Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Surprising" Success
The Cake Bible has reached its 60th printing, but the publisher had no confidence in it or her, initially.
Rose Levy Beranbaum is a steady worker. Now 78, she got into cookbook writing in her 40s and never looked back. She is the author of 13 cookbooks, including the one that was inducted into the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Culinary Classics, The Cake Bible. Rose’s Heavenly Cakes (2009) won the IACP book of the year. On top of that, she’s won Three James Beard awards, for The Cake Bible in both the categories of Baking and Desserts, and Book of the Year, 1989; and for Rose's Christmas Cookies, in Baking and Desserts, 1991.
I heard Rose speak on a panel at this year’s IACP conference in Pittsburgh, and was immediately drawn to her humor and intellect. I wanted to know more about her career and how she thinks about writing cookbooks:
Q. First, congratulations on your 13th and latest cookbook, The Cookie Bible. How has promoting a cookbook changed since your first one (Romantic & Classic Cakes) came out in 1981?
A. My publisher did absolutely nothing when Romantic & Classic Cakes came out nor when The Cake Bible came out.
As for today, for one thing you’d have to get my books out of the Pacific Ocean. Mine didn’t sink to the bottom but the books didn’t make it. (The launch) has been delayed for a year.
Publishers don’t believe in tours anymore. Thanks to Covid they can do Zooms, which are less expensive. My two-week West Coast tour will be on my own dime. I have a following in the Bay Area, so there was no way I wasn’t going to go to Omnivore Books and Market Hall in Oakland.
It’s crazy how difficult book promotion is, though. Publishers expect you to get sponsorships from brands now.
Q. Is The Cake Bible still your most famous book? Why do you think that is?