I grew up listening Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. I had a recording of a British fellow reading it and I listened to it over and over. I conjured up exquisite visions of Wonderland. I refused to see the Disney cartoon of it (although I love the Disneyland Alice-themed rides). I love Tim Burton films but I refused to see his rendition too. No version of the book could satisfy me compared to what I have envisioned. Although Johnny Depp wasn’t included in my fantasy, so maybe I could take a tip from Burton.
There is a lot of food in Alice in Wonderland. I have colorful visions of the various cakes and tarts and soups encountered. I am not sure I could create foods that would satisfy me there either, at least in the looks department. But in terms of taste, heck yah, I have some ideas. This is actually the first in a couple of posts I am going to write on Wonderland eats.
The first item to stand out to me as something I wanted to recreate was the cake that said “eat me” on it. Trippy as Wonderland is, this one thing makes sense. The cake says EAT ME on it. Well duh. Every time I see cake it says that to me. And so I do. Eat cake. I started re-reading the book to see if there were any more clues into what sort of cake I should make.
As I delved deeper into the book I was hit with a realization: Alice was the original yo-yo dieter! Let’s think about it. First she wants to be smaller. She sees a bottle with a tag that says DRINK ME and gulps down the concoction. It tastes like “a mixed flavor of cherrytart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast”. So basically like the first page of the Cheesecake Factory menu. Except unlike the Factory, the crazy drink shrinks her. But then she realizes that being tiny has it’s limits. She comes upon some delightful little cakes with that say EAT ME, “marked in currants”. She’s a logical girl so she does that. But then she is once again toooooo big.
So she shrinks herself by waving a fan. As I said, she’s a logical girl. She realized exercise is an important part of any sensible plan for health. But she goes a bit overboard, gets a bit exercise obsessed. In clear proof that losing too much weight makes one a nutty, she insists upon running a “caucus race”, whatever that is, against animals. And in a classic eating disordered move, she starts giving away food: when the animals demand prizes she reveals the candies she was hoarding in her pocket. They take the candy and leave her and she starts crying. Dieting is lonely, y’all.
In her starved and crazed state, she drinks from another bottle and grows. Poor Alice cannot stop the yo-yo. But then she sees some pebbles turn to tiny cakes and eats them to shrink. The key factor is that they were tiny. I think she finally realized the importance of portion size and that any treat in moderation is okay.
She decides that none of her previous sizes were correct. I believe she realized that the yo-yo-ing was detrimental, that she needed to settle on the right size: ”I suppose I ought to eat or drink something or other; but the great question is, ‘What?’”
The “great question” that plagues all of mankind: what is the right thing to eat?
The answer is this: nobody really knows! There are a gajillion contradicting diet plans out there but I am of the belief that there is no one-size-fits-all diet.
One thing I do know is that my sort of diet includes some cake. In my fantasy of the Eat Me cakes, which I am re-christening the Stop the Diet Madness Cakes, they are fantastically colored, filigreed, and adorned. I am sorry but our cakes are going to be a bit more doable. I wanted to be accurate so I searched for the currants to spell out “EAT ME” on them but the east Los Angeles supermarkets came up short so I settled on Craisins. I decided that a cake with a nice cranberry infusion would naturally be pink so bonus! I could avoid artificial coloring for a nice pink hue. I had once made a relatively healthy (for a cake) lime and pomegranate cake that was quite tasty, so I adapted the recipe to use cranberry juice and to be baked it in cupcake tins. Voila! Little pink EAT ME cakes. Sanity guaranteed.
Stop the Diet Madness Cakes very loosely adapted from this cake from Bon Appetit)
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup applesauce
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup cranberry juice cocktail
- 3/4 tsp. lime zest
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp. cranberry juice cocktail
- ¼ tsp. lime zest
- dried cranberries
To make cake, heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray 6 muffin cups with a nonstick spray. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together. In a small bowl, whisk applesauce, egg and sugar. Whisk in juice and lime zest. Stir into flour then stir in yogurt. Bake for around 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Make the glaze while the cakes bake. This is important!
To make the glaze, sift powdered sugar and whisk in lime zest and 2 Tbsp. juice.
When cakes come out of the oven, poke some holes in the top with your toothpick or a fork, then pour glaze over and allow it to absorb. Use the cranberries to decorate in any way you do desire.