Read it and eat it: Hopkins hosts annual 'Edible Books' contest

The crowd gathered Thursday in Johns Hopkins University's Glass Pavilion did not go away hungry.

The third annual Edible Books Festival, hosted by the Sheridan Libraries, showcased 29 table displays of literary-inspired treats baked and decorated by Johns Hopkins students, faculty, and staff.

"The creativity of the Hopkins community is what inspires us to continue to hold the festival," said Heidi Herr, librarian for philosophy and outreach coordinator for Special Collections for the Sheridan Libraries. "The sheer diversity and randomness of the edible books on view speaks highly to the wonderful reading habits at Hopkins."

Some creations were confectionary triumphs, like The Secret Garden blueberry zucchini cake made with lavender simple syrup and decorated with painted fondant and buttercream flowers. Or the two-tiered cake—inspired by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and complete with a fondant patronus—which, when cut and served, revealed layers of lemon curd, vanilla buttercream, and raspberry compote.

Others focused more on creativity and whimsy than artistic precision, like the cake inspired by The Lord of the Rings that featured a two-tiered hobbit hole decked out in layers of frosting and topped with a paper Eye of Sauron; or the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs exhibit that opted for a plate of marzipan "noodles" and chocolate truffle "meatballs" instead of a cake at all; or The Magic School Bus solar system made of cupcakes whose brownie base was easily one of the tastiest components of the day.

Some student bakers had to navigate the limitations of campus living in order to make their desserts. Lani Roskes, who made The Magic School Bus display with a partner, had to complete her baking in the days leading up to the event in the Johns Hopkins Hillel building.

Others were more lucky, like Alex Jordan, who was able to bake in her off-campus apartment, but who nevertheless said she faced a "fiasco" as she tried to dye the frosting for the truffula trees in her Lorax-inspired cake-scape.

"We really like to encourage people with all levels of baking skills. It's fun, it's whimsicial, it's memorable, and it's just meant to be a way to show your love of reading," Herr said. "It's not like everyone can recreate the Life of Pi in fondant!"

After a viewing period, a cry rang out from the organizers: "Let them eat cake!" Bakers cut into their cakes and served them to the hungry crowd, who cast ballots voting for "Most Delicious," "Best Effort," "Funniest," " Best Literary Theme," and "Best in Show." Winners and runners up received gift cards to local restaurants and event tickets to performing arts venues.

The winners were:

Most Delicious

  • Winner: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by Riti Gupta
  • Runner up: The Lord of the Rings, by Isabella Altherr and Laura Nugent

Best Effort

  • Winner: Fahrenheit 451, by Allison Keller and Shanna Leventhal
  • Runner up: The Magic School Bus, by Lani Roskes and Jacob Klein; and Corduroy, by the Plaqate Medical student group (tied)


  • Winner: Much Ado About Nothing, by Erica Schwartz
  • Runner up: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Amicia Phillips, Sophia Chen, and Tara Blair

Best Literary Theme

  • Winner: Stories by Edgar Allan Poe, by Megan Donnelly, Debbie Ou, and Christie Shen
  • Runner up: The Lorax, by Aidan Crank and Alex Jordan

Best in Show

  • Winner: Life of Pi, by Vera Jackson
  • Runner up: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by Stephanie Herrera