Saturday, February 11, 2012

review: How to Eat a Cupcake

Title by Author: How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
Series (if applicable):  none
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date:  March 12, 2012
Page Count:  320
Source: ARC from
Funny, free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated, ambitious Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair’s housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls who know nothing of class differences and scholarships could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.

A decade later, Annie is now a talented, if underpaid, pastry chef who bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death. Julia, a successful businesswoman, is tormented by a painful secret that could jeopardize her engagement to the man she loves. When a chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, they must overcome past hurts and a mysterious saboteur or risk losing their fledgling business and any chance of healing their fractured friendship.

My Review:
The novel, How to Eat a Cupcake, was a delightful confection of a story.  I was completely engrossed and enjoyed how it was written; with alternating chapters from the point of view of either Annie or Julia.  It is a story of family and forgiveness, finding yourself and venturing forward, and about love.

The story is about Annie Quintana, daughter of Lucia, who left her home country of Ecuador when she was thrown out of the house at sixteen because she was pregnant.  She ended up in San Francisco at a relative’s house and soon got a job at the St. Clair mansion in Pacific Heights.  Lucia was the nanny to the St. Clair’s only daughter, Julia, and became the cook as well.  Lucia knew her way around a kitchen, and created magic in her wake with her heavenly treats.  Lucia and Annie quickly became a part of the family, even though they were merely of the servant class.  Annie was the same age as Julia, and was privileged enough to have been sent to the same schools as Julia.  For most of their childhood, the two girls were inseparable, and Lucia was seen as the comforter to both girls; that is, until senior year of high school, when jealousy got the better of Julia.

Ten years later, the two strangers chanced to meet up with one another when Annie was asked to cater the desserts for a benefit put on by Julia’s mother.  After high school and the death of Lucia, Annie stayed in San Francisco for college, a culinary degree that earned her head baker status in local bakeries, and odd jobs to help pay the bills.  Julia went to college and earned an MBA and a successful career with a venture capitalist firm in New York City.  Neither girl stayed in touch with one another during this whole time, as Annie could no longer accept that her childhood friend turned against her, and in turn, ruined her relationship with her mother and what few friends she had at the upscale high school she attended on scholarship.

Julia had quit her high-powered job to come home to plan her society wedding to Wes; at least that is what she told everyone.  It was more to recover from a break-down, which no one suspected and she told no one about.  Julia was off of her game until she bit into one of Annie’s cupcakes, and it literally changed her life…and Annie’s, too!

Julia feels as if she has re-found purpose in her life; she wants to open a cupcakery with Annie as the head baker, while she manages the operations, but only until the wedding.  Annie is very leery of this proposal, as she does not trust Julia after what she had done to her in high school.  Annie does not want to get hurt again, but she really wants to be her own boss.  The story then becomes a healing process between the two of them.

It also becomes a mystery as to who is sabotaging their new shop, Treat.  It must be that creepy guy who is always lurking around after dark in the Mission part of town, where Treat is located.  And where could the recipe book of Lucia’s have gone?  Annie is a great baker, but she wants to make recipes from her childhood, and cannot capture the same flavor as her mother’s treats.  Also, what is happening with Julia’s father?  Should they be concerned that Alzheimer’s is setting in with all of the things he has misplaced?

The story was very well-written and the descriptions were very good.  The reader is instantly transported to San Francisco, through fog-covered days, dark bars, biodynamic farms, the St. Clair mansion, and of course the shop, Treat.  Each cupcake sounds like nirvana and are drool-worthy and the two leading ladies of this story are well-drawn and you cannot wait to learn more of their story.  You hold your breath when Annie walks in to the bar one evening to find a friend, but she is greeted by another scene entirely and you wonder how it is going to affect the rest of the story.  You cheer when Julia opens up to Annie and they start to mend their fences. 

This is a great story for anyone who enjoys watching two people grow up and communicate, who go after their dreams and re-establish a friendship.  It is the perfect treat for a sunny beach or a foggy day indoors!  And you will definitely want a cupcakery down the street that creates such confections as Annie does in this story!

So, how do you eat a cupcake?  I learned a neat trick from a baker I hired at my catering shop.  Remove the wrapper, carefully tear off the bottom half of the cupcake (does NOT work with filled ones) and take that little slice and put it on top of the frosting to create a sandwich!  Then…take big bites and enjoy!  I think how you eat a cupcake says a lot about who you are.  I am not going in to the science behind it, but I could definitely see that as the case, as evinced by the very different ways that Annie and Julia eat cupcakes in this story.

Favorite Quote:
Besides, everyone knows that a skinny baker is not to be trusted.  And who was I to discourage anyone’s trust?

“Our compost ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Poop of Piety” (biodynamic farmer’s creed)

“The Council on Obesity?  Militant Mothers Against Refined Sugar?  The list of enemies of the cupcake is long.”

Rating: 4 stars
Tag: contemporary, San Francisco, friendship, forgiveness, cupcakes, mystery

This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review. 

Share how YOU eat a Cupcake?  Any quirks, or do you just dive right in? 
Do you like off the frosting and not even touch the cake itself?

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