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A cake is the most decadent thing in the world. No one really needs cake, which is precisely the reason I was drawn to Julie Richardson’s book, Vintage Cakes, a compilation of timeless cake recipes of every kind.

I’ve just completed a 10-month project that depleted me body, mind and soul. During that time, there was no room for cake in my life—literally or figuratively.

Oh, I stole a few pleasures here and there. There was an afternoon tea, a four-day trip to Park City, Utah, an overnight golf outing, and a drive back and forth to Florida. Other than that, I was hunkered down seven days a week for ten months.

A remarkable number of people are not convinced that I work for a living. I’ve never been sure whether this is because: a) writing isn’t considered a job b) I make working look effortless or c) my abilities appear to be so limited that I must be fabricating full-time employment.

That said, toward the end of this ongoing project, I had so little free time that I quit wearing makeup. (I know. It’s shocking, isn’t it?) I simply lived to work. So many good things have come from this challenging period that I cannot condense them into a single post. I learned so much about what matters and who matters and the truth about many things in life and in business. Even so, I was burned out and I had very little to share with others.

If you’ve ever been in such a situation, you’ll know how important it is to culminate your experience by doing something that feels good for no good reason. For me, baking a cake or two just for the hell of it, spending whole evenings doing it—regardless of the outcome—then falling into bed exhausted from the effort, made tremendous sense.

I started with my husband’s favorite cake—German Chocolate. In Ms. Richardson’s book, I learned that German Chocolate Cake doesn’t have the least bit of German influence. It was named after Sam German, an American who developed sweet baking chocolate.

When I mentioned the book to Mom, she gave me two round cake pans from her dwindling cupboards. After 70 years of useful culinary experience, her interest is waning, and I’m the lucky recipient of her kitchen wares. I used her pans to make a layered Italian Crème cake laced with buttercream icing, a sweet confection that sent me to The Joy of Cooking (our family cooking bible) for tips on handling layer cakes.

Before he died of pancreatic cancer, a friend asked me to imagine the effect of my work, endorsing the outward ripple of every little thing we do. His was a sweet thought, but after some consideration, I’m not convinced that my modest achievements at work will ever surpass the satisfaction of observing six people sip coffee over a home-baked cake made in a flourish of pure fun. Four hours of kitchen fury, gone in a flash.

This is an adorable little book, filled with memorable cake lore and recipes that span a century of baking. If you’re an amateur, have fun preparing everything from chocolate ganache to Not for Children Gingerbread Bundt Cake. The author is the head baker at Baker & Spice, a small batch bakery and café in Portland, Oregon.

cake bakeLet me be the first to admit that my cake does not resemble anything you might see on the cover of Southern Living. Here’s the encouraging part: it didn’t have to be glamorous looking to offer a feeling of completion and joy in doing something for others. Are you looking for a way to get your mojo back? I can highly recommend baking as therapy.

What’s your favorite way to recharge? Any great recipes to share?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.