It is Wednesday, we are getting to the weekend, and here in the U.S. we are coming up on the Fourth of July holiday. It is a crazy, busy, hot time, and what better way to relax than to stop and sit back with a delicious little read that will have you craving cake. I am pleased to have author Judith Fertig who is best known for her cookbooks and baking books, stopping by with her first novel. The Cake Therapist is a tantalizing treat for those of you who love magical realism. Let's take a minute and meet Judith, shall we?
Novelist and cookbook author Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to cooking school in London and Paris, and now lives in the Kansas City area.
Described by Saveur Magazine as a "heartland cookbook icon," Fertig debuts a new novel that engage the mind, the heart, and all five senses—and celebrates cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland.
Learn more about Judith on her website, blog, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
photo courtesy of Julia Shapiro.
I have Judith guest posting here today, and she is going to tell you all about flavors, which play a big role in her book. Please welcome Judith.
A Baker’s Dozen:
13 Flavors to Reveal Your Inner Self
There are wine tastings, coffee tastings, cheese samplings.
Why not a “what’s going on with me?” tasting?
When I was writing my debut novel The Cake Therapist, I had an “aha” moment early on. What if my pastry chef heroine could “read” people as flavors? Flavors that would lead to a feeling, the feeling that was the heart of their story?
Neely could suffuse her cakes, cupcakes, brownies, pastries, and cookies with special flavors that would gently help her bakery customers and wedding cake clients take charge with chocolate and coffee. Get in the mood with blood orange and raspberry. Lessen their grief with a little spice. Or recognize their desire to come home, even if just in spirit, with pumpkin.
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.”
Like Neely, we can all use flavor as a prompt—or a hyperlink—to reveal our own emotional cores. The flavors that speak to us, or flavors that don’t, can be revealing.
Flavors can reinforce what we already know about ourselves. Bring to light longings that we’ve suppressed—why? Or reveal a flavor combination that fits us like a couture gown.
I know that when I’m stressed, I want things soft and simple. Uncomplicated oatmeal in the morning. Plain rice. Vanilla pudding. Mashed potato. When I crave sweet but almost flavorless white chocolate, I know I just want to fit in, not stand out.
When I want to feel stronger, I turn to chocolate (dark) or coffee (French roast) for support. After all, raw cacao and coffee beans have to go through fire in order to be great.
When I need to kick start my creativity, I crave an aromatic combination of orange, cardamom, and fresh mint. I make Creativity Kickstarter sugar cookies to take to brainstorming meetings, and it seems these flavors help others, too. Refreshing herbs, brand-new-day orange, deep cardamom.
Maybe one of these dessert flavors will resonate with you, too.
13 Flavors to Reveal Your Inner Self
Does flavor have its own language? Yes: think of the sultriness of warm chocolate, the snarkiness of lemons, voluptuous vanilla, luxurious caramel.
All of us have certain emotional associations we make with the taste of a dessert, some stemming from the flavor compounds in the food itself and others from the context in which we eat it.
The flavor you crave can tell you something about what you’re yearning for.
Flavor What You’re Yearning For
Banana An everyday adventure, a break in routine.
Blueberry Blue-skied mornings. Wholesomeness. Simplicity.
Caramel Luxury. Ease.
Chocolate Risk-taking, mystery, a strong shoulder to lean on, wicked indulgence.
Coconut Being whisked away to an exotic locale without the hassle.
Lemon Greater clarity. Witty conversation.
Orange A brand new day, a fresh start.
Pumpkin A homecoming.
Raspberry Sophistication. A sexy, little black dress and the life to go with one.
Spice A return to the past. The comfort of nostalgia, or lingering emotion.
Strawberry Youth. Summer.
Vanilla Pillow-y comfort.
White Chocolate A desire to get along with everyone, be unobtrusive.
(all photos courtesy of wikimedia commons. Click on pictures for credits).
I don't know about you all, but that post made me hungry as did reading Judith's book, The Cake Therapist. Definitely don't read it on an empty stomach. A huge thanks to Judith for taking the time to guest post with me today. I am anxiously awaiting the sequel The Memory of Lemon. Now the best part, I am giving away my copy of The Cake Therapist to giveaway (U.S. Only). To enter please fill out the Rafflecopter after reading the Contest Policies. Good Luck!
Here is my review:
The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig
A fiction debut that will leave you wanting seconds, from an award-winning cookbook author.
Claire “Neely” O’Neil is a pastry chef of extraordinary talent. Every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, but Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.
Maybe that’s why she feels the need to go home to Millcreek Valley at a time when her life seems about to fall apart. The bakery she opens in her hometown is perfect, intimate, just what she’s always dreamed of—and yet, as she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.
Neely has always been able to help everyone else. Getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.
Four stars: A lovely book that blends the past and present with delicious cake.
Claire is anxious to see her new bakery. After years in New York City working as a pastry chef, Claire returns home after the demise of her marriage. She is putting everything into her Rainbow Cake Bakery, hoping that her gift for tasting feelings can translate into success. Things are off to a good start, until Claire starts getting an unpleasant taste in her mouth. Something isn't right in Millcreek. When she interacts with her clients and neighbors, Claire is able to uncover bit by bit the history of some of the people and their secrets. Will Claire learn the truth about the long ago story that haunts her?
What I Liked:
- I personally adore a magical realism book that is all about comfort and coziness. The Cake Therapist combines several things that I love from a small town, cozy bakery, delicious and decadent sweet treats, a small town mystery and a sprinkle of magic. This book had me craving cake and cupcakes. If you want a sweet read that is perfect for when you crave something on the light and fluffy side, grab a copy of Cake Therapist. My best advice, don't read this while you are hungry.
- I was surprised at first by the way the book came together. It starts out in the modern day following Claire as she establishes her new bakery. Then you get these flashbacks, the first going back to 1908 and then the subsequent ones are around the WWII era. At first, I found the visits to the past jarring, as I wasn't sure how they related to the story. *However, as the book progressed with each flashback, more details were uncovered, and I soon found myself invested in the story of Olive and Edie. It wasn't exactly clear how these events tied into the story, but patience pays off, and by the end, everything fit, and I was satisfied with the way it all played out. I ended up enjoying the blending of the past with the present. Just be patient while reading this, it will all become clear.
- This book has two plots, one that follows the mystery of the ring and the sisters in the past, and then Claire's story in the future. Claire's journey is one of transformation as she comes home, establishes a bakery and sets out to use her talent of taste and uncovering secrets. I liked watching Claire work her magic, especially when she does wedding cake tastings. By the end, Claire has come a long way, and I liked the new path she set herself on. I am interested to follow up on her journey in the second book.
- I adored Rainbow Cake Bakery. There is something so relaxing and pleasant when reading a book that takes you into the cozy confines of a bakery. I loved reading about all the different cakes, cupcakes and treats that were baked in the bakery. There is lots of detail and description, you can almost taste the treats. Don't read this one while you are hungry or you will find yourself with a huge hankering for something sweet.
- This book has a rather large cast of characters, and I found myself engaged and interested in the different personalities and stories. There are so many interesting side stories from Jett, the young goth baker, to the budding romance between the Professor and Maggie, as well as the interesting romance between Roberta and Thomas. If you like books with lots of small sideline storylines and a big, eclectic cast, immerse yourself into the lives of the folks in Millcreek.
- I am a big fan of magical realism. In this book, Claire has a unique gift for being able to taste flavors when coming into contact with others, and once she opens herself up to the flavors someone is putting off, she can sees glimpses into their past and learns some of their secrets. I thought the whole idea with the magical flavors was fun and unique.
- The ending is a bit fast and abrupt, it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but I was a bit perplexed that the book concluded, there were many stories that weren't played out. I was relieved to learn that there is a second book coming, and hopefully there are more in the works. I am anxious to read The Memory of Lemon.
And The Not So Much:
- One thing that I felt held this book back was that it lacked focus. It was as if the story took on too much. While I liked the various characters and their stories, I was a bit disappointed that more of the side stories didn't come to fruition. I felt this book bit off more than it could chew. I think it would have benefitted by not having so many secondary plots and characters, and by bringing more story lines to a close before adding new ones.
- The ending was fast paced in comparison to the rest of the book. It ended a abruptly, and I was left with a few nagging questions. I didn't realize going in that this was the first book in a series. I am relieved that more story is coming as I am anxious to follow up on Maggie, Jett, Ben, Claire's father and more.
- Claire returns home after her marriage falls apart. I was a bit frustrated that there wasn't a bit more depth and detail on her marriage. There are tidbits of information dropped here and there so the reader can piece together a general idea of what happened, but this is one area of the story that needed more depth. It is a big and important part of Claire's journey and I wanted a clearer picture of her life with Luke.
- The one thing that bothered me regarding the story in the past, was that it was never revealed who Edie's attacker was. Was he the one who left the shoe?
The Cake Therapist was a sweet, cozy read that was unique. I liked the magical realism and the way the author blended the past and the present. The Rainbow Bakery with all of its decadent treats makes the book shine. It does have a large cast of characters and many side stories, so if you aren't one that likes multiple points of view and numerous secondary story lines, you might not like this. I personally loved the eclectic cast of characters and their stories. Grab this book with a sweet treat and cozy up for a delightful read. I am anxiously awaiting the second book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.