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March 9, 2018

Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History Is Unfortunately Unknown

Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History Is Unfortunately Unknown (Schwartz & Wade, May 2017)
by Deborah Hopkinson  (Author),‎ Giselle Potter (Illustrator)
Picture Book

The true history of Amelia Simmons, the author of America’s first cookbook, remains unknown. Enter Independence Cake, a whimsical, fictionalized account of what could’ve been, delectable cakes included!

After Amelia’s parents died—her father in America’s war for independence and her mother from small pox—Amelia was taken in by a Mrs. Bean to help with chores and watch her six rambunctious sons. “Amelia was as strong and young as the new nation itself.” She cleaned clothes, scrubbed pots, picked apples, and that’s only half of it! What she didn’t already know how to do, she learned. Mrs. Bean was ever so grateful. “You’ve brightened our lives like a star on the flag.” In addition to her chores, Amelia wanted to learn how to cook “good, plain American cookery and share recipes with my fellow citizens.” Soon, Amelia was inventing delicious new recipes using American ingredients and became the talk of the town, thanks to Mrs. Bean. Not surprisingly, a delegation of Leading Town Ladies asked Amelia to bake a cake in honor of newly-elected President, George Washington. Realistically, this story presents an overly-optimistic view of life as an orphan and a “bound girl” in the late 18th century. Too good to be true? Perhaps. But Hopkinson’s lively text–rife with allegorical Americana (“Just like her times, Amelia was revolutionary”)–and Potter’s charming watercolor-and-ink illustrations team up to tell a super story. Readers will delight in spotting each one of Mrs. Bean’s rosy-cheeked boys on the page, all up to no good!

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