There is something satisfying in hearing the prongs of a hand mixer hit the side of a bowl, puffs of chalky flour erupting, enveloping in a gooey mass, poured out, and raised into something sinful. I love baking, I consider myself a baker – we aren’t talking Nigella Lawson, or Cake Boss baker, but a baker nonetheless. So this tome had me at the opening line.
Based around the 1966 baking bible, The Art of Baking, by Kathleen Eden, a cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate. The book that every household held, and every baker, chef, or cook referred too. Now five bakers battle it out for the new title of New Mrs. Eden.
A Masterchef meets The Great British Bake Off lovechild of sorts.
First we meet Vicki, who has turned her life upside down to be home with her little boy, halting a career she loved. Jenny, whose children have fled the nest. Then there is Claire, who at sixteen sacrificed everything for her daughter. Mike, a widower looking after two kids; and Karen, the perfect who is desperate not to let her disguise slip. As each of these characters bake their way into your heart, and through the competition secrets, hardships and difficulties are unearthed.
Sarah Vaughn’s debut does a magnificent job in portraying the most basic need to feed, comfort and bake. Her characters are wholesome, stark and lovable even when they aren’t. This is no literary escapade or stark portrayal of ambition, the woman in the kitchen or the way we interact – no, this is a novel filled to the brim with goodness, love, passion, talent and a pinch of salt. The calm to the Wolf Hall’s of your previous reading escapade, and the tribute to your kitchen.
If this novel doesn’t have you baking a Victoria Sponge by the end of it, I’ll eat eight brownies. Ha, as if you could bend my rubber arm.