Dispatch from the field: April 1, 2010: Omnivore Books Edible Art Contest


Yes, another great food contest – this one challenges you to create a dish that references books or art, in conjunction with the annual Edible Books Festival held all over the world on April Fool’s Day. Participants may enter their favorite food-related books or art, in the form of an “Edible” entry. For instance someone might do something clever with a stock pot and a marzipan canine to represent MFK Fisher’s “How To Cook A Wolf.” Or maybe a contestant enters “Someone Is Killing The Great Chefs of Europe” and represents it with a cake in the shape of a map of Europe with a real knife sticking out of it. The original idea for the festival came from observing Brillat- Savarin’s birthday, which falls on April 1st. Participants will be judged on creativity and flavor, and may enter for free. Eaters-only will pay $5 at the door, as well as judge the entries; the winner will split the door money with us. The more entries, the merrier!

I LOVE these competitions we have at Omnivore. Celia mentioned a few weeks ago that the best part of owning your own small business is that you can throw a party whenever you like. This goes along with my firm belief that there is no better gathering than one which involves friendly competition and great food. My closest friends will remember tasty beverages from such smash hits as ‘Science!!!; and late nights involving some competitive Quelf. The bar was set pretty high in the past few months at the store with a very boozy Punch Contest, a Pie Contest (with 48 entries), a Pumpkin contest, and yes, even a Fried Chicken contest.

The entries were extraordinarily creative this time. I admit that I completely broke passover dietary laws to eat absurd quantities of everything. Which, of course, made me happy, but gave me a really bad stomach ache. God punishing me, mayhaps? But now, down to business – the official entries so you can judge for yourself (**by entry number – winners, and winning recipe listed at the bottom**).

1. “Slim Down for Summer Fun”: This bowl was based on Leslie Morgan’s own works of art – check out her “pool glee” series to really see the resemblance.

Home made chocolate pudding with colored cream cheese icing. Tasting notes: I ended up spooning out seconds for myself, even though I was already feeling ill from all the sugar. It was worth it. Nothing like some real chocolate pudding to remind someone that it’s drastically better than the packet stuff. And look how cute it is! (That’s her Boston Terrier floating in the pool).

2. Fabergé cake with fruit still life“: sugar cookies decorated as fruits (seen above), and a ‘banana split cake’ – chocolate cake with strawberry and banana buttercream and chocolate ganache. His muse was the acclaimed Fabergé eggs,  originally created for Tsar Alexander III to give to his wife on Easter by world renown House of Fabergé.

From a technical standpoint, the decorative elements on these fruit cookies and cake were enough to garner a first place win, but judging included both creativity and overall taste. In addition to these awe inspiring entries, Dante (the creator) gets win points for naming his business ‘Fire and Icing‘.

3. “Salumi”: Jacqueline Mallorca’s witty entry inspired by one of the cookbooks in our very own shop, came with this incredibly funny sign:

“Homage to Salumi by Joyce Goldstein: the three all-organic, hand-fed, humanely-raised little pigs who gave their all for these salami were named Figgy, Prunus, and Apricot. The finely-chopped, guaranteed vegetarian faux pork is marbled with, um, hand-chopped noix, and blended with finely-crumbled, hand-formed, custom-baked amaretti and a splash of the best dark Barbados rum.”

Considering that Salumi is the current “it-food” (maybe second only to macarons), I thought that this entry was highly entertaining and relevant to our times. Also, these looked *exactly* like salumi. They also tasted delicious – a delicate fruit and nut log that I can see myself making to serve with tea as an afternoon snack.

4. “Alabama Lane Cake”: Katie and Annelise worked together to create this delicious cake in homage to one of my favorite books of all time, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird“. The movie happens to be on my top faves as well (nothing like a dashing Gregory Peck to make me swoon.)

This boozy cake, which is featured in the novel, was a white cake with pecans, raisins, coconut, seven-minute frosting, and “enough bourbon to kill a mockingbird”. It was served alongside a real (real cast-iron) dead mockingbird.

The cake was OUTRAGEOUSLY good. Although, this wasn’t too surprising, as Katie was previously the creator of my personal favorite “Whiskey Sunrise” at the Omnivore books Punch Contest.

5. “Mondrian Cake”: Chocolate cake with a Jacques Torres frosting. Who doesn’t love Mondrian? I’m going to take some liberty here and connect this cake with an homage to Mondrian by Silverchair, (90’s anyone?) who happened to create a particularly catchy song with Mondrian featured prominently in the video. They aren’t given enough credit for how awesome they are. You should watch it. And forgive me for getting it stuck in your head for the next week.

6. “Eat My Globe: Around the World in 80 Cookies” Inspired by another book we have in our bookshop – Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything – this fantastic globe model was made with these *crack-like* lemon, rosemary and cornmeal cookies. I say crack-like, because, well, they were like crack. I personally took home the leftovers and may or may not have eaten oh, all thirty of these bedazzling buttery buttons. Even though their hues were similar to Crayola crayons. Slightly disturbing.

Winners: With such a diverse group of entrants, the entries each got several votes, but it came down to two clear winners

Second Prize, and the winner of a “So Good” pastry magazine: the Fabergé cake!

Grand Prize, and the winner of half the door money: The Alabama Lane Cake!!! Congrats guys!!

Alabama Lane Cake
a winning recipe

Adapted from Cooks.com – cake and frosting from here: and the filling from here.

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 c. sifted cake flour
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 egg whites
Lane Cake Filling
7 Minute Frosting
Pecan halves (optional)

Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Combine flour and baking powder. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Beat egg whites (at room temperature) until stiff peaks form, fold into batter. Pour batter into 4 greased and floured 9 inch round cake pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

(Layers are very tender and fragile, so handle them carefully). Spread Lane Cake Filling between layers and on top of cake. Spread Seven Minute Frosting on sides. Garnish with pecan halves if desired. Yield: one 4 layer cake.

1 1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. bourbon or rye
12 egg yolks
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. each chopped pecans, shredded coconut, and quartered candied red cherries
Combine raisins and bourbon in tightly covered container; let stand at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. In top of double boiler or heatproof bowl, combine yolks, sugar, salt and butter. Stir over simmering water 15 to 20 minutes or until thick and mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon. Remove from heat; stir in raisin-bourbon mixture, pecans, coconut and cherries, blending well. Cool; cover; chill overnight before assembling cake.
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. plus 1 tbsp. cold water
2 egg whites
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in top of a large double boiler. Beat at low speed of an electric mixer 30 seconds or just until blended.Place over boiling water, beat constantly at high speed 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat 2 minutes or until frosting is thick enough to spread. Yield: 4 1/4 cups.

Omnivore Books Food Competitions
To get the official updates follow on twitter @omnivorebooks or sign up for the newsletter on the website. Well be having our next one in a month or so – I believe the concept will be “Fusion food”