Sep 27, 2009

Eat Cake and make merry

Jeanne Ray’s Eat Cake opens with Ruth, the heroine of the novel, imagining herself enveloped between the walls of a giant Bundt cake. She is attending a seminar on reducing stress and as she explains, it is not the act of eating cake that calms her down, but the smell and the texture of the cake and in her words “being part of something that I find profoundly comforting”. She feels, correctly so in my humble opinion, that cake has got a bad rap and there is nothing wrong with eating a piece of cake once in a while. “A slice of cake never made anybody fat.”
Raised by her mother, a high school music teacher and an absentee father, Ruth has come to value her stable family life – Sam, her faithful husband and her teenage kids, Wyatt and Camille. She has even adjusted to her now retired mother, Hollis, living with her family.
Ruth has simple cares and concerns of a housewife, shopping for groceries, cooking for her family and trying to bond with her teenage daughter going through a vegetarian phase. Her mundane world is turned upside down when Sam loses his job as a hospital administrator and her father, after breaking his wrists, has to move in with her for lack of any health insurance or a house to call his own.
Faced with a self centered, pouting teenager, forever quibbling parents and an out of job husband exploring the possibility of renovating yachts, Ruth takes refuge in baking cakes for her family. She finds an unexpected friend and advisor in the volunteer physical therapist, Florence, who occasionally visits to check on her father.
Eat Cake is the story of how baking cakes saves her sanity, her family and helps her discover the potential in a hobby she loved. Jeanne Ray’s tale of the neighbor next door rings true on many levels, the characters are easy to relate to and the language is self deprecating and funny. It is an easy read at 225 pages with additional pages for cake recipes.

I found the recipes elaborate and sometimes complicated, which is not to say the cakes don’t turn out good. I just do not have the patience that Ruth’s selfless character has (the reason why I did not bake a cake for this review). She tolerates her teenage daughter’s insolence, her mother’s nagging, her husband’s laziness and her father’s nocturnal routines with a fortitude that defies logic. I was waiting in every chapter for her to break down and yell at her husband or argue with her mother or just smash some plates on the kitchen floor. Only once does she break down, for a brief moment, in front of Florence. She immediately buckles up and trudges on, more as a martyr than a trooper.
It all ends well for Ruth in the end though, with the whole family pitching in to help out her expanding cake business. Like one of her cakes, perhaps too delicious an ending. If only things turned out so well in real life and cakes never deflated in the oven.
Check out other reviews from our This Book Makes me Cook foodies -- Simran,  Ann, Aqua and Curry Leaf.


  1. Nicely written post. I must look for this book.

  2. Nice review.Will be posting my recipe today,I am planning to do ruth's carrot cake -but ofcourse the recipe will be changed a bit -it looks the easiest compared to other elaborate ones -what u said is very true all are elaborate.

  3. Lovely post, Jaya!Must pick this...

  4. Thank you Sra. As I said, it was a quick read.

    CL, looking forward to your review. I too was planning to do the Carrot cake for the same reason but then didn't want to bother with calculating halves and 3/4ths.

  5. Love your writing style - well written! But marks deducted for not making and baking a cake and adding 10 lbs - like I did ;-)!!!

  6. Nice review, Jaya, and what an interesting woman. I can see how baking could become a life-saving passion, however unlikely that might sound to anyone who doesn't cook or bake.

  7. Thank you Shri.
    Ann, I will take the deduction in points and on the weighing scale. Hahahahaa (that's my evil laughter)
    Thank you Vaishali. I know what you mean.


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