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Cakewalk: A Memoir
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Cakewalk: A Memoir

3.45  ·  Rating Details ·  434 Ratings  ·  94 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
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Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by The Dial Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30)
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esmepie
Mar 09, 2011 esmepie rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
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
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Cheryl
Mar 20, 2013 Cheryl rated it liked it
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
Leslie
Sep 18, 2010 Leslie rated it liked it
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
Catherine
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
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Barbara
Feb 11, 2015 Barbara rated it it was ok
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
Jeanne
Dec 06, 2010 Jeanne rated it liked it
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
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Robin Rountree
Jul 07, 2010 Robin Rountree rated it liked it
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
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caroline
Aug 10, 2010 caroline rated it did not like it
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.
Nancy Anderson
Sep 18, 2016 Nancy Anderson rated it did not like it
Poorly written, poorly edited - aimless. Cute cover.
Katherine
Jul 01, 2011 Katherine rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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Patty
“I was the captive and anticipating audience, the listener and prompter, sitting at mo mother’s feet with scraps of dotted Swiss. Tell the story about Pa’s Dalmatians fighting the bears at the zoo. Tell the story about painting the chicken’s toenails before it was cooked into stew. I’ll be a storyteller, too, I told myself, folding bits of limp fabric into pages, into books, chocolate and peanuts filling my mouth.”

A friend recommended this memoir to me because she knows I like to read about food
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KB Wayne
Oct 05, 2012 KB Wayne rated it it was ok
Shelves: really-bad
Disappointing.

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
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Kate
Jul 18, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it
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
Megan
Sep 28, 2016 Megan rated it it was amazing
I'm glad I disregarded the litany of negative reviews before starting this book. I'm not a seasoned critic by any means, but I believe the purpose of writing a memoir is to draw the reader into your world. Kate Moses succeeded to that end, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Although my story so far is vastly different from hers, I found myself wanting to sit with her over a cup of tea and a slice of cake (her recipes are ridiculous and I envy her talents) and just expound on life in general and th
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Genevieve Speegle
Sep 03, 2014 Genevieve Speegle rated it liked it
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
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Emily
Jul 23, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer
Jun 23, 2010 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, food
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
Michelle
Jan 31, 2013 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jessica
Mar 14, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking-food
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
Martha
Jan 27, 2016 Martha rated it really liked it
Take one part Jeannette Walls, add an equal portion of Ruth Reichl, stir vigorously, and you'll have Cakewalk, Kate Moses's memoir of her dysfunctional family and the evolution of her sweet tooth. Moses writes in a lyrical style punctuated with occasional humor that gives the book a leisurely but lively tone. Offered like a gift at the end of each chapter is a memory-laden recipe related to that passage. Recommend Cakewalk to dessert lovers, but the memoir is such a delicious read that even diet ...more
Lori
Jun 30, 2010 Lori rated it liked it
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
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Leesteffy
Jan 15, 2015 Leesteffy rated it really liked it
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
Carly
Jan 14, 2015 Carly rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, culinary, fiction
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
Julia
Aug 17, 2010 Julia rated it really liked it
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
Rosemary
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.
Donna-Jo Webster
By turns laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and inspiring, this lyrically written memoir of growing up in a dysfunctional family in the 1960s and 1970s is a sheer joy to read. Not only does Kate reminisce about the fun (and pain) of growing up, but her vignettes are peppered with recipes of the cakes and sweets she learned to bake as a young child. A mouthwatering treat for the mind and soul - don't miss this one.
Lurdes
Jul 10, 2014 Lurdes rated it it was ok
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.
Whitney Page
Dec 15, 2015 Whitney Page rated it it was amazing
Starts out haphazardly but catches up with itself mid read. Shows that by fixating on one thing (Baking) one can bring to life an entire lifetime of memoirs and experiences through that lens. Sticky and toxic, her relationship with her own mother, similar to the sugar she self medicates with her entire life. Comprehensive and interesting. She doesn't have great stories or wild moments but the writing elevates the mundane. Would put in the same category as Lidia Yuknavitch
Julie
Sep 14, 2010 Julie rated it it was ok
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.
Lindi
May 26, 2010 Lindi rated it really liked it
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!
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