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American Cake with Anne Byrn

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  • Kendall College

    900 N North Branch St, Chicago, IL (map)

    41.898792 -87.648804

  • Located at the intersection of Chicago Ave and Halsted St. Please park in the student lot across the street. Security will advise where we meet.
  • Free Parking in the student lot across the street, not in front, please!
    Cost: $3. Free to Kendall students and faculty with ID.


    Cakes are an icon of American culture and a window to understanding ourselves. They relate to our lives, heritage, and our hometowns. Why cake? And what role does cake baking play in American history? These are questions Anne Byrn has wondered all her life as cake has been a passion, obsession, and occupation.

    In Anne Byrn’s latest book project, American Cake, Byrn shares the history of American cake, researching the real stories behind iconic cakes and lesser known but important cakes, from Colonial times to the present. American Cake lets us look into the world from which we came and the one we inhabit today. 

    Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance contributed to this book via our Family Heirloom Recipe Contest. Ann Byrn interviewed Indiana contestant Carol Meeks whose family has a farm with hickory trees, and we talked about the hickory tree and Indiana and her remembrances growing up. The recipe is a Hickory Nut Cake is from Sarah Polk's recipe, wife of U.S. President James K. Polk. The hickory nuts used to test this recipe came from a really nice farmer in Wisconsin. Other Midwestern recipes from state fair winners were the Grandma's Mincemeat Cake from Wisconsin first prize winner Beth Campbell and the Cherry Upside Down Cake from Minnesota first prize winner Mary Drabik.


    Anne Byrn is graduate from University of Georgia, who wrote about the Lane Cake, Japanese Fruit Cake, barbecue, scuppernong jam, cornbread, souffles, local apples, and a wide range of topics as food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years. On sabbatical from the paper, she baked in Paris at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine. 

    In the middle of raising a busy family, Byrn reached for a cake mix to bake last-minute cupcakes for a school bake sale. Byrn wrote an article for a Nashville newspaper on favorite recipes to doctor up cake mix, and developed it into the New York Times bestselling book called The Cake Mix Doctor(Workman, 1999). It was a break-out hit, instructing readers to skip the box directions, following hers instead. Traveling the country on book tours with this book and others, Byrn searched for great American regional cakes. And when home she baked those cakes in her kitchen, blogged about them. In 2010, Byrn launched a supermarket line of my natural cake mixes, with no artificial ingredients.

    This program is hosted by the Greater Midwest Foodways. To reserve, please e-mail: 

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    Copies of American Cake will be available for purchase, please advise when you reserve.

    The Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance is dedicated to celebrating, exploring and preserving the American Midwest’s unique food traditions and their cultural contexts.

    http://www.GreaterMidwestFoodways.com

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