Maida Heatter, Cookbook Writer and the ‘Queen of Cake,’ Dies at 102


Maida Heatter, whose cookbooks with recipes for star-spangled banana cake, brown sugar icing and other dessert fare earned her the nickname “the Queen of Cake,” died on Thursday at her home in Miami Beach, Fla. She was 102.

Her publisher, Little, Brown and Company, announced her death.

Ms. Heatter (pronounced HEAT-er) had an early career as a fashion illustrator and jewelry designer before she opened a cafe called The Inside in Miami Beach in the 1960s. She drew the attention of Craig Claiborne, a food editor for The New York Times.

“She is hands down the foremost food authority in Florida,” he wrote in a 1968 article, and the newspaper began featuring her recipes. In 1974 she published “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts,” the first of a string of titles that included, just two months ago, “Happiness Is Baking: Favorite Desserts From the Queen of Cake.”

If her recipes were sinfully rich and calorie-filled, she was unapologetic, and even saw the health benefits in desserts.

“A few days ago I heard a doctor talking on television about the dangers of stress,” she wrote in “Maida Heatter’s Cookies” (1997). “It can kill you. It can cause a heart attack or a stroke. The doctor listed ways of coping with stress. Exercise. Diet. Yoga. Take a walk. I yelled, ‘Bake cookies.’ ”

“Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts,” published in 1974, was the first of a string of cookbooks Ms. Heatter wrote. Her books were full of tips as well as recipes.

“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.”

Ms. Heatter was born on Sept. 7, 1916, to Gabriel and Sadie (Hermalin) Heatter. Her father was a well-known radio broadcaster. Her mother instilled in her a love of cooking. She was, Ms. Heatter told Mr. Claiborne, “a most unusual woman who could do anything in the world, but cooking was her Number 1 love.”

Ms. Heatter studied fashion and design at the Pratt Institute in New York, and saw a connection between that area of interest and cooking.

“I definitely consider it an art,” she told L.A. Weekly in 2011. “There are many similarities.”

Her books were full of tips as well as recipes. “Glass or plastic measuring cups with the measurements marked on the side and the 1-cup line below the top are only for measuring liquids,” she wrote in “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts,” first published in 1980. “Do not use them for flour or sugar.”

That book included a recipe for what she called “September 7th Cake.”

“This cake came about when I wanted something different to serve on my birthday,” she wrote. “Two thin, lightweight, dark layers are filled with white whipped cream and are thickly covered with a wonderful dark coffee-chocolate whipped cream.”

A full obituary will appear shortly.

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