conceal what is truly, honestly, a terrible food. I know you guys are going to fight us on this, but rose soap is rose soap, whether it’s made by us or by Cadbury. We ate off the chocolate to get at the Turkish Delight itself, just for a comparison, and now that I know how “professional” Delight tastes, I have to say: we weren’t far off with our attempt. They’re both awful. See: our faces.

Emily: We totally trust that all the diehard Turkish Delight commenters have experienced Turkish Delight bliss and perhaps ours is still out there. I hear Oprah urges people to follow their Turkish Delight bliss, so ... I don’t know. New Year’s resolution I guess.

Katie: Yes! Someday, we’ll get there. All in all, I feel good about this. It was a “very merry Harry Christmas.” Haha, just kidding. That sounds weird. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Emily Weiss and Katie Heaney are thinking of making Chocolate Frogs next, somehow. Many thanks to photographer David McCrindle.

76 Comments / Post A Comment


Aw, this cheered me up out of my grumpitudes a little bit. Also made me want to eat a vat of (cardamom-scented) whipped cream. Maybe I will make chai-apple/chaider cookies for everyone who isn't getting real presents this year!

A wet hand, indeed.


@figwiggin Also, best recipes for Christmas food gifts pleaaaaaase? I have no idea what to give my boyfriend's mom. Or his dad. But his dad is diabetic so maybe food would be a bad present.


Savory treats can be just as good as sweet ones for the diabetic dad! There are SO MANY sweets given out at this time of year that a nice savory something might be most welcome to offset the sugar overload. Some ideas: homemade biscuits with honey butter (just mix together some softened butter and honey and put in a pretty container), gourmet cheese or meat and crackers, homemade bread, cheese and fruit tray, homemade hummus and pita bread.

Faintly Macabre

@figwiggin If they drink tea or coffee, biscotti could be nice. If you don't use butter, they keep forever, and a lot of recipes aren't very sweet.


@figwiggin I make mini rum cakes and chex mix to give out. The chex mix is a nice salty alternative to the sweet cakes, and it's just so kitschy.


@Dancersize not cheap (best prices at Taylor's Market, Murray's will charge you through the nose) but Columbus's Crespone salami is the greatest no-carb decadent snack food ever and a very fine present.


@hedgehog That makes three mentions of salami this thread. I'm calling it now: salami will be THE it-present of 2012.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher That's it, I'm just throwing salamis at everybody this year. Catch!

(Or maybe I will make soft pretzels.)


@figwiggin As long as they're not covered in sugar/chocolate/icing. Ewwwww chocolate-covered salami, why does my brain do these things to me?


@figwiggin Yes. Cardamom, in everything, for ever. My father makes this awesome sweet cardamom braid brushed with egg whites and it is seriously /the most delicious thing/.


Ahhhhhh! It's so hard to pick my favorite Hairpin feature, but this is definitely on the list!

Also, one of my super-cool, worldly, trendy, beautiful-as-a-model friends from college (Yes, I secretly hated her perfection) had Turkish Delights in her dorm room. I just HAD to try them. They didn't have a weird filling, they were like little brown spice balls. Maybe they weren't real Turkish Delights? I'll never know.


@bonnbee: A friend brought some Turkish Delight for me from Iraq once-they were fruity gelatinous squares covered with powdered sugar. Kind of gum drop textured? I have no idea how authentic they were, either.


@bonnbee Yes! Those are actual Turkish Delights--as someone down the thread mentioned, they sort of have the texture of mochi. They are delicious, and I'm posting this comment just out of concern that some confused reader might think that Cadbury's thing (???) is Turkish Delight, and never want to try it.

Violet Strange

@OneTooManySpoons Sad truth : the only reason I know that is because my 4th grade teacher brought real Turkish Delight in for the class so we'd know what the hell the White Witch was giving Edmund Pevensie. As I recall, the general sentiment was that Edmund got robbed or there was some truly serious magic-whammy involved.

Didn't help that the rosewater ones tasted like my bubble bath smelled, but I cannot think of a candy that would be less served by being paired with chocolate.


peppermint and strawberry?????????

Katie Heaney

@heyits I know, I know, but it just sort of accentuated the strawberry????


@Katie Heaney I'm intrigued. My initial reaction is that it would be like brushing your teeth and then eating something acidic (or drinking orange juice, ew ew ew the worst!) but now I want to try it! Annie Shirley/The Hairpin never lets me down.


I want to print out a picture of that cake and put it on next year's Christmas cards.


Somehow combining the liniment cake with a Harry Potter Quidditch match is just the greatest idea ever. Having Hermione crashed in the snow is just the icing on the...ok.

And no more calling Marilla stupid, Katie. Them's fightin' words around here.


@Bittersweet: Also, real Turkish Delight would never let the words "Cadbury" and "Dairy Milk" within 10 miles of it. Your Turkish Delight bliss is still out there.

Katie Heaney

@Bittersweet TBH I didn't 100% remember Marilla very well so I AM SO SORRY to you and Emily and everyone and the world.


duuuudes. The Turkish Delight candy from England is THE WORST. As in, multiple years voted THE WORST CANDY IN THE UK. Try authentic Turkish delight from a store that sells them. They are often rose and lemon flavored, with little pistachios or something in them. Very similar to mochi. VERY TASTY. Wouldn't sell my soul for them mind you. That would be for copra salami or maybe a sharp cheddar.


@Pimkyn Dammit I want salami right now. Toooo many Christmas sweets. Maybe next year I'll give everyone cured meats instead.

Two-Headed Girl

I kept scrolling through the cake section waiting for the part where you cut it all up and dumped sherry all over it. Christmas trifle! (Harry Potter cake is also win, however.)


I'm so bummed you didn't get to make the "Sugar on Snow" from LHOtP!! That section fascinated me endlessly as a child, and of course I tried to (unsuccessfully) recreate it using Aunt Jemima, but I'm still skeptical it would work as described even with 100% maple syrup. Remember what Grandma said as she cooked down the syrup? "Quick girls, it's sugaring!"

Why I remember that a good twenty+ years later, and not the names of key staff people I have to liase with as part of my job, is beyond me.


@formergr I have to work pretty hard to keep the names of my coworkers straight, but yesterday I pulled the name of the feather duster from Beauty and the Beast out of the top of my head almost instantly.

These things back up my theory that your brain fills up around age 12 and god help you after that.

Tragically Ludicrous

@formergr Oh man, I totally did that too. I think I pretended to like it.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher
Babette, yes?

Li'l Sebastian

@formergr OK, you can totally do this. You need really cold snow (or better, crushed ice, really fine) and 100% pure maple syrup. The secret is: boil the syrup way past the boiling point. You are basically making a caramel out of syrup. When the bubbles in the syrup are dark brown, throw it on the snow and it will make a soft maple toffee. Eat with pickles and cider donuts.


@Li'l Sebastian Ooooh, now I want it to snow! I will totally try this--including with the pickles and cider donuts.


@formergr i remember trying this whenever we went to the snow. regular syrup just sort of melts into the snow, but i tried it EVERY time hoping for different results. then i ate the maple syrup-flavored snow and pretended it was delicious...even though it wasn't.


@Dancersize YES.


@formergr Oh my goodness. When I was a kid I always dreamed of having this, but I am not detail-oriented, so I once put maple on (probably polluted) snow outside and...nothing happened. Can't wait to try this!


I am flying home to Minnesota tomorrow and I am NOT PLEASED about the lack of snow. Not pleased at all. Maybe I will have to make a winter scene out of frosting. Seems like an okay substitute.

Tragically Ludicrous

@highjump You can have some of Denver's snow. There's a lot of snow here today.

Jon Custer

I've got no love for Turkish Delight, but as a University of Birmingham alum I cannot allow you to disparage Cadbury's!


You guys are so adorable. Thanks for the smiles.


I think I need this cookbook now.

You'll be sorry Jo March

Yay! Literary food is the best, and you ladies are hilarious. :D


@You'll be sorry Jo March I hope they make blancmange next!

oh, disaster

This was delightful! Also, Emily, I love your sweater.

paper bag princess

I have a friend in Minneapolis! And I kind of want him to befriend/date you. Is that weird? It's probably weird.

Katie Heaney

@lizzle A/S/L? hahaha just kidding!!!!!!! no but seriously is he tall

paper bag princess

@Katie Heaney 26/m/mn!! he's not real tall but he's not short either. maybe like 5'9? i'm totally guessing. i do not live in MN and therefore have not stood next to him in a while.




This was brilliant (I love the quidditch scene on top of the cake!,) and vicariously fulfills the deeply-rooted longing I have to eat all of the good things described in my childhood books. A Query though: I also frequently run into the "too dry" problem when baking (especially with pie crust type recipes.) What is up with that? How am I supposed to make an actual dough when I have four times as much dry ingredients as wet ones? If I add enough water so that I can roll it out it gets too chewy, but if I stick to the recipe I essentially end up some small balls of dough sitting on a mound of dry ingredients. Is there a savvy baking pinner who has the answer to this quandary?


@pterodactgirl Okay. With pie crusts specifically, I start with about four tablespoons of ice water and move it briskly around in the butter/flour/salt mixture with a fork. Then, I add a tablespoon of ice water at a time, until I can just squeeze some together with my hand. The dough should be flexible, but not wet or sticky. Then I squeeze it into a ball, wrap it up in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about half an hour. This resting time lets the dough come together without being overworked.

In general, it's important to remember that not all recipes are created equal. It's a sad fact that there are many recipes out there that flat-out do not work. Keep experimenting!


@pterodactgirl Don't be afraid to add moisture to pie crust. There's a reason it's called Past(e)ry. The trick to avoid tough dough is to not over-mix or over-roll it after the moisture has been added. That's why you blend the fat into the flour mixture first, before adding the water. By the way, increasing the fat content of your pie dough recipe could also keep it more tender. I've seen pie dough recipes that are pretty short on shortening.

As for other baked goods that come out too dry - cakes, bars, cookies - there's a wonderfully simple cheat to fix those. It's called imbibing syrup, and it's what pastry chefs use when making sponge cake layers, because sponge cake tends to be dry. Making the syrup is simple: 2 parts water to 1 part sugar, boil, cool. Or just use warmed corn syrup. In either case, you will want to add a bit of flavoring to it, something that will complement what it will be brushed on. Liqueurs, fruit juices, and flavoring extracts (vanilla, almond, whatev) all work a treat.

Once the syrup is made and flavored, gently brush it over the dessert. Wait a few minutes, then brush a little bit more. It will absorb into the baked item and give it more moisture and flavor. You can even rescue the overly-hard edges of bar cookies by doing this just on the edges. So don't despair and don't throw it out - jazz it with a bit of imbibing syrup!


God, baking sucks.

Faintly Macabre

@melis When you're the baker, you get to lick the spatula and the mixing bowl, eat all the imperfect cookies and ends, and eat straight from the chocolate chips bag. Baking is magic!



Um, imbibing syrup might have just changed my life.

Charismatic Megafauna

If I may ... The key to getting your pate brisee to come together without over-moistening it is just giving it plenty of time to rest in the fridge wrapped tightly in plastic. It's okay if it seems grainy at first - the ambient humidity will finish things up over a few hours (ideally overnight). Put the wrapped dough in a big zipper bag too to protect it from any off smells floating around in there (cocktail onions).


@melis I will cook all the damn day, but baking seems like such a CHORE. I'm glad to know I'm not totally alone in this.


@pearlforrester @LotaLota @Charismatic Megafauna Thank you! This all seems very helpful. I think the problem may be that I tend to get impatient and just end up adding too much liquid in an effort to fix the problem quickly.

@melis @piggie Sometimes, I agree.


@pterodactgirl I find that putting cheap vodka in pie crust works very well. You add enough to make the dough moist enough to roll out easily, but it evaporates during baking so you don't have a soggy or tough crust--nice and delicate.

I usually put 2 cups pastry flour (half whole wheat), 1 T sugar, 1 t salt together in a bowl, then in a cup mix 1/2 cup oil (coconut and/or grapeseed), 1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water, and 1/4 cup vodka (cheap is fine) and blend well with a fork. Then pour into the flour mixture and mix by hand until the dough forms a softish mass. If there is some leftover flour, no sweat; if the dough is too soft, add flour 1 tbsp at a time. Roll out between sheets of parchment or waxed paper or plastic bags or whatever.

This crust is more shattery / tender than flaky, but flaky crusts are (IMHO) overrated anyway.




Look at how dashing they look on their little broomsticks! *swoon*

Ok, it's settled! You two are hired as my cake decorators for my wedding.


@redheadedandcrazy Isn't it going to be a little weird to have an action figure of the groom on his own cake, though?


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher you'd think so, but the nice thing about Real Doll Rupert Grint is that he's very obliging in regard to my idiosyncracies. That's just part of what I love about him!


@redheadedandcrazy Fantastic! Carry on, then.

Li'l Sebastian

I have Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes, which is both a great idea and has delicious recipes (the Bruce Boggtrotter's Cake will blow your mind), and I'm in Minneapolis, so if you want to borrow that you're welcome to.


I actually have a friend who makes chocolate frogs. I haven't tasted them though, since I'm not big on sweets.


Faintly Macabre

The wet hand is not magic dough-moisturizer, it's to keep your hand from sticking to the dough and turning into a messy hand-dough fusion or ruining the shaping.

Katie Heaney

@Faintly Macabre That's what Emily told me, I just wanted it to do even more. :(

Faintly Macabre

@Katie Heaney Awww :( Yeah, as you both probably know, adding extra water to baked goods generally does no good because it just evaporates in the oven. Maybe you could have used a bit of molasses? Egg and buttermilk probably would have been my guess, too.


Re: the Cake Like reference. Thank you thank you.


That crap is not real turkish delight. You need to get the real stuff. From like, a Turkish shop or something.

Also: I always open stuff with my mouth, too!

Rishe G@twitter

Laura, Anne and Harry Potter in one post. That's like goodness and sweetness all at once. At least you didn't try Hagrid's Rock Cakes but what about Ma's vanity cakes? Must stop before I quote every food item from each of the above book franchises because yes, I can recite them. Best. Hairpin. EVER.

You'll be sorry Jo March

Chocolate frog jelly shots! http://jelly-shot-test-kitchen.blogspot.com/2011/07/chocolate-frog-jelly-shots.html


@bonnbee Yes! Those are actual Turkish Delights--as someone down the thread mentioned, they sort of have the texture of mochi. They are delicious, and I'm posting this comment just out of concern that some confused reader might think that Cadbury's thing (???) is Turkish Delight, and never want to try it.


That Cadbury's stuff isn't Turkish Delight and even Brits don't think it is!! Goodness only knows why Cadbury's still produce it... (And besides, if you're in Britain & want chocolate covered Turkish Delight, buy Fry's - it's a classic with even classier adverts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAY_o36paQ0)

Kirsten Hey@facebook

I really think you should reconsider whether you want a relationship with a man who brings you Cadbury Turkish Delight ;-) If you want Turkish Delight with chocolate it needs to be Frys. Or you could find a Mediterranean shop and get the "proper" stuff. It's actually very nice.


This cracked me up, thank you!

The literary delight I want to hear about is Pippi Longstocking's pepparkakor! (Bonus points if you get a monkey named Mr. Nilsson to help you.)


I learned how to bake bread with this storybook (How to Make Possum's Honey Bread, Skunk's Chocolate Sprinkle Bread, and Raccoon's Raisin Bread, Too) when I was a kid. It's fun because you get to punch the dough. (Also it makes really good bread.) http://www.amazon.com/Possums-Skunks-Chocolate-Sprinkle-Racoons/dp/B00070XNZW

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