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Cakewalk: A Memoir

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  470 ratings  ·  99 reviews
From the author of the internationally acclaimed Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath comes a funny, touching memoir of a crummyand crumbychildhood.

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 fathers sock drawer. But sweetness of the more intangible variety was harder
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by The Dial Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
Rating details
 ·  470 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Mar 09, 2011 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
Sep 28, 2016 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
Jennifer Warnock
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
a beautiful book,
a delicious book,
a book about survival and redemption and life and love.
and cakes!
Mar 20, 2013 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 ...more
Leslie Zampetti
Sep 18, 2010 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
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
Dec 06, 2010 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
Feb 11, 2015 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
Robin Rountree
Jul 07, 2010 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
Aug 10, 2010 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.
Julie  Durnell
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting childhood memoir and good recipes too!
Nancy Anderson
Sep 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
Poorly written, poorly edited - aimless. Cute cover.
Shawn Mecham
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book hard to get into at first, but I'm so glad I persevered because I began to find more and more parallels to my life and I was enlightened and comforted by the similarities. I felt I traveled with the author and her imperfect family to Palo Alto, Pennsylvania, Alaska, etc., and watched to see how she would survive each change. I really hated to read the last few pages and have it be over, but I'm happy that Kate Moss has found joy and resolution to a fairly difficult life.
Lisa Mcbroom
Growing up in a dysfunctional family, Kate known as Cis had a mercurial mother and a cold father. She found comfort in cooking and recipes. At the end of each chapter , there is a recipe . This was an inspiring book, because she came out of adversity. Unfortunately, th writing unravels half way through!
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent writing interspersed with dessert recipes that this diabetic won't be making. Still, delicious reading.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Had to return to library
Karen Randall
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lots of shared recipes! Great book
Jul 01, 2011 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 dont know that all those $50 adjectives benefit the reader or the story. Im sure that the fragrance inside Ian Boyles garden shed was lovely, but is "paradisical" really the term you want to go with? There are worse examples, of course, but thats 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
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Patty by: Chris Crouch
I was the captive and anticipating audience, the listener and prompter, sitting at mo mothers feet with scraps of dotted Swiss. Tell the story about Pas Dalmatians fighting the bears at the zoo. Tell the story about painting the chickens toenails before it was cooked into stew. Ill 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 and I
Jul 18, 2010 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, ...more
KB Wayne
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: really-bad

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
Genevieve Speegle
Sep 03, 2014 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
Jan 31, 2013 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 ...more
Jul 23, 2010 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 ...more
Jun 23, 2010 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 ...more
Mar 14, 2011 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 ...more
Jan 27, 2016 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 ...more
Jan 14, 2015 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 ...more
Jun 30, 2010 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
Aug 17, 2010 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 ...more
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