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Stargirl Caraway Cookies with Aquavit Frosting #FoodieReads #LitHappens

This month for our Lit Happens book club, Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures picked Stargirl by Jerry Spinnelli.* Though that is not a cook-from-the-book kinda group; I always find some kind of inspiration to create an edible of some kind! But first, the book...

On the Page

This book is a celebration of individuality and nonconformity set in a time - adolescence - when popularity and inclusion rely on conformity. Narrator Leo Borlock tells the tale of Stargirl Caraway's arrival at Mica High School where the tacit rule is: do not stand out under any circumstance!

"We wanted to define her, to wrap her up as we did each other, but we could not seem to get past 'weird' and 'strange' and 'goofy'. Her ways knocked us off balance. A single word seemed to hover in the cloudless sky over the school: HUH?" (pg. 11).

Stargirl was born Susan, then, she explains her evolution during her interview in the Hot Seat, a school-produced program. "'I named myself Pocket Mouse,' Stargirl said breezily. 'Then Mudpie. Then Hullygully. Then Stargirl" (pg. 63).

In any case, Stargirl arrives with her pet rat Cinnamon, dancing through the halls in a cloud of color and a cacophony of ukulele music. She enchants the entire student body until the delicate scale of popularity shifts and she goes from idol to pariah in the blink of an eye.

She tries to erase her fierce individuality to be accepted again. And Leo was completely besotted with his ordinary girlfriend. "And just like that, Stargirl was gone, replaced by Susan. Susan Julia Caraway. The girl she might have been all along. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She cradled her books in her arms. The sunflower canvas bag was gone. The rat was gone. The ukulele was gone. She turned around slowly for my open-mouthed, dumbstruck inspection. Nothing goofy, nothing different I could see. She looked magnificently, wonderfully, gloriously ordinary. She looked just like a hundred other girls at Mica High. Stargirl had vanished into a sea of them, and I was thrilled" (pp. 139-140).

But, the pendulum swings and Stargirl returns. "She went from table to table at lunchtime, passing out happy-face cookies. ...Stargirl strolled among us strumming her ukulele, asking for requests. ...I was too stunned to join her. And too cowardly. And angry. And not wanting to show approval for her return to Stargirl" (pp. 161-162). Leo confronts her.

"'I'm answering your question. The answer is yes. I'm giving up on trying to be popular and normal" (pg. 162).

Stargirl leaves the school, floating out of the Ocotillo Ball in a cloud of sunshine that was her gossamer buttercup gown. But she inspires a legacy of light and kindness in her wake. Fifteen years later, Leo reports that the school "has a new club called the Sunflowers. To join, you have to sign an agreement promising to do 'one nice thing per day for someone other than myself. Today's Electron marching band is probably the only one in Arizona with a ukulele" (pg. 185). As for Leo, Stargirl is always with him. "I wonder,  Is she there? I wonder what she calls herself now. I wonder if she's lost her freckles. I wonder if I'll ever get another chance. I wonder, but I don't despair. ...I do not feel alone. I know that I am being watched. The echo of her laughter is the second sunrise I awaken to each day, and at night I feel it is more than stars looking down on me" (pg. 186).

I read this book while sitting with a skeleton crew of the robotics team at a scrimmage this past weekend. Interestingly enough several of them had read it in middle school. So, on the drive home, we talked about it and some other books. M, the co-captain, declared, "I love her randomness! She was so cool." Didn't she come to school on the first day in a white dress? I remember that. She was totally original, said R, the other co-captain.

A friend asked what the teens' take on the book was.  And I admitted that they are all robotics kids. Popularity and conformity aren't high in their list of priorities.

On the Plate

There were many things that inspired me. I considered making a new version of my Sunflower Cupcakes. I thought about making half pepperoni and half anchovy pizzas like they ate at Pisa Pizza or meatloaf for the dinner that Leo had at the Caraway's house. But, then, I wanted to make something star-shaped made with caraway seeds. Done.

Can you help me frost these cookies? I asked no one in particular. Both boys were busy working on projects and ignored me.

Jake launched himself off the couch and came over. "Do I get to eat one of the stars if I help?"


He finished slathering the royal icing on the stars, then dipped his cookie into the icing for an upside-down Mont Blanc.

Really, my Love?

"Yes, really," he affirmed as he walked out of the dining room with his cookie in hand.

These are my favorite simple vanilla sugar cookies, but I added some ground black caraway seeds to the dough and aquavit to the frosting for this version. Then I added some edible glitter. Different and sparkly...just like Stargirl!


Turns out that black caraway is actually not related to caraway; it is also called Nigella seeds - scientific name Nigella sativa - and is primarily used in Indian and Turkish dishes. Black caraway is peppery with a touch of nutty sweetness. And I splashed aquavit into the frosting to add a layer of herbal intrigue.

Before the recipe, I want to start with a quick primer on aquavit. Despite how long Scandinavians have been making and drinking aquavit, it's largely unknown outside of those countries. It's such a shame because, as a spirit, it's completely beguiling.
The name 'aquavit' derives from two Latin words: aqua vitae and translates to "water of life." The French have a clear brandy eau de vie which means the same thing, but has a very different flavor. I've had more fruit-based eau de vie while aquavit is decidedly more spicy. Aquavit has many different recipes and flavor profiles between brands, but the dominant flavor is caraway seeds. This one, from Krogstad, has a strong star anise flavor that I love! It is brilliantly clear with spicy notes and aromas that are smooth and seductive.

Vanilla-Black Caraway Sugar Cookies
  • 2-3/4 C flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 C butter, softened
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla paste or extract
  • 1/2 t ground black caraway seeds
  • Also needed: cookie cutter (I used a star), edible glitter (optional)

Royal Icing
  • 3 egg whites, or more to thin icing
  • 6 C organic powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 t aquavit
  • 1/4 t pure vanilla extract

Vanilla-Black Caraway Sugar Cookies
Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside in a bowl.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and ground caraway seeds. Mix well. Gradually add flour mixture, until completely combined.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill dough for 1 to 2 hours. Roll out between two pieces of parchment paper.

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Shape dough with your cutters, using flour to keep them from sticking. Place on a silicone mat-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 9-11 minutes, depending on the size of cookies.

Cool completely on wire racks. Make the royal icing while the cookies cool.

Royal Icing
Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar, vanilla extract, and aquavit. Beat for another minute. If the icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it's too thin, add more sugar.

To Finish
Smooth the royal icing over cooled cookies. Sprinkle with edible glitter, if using. Let icing set completely before serving.

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Click to see what everyone else read in February 2020: here.


  1. Love the cookies inspired by this book. Great choice....I went with the meatloaf and mine is live today as well.


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