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Book Club Pick: Happiness Is Baking

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Happiness is baking a Maida Heatter recipe.

Happiness is baking cover

The title speaks truth: Happiness is baking, isn’t it? Maida knew intuitively what science has shown.

“Happiness is baking cookies. Happiness is giving them away. And serving them, and eating them, talking about them, reading and writing about them, thinking about them, and sharing them with you,” she once said.

Unpeeled’s October book club pick is Happiness Is Baking, by “Queen of Cake” Maida Heatter, who passed away this past June at age 102. (Here is a link to the New York Times’s obituary).

There are few cookbook authors with whom I feel as much trust and personal connection as I do family recipe cards. Maida Heatter is one.

cake baking ingredients on marble

I think it is Maida’s winning style. Maida built cookbooks filled with reliable, precisely written, fabulous dessert recipes that strike the home baking sweet spot of being neither too simple nor overtly fancy or pretentious. And then there is her voice: a fun, confident, vaguely gossipy aunt who stands over your shoulder guiding you through your baking with precise directions.

Consider this headnote from her recipe for Chocolate Intrigue (page 35):

“Gloria and Jacques Pepin came to our home for a visit one afternoon . . . When it was served they all raved about it, more than I expected since it is just a plain little loaf . . . .”

Who doesn’t want to immediately run off and bake this?

You might also like: Buttermilk Birthday Sprinkle Cake and Jewish Apple Cake.

cookbook with fruit on table

It would be one thing if the headnotes were enticing, but the recipes themselves were . . . less so. But the recipes work. And Happiness Is Baking has the added distinction of being a collection of her best recipes, a Maida Greatest Hits.

According to Bon Appetit, due to her health and age, 102-year-old Maida did not know that the cookbook was written;  it was assembled and guided to publication by her niece and caretaker, Connie Heatter. But somehow that is ok. With the cheery illustrations, Maida’s best recipes, plus the beautiful foreward by Dorrie Greenspan, this cookbook is a love letter not only to baking, but to Maida Heatter herself.

Do you have a recipe of Maida’s that you love? Tell us about it in the comment section, below.

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