Though lockdown orders have started to lift in certain areas, COVID-19 shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Our advice? Stay at home and try your hand at these baking projects inspired by some of our favorite African novels. Below, we’ve selected a handful of quotes that describe a particular sweet and provided a link to a recipe for it. So put on your apron, bring out your bowls, and get baking!


Inspired by Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread (2019)

Image of gingerbread via

A gingerbread addict once told Harriet that eating her gingerbread is like eating revenge. “It’s like noshing on the actual and anatomical heart of somebody who scarred your beloved and thought they’d got away with it,” the gingerbread addict said. “That heart, ground to ash and shot through with darts of heat, salt, spice, and sulfurous syrup, as if honey was measured out, set ablaze, and trickled through the dough along with the liquefied spoon.”

We can’t guarantee your gingerbread will taste like you’re eating revenge, but try this recipe here.

Coconut cake

Inspired by Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions (1988)

Image of coconut cake via

We did not often have cake at home. In fact, I remembered having cake only at Christmas time or at Easter. At those times Babamukuru brought a great Zambezi slab home with him and cut it up in front of our eager eyes, all the children waiting for him to distribute it. This he did one piece each at a time so that for days on end, long after the confectionary had lost its freshness, we would be enraptured. We would spend many blissful moments picking off and nibbling, first the white coconut and then the pink icing and last the delicious golden cake itself, nibbling so slowly such little pieces at a time that we could hardly taste them, but could gloat when everyone lse had finished that we still had some left.

Okay, so we’re not entirely sure what a “Zambezi slab” cake is (looking for a friend), but here is a recipe for a coconut cake with pink hibiscus frosting that will probably do the trick.

Mango pie

Inspired by Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah (2013)

Image of mango pie via

Their flat smelled of vanilla on weekends, when Obinze’s mother baked. Slices of mango glistening on a pie, small brown cakes swelling with raisins. Ifemelu stirred the batter and peeled the fruit; her own mother did not bake, their oven housed cockroaches.

Stir batter and peel fruit like Ifemelu as you make this mango pie! Here’s to your house smelling like vanilla!

Fortune Cookies

Inspired by Noviolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2013)

Image of fortune cookies via

But we also got these interesting brown, funny-shaped thingies wrapped in plastic. They were crunchy when we bit into them, and to our surprise we found little white pieces of paper tucked inside. Godknows’s said If you eat a box of fortune cookies, anything is possible. Bastard’s said Your talents will be recognized and suitably rewarded. Chipo’s said If I bring forth what is inside me, what I bring forth will save me. Sbho’s said The nightlife is for you. Stina’s said A new pair of shoes will do you a world of good; lucky numbers 7, 13, 2, 9, 4. And mine said Your future will be happy and productive.

Make your own fortune as you make these fortune cookies.

Damper cake

Inspired by Petina Gappah’s Out of Darkness, Shining Light (2019)

Image of damper cake via

All he could eat then were the damper cakes he liked. They are easy enough to make: they are just flour and water cooked in a little salt butter that I make myself from milk that has gone off. Those damper cakes were the only thing that his bad teeth could take, that and a little ugali, not cooked the usual way, with the maize powder stirred in water until it stiffens, but cooked soft-soft so that it was almost a porridge, like you would feed to a weaning suckling.

Interestingly, damper cake seems to be a traditional Australian food, but it was generally eaten by travelers — not unlike the men and women carrying David Livingstone’s body across Africa. You don’t have to make your own butter for this recipe.