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Books on the menu at Bowie library's cake bake-off


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Photo by Dana Amihere. Dressed as princesses-in-training, sisters Jayda, 4, and Jasmine, 10, with sisters Catherine, 13, and Veronica, 9, strike a pose with their sweet rendition of "The Princess Academy" by Shannon Hale.

Photo by Dana Amihere. Dressed as princesses-in-training, sisters Jayda, 4, and Jasmine, 10, with sisters Catherine, 13, and Veronica, 9, strike a pose with their sweet rendition of "The Princess Academy" by Shannon Hale.

Published on: Wednesday, April 04, 2012

By Dana Amihere

More than 40 bakers had their cake and ate it too in the Bowie Library’s fifth annual “Devour a Book” cake contest Saturday, an event held in conjunction with the International Edible Books Festival.

After hearing about the event from her sister, a librarian based in Connecticut, Eileen Taddonio brought the increasingly popular tradition to Prince George’s County.

The Edible Book Festival was first conceptualized by Judith A Hoffberg in 1999 over a Thanksgiving dinner with book artists. The first event was held the next year and has since become a global sensation celebrated on (or around) April 1 to commemorate the birthday of French gastronome Jean-Anthlme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) who penned a  witty book full of reflections on food.

Recent literary trends are always represented in the entries, said Taddonio’s fellow librarian, judge and organizer, Denise Pritchett.

Photo by Dana Amihere. An edible Thomas the Tank Engine awaits judging during the fifth annual "Devour a Book" cake contest sponsored by the Bowie library on Saturday.

Photo by Dana Amihere. An edible Thomas the Tank Engine awaits judging during the fifth annual "Devour a Book" cake contest sponsored by the Bowie library on Saturday.

This year entries included international bestseller “The Hunger Games” by novelist Suzanne Collins, which was just created into a major motion picture and the still popular “Harry Potter” series  by J.K. Rowling. Classics such as “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree” also made an appearance. Previous favorites have ranged from Dr. Seuss and “Alice in Wonderland” to the “Twilight” saga by Stephenie Meyer.

“The most enjoyable part (of the contest) is seeing how creative people, especially the children, can be,” Taddonio said.

This year was no exception.

The award for best interpretation for a book went to teen Evie Kallish for “Trash” by Andy Mulligan. Kallish thought outside of the normal baker’s goods and used hummus to decorate part of her cake.

Some contestants chose a more traditional route with sugary decorations. Madisen Wroten, 5, of Bowie, and her parents Mary, 34, and Al, 38, helped her illustrate one of her favorite books to have read to her, “What Makes a Rainbow” by Betty Ann Schwartz, with a colorful array of mini cupcakes splayed above a cake bunny. The kindergartener says her favorite parts were helping mix the cake batter, decorating the cupcakes with candy ladybugs and baby chicks and giving the bunny his jelly bean nose. For their efforts, the Wrotens took home an honorable mention award, known as the Baker’s Dozen.

Five of the seven Gorman kids, Bowie natives, submitted separate entries. Their mother, Anne-Marie, 46, was less worried about sibling rivalry and more about the mess left behind.

“You should see my kitchen,” Gorman said with a laugh.

Four-year veterans of the contest, the Gorman brood have collectively taken home five awards including two teen first places and a child’s overall award. The family had a range of entries inspired by Nancy Drew, an Abraham Lincoln biography and Shakespeare. Benedict, 10; Thomas, 12; and Monica, 17, took home honorable mentions this year.

One group took their interpretation of “The Princess Academy” by Shannon Hale a step further. Hyattsville’s Jessica Carter, 29, had four little princesses-in-training, complete with homemade tutus and plastic tiaras take home an honorable mention. Carter says her daughters, Jasmine, 10, and Jayda, 4, and her younger sisters Catherine, 13, and Veronica, 9, took about a month to finish their cake and their outfits.

“They made 98 percent (of the cake) by themselves. They did the baking, cutting and shaping by themselves. They did need help coloring the gum paste and decorating the sides of the cake,” said the eldest Carter.

Kids aren’t the only ones in the kitchen though.

Pat Bartolillo, 63, of Bowie, and her daughter Diana Hugue, 30, who lives in Columbia, have been participants in the bake-off since 2008. Hugue, a past winner who just had a baby, chose to illustrate an early reader book, “The Belly Button Book” by Sandra Boynton. Her happy hippos lounging on the beach beneath edible paper palm fronds took home an honorable mention.

Her mother, who also competes in a yearly gingerbread house contest and entered The Washington Post’s Easter Peeps contest six years ago, submitted her interpretation of Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man.” Originally printed in 1951, the book itself has gone through dozens of cover art interpretations for successive editions.

Bartolillo said her cakes are often science fiction or mystery favorites which translate well to cake, such as 2008‘s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” entry and her 2011 collage cake of Alfred Hitchcock films.

Though her cakes aren’t usual children’s picks, she does hope that her literary selections leave an impression on them.

“(My book) might pique their interest,” Bartolillo said. “They come away thinking ‘I haven’t read that book, but I’d like to.’”

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