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Sorting Hat, Sorted

An Official Book of Magical Celebrations, Crafts, and Party Food Inspired by the Wizarding World

When I first got word of the project in the summer of 2019, the concept of a Harry Potter-themed party guide was just a glimmer in the eye of creator Jennifer Caroll. But the spell had been cast—ingredient lists and prop ideas were already swirling and bubbling in the cauldron of my food-stylist brain.

The recipes I was tasked with were not for in-world food (dishes actually seen on the Hogwarts table), but rather, for foods that would tell a story. Spider meatballs, acceptance letters of flaky pastry with a candy-melt seal—edible images to transport party-goers into the spirit of the Harry Potter universe. My hope was to show how the practice of making and sharing food can provide a felt experience of wizardry. After all, food is how muggles make magic!

In Fall of 2020, we started prepping for the shoot. By now the project had spilled over into my homelife. I amassed piles of warty pumpkins to line the pathway to Hagrid’s hut and stored them under our house, turning them weekly to keep them fresh. Over the winter, I gathered mossy oak and manzanita branches on walks with my youngest, Jac. Later we would spray-paint them silver to lend a structural elegance to the snowy sparkle of the Hogwarts Yule Ball.

One of the most exciting recipes to brainstorm, create, test, create again, test again, and finally document was for the Sorting Hat Sundaes. The core concept came easily enough: Ice cream cones would provide his shape, we’d sculpt his lumpy folds and floppy top with chocolate chews and coat him with milk chocolate. Finally, we’d fill him with color-coded sprinkles to indicate each house.

But how to form his brim? It should obviously be a cookie, we thought, one you could easily buy and affix to the cone with some of that yummy chocolate. I bought every kind of cookie imaginable, and each one was wrong in its own way. They were the wrong size. When removed from the cone they would crumble into dust, or they’d adhere too well, and you’d have to claw them off, like a beast from the dark forest.

I stood over my dining room table, dismayed and perplexed, open cookie bags everywhere. A few errant sprinkles clung to the front of my apron. Then it hit me:

“Jac!” I said. “Wait, Jac!” Jac’s eyes widened.

“Mom! YES! Why can’t the brim just be CHOCOLATE?!”

The epiphany was mutual.

I made a circle of chocolate on a piece of parchment, let it cool a bit to harden, smeared a little more melty stuff onto the rim of the cone to act as a bond, and set that down to cool a bit, too.

Then I picked up what was no longer an ice cream cone, but an actual miniature Sorting Hat. I turned it over in my hand. Its smooth under-surface looked like the delicate crust of a crème brulée. I tapped it hard with a spoon. It made a satisfying “crack” and fragmented into sturdy, bite-sized chunks that fell gracefully into the bowl along with the colored sprinkles.

Jac’s were red and gold. Mine, of course, were yellow and black. Which Hogwarts house are you?

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