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Maida Heatter (1916 – 2019), "Queen of Cake" and cookbook author


Her decadent desserts included her signature flourless chocolate cake

Maida Heatter was the "Queen of Cake," a pastry chef and cookbook author known for her decadently sweet creations. After discovering a love for baking in the 1960s, Heatter published her first cookbook, Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts," in 1974. In it was the recipe that would become her signature and most popular, Queen Mother's Cake – a rich flourless chocolate cake. The cookbook, one of more than 20 she'd write and co-write, later made it into the James Beard Foundation's Cookbook Hall of Fame. Heatter herself was honored in the Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America and the Chocolatier Hall of Fame.

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Died: June 6, 2019 (Who else died on June 6?)

Details of death: Died at home in Miami Beach at the age of 102.

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Rise of a baking legend: Heatter was making desserts for her husband's Miami Beach restaurant when the 1968 Republican National Convention came to town. She concocted an elephant-meat omelet for the occasion, a gimmicky dish that turned heads (and was only served to one diner). New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne was in town for the convention and caught word of the unusual offering – but when he stopped by the restaurant, it was Heatter's desserts that left a lasting impression on him. He gave her career a boost of publicity, calling her "the foremost food authority in Florida" in an article for the Times, and urged her to write the cookbook that would launch her career.

Notable quote: “A few days ago I heard a doctor talking on television about the dangers of stress. 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.'” —from “Maida Heatter's Cookies” (1997)

What people said about her: “Whenever someone tells me they want to learn to bake, I tell them to start with Maida Heatter's books. That's what I did. She wrote recipes that made you feel she was there with you, helping you at every step and cheering you on. And those recipes could always be trusted. She was called 'Queen of Cake,' but in my house I thought of her as a kitchen god.” —Cookbook author Doris Greenspan

“Good Bye Maida! Thank You for making this world a sweeter place. You invited us into your Miami home where you served us your miraculous cookies and showed us your meticulously typed recipes as we sipped white wine. You shared your stories and your generous heart as well. I'll never forget you.” —Chef Norman Van Aken

“Today I think about the extraordinary Maida Heatter, who made such a profound impact on my life in so many ways. From recipe writing to life coaching, to the pursuit of excellence. Skinny peanut wafers to Palm Beach brownies and, of course, the definition of the perfect biscotti! What a national treasure. You will be missed.” —Chef Michael Schwartz

“Spending your entire professional life on dessert and dying at 102 is How. To. Do. It.” —Journalist Mark Harris

Full obituary: Miami Herald

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