Exactly 7 days ago, our school hosted its annual Edible Book festival! And you bet your chocolatey pants that I entered.
After last year’s Calvin and Hobbes success, I gave myself exactly two days before I started brewing up ideas for this year’s festival. The idea behind the Edible Book Festival is simple: pick a book, create a food display inspired by the book, and show it off to a happy, hungry public. Perfecto, no?
Now is a self-proclaimed amateur connoisseur of both children’s literature and baked goods, you can imagine the sort of schoolgirl high I get every time the end of March rolls around. I mean, edible books? You might as well slap my name all over the marketing flyers and call it a day.
This year I decided to go the literal route and use the book that’s chock filled with edible references. Growing up, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t on my list of favorite books–it wasn’t even on my radar until the seventh grade, and by then I wanted nothing to do with the grotesque author who had written abominably disturbing works such as The Witches. (I mean, have you read that book? Yeesh!)
In fact, it wasn’t until I began teaching children’s literature at the university level that I read the novel in its entirety – once, then twice, then five times and ten. I couldn’t get over all the zany demises of Charlie’s rivals, or the wonderfully awful Quentin Blake illustrations accompanying these descriptions – and let’s face it: a book all about chocolate? Twelve-year-old self, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???
Once the cogs started turning, there was no chance in holy fudge tarnations that they were going to stop. I knew I wanted to do a display inspired by my favorite part of the books: the tragic disappearances of each of the four naughty children who enter Willy Wonka’s factory. This insanely gooey, drippy Chocolate Rum Bundt Cake was among the first pieces I conceptualized complete with a chocolate syrup waterfall where the unfortunate Augustus Gloop is swallowed up by a giant chocolate gathering tube.
The cake is one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes that maximizes fudginess with a literal tunnel of fudge running through the base of the Bundt cake. Then, while the cake is still warm, you poke a bunch of holes all over the surface and drench it with this amazing golden rum glaze in which I would happily bathe myself, if I could find enough syrup to fill a bathtub and if it wasn’t extremely unhygienic to do so. (And even then, I might consider it.)
The best part for me, though, was hearing guests audibly moan when they saw me serve up a slice and dunk it full on into that gorgeous, rich puddle of chocolate syrup. I mean, not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty darn sure satisfaction was not an issue that afternoon.
As always, it was so worth it! The library does a great job of hosting this event every year, and this time around was no exception. Over 200 people came to gawk, talk, and chow down on all these wonderful edible book entries. My display was even lucky enough to take home an award for Best Tasting! Next time, I have to remake and share the coconut tres leches cake that really won the judges – after working over 72 hours on this display, I didn’t even have a second to spare to take a picture!
The best part was seeing all of my friends show up to support and – let’s be honest – stuff their faces at this incredible event. One of my friends took the picture below, and it’s the closest documentation I have to what my display looked like before all three cakes and nearly 12 dozen cookies were devoured. On the left, you can see this chocolate rum Bundt cake and chocolate waterfall with the blue jacket of the Augustus Gloop at the very edge. The second platter – filled with grilled cheese bites and brownies – is the Inventing Room where Violet Beauregarde eats a three-course chewing gum meal that turns her into a giant blueberry; guests could make their own three-course meal-on-a-stick complete with appetizer fruit, entree, and dessert.
The cake on the right is the coconut trees leches cake, and included a decoder that would give nutty jokes as an homage to Veruca Salt’s place of demise, the Nut Room. And I really wish there was a picture to document this last one (you can see my Instagram video), because it was my personal favorite: a movable, spinning TV set into which you could reach and actually grab from a selection of candies, cookies, and other treats. The kids were really wowed by that one, and I daresay some adults, too!
Another year, another amazing festival. I think even Willy Wonka himself would have been proud about how this one turned out!
What are you waiting for? Chocolate-fy yourself!
For the cake:
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
- 5 large eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the rum syrup:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup dark rum or Kahlua
For the chocolate syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10 or 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over chocolate chips. Allow chocolate to soak for one minute, then whisk until smooth.
- In a second medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, and salt.
- In a large bowl, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, and butter. Beat until light and fluffy about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, then be in until just incorporated. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the edges of the cake just began to pull away from the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake (but not to the bottom) should come out mostly clean with moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Remove the cake to stovetop and allow it to cool for 5 minutes before carefully inverting onto a serving plate. Poke as many holes as possible (all around--on top, on the sides) into it with a chopstick or other small to medium sized stick.
For the rum syrup:
- In a saucepan, combine butter, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to boil for five minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in rum or Kahlúa.
- Use a brush to soak hole-poked cake with rum syrup. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to really get the syrup in each of the holes – the more the cake soaks up, the better. Continue until you have finished most or all of the syrup.
For the chocolate syrup:
- in a saucepan, combine water, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a simmer over low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to simmer. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Serve immediately with cake, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.