Review of “The Art of Baking Blind” by Sarah Vaughan

This is another entry in the popular fiction category of Different People Who Come Together Cooking and End Up Wiser, Happier (and eventually, Probably Heavier). A réchauffé, one might even say (i.e., a “warmed over” dish eaten of previously). Is this yet-another-one worth reading? Yes, I think it is.

Five amateur bakers enter a “cook-off” contest to become “the New Mrs. Eaden,” named for the fictional woman who was the late author of the classic cookbook The Art of Baking and wife of the founder of a large chain of gourmet food shops. The winner will not only receive a large amount of money, but will contribute a monthly magazine column on cooking and be the face of Eaden’s new advertising campaign.

The stories of the five finalists are interwoven with flashback chapters from Kathleen Eadon while she was writing her cookbook in the Sixties. The book is divided into categories as a cookbook might be, with each division focusing on the competition over that particular food group (e.g., breads, biscuits [cookies to Americans], etc.)

All but one of the contestants (who happens to be the only male in the group) are obsessed with perfection, and all seem to be into baking to fill the voids in their lives. As we accompany them on their quest, we learn about their struggles with their home lives, their secrets, their dreams, and the way in which their search for perfection in baking accelerates in proportion to their perceptions of failure in their personal lives.

Evaluation: The writing is quite well done, and what foodie could resist reading about all the delicious concoctions the characters make? The issues besetting the contestants and the original Mrs. Eaden are interesting; I thought it was daring of the author to combine a book about the love of cooking with fixations about weight and perfection (mirroring the “rules” in the cookbook) and the conflict in women so common still, between fulfilling your own dreams versus meeting the needs of your family.

The dénouement was also quite satisfying, and was cause for the use of much kleenex.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published in the U.S. by St. Martin’s Press, 2015

Battenberg Cake, one of the challenges for the contestants

Battenberg Cake, one of the challenges for the contestants


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15 Responses to Review of “The Art of Baking Blind” by Sarah Vaughan

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    Sounds fun to me!

  2. Great opening paragraph – this does seem to be a popular fiction category lately! And I’ve always wanted to try making a Battenberg Bake…

  3. Kay says:

    OK, I can’t even think about how you would make that cake. I know there is a technique, but I’m pretty sure I would fail. The book sounds good though. 🙂

  4. Belle Wong says:

    This sounds like a good foodie read. I like the way the author has structured it – very interesting!

  5. I have this one in my TBR pile, I enjoyed your review.

  6. I already had this on my wishlist, and glad you enjoy it. It sounded like a fun read to me.

  7. This sounds great! I love cooking competitions and getting a peek behind the (fictional) scenes sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing! This is going on my TBR!

  8. Maria says:

    Even though, as you say, this is a theme that’s been done many times before, I always enjoy this kind of book. This one sounds lovely, and I like that the author discussed less-talked about topics.

    I’ve made a Battenberg cake before but it was rectangular. A round one seems infinitely harder to achieve!

  9. jama says:

    This one sounds like fun. Thanks for the heads up!

  10. What a coincidence. I finished this one yesterday night and I quite agree with you. Some of the stories were a bit underdeveloped and rushed at the end. But I enjoyed the food bits, both from the old book and the present, a lot!

  11. Claudia says:

    Now I want to read that one. sounds like my kind of book. Thanks for the review.

  12. Janel says:

    I haven’t heard of this book before, but it sounds like something I would love.

  13. That cake looks good – but how does it taste? Cheers

  14. Beth F says:

    This is on my list — you’ve made me really look forward to it.

  15. litandlife says:

    Looks like a fun read!

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