Cupcakes AND Books? A Perfect Combination!

As you may already know, we Crusaders love it when some of our favorite things collide. We’ve been able to mix theater and cupcakes, but we’ve never had the opportunity to mix books and cupcakes. So, when we were contacted to review The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes, a new series written by mother-daughter team Sheryl and Carrie Berk, we jumped at the opportunity! Not only have I reviewed the book below, but we also interviewed the authors and have a giveaway!

The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes is geared towards “tweens,” but this almost-30-year-old also found it entertaining. The protagonist, 9-year-old Kylie, is easily relatable to, in that she just doesn’t seem to fit in. After arriving at a new school, the “popular” girl quickly decides that she’s going to make things very difficult for Kylie. Luckily, Kylie has a good teacher and supportive parents. With their help she starts a new club at school and finds a few other “outcasts” to join. As the girls overcome baking obstacles and bullies, while learning to manage a growing business, they begin to realize that they aren’t so alone after all.

The subject for the book was a natural selection for 9-year-old Carrie Berk, cupcake blogger for Carrie’s Cupcakes Critiques. She has a passion for cupcakes, so when she approached her mom about writing a book for her age group, they both agreed it should be about fun, friendship, and cupcakes.

Some of the trials that Kylie encounters and feelings of not belonging, reminded me of the Judy Bloom books I read growing up.  There are moments when I wanted to say to Kylie, “Don’t take that from them! It wasn’t even a good insult!” but then remembered what kids can be like. This book series is one that I would love for my daughter to read when she’s in the target age group. There are some valuable lessons about confidence, friendship, and what it means to be the bigger person.

We had an opportunity to interview the authors, Sheryl and Carrie, to find out more about their inspiration for the book and how cupcakes and writing fit in to their lives:

Crusaders: Carrie, do you have a baking club at school? If so, did you help get it started? If not, are you thinking about starting one with your friends now that the book has been released?

Carrie: We had a cooking club during lunch clubs at school with Taste Buds, who is also my recipe developer (Jessi Walter). We made all sorts of things, not just cupcakes. It was fun! But I don’t really bake cupcakes with a club. I bake with my mom and my friends and we share them, not sell them.

Crusaders: When I was growing up I was lucky to have great teachers who made school fun, so I related to Kylie in that aspect. Carrie, have you had similar experiences with teachers as Kylie? Do you have a favorite teacher at school?

I love all of my teachers at PS 6, but it was really Ms. Schottland, my second grade teacher, that first taught me about realistic fiction and got me writing reviews of cupcakes. The name of Kylie’s teacher in the book is Ms. Shottlan–that’s for her! And my teacher Ms. Levenherz is into cupcakes big time and is a great baker. So we’re always talking about them.

(Mother and Daughter writing team, Sheryl and Carrie Berk.)

Crusaders: Carrie and Sheryl, can you give any examples of characters that may have been inspired by people in your own lives?

Carrie:  I used a lot of the names from my friends, family and teachers in the book, because they support and inspire me so much. Like my principal is Ms. Fontana, and Kylie’s principal is Ms. Fontina. Sadie, Abby and Ava are names of my BFFs, Saperstone is my cousin’s last name, and Mr. Ludwig, the gourmet shop owner, is actually the last name of my BFF Jaimie Ludwig.

My friend Darby’s birthday is around Halloween, so she’s really into watching cool monster movies, and that gave me the idea for Kylie liking monster movies.

Everyone loves trying to find themselves in the book. My Uncle Charles says, “It’s like Where’s Waldo!”

Sheryl: I think there’s a little bit of Carrie in each of the four main Cupcake Club girls in the book as well as her besties. As for where the book takes place, New Fairfield, CT, that’s where I spent my summers as a child with my BFF Pam! Lots of great memories of bake sales on Frisbee Street! And Greenwich is where my husband grew up.

Crusaders: Sheryl, what would you say to other parents who might be hesitant to let their child start their own time consuming business?

Sheryl: I think it’s so important to support your child when they have a passion. In Carrie’s case, that’s cupcakes as well as ballet. So we divide our time between her hobbies and her school work. If your child is creative, ambitious and motivated, these are all great qualities that you should embrace. When Carrie said, “I want to write a book about a cupcake club,” I didn’t say, “No, you’re too busy. You have too much homework.” Instead, I said, “Let’s figure out how to make this happen for you.” I think it’s been a great lesson for her in time management and following your dreams. I always want her to dream big!

Crusaders: Carrie, how did you manage to juggle school, with the blog and then the book?

Carrie: I love reviewing cupcakes. My mom and dad take me on vacations and holidays to cupcake places all over the country and the world. We just did four in Boston. I really like posting cupcake pics and news on our Facebook page, site, Twitter and Pinterest. And my mom and I worked together on the book. We talked about how the story would go, then she wrote a rough draft and I edited and changed it, and she put in my changes. I think writing the book has made me a better writer in school-my teachers really like my essays.

Crusaders: As Cupcake Crusaders, we obviously love cupcakes! Carrie, what is it about cupcakes that you love?

Carrie: I like that there are so many more elements to them than other desserts like brownies or ice cream. There’s the cake, the frosting, the decoration. Cupcakes taste good and look good…hopefully! I also like that they’re small and unique. You never run out of ideas for new cupcakes.

Thanks so much to Carrie and Sheryl for taking time to answer our questions!

One of my favorite things from the book is that it includes recipes for some of the cupcakes mentioned. So, after reading mouth-watering descriptions of cupcakes, like their Eco-licious Chocolate, you can make them yourself! The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes is available now. If you can’t find it at a bookstore near you, it’s also available on Amazon.

And for our giveaway, we want to know what YOUR favorite cupcake is! The winner will receive a signed copy of The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes and a Cupcake Club measuring spoon. All you have to do is tell us below, in the comments section, where you found the recipe, who the bakery is, or where you had your favorite cupcake!! The contest ends on Sunday, April 29th and we will post the winner on Monday, April 30th. The winner will be selected at random. Enter now! We can’t wait to hear what some of your favorites are!

** This contest is now closed.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

We are working to help end childhood hunger!
Together we can make a difference!



Healthy Cupcakes: Carrot Cake!

Continuing our healthy crusade, Rebecca has another recipe for cupcakes with fewer calories… and less guilt.

Carrot cake has vegetables in it, so it must be healthy, right? The average carrot cake recipe can include upwards of 1 cup of oil, not to mention ounces of butter and cream cheese. This vegetable based cake can be worse for you than eating chocolate!

This recipe makeover has a low Weight Watcher Points+ value of 4 per cupcake and is a flavorful substitute. Who doesn’t love pecans, coconut, golden raisins and a moist spiced cake, topped with cream cheese? Once again I turn to a box cake mix, but step it up a bit by adding additional texture and flavors.

Cake Ingredients:

1 box Carrot Cake Mix

1 cup canned pumpkin

8oz crushed pineapple in juice

1/3 cup golden raisins

1 cup shredded carrot

¼  cup shredded coconut

¼ cup Pecan chips

Frosting Ingredients:

4oz. Neufchatel Cheese

¼ cup fat free sour cream

¾ cups powdered sugar

¼ cup shredded coconut

1/8 cup Pecan chips

To start, mix the cake mix and canned pumpkin in the mixer for 2 minutes on #2. While that is mixing, drain the crushed pineapple and use the liquid to rehydrate the raisins. Add the pineapple, carrot and coconut to the mixer and let it continue to mix for another minute. Stop the mixer and fold in the Pecan Chips and raisins by hand. Fill the cupcake wrappers ¾ of the way and bake for 18-19 minutes at 350 degrees.

While they are baking, fold the softened cream cheese with the sour cream and then stir in powdered sugar. It will be a thicker sour cream texture, but comes out best when stirred by hand. Stir in ¼ cup of shredded coconut.

Once cupcakes are cooled, frost and sprinkle pecan chips on the top for texture and enjoy!

– Recipe by our Healthy Guest Crusader, Rebecca (Baltimore, MD)