Last year, Tor.com posted an article on the evolution of “Fantasy Candy Kingdoms” in children’s literature — from Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house to Seanan McGuire’s world of Confection in Beneath the Sugar Sky (hello, TBR pile!)
Upon re-reading the article, I’m inspired not only to update my Trick-or-Treat inventory this year (I bet the kids in my neighborhood will love three-course-dinner gum and Turkish Delight, amirite?), but also to honor my own favorite literary sweets.
And so! Today, I’m sharing my Top Five Fictional Sweets from books or stories I’ve reviewed here at Postcards, in no particular order! Plus: ideas on where to find or how to make these treats (or versions thereof) yourself!
Constanze’s candied breakfast in “A Delicate Architecture,” by Catherynne M. Valente — one of the twisted fairy tales from the Troll’s Eye View anthology (review). The daughter of Austria’s greatest confectioner is raised to worship all things sugar. Every morning, she dutifully eats her cavity-carving breakfast of sugared plums; a soft-boiled marzipan egg filled with lemon syrup, cracked with a toffee hammer; and melted chocolate in a vanilla-bean mug. No wonder she practically bleeds syrup!
Marzipan eggs are actually an Easter tradition in India, often decorated with royal icing and fondant flowers. There are numerous recipes online, including these eggless, gluten-free and vegan variations (one of them is a stuffed version — I imagine lemon syrup would make an acceptable insert 🙂 ).
Fried sugar pies from the Paradise Pies Cafe, in The True-Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt (review). Made from pure muscovado canebrake sugar, this heavenly pastry is beloved by all who live in the Sugar Man Swamp. So tasty, it might even sweeten the heart of greedy landlord Sonny Boy Beaucoup, who wants to turn the mythical swamp into a theme park. Well, maybe not, but a reader can dream, can’t she?
Muscovado is an unrefined cane sugar with a smoky molasses taste (see this article for a more mouth-watering explanation). You can buy it online to make an almost-truly-authentic Paradise pie, or you can try the simpler recipe found in Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts activity kit!
Chocolate-banana empanadas — from the Espinosa family restaurant in Like Water, by Rebecca Podos (review). Savannah’s parents run a restaurant in El Trampero, New Mexico, where they serve such drool-worthy fare as spice-braised pork cooked in banana leaves, spare ribs covered in chocolate sauce and Kahlua, and, if that’s not enough to flood your taste buds, chocolate-banana empanadas for dessert.
Empanadas are similar to hand pies, pasties, or turnovers. They’re common in Latin American cultures; my own experience has been the meat-and-veggie-filled kind at Colombian restaurants and roadside eateries. I’m going to have to do more research on the dessert varieties, though! This chocolate-banana recipe sounds like something Vanni would pile on a plate and share with no one 😉
Nessie’s Nog Log — a sinfully good spice cake created by Clytemnestra, “Queen of the Nile,” in Castle Waiting Vol. 1, by Linda Medley (review). After running away from the circus, Nessie and her best friend Peace find sanctuary at St. Wilgeforte’s Abbey for bearded nuns. The two newest residents fit in right away, and hurry to contribute their own talents to abbey life.
On baking day, Nessie tries to re-create her father’s Holy Day Cake, but has to substitute some of the ingredients. The heavenly touch turns out to be the abbey’s famous oat liqueur. Nessie soaks the cake a bit too long…which turns a simple spice cake into a truly spiritual experience.
Perhaps I’ll make my own yuletide version of Nog Log this Christmas, using Lithuanian spiced mead instead of oatnog. I’ll let you know how it turns out! In the meantime, if you’re over 21, you might try any of these spiked cakes from Olive magazine (there’s even a yule log recipe with Bailey’s filling :-d )
Yes, yes, flying bandwagons and all that, but come on. Harry Potter taught us that chocolate can literally save your immortal soul. Or something. So, this Halloween, feel free to indulge in ALL THE SUPERNATURAL SUGARY GOODNESS!!! Stock up on the classics you can find practically anywhere — chocolate frogs, Butterbeer, Bertie Bott’s Beans — or get creative with your wizarding foodie experience!
Bake your own interpretation of cauldron cakes! If you’re feeling ambitious, try out this creepy Food Network version. I’m pretty proud of these bite-sized cauldrons I made last year, using brownie bites, purple squeezable frosting, and star sprinkles.
Or find yourself a local bakery/confectionery that indulges the geek community. I’m lucky to have a local coffee house that celebrates Harry Potter’s birthday week with themed sugary drinks (my favorite is the protagonist-flavored Polyjuice Potion) and baked goods like real pumpkin pasties! I can also Apparate over to Sweets So Geek, which offers rotating fandom-based menus of cakes, cookies, and chocolates, as well as taking custom orders.
So! What are your personal bookish candy crushes? Have you tried finding or re-creating them in real life? How did it go?
Candy corn clip art from Clipart Look.