Barbara Scott-Goodman, a food writer, observes in a forward:
“People think that cake is kind of a big deal, and it is. Serving cake for dessert can turn a simple dinner into an occasion, and nothing says ‘Let’s celebrate’ quite like it.”
For the most part this is a cookbook for cakes, interspersed with Kalman’s vibrant Matisse-like paintings and reminiscences from her childhood. Kalman points out that many of the big occasions in life are marked by cake, from happy times to mourning, to visiting, to when you need a “talking cure.”
“If you go to visit an elderly aunt in a crisp dress (who earlier hauled the wet laundry up to the roof to hang and dry), she will serve you cake that she made at dawn. No doubt about that. Cheesecake or honey cake or fruitcake. Then you can tell her your troubles and she will offer sage advice. Usually. But not always. She is human, after all.”
The recipes are simple and classic – arguably what one should have for a basic cake repertoire (if there is such a thing). They all sound delicious, from “Lemon Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze” (2 sticks of butter in that one – what could be bad?) to sour cream coffee cake and chocolate cakes – both with and without flour. And since I bake cakes more than I do any other activity in the kitchen (aside from eating) I have tried most of these (or very similar) recipes at some time or other and can vouch for them.
Some of Kalman’s comments are whimsical, like her art. She shows a cake iced with the quote “A day without dancing is a wasted day,” explaining:
“When we lived in Rome we had a party and we made a gorgeous pink cake. Lucretius was on our mind. And Spinoza. His search for happiness. And someone mentioned Nietzsche’s quote. He said a day without dancing is a wasted day. You don’t think of philosophers dancing, especially Nietzsche. But apparently they do.”
Evaluation: This homage to cake is also a paean to relationships and shared celebrations and the comfort that can come from the little things. But most of all, it is a collection of recipes worth having. I would call this an “enhanced” cookbook, highly recommended!
Published by Penguin Press, 2018