Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History Is Unfortunately Unknown

illus. by Giselle Potter. 44p. websites. Random/Schwartz & Wade. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385390170.
Gr 3–5—Just as cooks wash their hands before they get to work, so does Hopkinson come clean about this story: Amelia Simmons, the writer of the first American cookbook, did exist, but almost everything else in the following pages is a delightful concoction based on the scant details known about her life. Amelia describes herself as "an American orphan": her father is imagined to be a fallen soldier; her mother, a victim of smallpox; and Amelia, a "bound girl" taken in by a large family to help with the household. She learns to cook English dishes and eventually creates new recipes using local ingredients, such as winter squash for pudding and cornmeal for flapjacks. Culinary parallels to the Revolutionary War are cleverly woven throughout, and the watercolor and ink illustrations, relying on a delectable, warm palette, depict red apples, pumpkins, lemons, pickles, and sacks of grain. Though the details are made up, Amelia is still an inspiring character, so much so that readers may even want to tackle the "independence cake" recipe, with its 20 pounds of flour and 15 pounds of sugar. An author's note and links for modern versions of Election Day cakes are also included.
VERDICT A strange but appealing bit of Americana that might fit into some history and maker units. Like most confections, it's an additional but nonessential purchase.

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