Monday, July 13, 2015

The Cake Therapist…and the Art of Cake Therapy {+ Giveaway}

The Cake Therapist by Judith FertigI’m excited today to welcome award-winning cookbook author Judith Fertig to Thoughts in Progress to talk about her first foray into fiction with her recent release of THE CAKE THERAPIST.

THE CAKE THERAPIST combines Judith's expertise in baking with her passion for storytelling, resulting in a tale that shows where food and healing intersect. Thanks to Judith and the lovely Meg at Tandem Literary, I have a joint giveaway of both THE CAKE THERAPIST and Judith's brand new cookbook BAKE HAPPY to offer. Please see the end of the post for more details.

Here’s what others are already saying about THE CAKE THERAPIST:

          "A delicious treat for readers... Like a master chef, Judith Fertig takes the tale of a gifted baker starting all over in her old Midwestern hometown and layers it together with an intriguing mystery buried deep in the community's Depression-era past."-- New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams
          "In a small town where secrets run deep and over generations, Fertig shows friendship, family, and food can bring people together and heal old wounds. A novel that is a true treat for the senses."-- New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis

          "A dash of complex romance stirs up a cast of characters linked through time by a precious bauble in a delicious setting. This sweet charmer of a story made me hungry for more."-- Jeanne Ambrose, award-winning Taste of Home Magazine editor
          "In this gem of a book, Fertig serves up a multi-layered story of family and love, lost and found...A touch of magical realism gives the book an additional intriguing facet."-- RT Book Reviews (4 stars)


A fiction debut that will leave you wanting seconds, from an award-winning cookbook author. 

          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.

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Judith and she joins us to talk about ‘The Art of Cake Therapy.’ Welcome, Judith.

Marie Antoinette, whose first language was actually German, either mis-spoke, was poorly translated, or never actually said of the starving peasants, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" (“Let them eat brioche,” often translated as “Let them eat cake.”) 

But that was the least of her troubles. 

We may not have the French Revolution, nor the shadow of the guillotine, like she did. 

Bake Happy by Judith FertigBut we do have job insecurity, fiscal cliffs, a shrinking middle class, a melting polar ice cap, romantic interests who can’t commit, people we’d like to commit, thankless domestic tasks, and the age-old question of “paper or plastic?”

We’re stressed by things large and small.
So when I was writing my debut novel The Cake Therapist, I had an “aha” moment early on. What if my heroine could help people solve their thorny life issues—with cake and flavor?

What if Claire O’Neil Davis, who goes by “Neely,” could help her bakery customers and wedding cake clients take charge with chocolate and coffee as the new year begins. Get in the mood with blood orange and raspberry? Lessen their grief with a little spice? Or recognize their longing for home with pomegranate?

As Neely says in The Cake Therapist, “there was a flavor that explained you—even to yourself. A flavor whose truth you recognized when you tasted it. A flavor that answered the question you didn’t know you had.”

What if cake flavors could help those who are doubtful, stuck in a rut, ending a relationship, or starting over?

I thought that would be great. So I created Neely, a talented pastry chef who reads people as flavors. When she focuses on a wedding cake client, for instance, then lets her intuition kick in, she senses a flavor. Every flavor is the hyperlink to a feeling. And every feeling is the heart of someone’s story. Once she has the story, she knows the flavors that will increase their well-being.

So, how can you do a little cake therapy on yourself? Let flavor tell you what you’re yearning for.
Flavor ………. What You’re Yearning For:

Banana ….. An everyday adventure, a break in routine.
Blueberry ….. Blue-skied mornings. Wholesomeness. Simplicity.
Caramel ….. Luxury. Ease.
Chocolate ….. Risk-taking, mystery, a strong shoulder to lean on, wicked indulgence.
Coconut ….. Being whisked away to an exotic locale without the hassle.
Lemon ….. Greater clarity. Witty conversation.
Orange ….. A brand new day, a fresh start.
Pumpkin ….. A homecoming.
Raspberry ….. Sophistication. A sexy, little black dress and the life to go with one.
Spice ….. A return to the past. The comfort of nostalgia, or lingering emotion.
Strawberry ….. Youth. Summer.
Vanilla ….. Pillow-y comfort.
White Chocolate ….. A desire to get along with everyone, be unobtrusive.

It can be that simple. 

Like an amazing strawberry cake with the flavor of a sunny summer’s day, which unlocks the past for two characters in the book. 

Yes, good, made-from-scratch cake with wonderful flavor can do all of that. 

Just ask The Cake Therapist. Or try the recipe and taste for yourself.

Judith, thanks so much for dropping by today and sharing this insight into flavors. It’s fun to learn about the different flavors. I look forward to trying the strawberry cake recipe your link leads to.


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. 

Judith’s food and lifestyle writing has appeared in more than a dozen publications, including Bon Appetit, Saveur and The New York Times. You can read some of her cookbooks like novels--the fabulously photographed Heartland, the award-winning and James Beard Awards-nominated Prairie Home Cooking (a "tour de force," says Saveur), the encylopedic All-American Desserts, and Prairie Home Breads. Her IACP Cookbook Award-winning The Back in the Swing Cookbook (with Barbara C. Unell) takes you on a delicious daily journey to get you back in the swing after breast cancer.

The Cake Therapist is her fiction debut.

For more on Judith and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Cake Therapist Bake HappyThis giveaway is for both THE CAKE THERAPIST and Judith's brand new cookbook BAKE HAPPY. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only and the deadline to enter is 12 a.m. on Tuesday, July 21.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress: The Cake Therapist” in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Judith’s visit. Did you know flavors could tell you what you were yearning for? What’s your favorite favor and does the chart above fit with how it makes you feel?

*This post contains an affiliate link.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. What a lovely premise.
    So many of us cook as a way of expressing love, and how wonderful if that love could have healing attached...

  2. Clever idea for a story.
    Strawberries was my pick, and yes, at this point youth would be great.
    Congratulations on your first book, Judith!

  3. I want the cake that's on the cover of the book. The splash of colors fits me.

  4. I'd never thought of cake as being so reflective of one's personality. Interesting! Thanks for sharing, Mason.

  5. What a fun read this must be..Count me in. Tks

  6. The chart is surprisingly accurate

  7. Thanks for this wonderful feature which was extremely interesting and unique. What a delightful and special giveaway which sounds very enjoyable. Love the chart and the cake. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. I have to win this book. If anyone needs the Cake Therapist, I do.

  9. Judith, thanks again for joining us. I enjoyed learning about what the flavors represent so much. Wishing you much success.

    Hi all, thanks for stopping by.

  10. Interesting details about the flavors! Caramel really does see to scream Luxury doesn't it?

  11. This is the most clever book idea. Food as an indicator of what you yearn for. Awesome.

  12. I like the comparison of layers of cakes to layers in real life. I love chocolate cake.

  13. I love Blueberry and I think the description fits.

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  14. My list of yearning for's would look a lot like the cake on the cover! Scrumptious!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.