Niffler Cake – inspired by Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them

i. freaking. love. the niffler. 

So if you haven’t seen the movie “Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them” (set in the Harry Potter world of J.K. Rowling), then let me catch you up 😉 Otherwise this cake – and hence this post – will make NO sense to you.

'Fantastic Beasts' begins with the arrival of the wizard Newt Scamander in New York with a briefcase containing many magic creatures (‘fantastic beasts’). Though he can hide them from the eyes of anyone looking in the briefcase, one creature – the niffler, a small black furry creature attracted to shiny things – manages to escape into a bank. Later on, Newt catches the niffler attempting to raid a jewelry store as well – nifflers love collecting huge piles of shiny things. 😉  

Sometimes my favorite parts of movies don’t have anything to do with the main characters or overall plot….sometimes the thing that *makes* the movie for me is a random side character. Anybody else? 😉

I feel like that’s probably an element of good movie design/screenwriting/character creation (whatever the right term actually is) – the ability to connect with a larger (or quirkier) audience through the way you create the characters that *aren’t* the main ones.

Buuuut I digress.

When I found a store near me that was selling chocolate ‘gold coins’ in bulk…. I *couldn’t* resist. I HAD to do it. 😉 I borrowed a stuffed Niffler from my sister, and – this cake! 😉  Pretty sure my husband was laughing at me; I totally yelled “THIS MAKES MY GEEK HEART SOOOOO HAPPY!!!!” from the kitchen 😮  I was SO excited when this cake came together!

Recipe below!

 

I doubled and slightly-modified a chocolate cupcake recipe from thescranline.com - check out Nick's site and his Instagram feed if you haven't already; he does some incredible work! 

Of note...you'll need either a kitchen scale to measure ingredients in grams OR - you can use this fancy ‘grams to cups converter’. Or just use the conversions I ballparked for you. You’re welcome. 

Chocolate Cake Layers: 

Ingredients:

350g all purpose flour (roughly 2 c) 
450g caster sugar (roughly 2 ¼ c)
100g cocoa powder (roughly 1 ¼ c)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt 
1 c /250g /16 T unsalted butter, softened 
4 large eggs, at room temperature 
350ml milk (about 1 ½ ; I used a 2c pyrex liquid measuring cup with mL marks on the back) 
2 t vanilla extract

Instructions:
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (180C) or 320 FC (160C) for a fan forced oven. Grease 3 8-inch pans with baker's floured spray and/or line pans with parchment paper. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar. Turn mixer on low speed and allow it to mix for a couple minutes to help everything combine well (or sift the ingredients together). Add in the softened butter until it’s well incorporated into the dry ingredients and no lumps of butter are visible. 

Next, add milk, eggs, and vanilla together and whisk until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a slow and steady stream until no dry ingredients are visible. Scrape down the bowl and mix for another 20 seconds.

Fill the three pans evenly - I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part, and each of mine weighed out to about 700g. Bake for 30-35 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cake layers to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting. If you insert a skewer or toothpick and it comes out with wet batter, bake for another few minutes at a time until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Cool completely – set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.

Black Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6 c powdered sugar
1 c cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
2-4 drops black gel food coloring (I used Americolor Black gel color)
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla, salt, and black food coloring and beat until well combined.

Additional Supplies/Equipment:
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- large piping bag & tip
- Stuffed niffler – the one I used came from a Hot Topic store, but they’re available on amazon.com (linked above!) 
- small cup or bowl – I didn’t want to get frosting all over the Niffler or Niffler fur on the cake, so I balanced him on top of a small straight-sided bowl. Anything you can balance a stuffed animal on would work. I back-wrapped a piece of strapping tape inside the small bowl to make sure the niffler would stay in place while I was decorating.
- Gold decorations! I used gold and silver sprinkles from a local craft store, Hershey’s gold chocolates, chocolate gold coins, and some black and orange-ish bronze foil-wrapped chocolate caramels I found at the grocery store. I also cut apart a gold Mardi Gras-style necklace (super cheap at a craft store) and draped that over the decorations when I was done piling them on.
- gold or silver luster dust, about a teaspoon of vanilla extract or vodka, and a paintbrush – if you want to color your ganache drip
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! 

Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting and sprinkle with gold and silver sprinkles. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.

Crumb coats:
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer. 
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.

Black Chocolate Ganache Drip:
- 12 oz (2 c) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 12 oz (1 ½ c ) whipping cream
- 2-3 drops black gel food coloring

Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. Place whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring almost to a boil over medium/low heat. Pour over chocolate chips and let rest for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth and silky. Add gel food coloring and stir until color is even.

Okaaaay......the drip!

Chocolate ganache: When your ganache has cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to a squeeze bottle or piping bag. A spoon will work if you don’t have either of those, I’ve just found spoons to be a little bit more difficult to work with.
Slowly drizzle ganache around the upper edge of your cake, pausing every inch or so to let more ganache fall in a drip down the side of the cake. Return cake to the fridge or freezer to set the drips. You can also cover the top of the cake in ganache, but it won’t show under the decorations so that’s up to you! 
This step is time-consuming and completely optional, but if you’d like to color your ganache drip – once the drips are firmly set, mix a teaspoon of luster dust with a teaspoon of an alcohol-based extract or vodka and carefully paint the drips with a food-safe paintbrush.

To decorate the cake, carefully balance the niffler on top of the cake on top of a small bowl or cup to keep the fur off the ganache. I used a piping bag and black frosting to hold gold coins in place to hide the cup. Decorate the top of the cake with allllll the gold/silver/shiny decorations you’d like – I added a few around the base of the cake as well wherever they fit around the drips. Add on some gold and silver sprinkles - I had some small pearlized sprinkles on hand too, so I added a few of those and liked the look. Adding a string of gold- or silver-colored beads helps finish off the look of the cake. 

Take a picture and send it to all your geek friends!! Yelling to whoever might be listening about how excited you are about your cake from the kitchen as you finish it is optional, but I highly recommend it! 

Let me know  how it went for you - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!  

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