Book Bites: Amber Royer & Free Chocolate

Book Bites is Cooking the Books‘ more easygoing cousin. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite. 

I met Amber Royer at WorlCon this year, and she’s got a book out with Angry Robot, called Free Chocolate. (You can read about it at Barnes & Noble) And here’s Amber to tell us more:

In Free Chocolate, a goodly amount of chocolate is grown, stolen, consumed, processed, hijacked, obsessed over, ruined, melted, gifted, dipped, dripped and baked. Not necessarily in that order.

Bo’s chocolate troubles keep getting more and more out of hand. She starts the book wishing for the recipe for her instructor’s special chocolate sauce, and winds up risking her life to share the source of chocolate with the galaxy. But she has the most difficulty with something that should be simple: making a fruit-topped chocolate cake. It’s the final that’s supposed to get her the grades to run a top Galactic kitchen – and finally impress her mom.

The first time she tries to make it, her ingredients get vaporized: “In response, Meredith takes aim and vaporizes one of the quizllen fruits, leaving behind the strong scent of ozone. She hits a second one, which takes part of the granite countertop with it. Vapguns are unpredictable in determining the edges of objects, which is always used to comic effect in the telenovela I favor. In real life, it’s terrifying . . . (after Bo’s alpha-preditor RA shows up) . . . Meredith squeaks and fires without aiming, the random shot vaporizing my entire refrigerator – all except the cord, which flops once, arcing a few sparks along its ragged live edge – before she drops the gun in her terror of Chestla’s bared teeth.”

Bo’s stuck with weird eggs and random flour for her cake, but here’s an earth-friendly version.

Bo’s Quizzlen-Topped Cake

Cake Base:

  • 1 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 1 c. espresso
  • 2 2/3 c. flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Grease and flour two 8” round cake pans. Combine the cocoa powder, the espresso and the boiling water in a medium bowl. Stir to dissolve. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the chocolate mixture and mix to a uniform color. Pour into pans. Bake 22-27 minutes. Allow to cool completely.


  • 1/2 c. solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. rum (or vanilla extract)
  • 4 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb. bag)
  • ½ c. cocoa powder
  • 2-3 tbsp. espresso

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until well combined.


  • Cake board
  • ½ c. strawberry (or other fruit) jam
  • 12 chocolate dipped strawberries (or other fruit)

Center one cake layer on cake board. Pipe chocolate frosting around the top edge to keep the jam from leaking out, then spoon jam onto top of base layer. Top with the other cake layer – do not press down. Frost outside of cake evenly with chocolate frosting. Arrange the dipped fruit on top and accent with frosting dots or stars.

Amber Royer is the author of the Chocoverse series, which kicked off with Free Chocolate in June.  She teaches enrichment and continuing education creative writing classes for teens and adults.  Before that, she spent five years as a youth librarian, where she organized teen writers’ groups and teen writing contests. In addition to two cookbooks co-authored with her husband, Amber has published a number of articles on gardening, crafting and cooking for print and on-line publications.
Pure Chocolate, Book 2 in the Chocoverse, is available now for pre-order, and will be hitting shelves March 2019.  Find Amber on the web at

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