Book Club: Tender at the Bone

I've mentioned in past posts a few of my resolutions for 2011, and this post is the result of accomplishing one of them: joining a book club. I was really excited about the idea of joining a book club, but had some concerns about having to read books I didn't want to read or couldn't get into. I read a lot, and have a pretty extensive to-read list on Goodreads.com, so I hate to waste my time reading books I don't want to read.

Recently, I read A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. It was a wonderful book; beautifully written with delicious collection of recipes. The book came about as a result of Molly's very successful food blog, Orangette, so I decided to go check it out. After reading some posts, I came across a comment from someone who said they read her book as part of an online food book club. This immediately piqued my interest and, as a result, I joined the online group This Book Makes Me Cook. Every month, a group of food bloggers (like me) vote on a book, read it, then cook a recipe out of the book and blog about it. This post is the first of what will hopefully be many posts for my book club readings.

The book we read this month was Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl. I found the book well written, and so truthful in some parts it was almost painful. The book allows you to follow her life through the food she made and the people she shared it with. Her prose is very thoughtful and makes you appreciative of how the food you share and those you share it with really impacts your life. Her recipes I found somewhat old fashioned and not necessarily up my alley (many of them contained meat), which left me looking to her baked goods. Being that Valentine's Day was coming up, I opted to try her Devil's Food Cake and 7-minute Frosting so I could take a delicious treat to my co-workers on the 14th.

Blogger Note: I realize that this does not exactly fall in line with my typical recipes, which showcase local produce and local artisan products. That being said, please try to use local dairy and local eggs, and shop locally for your ingredients (i.e. stay away from the chain stores if possible).

I made the cake, but with a few modifications (I've inherited my dad's inability to follow a recipe exactly, even when baking). First, I made them into cupcakes instead of a layer cake as she instructs in her book, to make workplace distribution easier. This required a shorter baking time, as noted below. I also point out a few things below I think are important to the recipe that Ruth does not point out in her book. I'm not trying to out-do her, but as an experienced food writer and cook, she may have assumed bakers would do these things. The cupcakes were moist with a robust chocolate flavor; something I was excited to share with my colleagues.

The frosting, unfortunately, was another story. I made it exactly as instructed and am confident I did it correctly, I just think I wanted (and needed) something more substantial for these cupcakes. The frosting turned out to be very close to a whipped cream frosting, but even lighter; more like a meringue. The vanilla flavor was not strong enough for me, but adding more vanilla I still was a bit put off by the texture of the frosting. Plus, I knew that frosting made in this fashion would fall in transport. Instead, I opted to fill and frost the cupcakes with a chocolate Chambord ganache, which was incredibly divine and indulgent (and thick enough to handle the drive to work). I've provided Ruth's frosting recipe below, in case you would like to try it. If you do, please let me know how it turned out and what you think. Otherwise, I promise that the cupcakes I made are delectable. My co-workers certainly thought so!


Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Chambord Ganache
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes and more ganache then you will ever need

1 c milk
1/4 c cocoa
1/3 c cane sugar
1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 c sour cream (I used plain yogurt), at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 c sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners or grease with butter and dust with flour.

Heat milk in a small pan until bubbles begin to appear around the edges. Remove from heat.

Mix cocoa and sugar together in a small bowl; slowly beat in warm milk. Let cool.

Cream the butter with the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, sour cream (or yogurt), and vanilla. Add the cocoa mixture.

Mix remaining dry ingredients together and gently blend into butter mixture. Do not overbeat (overbeating will cause the cupcakes to be tough).

Fill muffin cups until 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wait to cool completely before filling and/or frosting.

Note: If you want to make a layer cake, turn the batter into 2 well-greased and floured 9-inch layer cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan and springs back when touched gently in the center.

Seven Minute Frosting
If you are feeling brave...

4 egg whites
1 1/2 c cane sugar
1/4 c water
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in the top of a double boiler. Set over simmering water and beat with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, until soft peaks are formed. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Keep beating until frosting is stiff enough to spread. Use immediately.

Adapted from Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl, p. 75-76


  1. Nice post...I'm in the middle of a second read of Tender....I may try a version of that tart!!! It sounds as you did a great job with the cupcakes. Lucky coworkers.

  2. Would love to read this book but have been unable to get hold of it. I do love Ruth's style of writing so I think I may just have to order this online. Thanks for your honest opinions re the frosting, I'll keep that in mind when I make these.

  3. That cake looks fabulous. Welcome to the club :)

  4. Lovely to have you read and cook/ bake with us. Haven't got the book but I think I'd prefer the ganache over the frosting for your cake any day.