*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Wuthering Heights, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Wuthering Heights was the first and only novel of Emily Bronte. Bronte, whose famous sisters Charlotte and Anne were also writers, published the novel under a male alias, Ellis Bronte in 1847 just before her death.
It is a dark tale of passion and obligation, of tortured hearts and unmet longings, and, most importantly, of the destruction revenge brings. Destruction, not so much on the victims of the revenge, but on the tormentor.
For some readers it is the most sadly beautiful star-crossed lover tale. For others, it is a stark and cautionary tale of unforgiveness wrought into bitterness. For book clubs, it is ripe with discussion.
Whatever your feelings on Heathcliff and the onslaught he delivers, Bronte’s writing is superb. Her character development is amazing and the plot will have you wondering what in the world could happen next.
If you read Wuthering Heights in high school, but it remains a hazy memory, maybe it’s time to reread it. It’s an interesting reread as an adult. For me personally, I saw it as a tragic love story as a teenager and a cautionary tale as an adult. When a writer delivers a story that is able to take on such nuances for different reader groups, it’s no surprise that this classic has endured the test of time and still invigorates reading group discussions.
If you’ve chosen it for your book club, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for Wuthering Heights below. So if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of Wuthering Heights:
When the orphan, Heathcliff comes to live with the Earnshaw family, no one can expect the tale of intense passion and revenge that has been set in motion. A strong, immutable bond forms between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, but as the years pass, Catherine also grows fond of Edward Linton. Torn between the tortured Heathcliff and the well-bred Edward, Catherine submits to expectations and marries Edward. Heathcliff, tortured by her betrayal, ensues on a path to retribution intent on destroying everyone in his way, even to the second generation.
For the Wuthering Heights recipe:
Like in most classics, the characters of Wuthering Heights sit down for a meal often, but the food itself is rarely mentioned. However, there are a few instances where specifics are included.
Here are a few food ideas from the pages of Wuthering Heights:
- Mulled ale and Christmas Cake with spices – Christmas at Wuthering Heights – Chapter 7
- Oranges – Nelly tempts Hareton to tell her the state of things – Chapter 11
- Tea and dry toast – An attempt to revive Mrs. Linton – Chapter 12
- Milk porridge – Joseph serves Linton on his arrival to Wuthering Heights – Chapter 20
- Ale and toasted oatcakes – Joseph greets Nelly and Cathy when they visit Wuthering Heights – Chapter 23
- Blackcurrant – Miss Cathy convinces Hareton to remove Joseph’s prized bushes for her garden – Chapter 33
Whether you love Heathcliff or despise him by the end of the book, you cannot deny that his actions towards those around him are dark…almost devilish. But, despite his darkest intentions, Miss Cathy refuses to bow to him and chooses to be happy, eventually causing Hareton to hope and to fall in love with her. In his attempt to win her over, Hareton removes Joseph’s blackcurrant bushes so Miss Cathy can make a garden.
I chose to contrast this dark and light of the novel in a dark chocolate Devil’s food cake with a bright and tangy blackcurrant compote. It is a delightful and delicious pairing. The depth and richness of the cake is cut by the sweet, tartness of the blackcurrants. It is a decadent dessert your whole book club will love.
Blackcurrants have actually been outlawed in the United States until very recently as they were thought to carry a fungus that hurt trees. Today, finding the fruit is still difficult, but you can find blackcurrant jams and jellies on the market. I found mine at World Market and you can also order them from Amazon. If you have fresh blackcurrants, you can alter the recipe and make your own compote as I did in this recipe with blackberries. Just substitute the blackberries for blackcurrants.
The blackcurrant lies somewhere between the taste of a blackberry and a cherry. It’s tart and flavorful and compliments the dark chocolate of the cake well. If you’re on a diet, make this your cheat day, because it’s so worth it!
If you are looking for food ideas for Wuthering Heights, I think your book club will swoon over this Devil’s Food Cake with Blackcurrant Compote recipe!
Wuthering Heights Devil’s Food Cake with Blackcurrant Compote
For the Cake:
- ½ cup cocoa dutch-processed
- 1 cup coffee
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup butter cold
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup oil
For the Ganache Icing:
- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate bar
- 1 ½ cup heavy cream
For the Blackcurrant Compote:
- 1 cup blackcurrant jam***
- 2 tbsp water
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a mixing bowl, sift the cocoa, flour, baking soda, salt and sugar together.
- Cut the cold butter into small ½ inch cubes. Add to the dry mix.
- Using a mixer, cut the butter into the dry mix as you would when making biscuits. This will take about 3-4 minutes until a dry crumb mix is achieved.
- Next, mix the warm* coffee and vanilla together and pour over the dry crumb mix while running the mixer on low speed.
- Add in the oil and sour cream while continuing to run the mixer on low speed.
- Last, add the eggs and mix until just incorporated.
- Divide the mix evenly and pour into two well-buttered and floured 8” or 9” cake pans.**
- Cook for 30-35 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
- After cooling for 15 minutes, invert on a cooling rack to continue cooling.
For the Ganache Icing:
- Chop the semi-sweet chocolate into small pieces.
- Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and heavy cream together, stirring constantly.
- Once the chocolate is melting well, remove from the double boiler to avoid scalding the heavy cream and continue stirring until the ganache icing is completely smooth and shiny.
- Set aside to cool until solid. If in a hurry, put in the refrigerator until it solidifies to the consistency of icing.
To assemble the cake:
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand.
- Using an ice cream scoop, add 1-2 scoops of cooled icing onto the top of the first layer. Smooth out with a spatula.
- Next, add the second layer of cake.
- Using an ice cream scoop, add 1-2 scoops of cooled icing on the top of the second layer. Smooth out with a spatula.
- Using the remaining icing, ice the sides of the cake, swirling to meet the top of the cake so that icing covers all surfaces.
For the Blackcurrant Compote:
- In a small sauce pan, add the jam and the water. Heat on low until the jam and water mix and smooth into a glaze-like consistency. Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool before drizzling on the cake.
**For cupcakes, cook for about 18-20 minutes, using a tester to verify doneness.
***If you have access to fresh blackcurrants, you can create your own glaze like this blackberry one I used in brownies. Use the same steps, substituting blackcurrants for the blackberries.
Wuthering Heights Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- Why do you think Catherine married Edmund? Do you believe she actually loved him? What are the arguments for and against this?
- Do you think Heathcliff returned intent on hurting those who had hurt him or only fell to this once learning Catherine did marry Edmund?
- Heathcliff’s love for Catherine has been debated for centuries. Do you think his love was pure or selfish? What about Catherine’s love for Heathcliff? Is this a tale of two star-crossed lovers or a tale of two heartless fools?
- Discuss the damp moors, storms, cold winters, and etc. that act as symbolism for the novel. Discuss what they symbolize and how effective the novel would have been without them.
- Do you believe that Heathcliff was truly haunted by Catherine’s ghost or was he haunted by his relentless passion and desire for what he could not have?
- The story is actually two mirrored stories in one. The love triangle between Catherine, Edmund, and Heathcliff, is repeated in Miss Catherine, Linton, and Hareton. What did you think of the outcomes of both? Do you believe that good ultimately triumphed in the second?
- Discuss the characters of Nelly and Joseph. Why do you think Bronte chose to depict these poorer class characters as the sensible and ethical characters, while the richer class is depicted as foolish and ill-tempered?
- Heathcliff was treated poorly and unfairly at the beginning of the book. He sets out to avenge himself and returns a gentleman, but begins a path to retribution that he eventually recognizes as futile. In the end, his efforts bring him no comfort and he is still haunted by Catherine’s memory. Did you feel sorry for Heathcliff or did he get what he deserved for the evil he inflicted?
- On this note, discuss the idea of revenge. Do you believe it ever pays off? Contrast Heathcliff’s response to his wrong-doing with that of Miss Catherine and Hareton. Who do you think was better off?
- Do you believe death brought Catherine or Heathcliff the relief they sought? Discuss how they and other characters like Romeo and Juliet believed this falsehood. Why do you think it is a prevalent theme in some of the most time-tested romances?
Have you read Wuthering Heights? What did you think? How does this compare to other classics you love?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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