Today, I am happy to clear some space on my blog counter for author Judith Fertig, whose debut novel The Cake Therapist tells a heartwarming tale of how the magic of food and flavor can change lives. She is best known as an award winning writer of cookbooks, with articles appearing in the likes of Bon Appétit, Saveur and The New York Times.
Ms. Fertig also teaches the art of baking across the country. So, pull up a chair and get ready for a sweet taste of what goes into the recipe for a delicious batch of fictional delight:
The Art of Cake Therapy
Marie Antoinette, whose first language was actually German, either mis-spoke, was poorly translated, or never actually said of the starving peasants, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" (“Let them eat brioche,” often translated as “Let them eat cake.”)
But that was the least of her troubles.
We may not have the French Revolution, nor the shadow of the guillotine, like she did.
But we do have job insecurity, fiscal cliffs, a shrinking middle class, a melting polar ice cap, romantic interests who can’t commit, people we’d like to commit, thankless domestic tasks, and the age-old question of “paper or plastic?” We’re stressed by things large and small.
So when I was writing my debut novel The Cake Therapist, I had an “aha” moment early on. What if my heroine could help people solve their thorny life issues—with cake and flavor?
What if Claire O’Neil Davis, who goes by “Neely,” could help her bakery customers and wedding cake clients take charge with chocolate and coffee as the new year begins. Get in the mood with blood orange and raspberry? Lessen their grief with a little spice? Or recognize their longing for home with pomegranate?
As Neely says in The Cake Therapist, “there was a flavor that explained you—even to yourself. A flavor whose truth you recognized when you tasted it. A flavor that answered the question you didn’t know you had.”
What if cake flavors could help those who are doubtful, stuck in a rut, ending a relationship, starting over, or not-so-simply stymied?
I thought that would be great. So I created Neely, a talented pastry chef who reads people as flavors. When she focuses on a wedding cake client, for instance, then lets her intuition kick in, she senses a flavor. Every flavor is the hyperlink to a feeling. And every feeling is the heart of someone’s story. Once she has the story, she knows the flavors that will increase their well-being.
It can be that simple. Don’t we all wish.
But real life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the story is more complicated. Sometimes Neely only gets pieces of a story, and it takes a while for her to put it all together. (That’s why writers create flashbacks.)
Even as she serves up ever-changing cake flavors that help her bakery customers move through life, one flavor grows in intensity for Neely alone. A persistent and increasing sourness alerts her to unfinished business, to anger and a long-ago family tragedy that threatens to impact her first wedding client.
But then an amazing strawberry cake with the flavor of a sunny summer’s day unlocks the past. Yes, good, made-from-scratch cake with wonderful flavor can do all of that.
Just ask The Cake Therapist. Or try the recipe and taste for yourself.
Thank you,Ms. Fertig, for sharing your literary thoughts with us and The Cake Therapist is a book that I warmly recommend reading. Her brand of creative culinary skills promises to satisfy more than one of your appetites this season and many others to come: