Monday, 15 April 2013

A Second Entry: Books2Eat 2013

My 2013 Books2Eat entry: "Luck of the Draw"
Throughout my short time at Denison, I have participated in a fair number of Denisonian traditions and annual events. One of the most creative and tastiest of these is the Books2Eat Festival held in the Library and indeed all over the world. Last year, I was unable to participate as I was in Virginia for the French Film Festival, but this year I was able to follow up on my "Best of Show" win from 2011. With little time ahead of me (as I had arrived home on the evening of Easter and the contest was the following Monday, April 1st), I garnered up some energy and prepared myself for a handful (or two) of hours baking, painting and finessing my entry for Denison's 10th Festival. Similar to my 2011 entry, I focused my attention on another book replication: Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, one of my favourite high school texts.

Luckily for me, The Joy Luck Club is a rather small book and so I was able to adapt a yellow cake recipe (a cross between Martha Stewart's and Betty Crocker's) to be baked in a loaf pan. If I remember the amounts correctly, and after preheating my oven to 350°F and lightly greasing and flouring the pan, I utilised the whisk attachment of my standing mixer to cream together 6 T unsalted butter with 3/4 c light brown sugar. In a small bowl, I mixed together 1 c all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, I combined 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 whole eggs and 1/2 c milk. Alternating between the dry and wet ingredients, I added these to the cake batter until they were very well incorporated.

After the cake came out of the oven and began cooling, I whipped up a batch of marshmallow fondant, using the recipe and process I used for my 2011 cake (and any fondant-covered cake afterward). Plate, spatula, cutting board, mixing bowl and hook sufficiently greased with vegetable shortening, I microwaved in two batches a total of about 8 oz mini marshmallows (as you'll see, I made a bit more fondant than I needed to cover this cake..) and added about 1/4 c water. Working all of this with my standing mixer's hook attachment (it'll look like marshmallow cream), I slowly incorporated confectioner's sugar, and quite a bit of it. For as much marshmallow as I microwaved, I think I used anywhere between 3-4 c of sugar. Smooth and easy to shape without tearing, I'd say this is probably the best batch of fondant I've ever made.

As the fondant was forming in my mixer, I cut the cooled cake to about the size of The Joy Luck Club, cut that layer in half and sandwiched a layer of Nutella between the halves. I then enrobed the cake with the finished fondant, creating a literal blank canvas upon which I would spend the next few hours painting away with icing colours.

In addition to the book, I created a set of mahjong tiles out of even more fondant, and painted the set to reflect a rather lucky hand. (For those who know how to play, check out the lead photo to this post again; can you tell which tiles you're waiting for in order to win?)

By Monday afternoon, my entry was safely transported up the Hill and joined many others. Wow, it was a particularly creative group this year! (Also, check out this link for photos by Sara Tobias of The Newark Advocate.)

 My cake ended up winning the award for "Most Bookish"

Following the awards presentation, I made the first difficult cuts into my cake. Though it turned out to be a touch denser than I expected, it wasn't all that difficult to enjoy it alongside the marshmallow fondant and Nutella.

And, of course, participating this year was all about the experience of taking part in this great event one last time. Well, perhaps until next year anyway. For these and other photos I took throughout the Festival, click here.

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