Chris's Reviews > Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker

Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado
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's review
Sep 10, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: food-essays-memoirs, 2010-reads, best-of-2010, non-fiction
Read in September, 2010

Note: If you are looking for this book in paperback, they changed the title. It's now called "My Life from Scratch." I've never seen that before, not sure why....

Gesine takes the reader through the day of a baker, starting at 3 a.m. and all the goings on during this time. Each essay ends with a recipe that she talks about making in the chapter, clearly written for even the novice baker. I found this book to actually be a love letter to her mother and the city of Montpelier, Vermont. A self described "Mama's girl," Gesine fondly speaks of her mother, Helga, who passed away several years ago from colon cancer. A German-vegan-marathon running-opera singer, Helga also was a baker, and Gesine feels closest to her when she is baking and running. This was very touching; it was apparent they shared a special bond that was solidified over flour, butter, and sugar. At 3 p.m., they would share a sweet and coffee. Montpelier, Vermont (where I grew up) is a quirky, little city and she lovingly describes the characters who become regulars and friends.

Her sharp-witted personality shines in this, ignoring people mispronounce her name (it's GAY-zeen-a, not JAY-zeen), and when customers give suggestions, like she should start making vegan cookies (she thinks about taking her clog off and throwing it at his head!) She admits her employees would keep her in the back baking, as she wasn't a people person.

(A gossip magazine aside, Gesine is actress Sandra Bullock's sister, and there is a chapter devoted to the calamity surrounding making her wedding cake. That was a bummer, since we now know the outcome of that union, but "Sandy," as she calls her seems quite sweet, and spent the first week the bakery opened helping her sister in the shop, much to the excitement of Montpelier.)

This isn't to say this book is not without its flaws. First off, each essay is written as a stand alone, which also makes for a lot of repetition. As far as I know, these are never before published essays, so I shake my head at her editor as to why certain people and scenes need to be introduced yet again. I also thought the ending was abrupt. First she is at the middle school during career day, next thing she is looking at her bakery and thinking about her next step in life. She did close her bakery in Montpelier, although I believe she has a new one in the southern part of the state. Every chapter felt like it had a natural ending; the last one felt like someone told her to hurry up and finish.

Gesine doesn't sugar-coat (pun intended) what it takes to run a bakery. It is hard work, very long hours. When you start to become successful, that means more employees, hence the loss of whatever extra income you would make. But for this cook, who isn't a baker, it was a fun look at a day in the life of a small town shop where friends and family can share a little sweet. I went to her bakery just twice before it closed, both times late Saturday afternoon, and only grabbed a cup of coffee. After reading about all her delicious treats, I'm sorry I didn't splurge a little!
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Reading Progress

09/06/2010 page 37
14.0% "Already I'm about to pull out my baking books. This is going to be fun!"
09/09/2010 page 130
48.0% "Oh Gesine, how you keep me up at night!"

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Sherri (new) - added it

Sherri I'm so glad that you put this on your TBR pile because it sounds like a fun read!

Shelley Have you had a chance to try any of the recipes?

Chris Shelley wrote: "Have you had a chance to try any of the recipes?"

Hi Shelley, I admit I have not, but would like to, for a special occasion, when there will safely be no leftovers! ;-) Am thinking of trying one out for my book club in a couple of weeks!

Shelley I was really happy to see our library has this book.

Chris Shelley wrote: "I was really happy to see our library has this book."

Yay! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! :-))

message 6: by Mike (new)

Mike Ward Looks like it's changed its name again - the 2011 UK version is called Starting Over One Cake at a Time: One woman's journey from movie executive to macaroons

Just £1.00 in Poundland at the moment - poor Gesine, not much royalty to be earned at that price!

Chris Mike wrote: "Looks like it's changed its name again - the 2011 UK version is called Starting Over One Cake at a Time: One woman's journey from movie executive to macaroons

Just £1.00 in Poundland at the moment..."

Thank you for letting me know, Mike! I had no idea! And no idea why they keep changing the title! Maybe Gesine would make more royalties if they kept it at one title, so people knew it was just one book! :-)

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