22 April 2009

Cake News

My first book, Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt, was published by Simon & Schuster on April 14th, 2009. Now that the book is baked, I don't maintain this blog; however, I'll post links to book-related events and articles here.

For more current essays and information, visit my blog. For photography and links to published works, please visit my website, lesliefmiller.com.

Here's my current calendar. Look for interviews to air on WYPR's "Maryland Morning," NPR's "A Chef's Table," and WICN's "Inquiry." Silver Chair Books and Eye on Books have also done podcasts. Look for more links soon!

Author is unabashedly smitten with cake" in the Deseret News

Cake on "Daybreak"

B More Sweet likes me!

Mark Scarbrough calls me "The Aquinas of Cake" at Real Food Has Curves

"Woman is consumed by a passion for cakes" in the Baltimore Sun

Shelf Awareness

Diana Page Jordon's review

20 December 2007

Cake: 1,000,000; Pie, 10

Maybe I'm exaggerating—a little. But there is no contest in the contest between cake and pie.

The other day, while I was doing some chores, a soap opera just happened to be on. In the scene from One Life to Live, a boy sat at the counter of a Paris, Texas, diner, preparing to judge a pie-making competition between the diner's owner and a waitress. She spoke in her southern drawl, claiming to be from Texarkana and having legitimate southern piemaking roots. And the diner owner, as they are wont to do, threatened to fire her. He told the boy to be completely honest.

At this point, I stopped folding laundry and looked up to see the face of this innocent kid, who said, and I think I have it exact, "I'm sorry. But I just don't like pie. I like cake."

I whooped and hollered. I yelled, "Atta boy!" I raised my fist to the sky.

Now if only I could count on soap opera children to read my book.

02 December 2007

that time of year again

See the Operation Fruitcake web site here.

(And don't ask me what I was doing at the Bill Me Later web site.)

19 November 2007

Powder v. Soda

I saw a Land o' Lakes baking magazine at Costco today, and I thought I'd pick it up to see if there were any useful recipes or tips. I found one about pie pans (use glass) and one about cookie sheets (use shiny).

But I also learned the difference between baking powder and baking soda. I knew the powder had other ingredients—cream of tartar and cornstarch—but I didn't know when a recipe would call for one over the other.

Use baking soda in anything with sour ingredients. So if the recipe calls for sour cream, vinegar, or buttermilk, use baking soda.

Good thing I'd chosen, by instinct only, to subtitle my book: "A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt." Soda would not have worked.

Cake Love

Here's an excerpt from Let Me Eat Cake. I added the last two paragraphs today after thinking about it in the woods with my daughter on our morning walk.

At the party that night, my fluffy white creation shares a table with the $85 Patisserie cake, a large, flat, beige display with fancy brown writing and a few large, elegant white chocolate flowers. Inside is a delicate and creamy cake that’s not overly flavorful, but it shows up the cake I bought from Charm City Cakes in October, in both flavor and price (mine was bland and $190). But long before the cakes are cut, almost all of the forty guests approach me to say they cannot wait to get a piece of the cake they’ve heard so much about. And when they finally do, I am a powerful cake goddess. Men kiss my hand. Women kneel at my feet. Some weep with delight; others sit alone, moaning with pleasure. (One woman later begs my sister to have me make the cake for her fortieth in a few weeks.) Moments later, the party winds down, as every party does once the cake is cut and eaten, and the sugar buzz has dipped to a sleepy hum. And we all depart, slowly, the memory of Martha Stewart’s coconut teatime cake, as recreated by Leslie, the newly crowned cake queen, forever etched on our tongues, a benchmark for all cakes, past, present, and future.

Is this how Martha Stewart feels? Or is she so used to her greatness that she accepts accolades as she breathes air—as something so second nature that she doesn’t think about it, yet, if it were gone, she would surely die?

I think instead that the cake queens among us—and the bakers and chefs, the painters, photographers, writers—make these things because it’s our way of both giving and receiving love. To stand by a cake table and hear people you know and don’t know saying “oh—my—god” after their first bite of your white chocolate caramel cheesecake with milk chocolate ganache and almonds is to be loved, albeit in a kinky, lusty way. To have your offerings on the Thanksgiving dessert table disappear first and quickly is to be embraced wholly, despite what you might have said to Aunt Betty at the last Thanksgiving. Artists—whether they practice in the studio or the kitchen—want to make this exchange: their poetry for your love, their painting for your love, their triple-layer coconut teatime cake for your love.

11 November 2007

Here Come the Brides

The best thing about selling a book about cake to Simon & Schuster (read the news here) is that it's like getting a license to investigate all the oddball cake toppers, like this one—really a wine bottle stopper—found in a shop in Rehoboth, Delaware, an Eastern Shore beach town known primarily for its Nic-o-bolis (a trademarked stromboli) and homosexuals (neither trademarked nor strombolis).

Even though it was $20, I couldn't resist the two brides. I think they look a little like me.

06 November 2007


I called this cake Decadent when I posted the recipe in October of 2005. So what must it be now? Oh-My-God-ish?

Once you have the basics of cheesecake—and those would be four bricks of cream cheese, five eggs, and about a cup of sugar—you can pretty much make what you like. Add some jarred butterscotch topping, chocolate chips, jimmies. It's not too expensive to experiment.

I've made coconut, eggnog (killer), pumpkin-chocolate swirl, fruit, chocolate-orange, and dark chocolate, and I've made many of them without sugar. They are the easiest to doctor for the diabetic. (To adapt the following recipe, omit the crust or make it entirely with almond meal instead of cookies. Replace the all the sugar with 1/2 granular Splenda, 1/2 xylitol, available at health food stores. Use sugar-free candy, which you can find online or in some grocery stores.)

This cheesecake is the result of a dollar-store mistake—a bag of caramels bought to make candy apples the day before I decided to diet, which was the day before I decided I would make this cheesecake and couldn't be on a diet anyway. You follow, right? You're on a diet too. Tomorrow.

Here's what you'll need.

White Chocolate and Caramel Cream Cheese Pie (with Chocolate Ganache)


14 shortbread cookies OR chocolate wafers OR chocolate graham crackers
1/2 C almond meal or 1/4 C ground almonds
5 T melted butter
1 T sugar


4 bricks cream cheese (Philly ONLY, and I use 1/3 less fat; I'm delusional), at room temperature
5 eggs
3/4 C to 1 C sugar
1 T vanilla
small bag of caramels
1/2 bag white chocolate chips
2 T heavy whipping cream


1/2 bag dark or milk chocolate chips
9 T heavy cream


sliced almonds
raspberry (or other) preserves


10" springform pan
large pizza pan (for bain-marie)
heavy duty foil
double boilers


1.) Preheat your oven to 350°. Spray the springform pan with PAM (c'mon, it's really the only non-stick cooking spray, isn't it?). Mix all the crust ingredients in a food processor, and press into the bottom of the pan, going up the sides ever so slightly just to cover that seam. Bake the crust for about ten minutes, then reduce your oven temperature to 325°.

2. Fill a pan larger than the springform about 2/3 with hot water, and place it in the oven. Wrap the springform pan in several layers of heavy-duty foil, making sure not to put a fold or a seam anywhere below the top rim of the pan; you don't want any water to seep between the foil and the pan, or it will destroy your dessert!

3. Beat the cream cheese until it's smooth.

4. Melt the caramels (after you unwrap each of the suckers, and after the hand cramps are manageable) with 2 T of whipping cream in a medium bowl in the microwave (follow instructions on the package).

5. Melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler.

6. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the cream cheese, mixing until smooth.

7. Add the sugar, and mix thoroughly.

8. Add the vanilla.

9. Mix about half of the cream cheese in the double boiler with the melted chocolate, and mix well.

10. Pour the melted caramel in the other half of the cream cheese, and mix well.

11. Pour the white chocolate mixture over the crust, and then pour the caramel over the white chocolate mixture. Swirl it. (This involves putting in a knife or fork and swirling it around. It won't matter, though, because you're going to cover this baby with ganache. Still, the pretty swirl that comes out is like wearing lingerie. Sometimes only you have to know.)

12. Put the pan inside the pan of water in the oven, and bake for over an hour, maybe closer to two. Check it in forty minutes, then again in an hour, if the batter was still liquid.

13. When your cheesecake is finished, you will know; the edges will have rounded and pulled away, but the center will still wiggle a little. Don't cook it too long; you don't want it to be dry and crack.

14. When the cheesecake has cooled, run a knife inside the pan, and unhook it. You will need two plates to turn the cake over; one to turn it over so that you can lift off the bottom of the springform pan, and your serving plate, so you can flip it back.

15. Melt chocolate chips and cream in a heavy saucepan. Pour it over the cheesecake, and smooth with an offset spatula. Chill.

16. If you'd like, spread more of the chocolate—or use butterscotch or caramel or even preserves!—on the sides, and press sliced almonds all the way around.

This cheesecake, like all cheesecakes, tastes best after 24 hours. I don't know why.

And could we call this what it really is: cream cheese pie? It's a crust and a filling. It's not cake.


Why is a bain-marie so important in cheesecake baking? Recipes without flour or corn starch (and, let's face it, you don't want to interrupt the cheese-y smoothness with powdery thickeners, though it might make the pie closer to cake) tend to crack, and it's easier to overcook a cheesecake (another cause of cracking) when you don't use a water bath.

Below are last week's white chocolate cheesecake and the other night's white chocolate caramel cheesecake. Guess which one took advantage of the bain-marie.

25 October 2007


Today, DecoPac recalled 80,000 bobble head football cake decorations because of lead paint violations.

I know I often feel like a box of lead after I've eaten half a sheet cake at a child's birthday party. This explains why.

The press release says that only the figurines with the green bases have been affected by the recall. It's a good thing. I can't imagine pairing one of those gorgeous purple Baltimore Ravens uniform with a green base!

Maybe that look works for the Patriots.