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Here’s the thing about books: They need covers. Good covers. Beautiful covers. Covers that people will judge with superlatives like stunning and irresistible and perfect. But the very idea of creating a cover for the Kale & Caramel cookbook was absurdly daunting. On top of the pressure to select a singular, seminal, be-all-end-all image to encapsulate everything about the book, there was the added challenge of the book containing both food and body and beauty products. I decided to wait. To lay low in the wilds of my own mind and see what inspiration came.

And at 1:30am on Christmas Eve of 2015, as I finally settled into bed after a marathon dishwashing session, I had a vision. No, dear reader, it was not the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future that descended upon my fatigued mind at that hour, but the spirit of the Kale & Caramel cookbook cover. The idea for the cover arrived fully formed—I knew exactly how I wanted it to look, not a tendril of jasmine more or less.

First Sketch Kale & Caramel Cookbook Cover

Like any crazed artist would do, I hopped out of bed at 2am, turned on my computer, and started sketching in Adobe Illustrator. I even typed in little labels for what everything was, just in case I got confused when I woke up the next morning. Twenty minutes later, I crawled back into bed, eighty-one percent certain I had just received the blessing of divine cookbook cover intervention, and nineteen percent certain I would wake up to find myself with the equivalent of a kindergarten Etch-a-Sketch. But the divine creative spirit prevailed: Come morning, I discovered a vision I could work with.

The cover I drew that night was a tabletop jungle of every herb and flower in the book—basil, cilantro, fennel, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender, jasmine, rose, and orange blossom (at the time, there was also a rose geranium and a tarragon chapter)—accompanied by a few staple ingredients. It felt just. Totally. right.

Kale & Caramel Cookbook Cover Sketches

I presented it to my editorial team and they were equally thrilled. We decided to create a wrap-around design for the back cover, featuring the book’s lavender oat milk bath.

And then, of course, there was the issue of the title. What was this darn book going to be called? When we first sold it to Atria, the wonderful editor who acquired it had the idea to call it LEAF & PETAL, recalling the herbs and flowers that form the book’s organizing principle. That title never caught on, though I experimented with it until the bitter end. At one point, I became obsessed with calling the book WILD & FREE, despite the fact that this sounded vaguely like a Miley Cyrus song, circa Hannah Montana. I even tried to get more wildness in with the “Recipes to Bring the Wild In” subtitle.

None of that took; it just didn’t sound quite right. My editorial team was in love with KALE & CARAMEL, plain and simple. I hemmed and hawed—and, in the end, decided to just say yes. “Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table” came along as a gentle, soothing subtitle that I could live with. And that was that.

Behind the Scenes Front Kale & Caramel Cookbook CoverBehind the Scenes Back Kale & Caramel Cookbook Cover

Kale & Caramel Cookbook Cover Shoot Tabletop

The difficult part about creating this living tablescape was that I could only shoot it at the exact moment in time when roses, jasmine, rose geranium, and orange blossom were all flowering. I spent weeks charting olfactory maps of my neighborhood, seeking out friends with orange trees in their back yards and particularly verdant patches of jasmine in their driveways. I scheduled appointments with the head gardener of the community farm where I sometime volunteer just to check on the rose blooms. I went a tad horticulturally crazy.

In the end, though, when, on March 22, 2016, I tromped into my dining room armed with fourteen species of herbs and flowers, it was all worth it.

I used a ruler, Scotch tape, and a Sharpie to mark off a blown-up version of book’s dimensions, pulled out my trusty Adobe Illustrator sketch, and started living out my leaf and petal fantasy. My publisher asked that I include one finished food dish, so I chose the matcha coconut whipped cream with vegan jasmine tea shortbread, and a few berries for good measure.

Cover Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table

Kale & Caramel Cookbook GIF

The light cooperated, my dining room turned into a veritable plant nursery, and I actually shed a few tears as I saw the one-dimensional drawing I’d made take shape beneath my hands. I’ve never quite experienced anything else like it—such a fully formed idea arriving and being ushered into tangible being.

What’s funny is that this book, every single word and page of it, is about listening to the plants, about trusting them as allies. This was a practice my mom (an aromatherapist and herbologist) taught me when I was young, and a ritual I still honor no matter how urban an environment I’m in. Perhaps, then, this was just another exercise in listening closely to the wisdom the leaves and petals had to offer.

Whatever the case may be, the book is all the better for it—and I cannot wait for you to hold it in your own two hands.

Preorder now and download the bonus recipe bundle (and stay tuned for a #kaleandcaramelcookbook Vitamix giveaway!).

Oops—almost forgot. Last week, a giant, two-foot by three-foot, foam-backed version of the book cover showed up at my door for the book release party (May 2 in LA!). So naturally I laid down on the ground to take a selfie with it. Here’s the best I’ve got so far. It’s a work in progress.

Selfie Kale & Caramel Cover Poster

  • Marcia Smart

    Gorgeous cover and wonderful story full of heart!!

  • “wild & free” is more evocative of snoop dogg and wiz khalifa’s “young, wild and free” to me, but i can see how it could also be miley in her “rebellious” post disney era 😂 anyways, the cover looks amazing; it’s very logical, but the lush abundance also makes it feel welcoming and cozy (:

    • OH MY GOSH LOLOLOLOLOLOL YESSSSSSS. See, these are the kinds of cultural references I need outside help to summon. You are cracking me up, Heather. And thank you!!

  • Sonja Hargas

    Your words explaining the process are as wonderful as is the book cover, Lily, I wish you a great success, cheers, Sonja/Sonka67

  • Love this story and the journey to this gorgeous cover. Stunning and irresistible and perfect, check check and check! I can’t wait to see it in person.

    • AHHHHH that means the whole world from you, queen of styling! It was SO GOOD to finally meet you this week, lady!

  • Nick

    Awesome behind the scenes! Thanks for sharing!

  • Shiny Happy Bright ✨

    I love every part of behind-the-scenes look! Also, in my heart, I’ll call your book “Wild & Free” 😉

  • Amazing! Also, feel kind of stupid that I expected anything less, but I’m so impressed that you did all the styling, herb/flower sourcing and design for the book cover. I guess I always figured that was something publishers do? Love that you had your hands in every single part of this book, and photographed it on your dining room table. Watching it slowly come to life with these BTS posts is really enjoyable.

    • It’s interesting, I think that component of the process varies from publisher to publisher, depending on the author and the editor. I feel fortunate that Atria gave me the breadth and control to conceptualize every last detail! And it’s SO FUN to share with you now!!

  • Aaand you absolutely nailed it! Your cover is GORGEOUS. Also, thank you so much for sharing this post! It is so incredibly cool to see the behind-the-scenes of 1) your creative process 2) the photoshoot, and 3) the intricacies of publishing a cookbook.

    • Ohhhh goodness, thank you, Alexa!! It has been such a wild ride, and I honestly feel lucky to be able to share the whole process with you. It makes the madness of it just that much easier. Ha. YAY FOR INTERNET FRIENDS!

  • LILY I LOVE THIS. I love hearing about all the hard work that went into your book; you poured your heart and soul into it, and it 100% shows. CONGRATULATIONS ON SUCH A BEAUTIFUL BOOK, and I can’t wait to finally get my copy (it’s still sitting in my NY office because I’ve been in SF all week and I am so upset and have FOMO from everybody sharing theirs already).

    • AHHHHHH Michelle thank you thank you thank you. I know you know all this and more, and I feel so lucky to call you a friend in the madness of this process. I appreciate you so much!!

  • Wow – loved this behind-the-scenes! I find it so interesting to learn more about the backstory of what went into the cover. Your vision was truly brought to life! How gorgeous is that?! Congrats again lovely! x

    • Isn’t it so wild?! It still kind of blows my mind to see something come to life like that—especially because it’s so often the case that things don’t end up the way they began. Phew. What a wild process! Thank you for coming along for some of it, my friend.

  • Love this so much!!! So fun to read about the process behind the book and the COVER SHOT!?? Awesome. We have pretty much the same table!! I shoot everything on my white table too (STUCK IN A WHITE TABLE RUT 4EVER) … the cover alone makes me feel healthy and beautiful inside and out! XO

    • OH MY GOD WHITE TABLE RUT 4EVER CAN WE PLEASE DISCUSS THIS AD INFINITUM. Seriously though, I love that we’re white table sisters!!! Now if I could only figure out how to make cakes like you…

  • Suzie F

    Gorgeous book cover, can’t wait to get it in my hands!

  • Beautiful!!!

  • Samantha Ferraro

    This is the most beautiful book cover I ever did see!