The Edible Book Festival is perhaps the tastiest tradition at Hopkins. Held every spring, this festival is full of desserts inspired by literary titles, characters, or authors. While it’s fun to ooh and ahh at the word play, the icing on the cake (*pun very intended*) is that you get to try every cake!

Hopkins Insider asked some of the undergrads who placed in this delicious contest to share a little about their creations.

Call of Cthulhu

Best in Show, 2nd Place

Lizzy S., ’24 (she/her/hers)
Major: History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

What made you want to participate in the Edible Book Festival?
Interacting with other people who like to bake and read was a massive pull for me. I participated last year with the Cake of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe and didn’t win. Still, I had so much fun pushing myself to try a heavy decoration cake, so I participated this year too.  

How did you select your book and execution concept?  
I had been thinking of a book for my cake since last spring, and my roommate and I found a cute poster of Cthulhu that inspired me. Lovecraft’s horrors had always fascinated me as to how in modern literature, a full cannon of gods can be made and make a life of their own. I also liked the idea of making creepy cakes, as the contrast between a sweet, delicious-tasting monster makes me laugh.  

What was your favorite detail about your cake?
The eyes—I’m really proud of how they turned out as they definitely look at the viewer. Figuring out how to paint the scaly texture was also a labor of love that thankfully turned out ok. 

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Best in Show, 1st Place

Renee N., ’23 (she/her/hers)
Major: Biomedical Engineering

Marina B., ’23 (she/her/hers)
Major: Art History, Vocal Performance (BM/MM)  

What made you want to participate in the Edible Book Festival?
Renee: My first year at Hopkins was the last time the Edible Book Festival happened in person before this year. I learned of it a bit too late to participate, but I attended the event and was blown away by all of the creativity, fun, and tastiness that filled the Glass Pavilion. As an avid baker, it became a goal of mine to enter a cake in the festival. 

Marina: I’ve worked in Special Collections at the library (which runs the Edible Book Festival) for about two years now, so I was familiar with the concept, but it had previously been online [due to the pandemic]. When Renee told me she wanted to enter, I was really excited to help out in any way I could! Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time to devote to the project as I would’ve liked, but I was more than happy to lend an ear and help brainstorm decoration ideas, taste-test and fine-tune recipes, and decorate the final product!

How did you select your book and execution concept?  
Renee: If you were to ask any of my friends for two phrases to describe me, they would say that I’m someone with a significant love of baking and love of birds. I grew up with Mo Willems’ books, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus felt like the perfect homage to my inner child and my interests. There can be so much stress and forward thinking in college, so it felt really important to take a step back and do something fun and playful.

Marina: Renee was the brain behind choosing Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus specifically, but I always enjoyed Mo Willems’ books as a young child. I grew up with Knuffle Bunny, especially because Willems lived in my neighborhood and used photographs he took there for that book. All of his books, including Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, feel nostalgic and homey for me and made me especially happy to help bring the book to life. 

What was your favorite detail about your cake?
Renee: My favorite detail of the cake is the big quote bubble that says, “Don’t let the pigeon eat the cake.” I like this detail because it was a fun way to connect the book to the Edible Book Festival, and also because it was a piece of the cake that had a lot of collaboration from friends and family.  

Marina: My favorite detail about the cake was the pretzel stick legs. We’d spent a while trying to figure out how to make convincing bird feet, including sticking bits of pretzel pieces together with icing and fondant. In the end we decided that just the pretzel sticks would give the best effect, and it worked out! Renee and I both love a touch of savory in our sweet foods, and the pretzels hit the spot! 

The Magician’s Nephew

Most Delicious, 1st Place

Tina D., ’23 (she/her/hers)
Major: Materials Science & Engineering
Minor: Computer Science

What made you want to participate in the Edible Book Festival?
I have a friend who works in Special Collections, who organizes the event, and I’ve seen pictures from the festival every year since my first year. As a senior, this was my last chance to participate, and my first opportunity to experience the festival in person due to the pandemic. With some encouragement from my friend, I decided to bake a cake! I’ve always loved baking for my friends and family, but never really tried my hand at decorating, so this was a fun challenge.

Why did you select your book and execution concept?
My cake is based on The Magician’s Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia. I loved reading the series when I was younger and was fascinated with the magical ‘wood between the worlds’ described in the first book, full of pools leading to new dimensions. I thought this landscape would be the perfect one to recreate atop a three-layer cake! Figuring out how to make all the decorations with what I had in my kitchen was a great design challenge, and I really enjoyed the trial and error (a lot of error!) process of putting it all together.

What was your favorite detail about your cake?
It has to be the flavor. I figured most people competing would focus on presentation, which is essential for the competition, but my strength has always been in baking delicious desserts, even if they’re not as visually appealing. I picked a flavor combination that felt perfect for the whimsical nature of the cake: lemon-blueberry, and I used fresh blueberries and lemon zest to create that.