Cake Decorating Taken to New Heights!

gravity cakes

Gravity Cakes

By Jakki Friedman and Francesca Librae

Robert Rose Press

ISBN: 978-0778805496

Suggested Retail: $24.95


Review by Joan Leotta


The authors of this book note that “gravity cakes” (which might be better called, cakes that defy gravity) are popular now in most of Europe and will soon be the next “big thing” on our shores.  No wonder! These cakes are so much fun! As you can see by the cover, the design of the cake gives the illusion that something is being poured out onto the cake. Others make it look as though a piece is being taken out. This book presents 45 cakes ideas with gravity-defying designs. The inspiration of r this book is said to be the friendship of the co-authors. Jakki Freidman is a professional baker and Francesca Librae is an international reporter now residing in party-central city of New Orleans. The pair bring baking expertise and spectacular ideas to cake design.
You can use their delicious cake recipes as the basis for the designs, or simply follow the directions on a box cake mix for the prime material. Best of all, the introduction to the book carefully explains the process so well,  each design is explained and accompanied by step by step photos, so that once you have tried the techniques, using a couple of their patterns you will be able to create your own designs. The co-authors have a Facebook page, where they post pictures of their newest creations and encourage you to send in photos of your designs to share with the community.

If you have children, if you love to entertain, if you simply like to put beautiful things, amazing things on your dinner table, well then, this is the book for you.

Have fun!


Measurements are given in both Metric and US styles.gravity cakes

Book Review! Vegans Take Note!

cover aquafabulousAquafabulous

100 Egg-Free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba

By Rebecca Coleman

Robert Rose Publications

ISBN 978-0-7788-0564-9

Suggested Retail $19.95


Review by Joan Leotta


This is a book all vegans will want to have on their shelves, especially vegans who want to bake.

Making eggless meringue with bean juice and how to “bind” mixes without the addition of eggs. May not sound appealing on the face of it, but truly, Agquafaba is a godsend to those who want to make dishes that in the non-vegan world, use eggs.

As such, committed vegans have a strong ally in the form of the book Aquafabulous by Rebecca Coleman published by Robert Rose Press.—- A luscious looking photo of a cake slathered in meringue graces the aqua blue cover of this book, which according to its press release, “has blown open the world of vegan baking. Things that were once considered impossible, are now possible and the options are endless.”


As I have come to expect from any book published by Robert Rose,  the first pages of this volume describe the element in question and tell us the why and how of it. The rest of the book is devoted to a stellar collection of recipes ranging from breakfast to desserts. Her baked goods selection includes such delights as French macaroons, strawberry shortcake and donuts


The recipe portion is a wonderful exercise in exploring the use of this ingredient—new to me, but oh so useful to vegans everywhere. Of course, it is no surprise that someone with Coleman’s credentials has created such delightful recipes with easy-to-follow direction and helpful hints. Coleman is a Vancouver BC food blogger and the author of a foodie blog, “Cooking by Laptop” that focuses on recipes and her love of cooking. In addition she loves to travel, enjoys eating baked goods (especially donuts) herself.


If you know any vegans, steer them toward this book or purchase it for them as a gift. They will thank you for it—if you are lucky, they will thank you with one of the baked goods she mentions.


Here is a sample of one of the recipes in the book


S’Mores Cups (from Aquafabulous by Rebecca Coleman. Used with permission of the publisher)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get out a 6-cup muffin pan, lined with paper liners


1-cup vegan graham cracker crumbs

¼-cup vegan butter alternative, melted

½ cup chopped 70 percent bittersweet (dark) vegan chocolate

3 TBSP unsweetened non-diary milk

¼-cup aquafaba

2 TBSP granulated sugar

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1/8 tsp vanilla bean seeds


In a small bowl, stir together, graham cracker crumbs and melted butter to combine. Place two tablespoons of the crumb mix in the bottom of each muffin cup, then pack down with a glass. Bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a wire rack/

Fill a small saucepan with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. IN a heatproof metal bowl, combine chocolate and non-diary milk. Set metal bowl on saucepan so that it fits tightly and does not touch the water below. Stir chocolate until melted and smooth. You want the ganache to be smooth, glossy, and fairly runny, not thick and lumpy. If it is too thick, add a bit more milk. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of melted  chocolate over each graham cracker base, then shake pan to spread it around so that it forms an even layer. Transfer to freezer for at least 30 minutes.

In a mixer bowl, combine aquafaba, sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla seeds. Set mixer speed to low and beat for two minutes. Turn up speed to medium and beat for two minutes. Set to highest speed and beat mixture until fluffy and peaks form, about four to six minutes. It will have a similar texture to marshmallow  fluff.

Spoon as much fluff as possible into each muffin cup, then return to fridge for at least thirty more minutes or overnight. You may have leftover fluff.

Just before serving, pop cups out of muffin tins, peeling back the paper liners. Use torch to toast the tops if desired, and serve.



a little mystery

Annual Meeting, my flash fiction mystery runs in Kings River Life on June 3!

Purposeful use of lower case to emphasize how “little” the mystery is. I wrote a flash fiction mystery for a class, revised it, sent it out and Lori Ham has picked it up in King River. It will run, as I noted, in the June 3 issue. Thank you, Lori!

Look for my Ad!

Did you catch my ad on WOW? Or someplace else? If you purchase a copy of any one of my picture books this month, please tell me where you found out about the book, send me a copy of your receipt and I will enter you into a drawing to win one of the other four (my choice of book) in paper or eform (kindle, bn, other) according to the format you purchased.

email me at: with your receipt!


Berries: A Cookbook Review

This marks the first in what I plan to have as a regular feature–a monthly cookbook review.

Berries: Sweet & Savory Recipes

By Eliza Cross

Retail19.99  Also available at discount on Amazon and for 9.99 as a kindle book

Photography by Stacy Cramp

Hardcover: 128 pages

Publisher: Gibbs Smith (March 7, 2017)

ISBN-13: 978-1423644590


Eliza Cross has written 13 books. Just in time for the berry season, Cross treats us to a new set of recipes and insights into a delightful group of fruits—the berries. This book continues Cross’ tradition  of excellence,  offering an insightful, helpful introduction to berry selection, use, health benefits, and substitution followed by a set of recipes that cover drinks to desserts. Although the book does cover savories, (I would have liked to have seen a few more in this category), it reaches its peak in the sweets—cakes, cookies and a berry celebration of the return of the custard pie to cooking fashion. After all, enhancing the natural sweetness of berries with cream, more sugar and butter—what could be better? The wonderful photos are an enticement to try each and every one of the pictured creations. This book would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves berries and who wants to expand into savories with fruit.



A post of mine about living without fear will be posted as of five am Wednesday May 10 on
I hope it brings comfort

Persistence Plus!

I am often asked how I got started writing for children and can I share what I learned along the path to publication. Here is my answer to those questions and I hope it helps you get started!

I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Deserve to be Inspired. Hosted by Positive Writer you should be able to find more links there on how to jump start your own writing:


Picture Book by Joan Leotta

Persistence Plus Equals Publication


So, it may take some time. Publication has always been my goal. As a child, I discovered bylines while reading the local paper and began to crave seeing my own in publications. Student works , student papers and even some small success in other publications fueled my passion. University and a demanding job derailed my desire.

After leaving the office job, when my children were small, I sat down to write once more. Local travel with children brought in checks and bylines but now, my appetite was increased and more specific. I wanted a book.


So, I sat down, as many mothers do, and wrote a picture book to help children learn colors and cooperation. I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book writers and Illustrators), sent out my manuscript and waited. My dummy manuscript came back. I sent  it out again, This time, after a solid year, I received a letter that said in spite of liking it quite a bit, they were rejecting my submission. I was crushed. I put that manuscript away. I stopped trying to get a picture book to a publisher. A year, an entire year!


However, I did not forget about my dream. I continued to write, (all manner of fiction and non-fiction for children and adults), continued  to perform for children, and  continued to read what was coming out in children’s literature—board books, picture books, middle grade and more.

I turned back to poetry. After my father died, I wrote a poem about him that was soon published and then I began to write more poems. More were accepted. I tried another picture book—more than one. No acceptances, but I kept everything.


Finally, about two years ago, I sat down and took out all of my efforts for children—poems, picture book drafts, essays, non-fiction articles. I reviewed both my published and my  unpublished materials. After carefully considering which of the works was closest to my heart, I revised it once more. I looked carefully at the title: Sledding With Dad and changed it to the more dynamic, “WHOOSH!”. I wrote and re-wrote my bio materials and query letter.


Joan Leotta performs at 2012 Southport NC Dickens Festival

Then I began a concerted search for a small publisher who would accept work directly from a writer. For a year, I wallowed in a sea of rejections. After each rejection, I asked why? I gave the work a cold hard look, revised part of it and then said “why not?” and sent it out again. Submitting and even rejections came/comes faster now in the age of email communication. I knew my book was not “flashy” or trendy but I felt (and still feel) it carefully and lovingly explains the value of the father-daughter bond.


One night, after receiving yet another rejection,  I had an epiphany! I was looking for publishers nearby, on the US East Coast. I struck out (with the help of my trusty search engine and paper Market Guide) for the US Midwest and located a publisher, TheaQ, in Minnesota, that was expanding its picture book line. I sent it to them. My book is quiet, very traditional—values I hoped were still appealing in the Midwest.  Success! My contract came and the book is out in the world. Since then, THEAQ has taken a chance on three more manuscripts from me—Summer in a Bowl, Rosa and the Red Apron, and Rosa’s Shell. Two of these books started out as poems. Summer in a Bowl was a poem written to honor my Aunt Mary. Rosa’s Shell started out life as the poem I wrote right after my father died. Rosa and the Red Apron is based on my own mother and experiences as a story performer.

 summerbowl_cover_front_150dpi     rosaapron_cover_front_300dpi-1  rosashell_cover_front_300dpi

What did I learn?

1.Save everything. Something you wrote, an idea you had may be repurposed at some point in the future and find its way to publication.

  1. Don’t be afraid to revise or even to put the story in a different form.
  2. Seek and take advice from seasoned professionals. For me, joining SCBWI and reading articles on how to present my work in a query letter and the pros and cons of using an agent or going directly to a publisher—I read many an article on these points and worked and re-worked my accompanying material several times.
  3. Persist. Never give up. Never surrender. Be alert to your own good ideas (like mine to look at Midwestern publishers). Persist.


Oh, and that first board book about colors and cooperation? This summer I plan to dig it out of my files and send it out once more—maybe two or three times. I have faith in it and maybe a publisher will as well!

Joan Leotta