Great literature bake off: Johns Hopkins bakers create delightful desserts inspired by books

Sheridan Libraries hosts its fourth annual Edible Book Festival

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but have you ever judged a book by its taste?

The Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries hosted its fourth annual Edible Book Festival on Friday. Student bakers and JHU community members gathered in the Glass Pavilion on the university's Homewood campus to observe, vote for, and eventually get a taste of desserts inspired by literature.

Heidi Herr, librarian for English and philosophy and outreach coordinator for Special Collections, planned the festival with her student library assistants, who marketed the event and created table cards for each dessert.

"It's a fun way for students to exercise their creativity and showcase their love of literature," Herr said. "Hopkins students … use their intelligence and talent in a way that's different than what they do during class."

Some of those students stayed to explain their creations, while others let their desserts do the talking.

Of 26 literary desserts, 10 were formally recognized in one of five categories: "Funniest/Punniest," "Best Literary Theme," "Best Effort," "Most Delicious," and "Best in Show."

A look at some of the contenders …

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey: A vegan chocolate orange cake with a pretzel, chocolate, and Rice Krispy duckling nest; white chocolate cake pops as duckling eggs; sugar cookie bridges; carrot cake with a chocolate coconut-flavored road; and ducks and cars made of molding chocolate.

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Comet by Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan

The Egyptian Book of the Dead—an ancient Egyptian funerary text

Popism: The Warhol Sixties by Pat Hackett

Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

Statistical Machine Translation textbook by Johns Hopkins faculty member Phillipp Koehn, a professor of language and speech processing in the Department of Computer Science. Rebecca Knowles, a fourth-year PhD student, had Koehn sign the "book" in edible ink. The dessert is a lemon cake with lemon, white icing, and fondant on top.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

After 20 minutes of looking around, attendees were asked to taste the edible books.

Dragons Loves Tacos by Adam Rubin

Some desserts were traditional cakes.

What to Expect the Toddler Years by Heidi Murkoff

Others were destroyed before guests could get a bite.

Tasters headed to the voting table to choose the best desserts.

Seniors Andy Ingersoll and Jessica Billeter said that the Peter Pan cake was their favorite.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

But before long, all that was left were crumbs.

Here are the winners of this year's Read it and Eat it Sheridan Libraries Book Festival:


  • 1st place: Erica Schwartz and Stephanie Herrera for The Grapes of Wrath
  • 2nd place: Deborah Buffalin for What to Expect: The Toddler Years

Best Literary Theme

  • 1st place: Maggie Weese for Peter Pan
  • 2nd place: Sangeetha Tharmarajah for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Best Effort

  • 1st place: Zoe Demko for Comet
  • 2nd place: Justine Pinkerton for The Egyptian Book of the Dead

Most Delicious

  • 1st place: Liz Johns for Game of Thrones
  • 2nd place: Riti Gupta for Game of Thrones

Best in Show

  • 1st place: Alice Zou for The Secret Garden
  • 2nd place: Lani Roskes and Jacob Klein for Make Way for Ducklings