Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 8, 2020

Fifth annual Edible Book Festival is a literary treat

By AMELIA ISAACS | April 12, 2018

B3_Edible Book
COURTESY OF DRAKE FOREMAN This Paddington cake won Best in Show at this year’s Edible Book festival.

Walking into the Glass Pavilion at noon on April 6, I suddenly realized exactly what I had signed myself up for when I enthusiastically volunteered to cover the Sheridan Libraries’ fifth annual Edible Book Festival. 

Of course I was aware that I was going to enter a room full of people and cakes and other baked goods, but what I did not realize was that the reason there were over 200 people there was because they were going to eat the food. 

Don’t get me wrong, they were there to look at and admire all of the artistic creations as well... But they were also (mostly) definitely there to eat. Walking up to one of the tables, I saw knives next to the cakes, and it was at that point that I realized my fatal mistake: I’m very allergic to dairy. I cannot eat cake. 

It may seem blatantly obvious to everyone else that the reason people would attend an Edible Book Festival would be to go and actually eat the creations, but I have to admit that this hadn’t even crossed my mind as a possibility. 

I thought that the festival would be kind of like The Great British Bake Off in real life (or The Great British Baking Show to you heathen Americans) and that I would get to see a bunch of amazing edible creations. 

Anyway, all this is to say, I do need to issue a “disclaimer” before I go any further: Any opinions about the taste of any of the cakes (or other edible creations) are not my own, and I’m not going to write a lot about the taste anyway because, let’s be honest, how much fun is it to read about how good something tastes if you don’t get to eat it afterward? Let me tell you from experience, specifically the experience of being told how good everything tastes in a roomful of 20 different cakes, cupcakes, chocolates and caramels: It’s not that fun. 

That being said, I was still extremely excited to see two of my favorite things combined in one event: books and baking. With entries ranging from “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite,” which consisted of an array of cupcakes decorated like sheep with red x’s, to “Devil in the White City,” which included a Ferris wheel made out of bike wheels and red velvet cupcakes with red filling, there was truly a wide array of entries. It was clear that every competitor had put in a tremendous amount of not only hard work and effort, but also imagination and creativity.  

Heidi Herr, librarian for English and Philosophy, outreach coordinator for Special Collections and organizer of the event, described the event as “tremendous fun.” 

“I was absolutely stunned by the creativity of our Hopkins bakers,” she said. “Not only are they cracking bakers, but their presentation styles are exceptionally thoughtful and even wild.”

There were five categories which the bakers were competing in and which visitors were voting on: Best Effort, Best in Show, Funniest, Best Literary Theme and Most Delicious, with a winner and runner up for each category. 

Best Effort went, quite deservedly, to “Devil in the White City.” The Ferris wheel clearly was a lot of effort (although personally I was sad that it wasn’t edible — I have high standards after watching Ace of Cakes).

Second place went to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which consisted of beautiful, delicate little cupcakes surrounded by a box full of magical forestry and ivy. A strip of lights at the top of the box created an appearance of glimmer and shine. 

The Funniest prize went to a Games of Thrones-themed cake, which was a chess board with silver and gold edible miniature toilets, far and away the funniest cake of them all. The runner-up came pretty close, though, as a fireball whiskey flavored cake depicting Trump’s head on fire (“Fire and Fury”).

Best Literary Theme went to “Fahrenheit 451,” which simply but poignantly was a plain black book with a space in the book cut out and filled with match-shaped cakes. This was one of my personal favorites, although the runner-up “Alice in Wonderland” also stayed very true to theme. 

The prize for the Most Delicious entry went to “Where the Wild Things Are,” with “The Walking Dead” coming in second. 

Having eaten neither, I can’t make any comments, but Herr said of “The Walking Dead” cake, “Not only was the decoration well-executed, but the cake itself, due to the clever use of strawberries, ended up looking like zombie innards as it was mercilessly chopped into by very hungry students.” 

Which leaves us with the last, but not least, award for Best in Show. Runner-up for this category went to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and first prize to “Paddington Bear.”

As soon as I walked in, I headed straight for the “Paddington Bear” cake. Beautiful drawings around the cake depicted classic London scenes, there was marmalade everywhere and an actual toy Paddington was included. Paddington Bear holds a special place in my heart, and clearly it does for a lot of other people too; the cake definitely was the best in the show. 

Sophomore Georgia Gaertner, a student employee in the Special Collections department, said that the event is “definitely [her] favorite library event [she’s] been to because it’s a really fun and wholesome way to get people from the community to come together.” 

There truly was an incredible array of edible books on display, and it was wonderful to see everyone’s different interpretations and ideas. I highly recommend stopping by next year, even if only for the free cake.

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