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Felonious Floats and Pumpkin Cakes: Check Out These Recipes From ‘The Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook’

Ellen Gutoskey
A Felonious Float (left) and some Pumpkin Cakes (right).
A Felonious Float (left) and some Pumpkin Cakes (right). / Harper Point Photography/Adams Media
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Universal works hard to make sure its theme parks truly immerse you in the worlds of your favorite pop culture properties, but it couldn’t fully realize that vision without factoring in food and drink.

In the Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook, to be published by Adams Media on Tuesday, October 25, author Ashley Craft replicates more than 75 of the most delicious dishes and drinks from Universal’s four U.S. spots: Universal Studios Hollywood (located outside Los Angeles), and Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and the water park Volcano Bay (all of which are in Orlando).

It’s not Craft’s first foray into hacking a resort’s edible offerings for fans at home: Her previous works include The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook and two separate volumes for Disney drinks and EPCOT recipes, respectively.

Unsurprisingly, Craft enjoys a good theme park. “I have an annual pass to both Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, so I have been quite a lot!” she tells Mental Floss. Save for a few seasonal items that weren’t available during her visits, Craft has personally tried everything covered in her new cookbook. 

And she does play favorites—namely, the Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese With Banana BBQ Sauce from Universal Studios Hollywood’s Minion Cafe. “It is easy to make and really elevates a plain grilled cheese,” she says.

unofficial universal theme parks cookbook cover
Fancy some Moose Juice? / Adams Media

The Minion Cafe is a prime example of what Universal’s chefs do so well: create mouthwatering menus for franchises not exactly famous for their culinary inventions. (Despicable Me’s beloved yellow stooges go ape for bananas, which explains the banana extract in the aforementioned barbecue sauce.) For eateries located in the Jurassic Park areas, chefs drew inspiration from Central and South American dishes—a nod to the fact that the films mostly take place on fictional islands not far from Costa Rica. Craft’s cookbook can teach you how to make Papas Rellenas—stuffed potatoes—from Islands of Adventure’s food stand Natural Selections, the vegan-friendly Slow-Roasted Mojo Jackfruit from Universal Studios Hollywood’s Jurassic Cafe, and more.

On the opposite side of the IP coin are Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss, whose fare is practically baked into the broader pop culture landscape. Picky eaters might experience a classic Seussian change of heart after whipping up a batch of Craft’s copycat Who Hash or Green Eggs and Ham Tots, both found at Islands of Adventure’s Green Eggs and Ham Cafe. And a pitcher of Harry Potter’s Pumpkin Juice—available in the Hog’s Head at Islands of Adventure—is easier to concoct than you might think. In fact, Craft recommends the beverage section of the book for novices in general, as those recipes tend to be both quick and simple. 

“For more advanced chefs, I would try to create all the candies in the Skiving Snackbox. That is Fainting Fancies, Nosebleed Nougat, Fever Fudge, and Puking Pastilles. They aren’t hard to make per se, but knowing your way around a candy thermometer will help you out!” she says. While the fictional sweets are quite literally sickening—dreamt up by Fred and George Weasley to help students cut class—the real-life versions don’t generate any odious side effects (except maybe a stomachache if you scarf down too many in a single sitting).

You can pre-order The Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook now from Amazon ($22) and try your hand at two especially delectable recipes from its pages: Harry Potter’s Pumpkin Cakes, fluffy, frosted pastries that are perfect for fall; and the Minions’ Felonious Floats, a fusion of banana soft-serve and blue raspberry slushy that tastes as good as it looks.

Excerpted from The Unofficial Universal Theme Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft. Copyright © 2022 by Ashley Craft. Photographs by Harper Point Photography. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Pumpkin Cakes

Honeydukes, Islands of Adventure

pumpkin cakes from the unofficial universal theme parks cookbook
Worth a trip through the One-Eyed Witch Passage. / Harper Point Photography/Adams Media

For Cakes

1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For Frosting

2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons meringue powder
2 drops yellow gel food coloring
2 drops red gel food coloring

For Assembly

4 strands black licorice

Yields 20 Cakes

  1. To make Cakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two twenty-cup Bundtlette pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together brown sugar, oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, and milk about 2 minutes or until well combined. Add in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves and stir 1 minute to combine.
  3. Scoop batter into a piping bag or plastic bag with one corner snipped off. Pipe batter into prepared pans, filling each divot almost to the top.
  4. Bake 8–10 minutes until a toothpick inserted in cakes comes out clean. Allow to rest in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely, about 45 minutes.
  5. To make Frosting: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Color should be pumpkin orange; adjust food coloring amounts accordingly.
  6. To Assemble: Place 1 Cake inverted onto wire rack. Wipe a small amount of Frosting onto flat surface of cake and place a second Cake flat side down onto Frosting. Scoop or pour Frosting over cake to cover bottom and top. Snip licorice into 1-inch segments and place 1 piece in top of frosted cake. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  7. Allow Frosting to dry completely, about 45 minutes. Serve.

Felonious Floats

Minion Cafe, Universal Studios Hollywood

felonious float from the unofficial universal theme parks cookbook
Kampai! (That's 'Cheers!' in Minionese.) / Harper Point Photography/Adams Media

For Banana Soft Serve

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon banana extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 drops yellow gel food coloring

For Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid Syrup

1 (0.16-ounce) packet blue raspberry Kool-Aid drink mix
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water

For Blue Raspberry Slushy

2 ounces club soda
3 cups crushed ice

For Assembly

2 cups canned whipped cream
4 teaspoons blue sugar sprinkles
4 tablespoons banana candies

Serves 4

  1. To make Banana Soft Serve: Blend all ingredients in a blender until well combined. Pour into an ice cream machine and run according to manufacturer’s instructions about 15 minutes or until creamy. Scoop into a medium freezer-safe container, cover, and place in freezer until ready to use, up to 4 days.
  2. To make Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid Syrup: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
  3. Pour Syrup into a medium sealable container and chill at least 1 hour, up to 4 weeks.
  4. To make Blue Raspberry Slushy: In a clean blender, add 8 ounces Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid Syrup, club soda, and crushed ice. Blend until smooth.
  5. To Assemble: Divide half of Blue Raspberry Slushy evenly among four 18-ounce glasses or plastic cups. Scoop Banana Soft Serve into cups. Layer with remaining Blue Raspberry Slushy. Top each glass with 1/2 cup whipped cream, 1 teaspoon blue sugar sprinkles, and 1 tablespoon banana candies. Serve immediately.
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