California Food Summers: As a child, I spent summers at the ranch house of my grandparents (Bessie Halverson-Geary and James Aloysius Geary) in the grasslands of California’s Central Valley (in the little town of Snelling). Getting up at dawn was way-hard for me but the chores were actually a treat. Like, collecting fresh (warm) eggs from the hen-house, helping Grandma “put up” fresh peaches for the root cellar and helping her prep meals for the ranch hands. I also spent some summers back in my hometown of Merced with my Grandma Margaret Goldthorpe-Odell. She was a passionate home baker and would greet us four kids with a pie for each of us in our favorite flavors (mine was banana cream pie, but there was also chocolate pudding pie, pumpkin pie and apple pie, oh my). I had so much fun baking cakes and pies and cookies with Grandma Margaret for her church fundraising and potluck events.
New York, New York!: During the Woodstock summer of 1969, my sister and I flew from California to live for a few months in Greenwich Village with my mother’s dear friend, Roy Andries deGroot, and his charming wife, Kathryn Hynes. Baron deGroot was the author of a number of now-classic gastronomic books, including “The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth” and “Feast For All Seasons”. My sister and I lived in Roy’s Bleeker Street apartment and typed manuscripts for his cookbooks and magazine articles on fine food and dining. We also got to walk his amazing seeing-eye dog, Ñusta, and escort Roy around Manhattan for his various restaurant reviews.
About a decade later, I moved to NYC and right into my very own 88th Street studio apartment, working as Roy’s Research Assistant by day (coat-checking at night). By then, Roy was the Food & Wine Editor of Esquire Magazine so I helped him with recipe testing at his Westbeth apartment for his fabulous cookbooks and toured him around the city for his restaurant reviews and TV appearances. I also had the privilege of hanging out with his remarkable seeing-eye dog, Ateña. I was lucky enough to meet some of the world’s greatest chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers…and I sampled what seemed the finest meals the world had to offer. For a country girl, these experiences left an indelible mark on my world.
Solo Working Mom, Reporting for Duty! I’m an empty nester now with a busy legal career in Hollywood and the “kids” are doing their things: a Texas professor, a New York lawyer and a Los Angeles family therapist. I find in my “off” hours that I have made my way back to my precious food memories by authoring “Bake This Cake” and “Bake This Bread” in order to bring life to historic cake and yeasted bread recipes. Luckily, my secret pleasure these days is getting up early with my air pods set to crazy pod casts and audio books. I use recipes from my grandmothers’ recipe collections and from my ever-expanding antique cookbook collection. I test each recipe at least 3 times with family and friends (noting critical reviews at times, I might add). Course, when you start from suet or lard “the size of a walnut” and move to butter and cream, you’re going to need some testing wiggle room.
Go-back history! I’ve worked hard to hone my research skills over the years and I notice that it comes in handy with the family tree, transcribing old tombstones, and also with old-fashioned cake and yeasty bread recipes. I’m a proud member of the Culinary Historians of Southern California, the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, Slow Food USA, and Los Angeles Food Bloggers (LAFB). I also love just hanging with writers because they seem to have a passion for bringing their stories to life.
Holding the (waist) Line: When you bake a lot of cakes, you might imagine keeping fit comes up. My secret: I taste small and keep my slices thin. I studied Cecchetti ballet as a girl and somehow morphed as an adult into training in the martial arts. Actually, I spent so much time watching the martial arts classes of my kids that I practically lived at the dojo — so I decided that I might as well learn something while I was there. Nowadays I’ve retired my purple belt and take advantage of the house Wii console and an amazing online trainer to keep me in shape. I also love fishing (lake, stream or ocean) so I do that whenever I get the (seemingly rare) opportunity — usually at our river house on the Merced River where we keep a nice little stash of canoes and fishing poles.
My goal: I consider cooking from scratch to be part of an important generational craft so I’m hoping to open the window of heirloom baking by setting out carefully tested recipes from special vintage sources that are updated with straightforward instructions for the modern urban table. I’ve tried my hardest to learn digital photography (with a starter background from my pre-law school days as a Film and Broadcast Communication Arts undergrad major), so that I can share loads of photographs with my followers. I’ve met so many amazing photographers from around the web’s globe through various photo projects (like a hugely demanding 365-day photo challenge). So I’m hoping to entice you with my photos to explore history with me to create something special to serve to friends and family — just like our grandparents did back in their days.
Serving It Forward: Your gift from the kitchen just might make a precious memory for someone. And they just might learn from YOU how to keep alive the fine tradition of the kitchen baking arts. For example, once you learn to bake a nice little country loaf of yeasted bread from scratch, you MUST teach it forward.
While we all lead busy lives (oh how I know!), the gift of a vintage cake or homemade bread shows that you can carve out the time to create a gift from the heart. Brought out at the end of a fine meal, you will surely bring joy to those you love.
So — Here’s to gifts of love, vintage style, from the kitchen!
I hope you’ll join us on Facebook or Pinterest…and Twitter… and Instagram and a few others!
Related articles you may enjoy:
- Betty’s Banana Layer Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Mrs. Lincoln’s Vanilla Almond Cake (bakethiscake.com)
- Vintage Labor Saving Cake Recipe with Broiled Icing (bakethiscake.com)
- Country Roasted Pumpkin Bread (bakethisbread.com)
- Homemade Maraschino Cherries (bakethiscake.com)
I love your story about the strong women in your life and baking!
We have an old cookbook, really a running history of our North Carolina family, written by my Grandmother Fanny Ross.
The Sally White Cake is a huge part of our family history. We’ve found some on line history of the origins and name. But we’re stuck on: why the name ‘Sally’. Also for Sally Lunn cake?
Do you have any ideas why they called it Sally?
Chula Ross Sanchez. Galveston, Texas
Your history and your present are remarkable and inspirational, Leslie!
Roland! So good to see you (via e-technology). Eat and live well, its the best revenge! Hope you enjoy’s Leslie’s blog. I do!
Happy holidays to you and your family, wishing you the very best for ever and ever.
Love the cakes, yum, yum, yum……Happy New Year!
Roland, Thank you! Hearing from you is now the icing on my Christmas cake!
I stumbled across your blog via Shockingly Delicious. I love the concept since I love baking, especially cakes.
I have an old recipe of my grandmother’s, probably dating back to the twenties, if not before, that gives instructions as simply “Bake as for cake.”
That term has come to be used in our family whenever someone asks for instructions on how to do something that they should already know. “How do you thread a needle? Well, bake as for cake.”
I love your clever “bake as cake” retort. That is so funny to me! And it sums up these very old recipes — as they are always very lax on the specifics. haha! Happy holidays! Leslie
I can’t seem to figure out how to follow you on Pinterest. Do you have a link that I’m not seeing? Love the cakes, keep up the tasty work!
Hi Diana, I’m at http://www.pinterest.com/lesliemak & thanks for checking out my Pinterest boards. 🙂
Is there an index for previous cake recipes?
On the right side of each post, click into the Categories box and this is where you’ll find all our cakes labeled in alphabetical order. Thanks Betty for dropping by. Leslie
Hey Leslie, great to meet you at camp this past weekend! I’ll be checking in here more often now 🙂
Hey Gerry! Great to meet you and thanks for stopping by! Leslie
It was a pleasure meeting you this weekend. I’m your new fan – love cakes and love vintage!
Looking forward to making your beautiful cakes. Love your site!
It was a pleasure meeting you this weekend! I’m your new fan- I love cakes and I love Vintage anything! So looking forward to making your recipes!
Mary, So great to meet you at food writer’s camp. What a lovely setting! Looking forward to getting to know you (and your California Greek Girl blog) better. 🙂
Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging? You make blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is magnificent, let alone the content!. Thanks For Your articles Bake This Cake!
I saw your blog and thought you may be interested in our recipe book which features traditional, historical recipes from the North West of England, dishes which would have fed the workers of the industrial revolution. You can order a free copy here http://www.modernhistory.co.uk/recipe-book
Marketing Manager – Modern History
Thanks, Lisa, I’ll check it out.