Desserts for 10 Book Club Novels


Who doesn’t love a great book? The only thing better is reading a great book and then discussing it with friends over a great dessert! Novelist and Dessert-maker extraordinaire supplied daeandwrite with suggestions for ten fabulous desserts inspired by ten great book club reads. Check out her dessert suggestions below and then check out her novels, Imaginary Things and The Repeat Year and her website: Thanks Andrea!

Ten Most Delicious Desserts Inspired by Novels

by Andrea Lochen

As an avid reader with a major sweet tooth, I love when authors include the recipes for the yummy desserts they’ve made me drool over throughout their book. It’s a marriage of two of my favorite activities—reading and baking! And if you’re a book club member, what better treat to bring to your meeting than a dessert straight out of the novel? Here are ten of my favorite book-inspired desserts!

1) Southern Caramel Cake from The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The HelpWho hasn’t wanted to try a bite of the scrumptious-sounding caramel cake that Minny makes in The Help? (Maybe not so much her chocolate pie, however!) Though Stockett didn’t include the recipe in the back of her book, this food blog has the The Junior League of Memphis Cookbook recipe that supposedly inspired her.

2) Coconut Cake from Amy E. Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cakecoconut cake

The titular coconut cake in Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cake earned its place on the cover of this heartwarming book. To the main character, Lou, baking her grandmother’s cake is the ultimate expression of love. In the book, those who get to eat it earned their slice, which certainly made me crave a piece all the more!

Island in the sea3) Crème Caramel Flan from Anita Hughes’ Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story

 In Hughes’ newest novel set in Spain, she describes how Majorca’s restaurants serve a mouthwatering variety of delicious fresh fish and locally grown vegetables and how many diners like to end the meal with a dessert that satisfies any sweet tooth while not being heavy or cloying. This creme caramel flan recipe certainly does the trick!

4) Lemon Cream Cake from Juliette Fay’s Shelter Meshelter me Fay introduces the concept of “pology cake” in her first novel, Shelter Me, as something you bake for someone you’ve wronged in the hopes of that person forgiving you. Though according to Fay, it doesn’t need to be a particular kind of cake, her recipe for lemon cream cake in the back of the book and on her author website sounds fabulous!

5) Peanut butter bars from Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal kitchens of the great

Though there are several delicious dishes described in Stradal’s debut novel about Midwestern foodie culture, it was the blue-prize winning peanut butter bars recipe from Lutheran church lady, Pat, that caught my eye. I made this for my book club and these chocolate-frosted bars are just as decadent as they sound!

6) Thumbprint Cookies with Jam from Kelly Simmons’ One More Day

 Baking figures prominently in Kelly Simmons’ book because in One More Day, the main character, Carrie Morgan, bakes with her grandmother, as she did when she was a little girl. However, it’s not clear whether her grandmother is dead or alive! These thumbprint jam cookies look like just the thing to bake when you’re in a nostalgic mood (or simply in the mood for something buttery and sweet)!

7) Mantecadas from Tina Ann Forkner’s Ruby Among Us
In Ruby Among Us by Tina Ann Forknerruby among usKitty and her granddaughter Lucy spend a lot of time together talking over cookies and tea. Lucy even has a special tea cup that she drinks out of with her grandmother Kitty who is keeping a lot of secrets about Lucy’s past. Below is a link to Kitty’s secret recipe for Lucy’s favorite cookie, Mantecadas. Yum!

8) Nanaimo Bars from Miracle Beach by Erin Celellomiracle beach

 Nanaimo Bars are served in the cafeterias of the ferry boats between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada. In Miracle Beach, when main characters Magda and Jack come to the Island, they fall in love with the sinfully sweet bars. Author Erin Celello testifies that they’re amazing!

the river witch9) Damascus’ Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake from The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

In The River Witch, a family feast brings an estranged southern family together. When ten-year-old Damascus Trezevant’s summer ends with a bounty of pumpkins, she sets out to heal deep wounds with a sweet, old recipe for Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake and faith in the magic of a mother’s love. You won’t be sorry you tried this recipe!

10) The Best Chocolate Cake Ever from The Repeat Year by Andrea Lochenthe repeat year What dessert list is complete without a delectable chocolate cake? In The Repeat Year, main character Olive is named after her maternal grandmother who passed away the week before she was born. In addition to her grandma’s name, Olive also inherited her recipe for the “best chocolate cake ever” which her mom bakes as a peace offering for their family in a time of major transition.

What are your favorite recipes inspired by novels? Comment below!

Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels, Imaginary Things and The Repeat Year. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and her BA in English at the University of Wisconsin. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. When she isn’t teaching, reading, or baking, she is hard at work on her third novel. To learn more about her, visit her website:

Happy Reading and Eating!










It’s so nice to hear from readers. I received a lovely email from Margie Lafferty this morning that I wanted to share and she gave me permission:

“Our bookclub began in Feb 2014, I am always looking for great books to read and ideas for our meetings. We are a group of women, middle age, from all walks of life! So far, I love your site, which I just found today! We are currently reading All the Light We Cannot See- excellent! Thank you for your ideas, I am using them for our next meeting!”
Margie Lafferty

Thanks Margie!

spring tree read

I’d love to hear from you too.


The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

bertha and jane

Bertha and Jane by Monro S. Orr

There’s just something about a married man who keeps his mad wife in an attic that is so … alluring. Since Charlotte Bronte published Jane Eyre in 1847, it has become the unlikely favorite book of so many generations of young women.

“A new adaptation of Jane Eyre came out every year, and every year it was exactly the same. An unknown actress would play Jane, and she was usually prettier than she should have been. A very handsome, very brooding, very ‘ooh-la-la’ man would play Rochester, and Judi Dench would play everyone else.”

from The Madwoman Upstairs.

Capitalizing on that fascination, in The Madwoman Upstairs Catherine Lowell presents Samantha Whipple, “the last Bronte,” whose famous-novelist-father has left her the Bronte inheritance, the “Warnings of Experience.” Samantha, however, must be able to find her legacy. And as a student in love with her professor at the Old College at Oxford University, it’s hard to find time to hunt for the fusty old things, organize her social life, and survive the dreary tower in which she’s, mysteriously, been assigned to live much less the unknown “Warnings of Experience.”

Anne Bronte, author of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights), Charlotte, and brother Branwell, all come in for examination in The Madwoman Upstairs as do their literary works.


Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester

Despite an undergraduate degree in English Literature, I found myself surprised by the amount of information I did not know contained in The Madwoman Upstairs. Not only Bronte trivia, but literary criticism, theory, debate, history. I suspect Ms. Lowell of having a Bronte dissertation hiding in her past. But the novel  is not all Bronte. There is an original mystery here and Samantha Whipple sets out to solve it, whether her hot (think Fassbender as Rochester) professor, James Timothy Orville, wants her to or not.

Lowell’s novel supposes that much of the inspiration for Anne, Charlotte and Emily Bronte’s novel came from real incidents in their own life. She postulates that brother Branwell may have fought a fire similar to the scene in Jane Eyre.

“Was that Grace Poole? and is she possessed with a devil?” thought I.  Impossible now to remain longer by myself: I must go to Mrs. Fairfax.  I hurried on my frock and a shawl; I withdrew the bolt and opened the door with a trembling hand.  There was a candle burning just outside, and on the matting in the gallery.  I was surprised at this circumstance: but still more was I amazed to perceive the air quite dim, as if filled with smoke; and, while looking to the right hand and left, to find whence these blue wreaths issued, I became further aware of a strong smell of burning.

Something creaked: it was a door ajar; and that door was Mr. Rochester’s, and the smoke rushed in a cloud from thence.  I thought no more of Mrs. Fairfax; I thought no more of Grace Poole, or the laugh: in an instant, I was within the chamber.  Tongues of flame darted round the bed: the curtains were on fire.  In the midst of blaze and vapour, Mr. Rochester lay stretched motionless, in deep sleep.

“Wake! wake!” I cried.  I shook him, but he only murmured and turned: the smoke had stupefied him.  Not a moment could be lost: the very sheets were kindling, I rushed to his basin and ewer; fortunately, one was wide and the other deep, and both were filled with water.  I heaved them up, deluged the bed and its occupant, flew back to my own room, brought my own water-jug, baptized the couch afresh, and, by God’s aid, succeeded in extinguishing the flames which were devouring it.

The hiss of the quenched element, the breakage of a pitcher which I flung from my hand when I had emptied it, and, above all, the splash of the shower-bath I had liberally bestowed, roused Mr. Rochester at last.  Though it was now dark, I knew he was awake; because I heard him fulminating strange anathemas at finding himself lying in a pool of water.

In the end, Lowell’s story is Samantha Whipple’s search for her own ending, through the lives of her ancestors. And quite a lovely one it is. Lots of good discussion points, both about The Madwoman Upstairs and the Bronte books. I highly recommend.

I’ve previously provided a bookclub blueprint for Jane Eyre which contains some additional information and recipes: And also for The Wide Sargasso Sea, an imagined retelling of Bertha Mason’s story from her own viewpoint, also with music and recipes:

The Madwoman Upstairs’ publisher, Simon & Schuster, provides a book discussion group guide with questions should you be so inclined:


There isn’t a whole lot of food mentioned in The Woman Upstairs, leaving ample room for creativity. There’s a scene where Hot Teacher makes breakfast for Samantha but my book club would want a bit more. So my menu would be British pub food followed by a tribute to Jane Eyre.

Fish and Chips. Here’s a recipe from British chef Jamie Oliver:

Shepherd’s Pie. One of my favorites.

And for dessert, what could be more appropriate than a bit of a flaming dish. Just be sure not to light the bed curtains on fire. Here’s a recipe for Bananas Foster, with video demonstration:

Update: My long-time book club met last night and our lovely hostess served Shepherd’s Pie, roast chicken and a wonderful ice box cake — inspired by the cake Orville pulled out of the freezer to feed Samantha. She found the recipe on line and it was so good, I wanted to share it with you:


There are soundtracks available on Amazon and iTunes for multiple movie renditions of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and a BBC-production of Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I previewed The Tenant music and that’s what I would use. It’s haunting, wild, passionate in places, and since much of The Madwoman Upstairs focuses on Anne Bronte, seems most appropriate.


The Bronte Sisters by Patrick Branwell Bronte

Our book club also had some fun discussions about movie casting. The biggest problem we had in casting was Orville. Maybe Andrew Garfield? My suggestion of Benedict Cumberbatch met with resounding “nooooooos.”

Samantha – we didn’t actually discuss Samantha. But I think Hailee Steinfeld would be perfect.

Rebecca – the suggestion of Julianne Moore was made. I saw her more as Charlotte Rampling.

Sir John Booker – Ian McKellen.

Samantha’s mom – I don’t know why, but I see Helena Bonham-Carter

Samantha’s dad – Again, I’m not sure why, but when I read I was picturing Kenneth Branagh.

Happy Reading!








Fashionista: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner


Photo: Getty Images

In C.W. Gortner’s sweeping historical fictionalization of the life of Gabrielle Chanel, Coco barely has time to design dresses for all of the unintentional German spying, chain-smoking cigarettes, and mistressing for scads of wealthy, titled men. Nevertheless, she did design beginning with hats and becoming perhaps the most iconic woman of the 20th Century.


Who hasn’t heard of the “little black dress”? (Coco’s idea.) Sunbathed? (Popularized by Chanel.) Purchased something off the rack? (Her innovation) Smiled at Marilyn Monroe’s answer to the question asking what she wore to bed? (“Chanel Number 5 — of course.”)

The impoverished orphan Gabrielle’s influence as Coco Chanel reigned over the entire century and into today.

Gortner, a former fashion executive, imagines the creative process of many of Coco’s designs, from her first polo-shirt inspired top, to jersey clothing, little black dress and diamond jewelry. The biggest disappointment for me in all this is that without the with whom she spent time, it seems Coco wouldn’t have had any ideas at all. Or money.

From her first lover, Etienne Balsan, Coco got her moniker, “money to buy more hats and trimming supplies,” the first crowd of buyers for her hats and the financial backing for a hat shop. He also introduced her to her next logo

Arthur “Boy” Capel gave Coco true love, a broken heart, the inspiration for her C&C logo, his polo style, jersey fabric, and money to found her empire. And according to Gortner, the only glimmer of self-doubt she ever experienced.

boy capel“You told me once that what we don’t ear for ourselves is never ours, that it can always be taken away. Is that what your help means? Will you close my shop whenever you please?”

His own fury, rare to kindle but implacable once lit, darkened his eyes. “You insult me. What’s worse you insult us. You cannot run a business properly? Fine, you don’t have to. Hire an accountant. Do what you do best and leave the numbers to whose who know how. But don’t ever tell me again that I will snatch anything from you. I will not stand for it. . . . What I give you now, you will repay. I know you will. What I want is for you to know it. To believe it. It doesn’t matter how much I must invest if you’ll only trust in your talent and tell me the truth.”

I bit down on my quivering lip. “I will repay it. Every last centime.”

“So I hope.” He gave me a pensive look. “You’re the proudest person I know, but remember, you are still only a woman. And though I love you for it, pride will make you suffer.”

Only a woman . . .

The retrospectives, novels, biopics, Pinterest boards, tv movies about Coco Chanel abound. Gortner’s version offers a behind-the-scenes, first-person look at why the legendary fashionista made some of the decisions she made and how she was inspired to do so. I found it quite enjoyable; a quick read and one that made me want to know more about the clothing she designed.


Coco lives on cigarettes, chocolate and champagne. There is mention of British puddings, inedible gravies and fresh fruit and vegetables farmed at La Pausa, Coco’s rural retreat.

My menu would be easy, a tribute to a woman who spent her life working, not eating.

Croissants or Baguettes

French cheeses

Fresh fruit




Coco earned her nickname as a chanteuse at a small, unsavory nightclub. I would play Edith Piaf all night.

Berard 1937

Chanel ad from 1937! It looks so modern. Illustration by Christian Berard

Happy reading!

On the Road Again: Mosquitoland by David Arnold


Mary Iris Malone, her self-described heroine of David Arnold’s novel Mosquitoland, is having, in the words of Beth Henley, “a real bad day.” Her cherished mother has moved out of the family home after announcing she and Mim’s father are divorcing, Mim’s dad has married Kathy Sharone Malone and the new rhyming couplet have moved the family 933 miles away from their Ohio home to the “wastelands of Mississippi. Now, on the day Mim gets sent to the principal’s office for yet another violation of her high school’s code, she overhears her Dad and Kathy say that her mom has a disease.

greyhoundIt is time for the 16-year-old Mim to hit the road on her own. She leaves   Mosquitoland with only about $800 in stolen cash, a tube of her mother’s favorite lipstick and a bag of chips. She buys a ticket to ride on a Greyhound and before even setting foot on board, begins a series of life-defining adventures that allude to everything from The Odyssey to Alice in Wonderland to Moby Dick.

USA Today called MosquitolandFerris Bueller’s Day Off if done by John Hughes with Jack Kerouac.” I can see the point, but Mim with her own anomalous collection of oddities has the intense self-centered reflection of the Millennial Generation without the lightness of a Ferris Bueller. She’s Andie from Pretty in Pink confronting the Scylla and Charybdis of current America with a couple of other travelers she encounters on the way.

Closing his eyes again, Beck repositions his head on the back of his seat, and in one sure movement, reaches over and grabs my hand. Even with his eyes closed, he knew where to find me. I want to cry for a thousand reasons, laugh for a thousand others; this is my anomalous balance, the place where Beck and I can let the ridiculousness of our collective sentences marinate, and other things, too. It’s a singular moment of clarity between two people, and rare or not, I’m not about to let go.
I’m done roaming hillsides.
I’ve scoured the corners of the earth.
And I’ve found my people.
God, I’m almost jealous of myself.
Holding Beck’s hand in my lap, I find a courage I never knew I had and drop my head on his shoulder.

Author Arnold, a guy (!), writes Mosquitoland in Mim’s, a girl (!), first person voice. And


Mean Girls from AdWeek

does a swell job of it. If I had any quibble at all, it was the dialogue sometimes got too cutesy, sometimes too sophisticated, and sometimes too — I don’t know — dare I say “Male” for a 16 year old girl? Teenage girls in John Greene and David Arnold novels often launch into Tina Fey-Amy Schumer-Amy Poehler-Sisters-Trainwreck speech which seems too movie-fied. But as I don’t have a 16 year old daughter myself, THANK THE GOOD LORD, I can’t be sure.

“I have a license,” says a voice behind us. I turn to find 17C scrolling through pictures on his camera, standing in the front yard like a deep-rooted tree, like he’s been there for years. Somehow, that black eye only makes him more desirable. “And you are . . . ?” asks Moses. A) Perfect B) The god of Devastating Attractiveness C) A flawless specimen, created in a lab by mad scientists in an effort to toy with the heart of Mary Iris Malone D) All of the above I circle D. Final effing answer.

I think Mosquitoland would be a great choice for my own book club. Most of my clubbers have daughters who either are, were or will be teenagers and perhaps this offers some insight into what teenage girls are thinking about (hint: boys, themselves) and why. It’s funny, sweet, but has moments of biting pathos as well. And since a good bit of it takes place in Kentucky and David Arnold lives in my old Kentucky hometown of Lexington, you really cannot go wrong!

According to David’s website,, his second book Kids of Appetite will be released on September 20, 2016. You can also find him on twitter: @roofbeam. (Incidentally, I’m on twitter too! @daeandwrite)


Food and drink abound in Mosquitoland, and David was kind enough to share with me via twitter a recipe for “Medieval burgers” mentioned in the novel.



Medieval Burgers and Fries. According to David, medieval burgers require jack cheese to be placed inside the burger before grilling. Voila! Medieval.

Kung Pao Chicken — tip, avoid msg

Pie and Ice Cream



So here’s another great reason to read Mosquitoland! The music mentioned in tMosquitolandhe novel is awesome AND David, a freelance musician/producer, has written his own music to accompany the book that you can download!

So the music mentioned includes:


Johnny Cash

The Doors, Break on Through
(and something I can’t read because I wrote it while driving and listening to the audiobook)
David Arnold’s music:


Mim: A Young Ellen Page, obviously. Or Chloe Grace Moretz

Beck: Alex Pettyfer

Happy Reading!