Smile Politely

A sweet afternoon at the 14th Annual Edible Book Festival

Last Saturday, April 6th was the 14th Annual Edible Book Festival. When I heard about this festival, my sweet tooth and my inner bookworm were extremely excited to attend. The event took place at the Common Ground Food Co-op in Lincoln Square Mall and also served as a fundraiser for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. Since I’ve never been before, I wasn’t sure what to expect but when I walked in I was blown away by the talent presented in edible form on the tables. Some of the entries were direct renditions of book covers, while others took more creative approaches. All of them were incredible, and I’m sure, delicious.

The Earth
This cake was intended to show the harmful effects of plastic on the Earth. I thought it was a really creative (and chocolaty) way to spread awareness (and fondant). It won an award for Most Environmental.

Rainbow Fish
A classic, this year’s rendition of Rainbow Fish included lots of M&Ms — including for the mouth which I thought was impressive. Although I didn’t get to sample it, I thought it was very cute. It won the Reading Rainbow Award, which was very fitting.

The “Tail” of Peter Rabbit
This was one of my favorites! As a fan of Peter Rabbit in my childhood, I thought the fluffy white tail sticking out of the vegetable garden was adorable and a very good representation of Peter Rabbit. The top layer of the cake was covered in crumbled up Oreos, creating an accurate depiction of dirt while adding a crunchy texture to the rest of the creamy chocolate cake. This entry tied for the Punniest Award.

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
I think Willy Wonka would be proud of this cake and this festival. This was an amazing creation of fondant, M&Ms, and candy canes. There was definitely a lot of attention to detail from the bakers. They won the prize for Best Children’s Book and I think it was well deserved.

The Mushroom at the End of the “Whorled”
I didn’t get a chance to try this one, but it was probably a nice break from the other sugary creations. It was another great pun that made me chuckle.

The Honorable Phryne Fisher
This was an eye catching creation: a vision of pink and black. Although I didn’t get to try the cake, I did sample one of the feathers which was a cookie. It was almost too much for my sweet tooth, but it tasted great.

The “Grape” Gatsby
This was one of the ones that was an exact rendition of the book cover, except for a slight change – there were grapes! This was a simple yellow cake with the twist of grapes on top that tied it with The “Tail” of Peter Rabbit for Punniest.

Tria Sunt
Another direct translation of book cover to cake, Tria Sunt was a gorgeous vision of chocolate frosting on a bed of white. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of frosting, I appreciated that this cake was just the right amount of sweet. It also won the award for Most Literary.

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
This entry brought an instant smile to my face! I was obsessed with these books as a kid and thought that this cake was the perfect depiction of the book. It was an entry by the University of Illinois Food Service and Human Nutrition, and they offered coupons for a free cookie at Bevier Cafe which I definitely appreciated. Not only did it have cookies on the outside of the cake, it was a white cake with layers of cookie dough in between. This won the award for Most Appetizing.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
It was hard not to notice the Cheshire Cat’s toothy grin staring up at you from a tray of cookies. The cookies ranged from playing cards to clocks to saying “Drink Me” and “Eat Me.” Everyone at the festival was happy to follow those directions and munch on the delicious cookies.

The Wolves in the Walls
This cake was a great artistic representation of the book. The handwritten feel of the title and red eyes glowing up at you from a white frosting canvas was definitely a little haunting.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
This cake artist chose to make the caterpillar from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, creatively using pretzels as legs and having different foods in every section of the caterpillar. It was a great reminder of a classic children’s book.

Call of Cthulhu
This was another incredible work of fondant. I especially liked that the eyes were made of blackberries — very creepy. The inside was no less complex; the first two layers were spice cake, then a layer of lemon cake, finishing off with a base layer of chocolate cake. Everything was covered in fondant except for the bottom layer, which was covered in buttercream frosting. A flavor explosion, if you will.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Another creative entry that took some artistic license. As a fan of chocolates, I appreciated that the meatballs were Ferrero Rocher and gave me a little bit of a break from just eating cake.

The Little Prince
This was another one of my favorites. I thought that the decorations on this one were absolutely stunning. The delicate, whimsical style and castle-like shape completely capture the aesthetic of the book.

The Girl With The Dragon in a TuTu
This one made me laugh. I think it was the most whimsical of the entries and definitely made my inner child happy. I loved the little star and moon marshmallows decorations around the dragon.

The Help
Although I’ve never read the book, I really enjoyed the movie and I appreciated that this was there. The different parts completely capture the atmosphere of The Help and Minnie’s Poop Pie was voted the Pie We Most Don’t Want To Eat. When it was announced, there was a laugh from everyone in the room.

Rube Goldberg’s Simple Normal Humdrum School Day
I was so impressed by this one because it had so many different parts to it. I’m sure many others were as well since it won the People’s Choice Award. The kids who worked together to make this would deposit a grape at the top of the machine, which would then roll down to the bottom of the second baguette and then they would give it to you to eat. Even though there were Rice Krispies, I opted for a piece of bread with apple butter to take a break from sugar.

This was a really great depiction of Coraline from the little girl and cat, to the cursive to the button cookies. I opted for one of the button cookies and they were the perfect soft and chewy cookie. I will never cease to be impressed by the artistry of the bakers at this festival.

This beautiful cake won the award for Best Young Adult Book. This was one of my favorite books when it came out and so I have a soft spot for this particular one. The flowers were lovely and this cake definitely honored the book. It was the perfect way to stay true to the book while adding some creativity to it.

I was so impressed with everyone’s creativity and baking talents. Everything was so delicious and I wish I had a larger stomach so that I could try everything. This was my first year at the festival, but it certainly won’t be my last! The atmosphere was so fun and friendly and it combines my two loves of sugar and books. If you get a chance, be sure to check out this festival in the years to come.

More information about Champaign-Urbana’s Edible Book Festival is available on Facebook

Photos by Anusha Bansal

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