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!
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!)
I loved Illuminae so much (in case you didn’t pick that up from my review), that despite there being rare mentions of food, I wanted to feature it. I chose a summery-fresh fruit tart inspired by the book’s cover. I used a combination of strawberries, raspberries, clementines, and mango. There’s a lot of flexibility here and you can use any of your favorite fruits.
The desk clerk took Maisie’s Baedecker guide, opened the map inside, and lifted his pencil. “May I?”
“Of course,” said Maisie. “I need to know where I’m going.”
Flourishing the pencil, the clerk marked the place where Maisie could board a tram and the point at which she should step off. He told her where to walk, and made a note in the margin of his favorite coffeehouse, where he informed her that she could buy a slice of the very best apple strudel. Maisie thanked the man and set off.
For a Maisie-inspired apple strudel recipe, click here.