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Cakewalk: A Memoir

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  381 ratings  ·  85 reviews
From the author of the internationally acclaimed Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath comes a funny, touching memoir of a crummy—and crumby—childhood.

Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, Kate Moses was surrounded by sugar: Twinkies in the basement freezer, honey on the fried chicken, Baby Ruth bars in her father’s sock drawer. But sweetness of the more intangible variety was ha
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by The Dial Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Esme Pie
So did not want to finish this book because it just kind of unraveled 2/3rds of the way through, but as I told several good friends (after throwing the book across the room) I have to finish because I have to warn the others.

I've noted before that I'll read just about any memoir, but I believe it's actually very difficult to write a good memoir. This one started out so well. Crazy/crappy childhood with eccentric and/or inattentive parents interspersed with recipes for baked goods--i.e. the stres
I read this book because Nancy Pearl recommended it on her That Stack of Books podcast. Nancy said this was a good memoir because the author had a happy childhood and also her brownie recipe was fantastic. Have not yet tried the brownie recipe, but must say if this is a happy childhood the bar is set very low. A narcissistic mother, a father who is never home and just plain cruel when he is home, siblings who torture each other, a succession of moves, a probable eating disorder ( an entire cake ...more
I had a hard time getting into this book. It is a memoir, Kate grows up with both parents in an unhappy marriage, who stay together for too long and two brothers. The family moves frequently due to dad's job. Lots of dysfunction, Kate finds comfort in sugar, especially cake. Each chapter ends with a wonderful recipe related to that particular time period in her life. As in many most memoirs, the power of the human spirit is amazing and how she not only survives, but thrives is always great to se ...more
Moses is well-educated, well read, and has an extensive vocabulary. Unfortunately, in this case, those accomplishments do not a good memoirist make.

I believe the book was intended to be, at least partially, a food memoir since it includes much talk about her love of sweets and recipes. Moses’ parents’ bad marriage and her relationship with both of them was another large part of the book. I just never really felt her recollections flowed nicely into a complete book. She was kind of all over the
Moses' memoir of a childhood imbued with sweets and two self-absorbed parents reads like a sugar high - you can't get enough but you know you're going to feel ill later. The included recipes are like raisins in an oatmeal cookie - they do stand out, but the book needs the added sweetness. Quite possibly the best chapters are the later ones in which the reader is introduced to Moses' young adulthood away from her family and her introduction to the world of writing and food - of which this memoir ...more
Who can resist a memoir written by a lover of sweets? Certainly not me!

In this somewhat disjointed memoir, Moses takes us through her crazy childhood and leads us to her much saner adulthood. Along the way, readers will savor the sweets that got Moses through the tough times; recipes are included.

From the brownies that impressed MFK Fischer to the cheesecake for her father, Moses tempts readers at every turn.

At times, this memoir is jumbled and annoying. But at other times, it is beautifully wr
Robin Rountree
This book was definitely a mixed bag. Started slow, really got interesting, then it seemed to lose its focus.
I think if the author would have stuck to her difficult childhood and how she over came it, it would have been better.
I liked the recipes after each chapter, and hate that I have to return the book to the library without getting to try them all! However, sometimes she told a rather insignificant story in order to have a reason for the recipe.

Not a bad read, but not a book I'll think of ag
Genevieve Speegle
I love memoirs!

Cakewalk received three stars only because it had a fractured, disjointed quality to it. The stories housed in each chapter were OK - some better than others - but they didn't really seem to fit together in a larger, overarching story, like some of the better memoirs I have read.

Also, I never really felt an attachment to Kate, our author, and her recollections of the dysfunctional attributes of her parents almost seemed forced at times. Kate mentioned that her childhood led to ye
I loved the idea of this book - stories from the author's life with recipes at the end of each chapter relating to what you've just read. However I just wasn't able to connect and enjoy the stories.
This is one of the better memoirs i've read. Her recipes are a little scaring sounding, but the story itself was powerful, and honest. And captured the tumultuousness of growing up with a parent who is not quite right, but not wrong enough for people to doing anything about. I really believed the author was unattractive, and was quite shocked to learn that she was not. She captured perfectly the disconnect between how we sometimes see ourselves negatively, when others see positive. All and all a ...more
I was not impressed with this book for about the first half.

1) Kate Moses throws around a pretty sophisticated vocabulary, but I don’t know that all those $50 adjectives benefit the reader or the story. I’m sure that the fragrance inside Ian Boyle’s garden shed was lovely, but is "paradisical" really the term you want to go with? There are worse examples, of course, but that’s the one I remember off hand and it just seems catty to re-read the book, looking for words to complain about.

2) The book
Jul 18, 2010 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ann
In the best tradition of contemporary women's memoirs, Kate Moses stands in good company with writers like Mary Karr, Diana Joseph, Jeanette Walls, etc. Not only is "Cakewalk" a beautifully written story of Kate's growing up years, but there are some wonderful-sounding recipes, to boot (thus recommended especially to Ann)! Kate never provides a specific diagnosis of her mother's mental health, but over the years she evolves from a mercurial free spirit to a much darker, disturbed personality, th ...more
KB Wayne

She starts her story off as a colorful romp with an equally colorful mother and a more staid father, but there is precious little adult-insight (and the author is presently a middle-aged woman who is clearly a navel-gazer ...).

So we move across the country with her and nothing she described felt that interesting, unique; it certainly was never elucidating in why she (or her publisher) find her life story interesting enough to share with others rather than a diary or blog.

Most of us
This book had many peaks and valleys. It was difficult - very difficult - for me to decide on a rating. The peaks were high. Beautiful imagery, great writing. I was enraptured. The lows were low: dull, a little pretentious. The details of her friendship with MFK Fisher were a highlight, however. I feel as though a more exacting editor could have whittled this down by about 100 pages and made it a delicious, potent treat that left me wanting more. Instead it felt unnecessarily winding. Too fillin ...more
The anatomy of a writer is a fickle thing. In Moses' case, it is equal parts the sweet confections so prevalent in her childhood countered with the erratic and selfish behavior of her parents. Considered an internationally acclaimed contemporary author, Moses' memoir includes some sharp insights from her life as well as sugar-laden recipes at the end of each chapter, but her stories and her writing aren't as addicting as her brownies.
The author's memoir of her childhood with a fondness for sweets and very incompatible parents, complete with delicious-sounding recipes at the end of nearly every chapter, many of which I'm hoping to try. A number of the chapters had been previously published on their own and it felt like that--the chapters seemed to stand on their own more than offering a continuous narrative about the author's life. Certain chapters I enjoyed (the poignant one when she is in grade school and realizes she is fa ...more
I was a bit skeptical about this book because it had the potential to be yet another memoir of someone's terrible childhood and f*cked-up parents, combined with yet another pseudo-heartwarming, treacly memoir of someone's life experiences with food, with-- how original!-- RECIPES included! (Sorry, yes, I am jaded.) However, I was pleasantly surprised by this because Kate Moses is able to deliver a story that ends up being quite readable and wholly enjoyable. It took me a few chapters to really g ...more
This memoir details Kate's life from early childhood through her memories of food, particularly sweets, starting with a stolen cake and ending with a literal cakewalk. Her life was not a true cakewalk, with her lawyer father, frequently traveling and moving the family, and her mother with slightly manic tendencies. Kate struggled with fitting in as a child and a teenager, and when she moves on in life, she finally finds her place in the literary world, only to have her world drastically change a ...more
Kate Moses realized from a very young age that her parents were "disastrously mismatched." Growing up as the middle of three children and the only girl, Kate became her mother's confidante. Kate's way to deal with her family's increasing dysfunction was through baking. Nothing was better than drowning your sorrows in cake, cookies, or pie. After her parents finally divorced and she went away to college, Kate still struggled with feeling like she could never fit into the world because of her craz ...more
Anthony Faber
The book is sort of interesting and rings true until she has her kid. After that, it feels forced and/or faked. The recipe thing was a distraction to me, too. Has some stuff of historical interest on S.F.
Nov 29, 2014 Olivia added it
Kate Moses is my aunt. I have a totally different story from my dad... But I want to read Aunt Cissy's book anyway.
An OK memoir from a good writer but an even better baker. And anyone who loves baking like me and shares such yummy recipes is high on my list....! Recipes aside, it took me awhile to get into the book but I enjoyed it once I got used to her writing style and quit being so annoyed with myself that I didn't know the meaning of the all the words she threw around like they were commonplace.

p.s. -- I've already tried a couple of the recipes and they are really yummy. I heard she has a website with
Ashley Mccool
Like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls with recipes
There were some parts of this memoir that I loved - I remember so many details that Kate Moses mentions about growing up in the 70's. My heart broke for her for all the times that she sought her mother's and her father's love and attention and continually was shut out or worse, put down. While I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book - I thought the ending was a bit abrupt, almost as if she was rushing through. It was mainly because the first 2/3, she took her time and slowly walked through the event ...more
Kate remembers a childhood where sugar was the main staple. Unfortunately her family life was less sweet: her parents were mismatched and miserable and the family was always being uprooted for a new job. Family members, friends and mentors, as well as baking, save her at her lowest moments though, and she comes through able to forgive and reconnect with her parents. There were so many moments when I was brought to tears by the pain she felt or the love she was given. Plus there are recipes!
I read about 1/3 of this and just could not push through the rest. It's a lot more about her family life, which really isn't all that related to food and then there is a recipe at the end of each chapter. I typically love food-related memoirs, but did not get into this one. However, the recipes I did see looked amazing, so I would maybe buy a paperback version of this someday and possibly try reading the rest.
Memoir of a childhood filled with sweet recipes; we've already tried the brownies and shortcake. In the beginning she is a little whiny and critical of her parents but softens after she has her own child and begins to understand how difficult parenthood can be and we each just do the best we can in our own way. The recipes are delightful glimpses of a time gone by that can be baked again by almost anyone.
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I love this book. While reading it I found myself becoming more and more attached to Kate. Her story is very relatable, especially in the current economy.At the end of every chapter there is a recipe that is almost a type of reflection of the tale told. Her writing style is beautiful and unique. I look forward to attempting to make her grandfathers fudge, even though I can barely bake.
Memoir of this author. Her life as a child in the 60s and 70s.....artsy, free-spirited mom...cold, unavailable dad. Her love affair with desserts (many of her recipes interspersed throughout the book). Life isn't what it seems on the true for most people/families. Some very good part, some not so good. In my view, an uneven, but still somewhat interesting book.
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