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Night Circus

The Le Cirque des Rêves is all about black and white, night and day. But the reveurs added a dash of scarlet red, to mark themselves to each other and to stand out. These gorgeous and soft cookies are the perfect nod to The Night Circus and its reveurs.

Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

Black and White on Red Velvet cookies - Night CircusAdapted from Rachael Ray’s recipes (March 2008)

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon red food coloring (or 1 teaspoon red food paste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. (Do not substitute foil or wax paper. Parchment paper is a must.)

Beat five tablespoons of butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, food coloring and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Mix in cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until smooth.

Alternate 1-1/2 cups of flour and ½ cup buttermilk until it is all incorporated without overmixing.

Spoon about a 1/4-cup of batter 3 inches apart on the parchment papered baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 35o degrees until the center is dry.

Let cookies cool for five minutes before removing from the parchment paper.

Black and White Frosting

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (10x sugar)
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

White Frosting

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 Tablespoon corn syrup and 2 Tablespoons hot water until smooth.

Black Frosting

In another bowl, combine the chocolate chips, remaining 3 Tablespoons butter, and 1 tablespoon corn syrup.

Microwave until melted, about 1 minute and stir vigorously. Microwave in 10 second increments until it is fully melted.

Frost the cookies with the white frosting, only covering half of the cookie, almost to the edge. Then frost with the chocolate icing, keeping a sharp edge. Cool until set. Store in an airtight container.

These classic cookies are the perfect cookie to accompany your book club discussion of Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus. Serve them on a bright red platter with milk, coffee, or tea. The al dente frosting breaks smoothly over the yielding red velvet cookie creating a great mouth feel.

May words nourish your soul.

Night Circus

As a fellow participant of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I heard Erin Morgenstern’s name before she was actually published. Her debut book, The Night Circus, created a metric ton of ballyhoo prior to publication. She was touted as the next Harry Potter, even snagging the phenomenal Jim Dale to narrate the audio version of her magical book.

And like other NaNoWriMo success stories, the overnight success was preluded by years of hard work. “A very sprawling, very rough draft of The Night Circus was first written in a few different Novembers of NaNoWriMo. Almost the entire book was rewritten and revised before it got from there to the finished version. To give you an idea of how much: Celia isn’t in that first sprawling draft. It is a lot of stuff about the circus but not a lot of plot, but it gave me something to work from,” Erin has written on her blog.

But the professional polish and imaginative story stands alone, creating a wondrous world which will lasts long past the last page.

Book Synopsis

Erin Morgenstern The Night CircusThe circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

From Random House

Discussion Questions

Erin Morgenstern’s publisher, Random House, has a wonderful selection of book club discussion questions here. But as always, here at the Reader’s Feast, we have a few more questions to round out your discussion.

  1.  The circus vignettes are disconnected from the narrative and written in second person, making them intimate, vivid, and memorable. Readers seldom encounter second person point of view. (Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney is one of the few notable novels written in second person.) Was it jarring to you or did it draw you in? Could you imagine yourself at the circus?
  2. What tent or exhibition would you most want to visit? What foods would you want to taste? What feature would you avoid?
  3. Like magic, the story is revealed through sleights of hand—juggling the past with the present, hiding pertinent information until the last moment, and providing misdirection. How was the story enhanced (or lessened) by the tricks?
  4. Was it fair for the circus members to be pulled into a contract without their approval? Were the benefits (agelessness, travel, etc.) enough to outweigh the risks?
  5. Prospero has a mental and magical hold on Celia, including after his “death.” How can a ghost of a person be stronger than a real person?
  6. Marco and Celia struggle with balancing the ever-expanding circus. How is this a reflection of how we overextend ourselves?
  7. There are several pairings in The Night Circus. Marco and Celia, Poppet and Widget, Celia and Herr Thiessen, Marco and Isobel, and Tara and Lanie Burgess. Bailey is one of the few unpaired individuals. How does this make him different? Would he make a different decision about joining the circus if he was paired? Is Poppet enough for him or is she too closely paired to Widget to fully give herself to Bailey?
  8. Have you ever been behind the scenes of a circus, a play, a restaurant, a special production, etc? What was disconcerting about the behind the scene look? What took you by surprise?
  9. The reveurs were like followers of a cult. Today’s culture offers several cult options, such as certain events, movie franchises, some stories, etc. What elements are often found in a cult? (Some ideas: a universal truth, compelling characters, likeminded individuals, common ground, etc.)
  10. Who would you cast in the movie of The Night Circus, which is in the works?
  11. The circus would be nothing without its audience. Why do stories need to be told and heard to release their power?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is as magical as its many, varied tents. It is a book that invites us to visit repeatedly—studying for the sleights of hand, reimagining the character’s motivations and desires, and relishing its promised delicacies.

On Wednesday, I will share the recipe for Black and White Red Velvet cookies, with a nod towards the reveurs of the Le Cirque des Rêves.

Night Circus

Keeping track of your wine glass or coffee cup is a challenge when the book club conversation starts. I crafted these simple but adorable book club wine charms in less than hour. They can be used meeting after meeting and create a fun conversation piece.

Book charms 1 edSupplies:

  • Jewelry wire
  • Assorted beads
  • Oval jump ring
  • Silver charm with open insert (I found these at Hobby Lobby)
  • Magnetic closure jewelry finding
  • Jewelry pliers and wire cutter
  • Photo copies of book covers (suggested books with lovely covers: Life of Pi, Still Alice, Night Circus, Alice I Have Been, Room, Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Hunger Games, The Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Fault in Our Stars, A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, and Water for Elephants)

Directions:

  • I chose a selection of popular book club covers and printed them to fit inside the open charm. I cut them out in ovals and pushed them gently into the open charm.  I added a silver jump ring to the top of the charm so it could be threaded onto the wine charm ring.Book charms 4 ed
  • Cut sections of jewelry wire to 3”. Add one magnetic closure to one end and string various color-coded beads onto the wire, leaving enough room to add the second magnetic closure while twisting the end shut.
  • Center the charm on completed wine charm ring and reclose the silver jump ring.
  • Click open the magnetic closure to add wine charm to your wine glass or coffee cup.

Display on a jewelry tree for guests to choose their book wine charm on arrival. These can even be given as gifts to your favorite author or book lover.

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