Pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting, moist and rich with hints of nutmeg and brown sugar mixed together with sweet roasted pumpkin that melted lusciously in the mouth all layered with velvety decadent cream cheese frosting, and in a whim she had topped it off with shreds of toasted coconut, adding a hint of crunch and extra sweetness. —Heartless by Marissa Meyer
I was so excited to read Heartless after finishing Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. Such a great series. While Heartless didn’t live up to Cinder, it was still an entertaining origin tale of the Queen of Hearts. Not to mention overflowing with baking inspiration!
She blurted something that had nothing to do with anything. “Do you know how to make honeyed half-moons?”
“Do I…” He lowered the map. “Kestrel, I hate to disappoint you, but I was never a cook.”
“You know how to make tea.”
He laughed. “You do realize that boiling water is within the capabilities of anybody?”
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, 5/5 stars
For some novels, food is almost a central character, like Brian Jacques’s Redwall series. (I can’t believe I haven’t covered any Redwall yet!) Typically, I just don’t feature the novel on my blog if food isn’t prominent, though I’ll give the book a shoutout on my Bookstagram. Then there’s books that are just too good to let slide by. I don’t care how far I have to stretch a recipe to relate it back to the book, it will be on the blog! The fruit tart I created for Illuminae is a perfect example of this. Nobody ate a fruit tart in Illuminae. In fact, I think all food products were freeze dried. Ew.
‘Food isn’t about getting through the day, Sebastian.’ She waved her bread under his nose as if he didn’t already have his own piece just begging to be finished. ‘It’s about stopping and appreciating the moment. It’s about exploring new tastes and textures. It’s about giving yourself a little piece of comfort or joy and sharing that with others.’
We all sat around the table. (Father was away again.) I was thrilled. I had watched Mandy bake the cake and Bertha sew the gown and Nathan pick the flowers.
Mandy cut the cake. When she handed me my piece, she said without thinking, “Eat.”
The first bite was delicious. I finished the slice happily. When it was gone, Mandy cut another. That one was harder. When it was gone, no one gave me more, but I knew I had to keep eating. I moved my fork into the cake itself.
“Ella, what are you doing?” Mother said.
“Little piggy.” Mandy laughed. “It’s her birthday, Lady. Let her have as much as she wants.” She put another slice on my plate.
I felt sick, and frightened. Why couldn’t I stop eating?
Swallowing was a struggle. Each bite weighed on my tongue and felt like a sticky mass of glue as I fought to get it down. I started crying while I ate.
Mother realized first. “Stop eating, Ella,” she commanded.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, 5/5 stars
Ella Enchanted has been my favorite book since I was twelve. I’ve read it at least a dozen times. Most recently, I re-read it for book club and was nervous it wouldn’t stand the test of time, especially with how much I had hyped it up in my mind.
Spoiler: it did. For me and everyone else in the book club, whether it was one of their old favorites or their first time reading it.
It’s also the ultimate love story, so of course I had to team it with my Valentine’s Day post. I was inspired by Ella’s birthday cake and wanted to make something that would truly be a show-stopper. Plus, Brice and I binge-watched the Great American Baking Show and I became obsessed with doing some proper chocolate work.
I usually have a love/hate relationship with cake. They’re fun to make, but it’s never a go-to dessert for me, because it’s usually so heavy and sweet, especially when filled with frosting. These three layers of fluffy red velvet cake sandwiching a light and fresh raspberry cream filling, topped with white chocolate frosting and dark chocolate decor are a perfect balance, though. No “sticky masses of glue” here.
For the chocolate work, I highly recommend using a thermometer with a digital reader. I did not and my temperatures were slightly off meaning my tempered chocolate was a little streaky and wasn’t setting as well as I would have liked. For my first time tempering chocolate, it worked out well enough.
Here are the recipes I used:
Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cake – the only thing I changed was the amount of food coloring. I had a .25 ounce container, some of which I used for these mini princess cakes. I just tossed in the remainder of the container. (An ounce just sounded excessive!)
Sam O’Neill drew a deft little caricature of the two of us as Mulder and Scully (I still have it, somewhere) and Cassie stuck it to the side of her computer, next to a bumper sticker that said BAD COP! NO DONUT!
Now let me say this: when you’re traveling a good cloak is worth more than all your other possessions put together. If you’ve nowhere to sleep, it can be your bed and blanket. It will keep the rain off your back and then sun from your eyes. You can conceal all manner of interesting weaponry beneath it if you are clever, and a smaller assortment if you are not.
But beyond all that, two facts remain to recommend a cloak. First, very little is as striking as a well-worn cloak, billowing lightly about you in the breeze. And second, the best cloaks have innumerable little pockets that I have an irrational and overpowering attraction toward.
— The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, 5/5 stars
“I liked standing near the edge with my shoulders back, my fingers dusted with soil. I would lift my face to the wind and inhale the loamy musk of the Outside as Sivo worked, stabbing at the ground, cursing his undernourished greens, radishes, and beets. Occasionally peas would flourish, and that was a good day when we would actually have pea soup. Perla would make it with bits of rabbit meat and Sivo swore it was nearly as tasty as when his mother made it with ham.”
Reign of Shadow by Sophie Jordan, 3/5 stars.
Reign of Shadow follows Luna through the kingdom of Relhok, a kingdom enduring a perpetual eclipse. While the novel had a strong fairy tale feel, it was its own story (vs. a re-telling), which I found refreshing. An entertaining read and one that Brice and I both had fun reading.