Thursday, April 27, 2017

Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History is Unfortunately Unknown by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Giselle Porter

Welcome to the Double Blog Tour celebrating the release of two new books by Deborah Hopkinson, A Letter to My Teacher and Independence Cake. Today, I will be reviewing Independence Cake.

There is very little known about Amelia Simmons, author of America's first cookbook, American Cookery published in 1796. On the title page, she described herself as An American Orphan. Based on what is not known about Amelia Simmons, author Deborah Hopkinson has written as picture book in which she has started "from scratch and whipped up something delicious about her." In other words, Hopkinson has created a fictional, though very cogent biography for Amelia Simmons.

"Let us imagine" she begins, that Amelia's father was a Revolutionary soldier, lost in the war, followed in death by his widow. Young and orphaned, Amelia was bound to a family where she was expected to help out with all the household chores and help out with the children, which is how she learned to read and write.

Young, efficient, and energetic, Amelia was such a blessing to the woman of the house, Mrs. Bean, that when she expressed an interest in learning how to cook "good, plain American cookery and to share recipes with my fellow citizens" Mrs. Bean couldn't have been happier.  And Amelia proved to be a such good cook and baker, that the ladies of the town wanted her to bake a cake to commemorate George Washington's inauguration in New York City. 

And so Amelia created the Independence Cake, and baked thirteen - one for each state in the new nation. Packed and loaded onto the family wagon, the Beans and Amelia led the procession of important townspeople to the inauguration, where President George Washington proclaimed her Independence Cake "Delicious!" 

I enjoyed reading Independence Cake so much that I had to keep reminding myself that it is a fictional portrait of the relatively unknown Amelia Simmons, who was clearly a talented, creative and (may I say it?) revolutionary American cook.  But, and this part of Amelia's story is true, it is also meant to celebrate her achievement of writing the first cookbook that actually used ingredients that are native to America, dishes like winter squash pudding, or flapjacks with maple syrup, no small feat for a woman back when so many women couldn't even read or write. Simmons' cookbook was published in 1796, and remained a popular work for over 30 years. 
Cover: American Cookery, public domain
Hopkinson's text is energetic, whimsical and imaginative, complimented by Potter's charmingly bright watercolor and ink illustrations done in a flattering palette of early American colors. 

In her Author's Note at the back of the book, Hopkinson explains that the recipe for Independence Cake didn't appear until the second edition of Amelia's cookbook, American Cookery, and that it is similar to an Election Day cake. The recipe for Independence Day Cake is included, as well as links that give more information about Amelia and more modern versions of Election Day cake recipes. 

I am always surprised at how many young readers have in interest in cooking and cooking shows. Independence Cake should prove to be a tasty bite of Early Americana and an inspiration for those budding chefs, as well as for anyone else with an interest in cooking and/or eating.

Independence Cake will be available May 9, 2017.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was sent to me by the author, Deborah Hopkinson

Thanks again to Deborah Hopkinson for this book.

Be sure to visit these other stops on the Double Blog Tour:
DateStop on TourBlog
April 4, 2017Guest PostingKirby Larson
April 25, 2017InterviewProvatoEvents
April 26, 2017ReviewSharon Mentyka's Blog
April 27, 2017ReviewRandomly Reading
April 28, 2017ReviewPicture Book to YA
April 29, 2017ReviewBookFaerie
April 30, 2017ReviewKid Lit Frenzy
May 1, 2017ReviewIn The Pages Blog
May 2, 2017ReviewGeoLibrarian
May 3, 2017ReviewPicture Book to YA
May 4, 2017ReviewThree Books A Night
May 5, 2017ReviewKid Lit Frenzy
May 6, 2017InterviewDebra Kalb Books
May 8, 2017Guest PostingLaurieThompson
May 9, 2017Guest PostingJama's Alphabet Soup
May 10, 2017InterviewProvatoEvents
TBDPodcast InterviewInspired Parent Insights

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