In 1968, while the Republican National Convention got here to Miami, an enterprising espresso-store proprietor named Maida Heatter determined that the excellent manner to attract commercial enterprise could be with an audacious stunt: she tracked down a dealer of elephant meat and served the G.O.P. Mascot sautéed in an omelette, with a facet of bananas and crushed peanuts.
This novelty object stuck the attention of Craig Claiborne, who was then the meals editor of the Times; he had visited the restaurant searching out a shaggy dog story and came away enraptured. Forget the elephant meat: Heatter’s cakes, he determined, were a number of the fine he’d ever attempted. With Claiborne’s encouragement, Heatter started writing recipes for the Times, and her first cookbook, “Great Desserts,” turned into published in 1974.
Heatter died earlier this month, on the age of one hundred and , at her domestic in Miami Beach, wherein she had lived for many years, developing and checking out all her recipes in an ethereal kitchen with a view of Biscayne Bay. She changed into a self-taught baker and a pastry whiz whose smart recipes and charming demeanor won her an adoring target market. Beyond her surprising skill as a baker, Heatter was an fashionable social discern and a charmingly shameless self-promoter. Magnificently dedicated to name-dropping, she thrilled in gaining knowledge of about the glamorous lives that her creations lived once they had been published. Many of her hundreds of recipes appear, without or with amendment, across more than one cookbooks, with headnotes that update the reader approximately who had stated what to whom approximately the cookie or cake in question. “I was introduced to Mrs. Tip O’Neill,” she writes in considered one of her books. “She heard my call and without hesitation she said, ‘Palm Beach Brownies.’ ” (The cakes, mint-studded, have become the stuff of in addition legend whilst she tossed dozens of them, in my opinion wrapped, into the group on the 1998 James Beard Awards, in which her paintings become being inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame.) When Saveur profiled Heatter, in 1997, the magazine republished her East Sixty-7th Street Lemon Cake, certainly one of her earliest Times recipes. “I pay attention that Bill Blass and Nancy Reagan asked for it,” she stated.
Likely Heatter’s maximum famous recipe is her “Queen Mother’s Cake,” a extraordinarily airy flourless chocolate torte—it bypasses the expected fudge-like density thanks to six oz. Of exceptional-ground almonds. It changed into featured in a number of her cookbooks, inclusive of her very first, and became a cross-to dessert for the state-of-the-art-dinner-party set of the nineteen-eighties and nineties. The legend, in line with Heatter, is that the cake acquired its identify after being loved by means of its royal namesake at the home of a outstanding pianist; she became seemingly so taken with the aid of the confection that she asked for a duplicate of the recipe. “Incidentally, the Queen Mother and I corresponded with each different about this recipe,” Heatter wrote, introducing the recipe for the umpteenth time, inside the 1999 reissue of “Great Desserts.”
My favorite Heatter recipe is a version on “Craig Claiborne’s Cheesecake,” an homage to her consumer saint, posted in “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts.” Over the years, Heatter used the ethereal, lemon-scented confection as a basis for various cheesecake riffs. Her “Bullseye” version includes setting apart some of the filling, coloring it with bittersweet chocolate, after which pouring the chocolate and original combos right into a cake pan in a layered sample that appears something like a elegant tie-dye while cut. I’m a fan of a model first posted in 1997, in “Maida Heatter’s Cakes”: “Polka-Dot Cheesecake,” wherein the chocolate filling is piped in spheres, for a end result that looks like Yayoi Kusama become let loose on the dessert table. It’s equal elements elegant and absurd, and, at the same time as not exactly a easy recipe, it’s clean sufficient to tug off in case you’re inclined to accept as true with in Heatter and do exactly what she says.