Friday, July 10, 2015

The Cake Therapist - Interview & Giveaway

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.

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“12 Things About Judith Fertig”
Author of The Cake Therapist
1. The Cake Therapist, my debut novel, was inspired by my home town of Reading, Ohio, which has really gone from blue-collar, mom-and-pop stores to upscale bridal district where you can buy Vera Wang and Monique L’Huillier gowns.

2.  I actually attended an old convent school, from kindergarten through fourth grade, where General William Tecumseh Sherman sent his daughters during the Civil War. So I remember that convent vividly. (I think that experience helps explain why this nervous tic appears sometimes . . . .)

3.  My first job in high school was at a bakery. I thought I would get to decorate cakes. Instead, one of my jobs was to take a bowl of hot water to scrub out the cinnamon roll frosting from the display cases.

4.  But I got even. Years later, I wrote a cookbook I Love Cinnamon Rolls! and experimented with 50 delicious versions of this all-American favorite.

5.  As an adult, I went to cooking schools in London and Paris when our family lived in London. And then we moved back to Topeka, Kansas, for a little reverse culture shock, just to keep things interesting.

6. Unlike Neely’s father in The Cake Therapist, my dad is great. He was the youngest of four boys and was the first in his family to send a daughter to college. Love you, Dad.

7. I think there is a language of flavor, just like there is a language of flowers (as in the wonderful Vanessa Diffenbaugh novel). Just think how you feel when you bite into a salted caramel truffle. Luxurious, right? And how you wake up when you taste fresh orange.

8. I was working on Bake Happy (a new cookbook) at the same time as The Cake Therapist. The books are complementary.  It just so happens that the fresh strawberry cake that unlocks the past for two sisters in The Cake Therapist became the cover for Bake Happy. [Pleasurable Sigh.]

9. That wonderful bakery smell became the inspiration for my character Neely’s special gift. I wondered how it would be if she could see that bakery smell refracted into all the rainbow flavors that went into creating it: raspberry red, orange orange, butter yellow, pistachio green, and so on.

10. I went away to a writer’s colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to write the rough draft of The Cake Therapist. The cook at the colony got sick from mothball poisoning and a woman who specialized in Czech cooking stepped in.  We writers had pork loin roast and roast potatoes in 100-degree summer weather.

11. My secret food weirdness is stale Peeps. I don’t like them fresh. I like to tear the cellophane off the packages and let them “age” in my kitchen cabinet until they are crunchy.

12. I’m working on the second book in what I hope will be a Cake Therapist series—The Memory of Lemon—which has the influence of pie. And I’m in love with this book, too!

About the Author:
Cookbook author Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and The Iowa Writers' Workshop, and now lives in Kansas City. Described by Saveur Magazine as a “heartland cookbook icon,” Fertig writes cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland. Fertig’s food and lifestyle writing has appeared in more than a dozen publications, including Bon Appetit, Saveur and The New York Times. The Cake Therapist (June 2, 2015; Berkley), is her fiction debut.

Connect with Judith Fertig at:

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