Happiness is Baking: Cakes, Pies, Tarts, Muffins, Brownies, Cookies: Favorite Desserts From the Queen of Cake

This is the most recent cookbook from the Queen of Cake, Maida Heatter, which is a collection of her favorite recipes.  In the introduction she writes about how determined a baker can be to get a recipe, and how much satisfaction there is in baking and giving desserts to others. This cookbook is different from her other works only in its new format that has a very bright colorful layout and illustrations by Alice Oehr. Everything else is the same as in her other cookbooks:  table of contents, complete index, meticulous easy-to-follow directions and an opening chapter, "Before you bake." One of my all time favorites is included: the East 62nd Street Lemon Cake.  The foreward is from Dorie Greenspan, a professional baker whose books we own. Because of having baked many recipes from Maida Heatter's books I seriously considered becoming a professional baker. Even though there were times I baked every day of the week--it was only because I wanted to. The pros do it every day of the week because they love to and they have to.

In the introduction there is one piece of advice we librarians disagree with, when Heatter advises her readers to write in the books. Please do not do that to library books. If you buy the books, then mark 'em up all you want. My copies have marks, post-its, and food spots of all kinds testifying to continuous usage. 

My mother was an excellent cook who could bake and cook anything, including the best coffee--in a percolator on the stove top--almost but not quite cowboy coffee.  When I first started baking from Heatter's books I had some baking experience, but called my mother for advice about one method required for many of Heatter's coffee and bundt cakes. She tells you to butter the baking mold and dust it with fine bread crumbs. Most recipes tell you to dust the mold with flour.  My mother said, "Try it!  Do what she says, and let me know how it turns out." It is divine. This method produces a luscious thin crust over a dense moist cake, and the crust is crystalline goodness when brushed with one of the glazes.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from several of her books. Maida Heatter's book of great desserts East 62nd Street Lemon Cake (I modified this recipe: buttermilk instead of whole milk; unbleached flour for all-purpose), which I have made more times than I can count, and a friend's husband called it the all-day cake because you can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Maida Heatter's new book of great dessertsCuban banana bread, unlike any other banana bread because of an unusual ingredient (I always make a double recipe of this); Florida rum cake; Connecticut apple Betty (It is worth making a double recipe of this one because of all the chopping.); Irish whiskey cake. Maida Heatter's book of great American desserts  Frozen fudge cake; Apple cranberry muffins (a double recipe of this one); Chocolate festival cake, which is a three-layer dark chocolate cake that has bananas, peanut butter and various types of chocolate in it, including one pound of melted chocolate for the frosting and filling; White pepper ginger lemon cake  (a variation of the classic lemon cake, with a kick to it); Rancho Santa Fe lemon tart.

Maida Heatter's death was announced this past June--she was 102 and was known as the Queen of Desserts or Queen of Cakes.  A traditional proclamation when one monarch dies and is accessioned by a new one is, "The Queen is dead, long live the Queen!"  Maida Heatter's heritage of good desserts (cakes, cookies, pies, puddings and more) can found in LAPL's collection right here. There is an online recipe index, Mad About Maida: baking my way through Maida Heatter's recipes. The index is terrific because there are color photographs of the finished product and of the step-by-step procedures. There are two more of her cookbooks scheduled for publication in 2020:  Cookies are magic: classic cookies, brownies, bars, and more and Chocolate is forever: classic cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, puddings, candies, confections, and more.

Happiness is baking ... is available in e-Media

Labor Day is next weekend and is a time for gatherings of family, friends and co-workers. Here are some other wonderful dessert books:  Fancy Schmancy Desserts compiled by Reference Librarian Stella Mittelbach.