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"Wintersong" Book Discussion and Chocolate Cupcakes With Strawberry Frosting Themed Recipe

I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.


Der Erlkonig: The Goblin King and Lord of Mischief. As a child, Liesl played in the woods with him, and promised to marry him when they grew up. But watching over her beautiful sister, practicing music with her brother the prodigy, and the daily chores of running an inn with her mother has turned the Goblin King into a faintly remembered childhood game. When her grandmother warns that a new year is coming and the Goblin King will be seeking a bride, Liesl ignores the old ways and countermeasures, leaving her sister at risk. For what could a plain girl like Liesl offer that is more enduring than beauty? And so the trap is set “a life for a life,” and the goblins lure both women into a world where Liesl must choose: her sister and family, or Queen of the underground and life with the man who has lingered in the corner of her eyesight and sought after her for her entire life? The man who inspired her to compose more beautifully than anyone alive, who hungers for her, and who waited for the little girl to fulfill her promise. "When the Goblin King plays, he plays for keeps." Wintersong is perfect for anyone who ever loved Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera, or Labyrinth.

Discussion Questions:

  1. One of Liesl's and Joseph’s favorite games was “The Ideal Imaginary World.” Was the goblin king a part of their game, and do you think that was by his design? What makes children and adults play such games of fantasy, and what is the problem with living in such worlds?
  2. How was Liesl more herself, “whole and entire” when she was young, and how had life and responsibility “whittled her to a sliver of herself”? Was this part of what made her so ripe for the Goblin King’s plucking?
  3. Liesl’s grandmother was very knowledgeable about the Goblin King, including how to gain access to the underground and also wise enough to realize his loneliness and wonder about him “Does the king serve the crown or the crown serve the king?” Which is it?
  4. What did it mean that the goblin king wanted her soul along with her music, to truly sacrifice her music to him?
  5. What was the connection between the queen’s life (Liesl’s), the king’s life, the denizens of the Underground, and the earth and making things grow new every year?
  6. Why did the Goblin King choose Liesl instead of her more voluptuous and popularly desireable sister?
  7. What was the magic of the silver-backed mirrors in the underground? What was their power and limitation?
  8. Why was it especially hard for Liesl to live without her brother Joseph? How was it like “learning to live without a part of myself, like losing a limb or a hand”? And how did she “learn to live around it, to absorb its emptiness as a part of yourself”?
  9. According to Thistle, “Life is more than breath and blood. It is taste and touch and sight and sound and smell.” Which of them could Liesl bear to give up first, and which began first? Which would you prefer to lose first or last?
  10. When asked who she was, Liesl stated she was “a girl who loves strawberries, chocolate torte, songs in a minor key, moments stolen from chores, and childish games. I am short-tempered yet disciplined...self-indulgent, selfish yet selfless…” Why were these things vital to explaining and understanding for herself who she was? How did her name and this list make her a soul, and what then was Der Erlkonig without his name?

The Recipe:

Liesl loved strawberries “because they tasted of more than sweetness; they tasted of stolen summer afternoons and laughter. They were always my favorite birthday gift.”

When asked who she was, Liesl stated she was “a girl who loves strawberries, chocolate torte, songs in a minor key…” and more, including both the Goblin King and her family.

To combine these two of her favorite flavors, I created a recipe for Chocolate Torte Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting

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  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp molasses
  • (1 1/2 cups) 3 sticks salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 full dropper LorAnn chocolate candy flavoring oil
  • 1 cup hot coffee, (chocolate flavored)
  • 1/4 cup seedless strawberry puree, (from about one cup of fresh strawberries)
  • 2 tbsps vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp LorAnn strawberry flavoring oil
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature


  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F and line two cupcake trays with paper liners. In the bowl of a mixer on medium speed, combine the sugars, molasses, and one stick of room temperature butter. Increase the speed to medium high for about 2 minutes or until the ingredients are fully combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Add these ingredients to the mixer slowly, with the mixer on medium-low speed. At the halfway point, set down the bowl of dry ingredients and add the vanilla extract to the mixer.
  2. Finish adding the dry ingredients and sour cream, then add the eggs to the mix one at a time, followed by the chocolate oil. Lastly, add the hot coffee and mix on low speed until fully combined. You may need to stop the mixer here to scrape down the bottom and sides of your mixer with a rubber spatula, to make sure no flour is left at the bottom of the mixing bowl. Scoop batter into lined cupcake baking trays about half-full each. Bake for 17-22 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick into the center of a cupcake and it comes out free of any raw batter. Allow to cool for at least ten full minutes on a baking rack before frosting.
  3. For the frosting, puree about one cup of fresh, ripe strawberries (tops removed with leaves and stems) in a food processor or blender until it becomes a thick liquid (about 2 to 4 minutes) and there are no visible pieces. Pour this into a fine mesh strainer or sieve over a large bowl. Using a rubber spatula, push the strawberry liquid through the strainer into the bowl, while leaving out the seeds. You will need 1/4 cup of seedless strawberry puree (any extra can be frozen into cubes and used for fruit smoothies later). In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed, whip together two sticks of room temperature salted butter and 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening for one minute. Then drop the speed to medium-low and add one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, 1 drop of strawberry candy flavoring oil, and 2 cups of powdered sugar.
  4. When those ingredients are combined, add the strawberry puree and 2 more cups of powdered sugar, beginning on low speed, then increasing to medium when the layer of powdered sugar on top has moved into the bottom of the bowl, about one minute later. Stop the mixer after one more minute, and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, making sure to fold in the ingredients from the sides and bottom of the bowl. Return the speed to low and add the last cup of powdered sugar, then put the speed to medium low after one minute. Mix just until fully combined. Refrigerate until ready to pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Frosting


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Similar Reads:

The sequel to this book is Shadowsong. It finishes the story of what becomes of the Goblin King.

Demon Lover by Juliet Dark (Carol Goodman) (Fairwick Chronicles #1) is about a woman named Callie who dreams every night about a hauntingly beautiful man, and one day accidentally finds a place in the woods near her home where the land of the fey and the human world connect, and where her demon lover lives, beckoning her to join him.

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly is about a woman working in a tea shop who grows up loving a boy, but another deceptive, crafty woman and different careers path separate the two soul mates who still keep searching for one another.

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier is about a woman who feels her soul draining from her through a loveless marriage, demanding, selfless children, and the vapidness of the aristocracy. One day a French sailor and thief appears in town and needs her help, and so begins a torrid love affair and the question of whether or not to give up her life for him.

The Changeling Sea and Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip both offer glimpses into worlds of magic and longing for those we cannot fully have and their secret pasts, as well as the price of love.

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