Harry Potter and the Liniment Layer Cake of Secrets

by Emily Weiss and Katie Heaney

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.