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The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  186 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Have you ever wondered where the ideas for baking red velvet cupcakes, brownies, birthday cake, Girl Scout cookies, and other dessert recipes came from? Discover the history behind America's most popular and nostalgic desserts with popular CakeSpy blogger and self-proclaimed "dessert detective" Jessie Oleson Moore. Moore has put her sweet-sleuthing skills to work uncoverin ...more
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Sasquatch Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  186 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm no history buff, but reading about the history of desserts was right up my alley. Who knew that Duncan Hines was an actual person, and possibly the first "yelp-er" of his time (he was known for publishing lists of restaurants he enjoyed while on the road as an insurance salesman). And we have Mildred and Malitta of Michigan to thank for Rice Krispie Treats. This is a fun book, perfect for anyone who has ever wondered where pineapple upside-down cake even came from (I'll give you a hint: not ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other, exposes, food, library-2
Cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, bars…Whether these words make your mouth water or your waistline cringe in fear; one thing is for sure: these delectable treats are a major facet of our lives. How much do we truly know about these sugary concoctions? Jessie Oleson Moore takes a slice out of the mystery (pun, intended) in “The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America’s Favorite Desserts”.

“The Secret Lives of Baked Goods” is a combination social history and recipe book of so
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
I expected this to be less of a cookbook and more of a . . . book-book. Maybe because the word stories comes before recipes in the title. If you're in it for the recipes, it looks like a great book. There are updated and modern recipes for popular and lesser-known (but traditional) baked treats. If you're reading it for the stories, history, and context, save yourself the trouble and do a quick Wikipedia check :).

Reading this has, however, made me want to read more contextual recipe and cook bo
Laura Harrison
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Informative and tasty :) A huge variety of mouth watering desserts. It covers simple classics to a bit more complicated, newer treats. Entertaining stories add texture and added meaning to this book. I enjoyed it very much.
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the stories behind favorite desserts
Recommended to Meran by: Jeanne Sauvage, of
I've just begun this delicious, lovely cookbook and am already quite enamored of it! Of the recipes enclosed, some are old favorites, like Red Velvet Cake, some are new for me, like Opera Cake and Alice B. Toklas Brownies, all with accompanying stories special to the dessert. And ALL of the recipes are of desserts!

Now, I've been gluten free since 2007, and none of these are gluten free, however, some use cake mixes as bases, meaning I can use a GF cake mix when I try these out.

More review later
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Wendy by: Goodreads GIveaways
Shelves: recipe-book
"The Secret Lives of Baked Goods" is more than just a wonderful down-to-earth book of culinary delights like meringue pie, croissants, carrot cake and peanut butter cookies, it's a cornucopia of history, and anecdotes about tried-and true confections that titillate our taste buds. What I love about the book are the simple ingredients and instructions; an important element for a woman with a busy schedule and a family that loves a sugary treat. I have already recommended Jessie Oleson Moore's boo ...more
Theresa Jehlik
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Moore has written a combination history/cookbook of American cakes, cookies, pies, and other sweet treats. She has woven together strands of various histories, myths, and interpretations to give readers the back story on our most common/beloved baked treats. Her recipes are designed for the home cook and are approachable by using easily found ingredients. Full-page photos are designed to make the reader eager to try out the recipes.
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some great recipes and the stories about how they were created are great. Really enjoyed this book.
May 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, cookbook
Received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
*I made 5 recipes*
The good. Some interesting and classic recipes with a bit of history. Make a good present for a novice baker. Cute illustrations, photos, vibrant pages. Good layout?
The bad. Lots of dead space. While having margins and empty space is great for a cookbook for the cook to add notes, there was too much void. This could have been filled with more illustrations, more history on recipe, and a photo for every recipe. This was no
This was a fun tour through old and modern baked goods. There was a short background for each and a recipe, usually tweaked by the author. I've heard of most of the baked goods, some very common, but I had no idea how long they'd been around or where they came from. Funny how you don't realize how interesting this information is until you come across it. This is the kind of stuff I would have loved to learn in history class in school. I've always loved history of the more mundane things in life ...more
Dec 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I had a few problems with this book, which saddened me. First, the recipes and "secret lives" portion of each item was extremely basic despite the authors list of sources (which were poorly formatted, particularly for websites she used) but I could past that by simply imagining that the book was intended for a beginner audience. What belies that assumption are sloppy omissions from the actual recipes (you need to flip back a few pages to the red velvet cake picture to determine how many cake pan ...more
Kate Lawrence
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-issues
This fun, larky little book both informs and entertains, and will give dessert-lovers (like me)lots of topics to chat about with each other: why Boston cream pie is called a pie even though it's clearly a cake, whether Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker were real people (Duncan yes, Betty no), when animal crackers first came on the scene and why they were sold for years in circus-themed boxes, what two states claim the distinction of having created whoopie pies, how carrot cake and red velvet cake b ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is perfect for those who read cookbooks like novels. Lots of good backstory about baking and desserts here plus the photographs are wonderful. Additionally, the book is exactly the right size, not too large for the kitchen or the cookbook shelf. The book would also make a great gift. The recipes are interesting, fun and cover all the classics like Boston cream pie, croissants, birthday cake and pineapple upside down cake. The recipes are all completely from scratch, so get out your mea ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it liked it
This book combines two of my favorite things: history and sweets. It fell a bit short for me. I like a cookbook to be loaded with pictures, but this one had only sporadic photos. And the recipes were a bit complicated...dry yeast. Too scary! It did provide for great car trivia on our recent road trip. When eating animal crackers, kids are most likely to eat what body part first? Back legs. What is America's most popular cookie? Chocolate chip (Interesting that chocolate chips were invented AFTER ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-favorites
A cookbook-baking-documentary that is delicious... easy to follow recipes with baking history and fun facts sprinkled throughout. Fans of The Great British (or American) Baking Show will recognize some recipes such as the Princess Cake with its green marzipan top.
I enjoyed reading the history behind iconic baked goods from elegant classic of Opera Cake to the comfy Pumpkin Pie to the showstoppers like Baked Alaska...and the guilty pleasures of Oreos and Pop Tarts. This book really does have it
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This cute book gives us the back story on popular (and not-so-popular) baked goods. It's mainly history, though she includes recipes. The recipes are a mixed back - many are pretty involved, and they feel less personal because they're not the author's. However, many of the stories - particularly about less popular, historical, commercial and international treats - are interesting. I would have liked more pictures.

I'm not sure if it's a good trend or not, but I feel like every baking book I've re
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ok, I haven't actually tried any of the specific recipes of the book, but I have tried lots of other variations of the same recipes. These are the classics of American sweets, many of them old favorites that I love. And there was plenty of new goodies that I have never eaten, or never had a good recipe to try for myself. The history of all these good things to eat was icing on the cake (pardon the pun), and this could be my new go-to dessert cookbook! Excellent read, even if I never tried any of ...more
Anne Fabing
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting background histories and recipes to many traditional desserts. Pop tarts were originally called Country Squares. The first Girl Scout bake sale was held in Philadelphia in 1932 and exploded there after. During WW II, ingredient shortages forced Girl Scouts to switch to selling calendars. And The first batch of gingerbread characters were presented by Queen Elizabeth I to visiting dignitaries baked in their own likeness. Contains more than 40 stories in all.
Mary Havens
Feb 03, 2016 rated it liked it
The chapters on forgotten desserts and foreign fare were good. One day I hope to work up to making a Princess Torte or even Croissants!
I liked the history of the desserts but her cutesy-joking writing style needed to be tossed.
If you were to buy this book, it would be because you liked baking but had zero cookbooks. Otherwise, borrow from the library like I did and photocopy those recipes you like!
Heather Meade
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really good book and interesting to find out about famous baked goods and how they were invented. I wish there were a few more pictures of the assembled baked goods but that's a minimal complaint. I really like that recipes are included and I want to try to make the traditional birthday cake, urban legend cookies, pink frosted cookies and smith island cake. ...more
Julie Ehlers
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm biased, because the author is a friend of mine and a genuinely delightful person. Still, this is a very fun book--it gives the history behind a wide variety of baked goods, and then offers original recipes. The recipes all look extremely tasty, but most are easy enough for bakers at any level of experience. Beautifully illustrated and photographed, too. ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
Lots of classic recipes as well as some cool, obscure ones. Reading about the origin of the recipes was very interesting. Only negative: wish there were more photos of the food. Would definitely add this to my recipe book collection.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: cookbook
I always harp on the format of cookbooks, my pet peeve.
Although the recipes were unnecessarily formatted to fill more than one page, and front and back of the same page, at least all of the parts were together. No shuffling pages to find the matching icing or filling. Nice recipes.
Linda Smatzny
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book gives the history behind some of our favorite desserts. Along with the stories there is a recipe for said treat. I am only rating the book based on the stories not the recipes. Learned some fun facts such as October 23rd is National Boston Cream Pie Day.
Oct 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodie, mcl2014
The stories were interesting and the pictures looked yummy. The real test of a book like this is to make the recipes. I have 3 picked out to try: Blondies, Hepburn brownies, and ANZAC biscuits.
Lin S.
Aug 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Sweet book and could relate to stories.
Bert Stanaland
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you like to read cookbooks then this one if for you! It is not necessary to make the recipes, because the history and the story behind each one is a feast in itself. Very nice.
Karen Ferguson
A fun read
rated it it was amazing
Apr 14, 2016
rated it really liked it
Nov 16, 2014
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Jessie Oleson Moore is a freelance writer and illustrator. She was born and bred in coastal New Jersey, and honed her artistic skills at the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. After living in New York for many years, she ventured west to Seattle, where she worked at a refrigerator magnet company. She quit her magnetic job to found, and even (for a couple of years) owned a gallery ...more

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