a cake maker talks cake/life

This is Frances. She lives in Paris.

I am 24, and will be 25 (eek!) in a month.

Favorite kind of cake: I love them all, I do. Mostly lemon cakes win out, but at the moment the custard tarts at Comme a Lisbonne, warm and just lightly dusted with cinnamon, are calling to me like sirens.

What’s your life philosophy? Because it’s funny. (That is, always do the ridiculous things that tempt you  out of the ordinary, because if nothing else there will be a funny story to tell later.)

Story behind the photo: I took some photos with your reader pictures in mind, but when they were developed they were double exposed – my head has morphed INTO a cake. A lemon verbena religieuse, which was flipping delicious. Can that count?


Tell us a story about you: My colleagues at the bakery absolutely fell about laughing when I told them I needed to go home for the weekend to graduate from university. From Oxford. “We assumed you had failed at everything!” they said, not unkindly. Why else would I be doing a pastry apprenticeship at high-school level? For the past year, they have been teaching me how to make meringues, passionfruit mousse and sticky caramel. Here, I am incompetent, clumsy and tall, apparently lacking in common sense. I get burned a lot. But they are patient and kind. And I love it, despite the early mornings.

Our little basement stuffed with fridges and ovens is frantic and warm, but smells like lemons or vanilla or melting chocolate depending on the day. I especially like that I am doing something with my hands, something that involves dexerity and practice, something I can measure clearly as I improve. At the end of my shift, I can take a finished product, a shiny chocolate cake dotted with raspberries (not unlike this blog’s header) upstairs. And for the whole day, I will not have looked in the mirror once. In my dumpy chef outfit and heavy clogs, I am much more proud of my body than I ever have been.

My family loves food. My mama is a chef, a cooking teacher. She always had something delicious (fresh bread!) waiting when we came home from school. My parents were nothing but positive, no food guilt, but like many little girls, I was pretty sure I was a little too fat. Only now that I am nearly 25 does it cease to matter so much. Cakes are finally just delicious – a work of art even – and not a vehicle for shame. (It helps that I live in Paris, home of the best patisseries in the world. We treat our famous pastry chefs like rock stars, queue for their macarons. We wouldn’t dream of ruining one of Pierre Herme’s Infinite Vanilla tarts with diet talk. It must be appreciated in its entirety.)

Now that I can define myself “I am a patissier” (because of course, the question “what do you do?” really means, “who are you, really?”) I just feel calmer. I didn’t know how to be proud of my degree, because it was just the next step. (Though now I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity, for the professors that encouraged and inspired us.) This, somehow, belongs to me, to my hands, and so I can can wear it, and my body, with pride.

Unroast for today: I like my sturdy calves ending in their extra-thick socks.

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To get featured as a cake eater, send me a cake pic and a story at kate@eatthedamncake.com


Kate on October 5th 2012 in cake eaters

8 Responses to “a cake maker talks cake/life”

  1. Shannon responded on 05 Oct 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Ah, this really made me want to move to Paris and just eat cake all day.

  2. Kristina responded on 05 Oct 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    mmmm, if I close my eyes I can imagine all the sweet smells coming from the patissier. Lovely story and picture.

  3. teegan responded on 05 Oct 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    thank you for this.
    90% of the time these days, i’m super proud of my body (i incubated and birthed -without drugs, in my living room – a perfect baby boy) and have no qualms about what i eat (this baby NEEDS my breast milk to be full of good fats and calories and nutrients and protein to be growing his cute little baby rolls and brain cells and organs and fingernails) and i love baking bread and cakes for my husband and me,
    but then 10% of the time i just think my body is soft in weird places and i weigh more than 15 pounds more than i did a year ago and i worry about eating ‘right.’
    so it’s good to remember that food is not evil, that our bodies are beautiful, and that baking is not guilty or shameful but an art.

  4. San D responded on 05 Oct 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    We bake a loaf of bread a week, because…quite frankly…bread is the food of the gods (along with gelato….but I digress)….25, in Paris and working at a Patissier…it really doesn’t get any more wonderful than that! As years go by I hope you will be able to conjur up the smells, the silkiness of the flour, and the glorious butter and the rhythms that all goes into making pastry, because it is very sensuous and calming at the same time.

  5. Frances responded on 05 Oct 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Thanks love! Weird to see my words in your space!

    Reading back through it, I realised it sounds too romantic, I forgot the disclaimer: my alarm goes off at 5.37a.m.

    San D: I could live off fresh bread, never mind the cakes. The tactile quality is most important, when kneading by hand and feeling it shape up from shaggy lump to smooth ball. “The silkiness of the flour” is just right!

  6. Kathleen responded on 05 Oct 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    I loved this story! While any excuse to jet off to Paris would suffice, Frances sounds like someone I’d like to sit down with and eat some cake – or any French pastry, for that matter. Where’s that passport when I need it…. Loved all of the self-awareness and self-acceptance running through the piece; the cake-as-vehicle-of-shame was a particularly nice line. Kudos for living your dream!

  7. Frances responded on 08 Oct 2012 at 11:25 am #

    I am also a Frances, and it was really wonderful to read a story like this. Hope for the Franceses.

  8. Rommy responded on 17 Feb 2014 at 10:56 am #

    I love your story,I just graduated from my university and want to join pastry school this year to lived my dream (LOL). Well, because its my dream to own a bakery or cake’s shop. Your story really help me to convince my self to study in the pastry school. Thank your very much!