You may not know that my very first book Romantic and Classic Cakes, written in 1981, was the dress rehearsal for The Cake Bible. Irena Chalmers, publisher, came up with the great idea to do a series called “The Great American Cooking Schools,” to be marketed to Gourmet stores rather than bookstores. Her concept was that the recipes taught at cooking schools would be thoroughly tested and that transferring them to book format would be easy for everyone involved. This turned out to be far from true as in those days (the dark ages of cooking schools) people tended to be very secretive, giving mere outlines of recipes and filling in the important details in class. I was not one, however my recipes were typed on my IBM word processor single spaced and no copy editor was willing to touch them so poor Irena had to hire someone to retype the whole thing. As an inexperienced book writer I was unaware that a series had a format of a specific number of pages so I overwrote—three times the size that would fit. My dream was to have everything I knew about cakes under one cover. Little did I know that seven years later I would write a book about cakes that was three and a half times larger than my original submission! (Thank goodness by then I had a computer or I never could have done it.) I was upset at first to learn that I had to cut two-thirds of the book and stayed up all night ruthlessly cutting recipes. I had no choice, but Irena reassured me that I could eventually have everything under one cover in another book. That was until her senior editor informed me that there is such a thing as plagiarizing one’s own copyright! I went to Elliott in tears asking him what to do and his wise reply was “Nothing—just write the book and by the time you finish things will have changed.” I took his advice and by the time I finished the entire “Great American Cooking School Series” was remaindered so copyright reverted back to the authors and it was no longer an issue. The Cake Bible was born in 1988.
Romantic and Classic Cakes sold well enough to go into a second printing. The series had a charming design by the renowned graphic artist Milton Glazer who went to Music & Art High School (as did I) and then Cooper Union (as did my aunt Margaret who actually had gone out on a date with him!). Irena asked me to design a cake as a thank you and I did two: one that was a delicious chocolate layer cake and the other that was made on Styrofoam for him to keep. Inspired by his work, which reminded me of Matisse, I had a vision of each author being represented as a white goose flying against a blue sky toward Milton, the golden sun. I was tempted to have a golden egg dropping from Irena—head goose, but decided it was a bit risky (should have done it!). The senior editor’s husband, who was a writer, created the perfect poem too accompany the cake—I only remember one part—my favorite—that went something like: “Thus as it was in ancient days, we fly to honor genius—give it praise.” Oh good—just found the original: High in the firmament is Milton’s sun Toward which Irena and her flock do run In flight to celebrate their books’ enhancement By his design, for purpose of enchantment. Thus as it was in ancient lays We fly to honor genius give it praise, In token of which we present this cake. If these be ducks, let Milton be our drake. By Richard Atcheson November 11, 1981 I guess they are ducks but I thought of them/us as geese because of the golden egg! Milton enjoyed the cakes and commented that he was impressed by my design reminded which reminded him of Matisse. I had wanted him to be reminded of himself but that was close enough! I told Irena to tell him that both my parents were craftsmen—my father’s medium was wood and my mother’s ivory (she was a dentist). I also mentioned my Aunt Margaret but I don’t think he remembered her. I hope he remembers the cake. Here’s a sample of Milton Glazer’s work that was on a post card given by the Russian Tea Room. See what you think?