These days espionage and secret and lies and the Russians are on everyone’s mind. Here’s a book about secrets, one I first posted about 4 years ago. I love this book passionately with its all the history and detail woven among the recipes. Like those gooey Rice Krispie Treats? They came together only by chance. A woman, who worked for Kellogg’s, need to bake something for her daughter’s Camp Fire Girls troop. She had rice krispies, from work,  and her daughter was selling marshmallowx. Mildred Day made her daughter very happy. And the rest of us, too. The stories in this book will surely expand your dessert heritage.

Most of us like things from the bakery. At least bread, if not a brownie. And everyone likes secrets. Which is why secrets are so fragile. The information gets out, eventually and often rapidly.

Perhaps the information here deserves exposure. After all, if the NSA … Nevermind. Anyway, Jessie Oleson Moore has written The Secret Lives of Baked Goods, a compendium of clever facts and shattered myths.

Here’s a fact. That Red Velvet Cake pictured above owes its color to the Depression. Facing reduced food coloring sales during the Depression, the Adams Company developed a recipe that calls for lots and lots of red food coloring. Jessie has a recipe to match each story in this charming book. Her Red Velvet recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of red food coloring. That’s probably more than any recipe you’ll ever encounter. And the velvet? The cake does have a velvety texture reflecting its ingredients: buttermilk, cocoa, vinegar, and baking soda. And cake flour.

Cakes, pies, cookies, old favorites, lost ones, and commercial giants are all featured in Secret Lives. You’ll learn about evolution and enterprise:

  • Carrot cake began as pudding, then was commercialized on a grand scale in the early 1900’s when there was a glut of carrots. But, the cream cheese frosting only came into play in the 1960’s.
  • German chocolate cake is, of course, not German but named after a Texan named German who invented German chocolate which, in turn, was a stepping stone to today’s milk chocolate. And that distinctive green box from Bakers Company? That American firm began making chocolate in 1765.
  • The next time I have leftover apple pie for breakfast and Suzen mutters at me, I have a defense. It’s an American tradition. Apple pie was once dinner for kids and breakfast for farmers. I think I’ll have a slice of pie and pull a few weeds.

I could rattle off enough facts and tales to take you through three cappuccinos. But then you would not buy the book, and the author is a lovely person and Sasquatch is great publisher so I will leave you with a series of questions that can only be answered by reading the book. You’ll thank me, trust me:

  • Who do doughnuts have holes?
  • What state has the Whoppie Pie as the official state treat?
  • Where did croissants really originate?
  • Is Banana Cream Pie a pie or a cake and why?
  • Which Queen Elizabeth first ate gingerbread cookies and why did the Brothers Grimm start the craze for gingerbread houses?

None of these answers should remain secret any longer. The truth deserves to be known. And you should probably start baking the recipes right out of this book.

The Red Velvet Cake is really good. That’s no secret.