That’s what Maida Heatter yelled at her TV. A doctor was talking about the ways you could reduce stress. He started listing ways: Exercise. Diet. Yoga. Take a walk. “I yelled, ‘Bake cookies.’ ” “Baking cookies is a great escape,” she added. “It’s fun. It’s happiness. It’s creative. It’s good for your health. It reduces stress.” Amen, I say. For me, baking is a spiritual practice.
Maida Heatter enriched my life. She died about a week ago at age 102. Who says desserts will shorten your life?
It was a Maida Heatter recipe that first got me seriously interested in baking, a recipe for a Chocolate Mousse Torte that appeared in the Sunday New York Times Magazine in May, 1972. (I was in graduate school.) The recipe had just a few ingredients: 8 eggs, 8 ounces of chocolate, sugar, salt, vanilla, some espresso, and some cream for whipping. You separate the eggs and make an mousse from these, divide what you’ve made into two two halves, chill one and bake the other, then fill the chilled stuff into the baked layer. Frost with whipped cream.
How could this be? The same stuff chilled and baked and this makes something good. This I have to try, I said to myself. I did (learned to separate eggs that day), and voila, I’m still baking, several times a week. The daily feed of NYTimes Cooking, now a morning must-read, leads with a shout-out to Maida Heatter and this recipe.
I love her cookies, but I also love her cakes, especially her Queen Mother Cake. (Both the Chocolate Mousse Torte and the Queen Mother Cake are mentioned in the NYTimes obituary I’m delighted to see.)
All Hail Maida Heatter, Queen of Cakes! Also, Chairperson of the Board of the Chocolate Lovers Association of the World, as she styled herself.