As someone who has been in publishing for a while, I like to think that I have developed a finely-tuned radar for spotting good book ideas. It’s a fun and challenging game to those of us who truly enjoy the work, and we’re constantly on the hunt. The really rare gems are those that combine the qualities of a truly unique idea, valuable content readers will want and enjoy, and an extraordinary author all in one fantastic package. Two years ago, I began the initial serendipitous conversations that would soon bloom into one of those treasures: Cake Ladies.
I’d known Jodi Rhoden for some time. Owner of Asheville’s favorite bakery Short Street Cakes, I had clocked her delicious offerings and her spirit of community right away. It was at our burgeoning local indie craft fair, The Big Crafty, that she first planted the seeds for a book idea. We quickly followed up with a number of enthusiastic, cupcake-fueled brainstorming sessions … and soon enough, a book was born that married Jodi’s love of Southern food culture, delicious cake recipes, and a celebration of the value of women’s stories and the power they can have within their own communities.
According to Jodi, every town has its own cake lady. These are the women who bake the cakes for their community’s special occasions: weddings, birthdays, church barbecues and even funerals. Last Summer, she took to the road with tape recorder and camera in hand to seek out and document the stories of the cake ladies of her neighboring Southern region. Whether through her own network of baking friends or sheer coincidence, Jodi discovered and highlighted 17 amazing women and their lives in cake. From two women transforming their post-Katrina neighborhood through cupcakes and a Cherokee woman baking up fun and business with her sister to a cake lady elder who was so beloved that her town named a day in honor of her, there is a wealth of inspiring stories within that quickly communicate how very important a love of baking, and sharing that love with others, can be.
“As I listened to the cake ladies tell of their struggles and their joys,” Jodi writes, “I found over and over that it is love, first and foremost, that motivates them, and that love is the one essential ingredient to baking beautiful and delicious cakes.”
But don’t let me forget the recipes. Oh, the recipes! There are 21 of them in the book, all gleefully ingested by the book team at the photo shoot. While we each have selected our favorites, I can assure you that they are all showstoppers in their own right. There are classics such as Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Mississippi Mud Cake, Hummingbird Cake, and Carrot Cake; unique concoctions such as Peanut Butter & Banana Cupcakes and Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes; plus new signs of the cultural influences on today’s South, including Pastel de Tres Leches and Coconut Flan. Just take a look below for just some of the mouth-watering offerings.
I am so incredibly proud of Cake Ladies. It has been one of those projects that reminds me of the profound power of books and the stories they have to share. We’ll be celebrating the book all month long here at Lark Crafts, so be sure to come back for an interview with Jodi, highlights from the local book launch party, and an exciting giveaway.
Make the cake be with you.