This is no ordinary circus, there are no clowns or elephants, no big tent with circus ringmaster, instead there are lots of individual tents you can wonder through, including an ice garden, a cloud maze and a pool of tears, but these are no illusions. The magic is real and it's part of a duel between between two young magicians, Celia and Marco.
“I tried to explain as much as I could," Poppet says. "I think I made an analogy about cake."
Food is an important part of the story and I love the way Erin Morgenstern draws the reader into the circus by using second person descriptions. It feels like you're really there and reminded me of the style I used for my Virtual Experiences. It's like you can smell the popcorn cooking and taste the sweet, crisp caramel apples. These flavours stayed with me and I wanted to incorporate them into my cake.
I decided to make a Caramel Apple Popcorn Cake and I went on a Google mission to find some recipes. I discovered this recipe for The Perfect Caramel Cake and I can honestly say it was perfect. Light, not too sweet but with a distinct caramel flavour. There aren't many cake recipes I decide to use again but this is one of them.
To bring in the element of caramel apples I initially considered grating apple into my cake, something I will try in the future, but I was wary about adding extra liquid to a recipe I had never tried before. Instead I decided to caramelise apples and use them to sandwich the layers together, with a little of the caramel topping. It worked really well, adding a depth of flavour and a fresh tang - I used Cox's Apples for their acidity and it balanced out the buttery caramel.
All that left was the decoration. I'm more of a baker than a decorator and tend to focus on the taste rather than the appearance but this cake was special so I got creative.
“They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars. They pontificate upon the fluffiness of the popcorn, the sweetness of the chocolate. They spend hours discussing the quality of the light, the heat of the bonfire. They sit over their drinks smiling like children and they relish being surrounded by kindred spirits, if only for an evening. When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they go their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before.”
Book Themed Cake - The Night Circus. Caramel cake with a caramelised apple filling, topped with caramel and finished with chocolate stars, edible crocheted strawberry scarves and a popcorn topping.
The cake went down really well, with requests for the recipe - always a good sign. I enjoyed it almost as much as I enjoyed reading the book. In fact I think I need to go and get a piece and settle down to reread it now.
“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that... there are many kinds of magic, after all.”
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.