friday feast: baking day at grandma’s by anika and christopher denise (+ chocolate cake and a giveaway!)

Put on your aprons, raise your wooden spoons:

It’s baking day!

It’s baking day!

It’s baking day at Grandma’s!

In this charming new picture book by Anika and Christopher Denise, three spirited young bears tromp through the snow to spend a fun, cozy day at Grandma’s.

After a round of hugs and kisses, they get down to the delicious business of baking a cake together:

Pass out aprons, “One-two-three.”

Grandma reads the recipe:

flour, sugar, butter, eggs.

Stand on chairs with tippy legs.

The eager cubs add big spoonfuls of joy and anticipation to the batter as they help measure, mix, and stir in Grandma’s warm and welcoming cabin kitchen. And why not lick the spoon? 🙂

While the cake’s in the oven, they sip hot cocoa and dance to the sounds coming from Grandma’s Victrola:

Old-time music, soft and sweet.

Skippy notes and tapping feet.

Learning songs that Grandma sings —

when the kitchen timer rings!

Then it’s time to cut and frost the cake and add a few sprinkles before gift wrapping each piece and heading home by moonlight.

Anika’s pitch perfect, rollicking rhyming couplets and Christopher’s lusciously warm, woodsy illustrations capture all the love, busyness, and comfy pleasures of this special day. This delightful intergenerational story sings of the sweet rewards not only of spending time with loved ones, but of the satisfaction of making something together, and ultimately the joy of sharing with others.

Fond memories of childhood summers and holidays spent at her grandparents’ home in the Adirondacks inspired Anika to write Baking Day at Grandma’s. Her Grandma Rose was an excellent cook and restaurant co-owner who always welcomed her kids and grandkids into her kitchen to bake and eat. Wrapping up treats for sharing was usually part of the fun, and Rose’s recipe for Chocolate Cake is included in the book. These days, Anika continues this wonderful tradition by baking with her three lovely daughters.

Needless to say, the Alphabet Soup resident bears gave this book a rousing five paws up. They’re big fans of the Denises’ Pigs Love Potatoes, and of Christopher’s bears in Kristy Dempsey’s Me With You. I purchased The Redwall Cookbook a few years ago because I reeeeeallly loved Christopher’s art (and need to try some of the recipes soon). 🙂

But for now, let there be chocolate cake.

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There is no way one could live in a house with over 300 hungry bears and not try this recipe, which is included in a collection of recipes Rose compiled for her family.

Anika has said that this is Rose’s signature recipe and I can see why. So, so good! I love that the cake is easy to make, doesn’t require a lot of beating, isn’t overly sweet, and has a nice moist crumb, but is firm enough to eat out of hand. Kids will love watching the baking soda foam when it’s added to the boiling water and will enjoy frosting and decorating the baked cake.

The Scharffen Berger unsweetened cocoa powder I used gave the cake an eyes-roll-back-in-your-head rich dark chocolate flavor. I made a simple vanilla buttercream frosting (1 stick butter, 2+ cups confectioner’s sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 3-4 T milk) that complemented the cake perfectly.

Perhaps the greatest testament to this cake’s deliciousness is Mr. Jama’s reaction after taking those first two bites. A big smile, eyes closed, and the words, “my mother wants a piece.” Let me just say that in 35 years of marriage and hundreds of cookies, cakes, pies, and puddings I’ve made for him, never has he been moved to mention his late mother — who apparently loved and made good chocolate cake.

Thank you, Grandma Rosie!


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter (half a stick)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the sugar, cocoa, flour and salt in a large bowl.

Using a small spoon, make a hollow in the center of the mixture.

Add the butter in slices to the hollow center.

Stir the baking soda into the cup of boiling water. While it foams, pour it over the butter. Let the mixture sit until the butter melts and the batter cools.

Add the egg and vanilla to the bowl and mix all the ingredients well.

Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9×9 baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Test with a cake tester. The tester should come out dry.

Allow the cake to cool after baking, then frost and enjoy!

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written by Anika Denise
illustrated by Christopher Denise
published by Philomel Books, 2014
Picture Book for all ages, 32 pp.
Cool themes: baking, grandparents, families, cake, food, winter, bears

Enjoy this lovely video of Anika baking with her girls and Chris talking a little about his illustrations:

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poetryfriday180Tricia is hosting this week’s Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Scamper over and check out the full menu of poetic goodies on today’s menu. Brush your fur and have another piece of cake!

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Anika has generously offered a signed copy of Baking Day at Grandma’s, a wooden spoon and some gift tags for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader! Simply comment on this post no later than midnight (EDT) Thursday, October 16, 2014 to be entered in the giveaway. Winner will be announced next Friday. 🙂


*Interior spreads from Baking Day at Grandma’s posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2014 Anika Denise, illustrations © 2014 Christopher Denise, published by Philomel Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

58 thoughts on “friday feast: baking day at grandma’s by anika and christopher denise (+ chocolate cake and a giveaway!)

  1. What a wonderful book for kids. The light and warmth are so cozy looking. And that cake looks welcoming too 😉


  2. Oh, my! I’m not sure which I liked more…the book or the cake! This whole offering was just toooooo yummy! I think I need that book. I think I need that cake. Today.


  3. Well, this is one I certainly need to have. The book’s poetry and pictures are delightful. Ingrid is coming tomorrow for the day and we’re going to bake. Guess that’s what happens when you visit Grandma! Thanks Jama. The cake looks divine!


  4. Such a charming book! The illustrations and text complement each other perfectly. That cake looks like one I made this week for my husband’s half-birthday (we started celebrating half birthdays back when our first child was born because her b’day was near Christmas…) Your husband gave yours high praise indeed!


    1. I like the idea of half birthdays (Paddington used to celebrate twice a year, on his real birthday and on the Queen’s birthday). I take it one step further and celebrate quarterly birthdays (but I get a year younger each time instead of older). You’ll love this book! 🙂


  5. I’m so happy that I was the lucky winner of the giveaway on Stephanie’s blog. Soon I will have my very own copy of BAKING DAY to enjoy! I will have to embellish a paper plate to read “I love you more than chocolate cake” just like yours Jama!


  6. Jama,

    I featured Christopher on Illustrator Saturday earlier this year on my Writing and Illustrating blog and fell in love with this book. It is on my “Wish List”. How wonderful to have a chance to win this beautiful book. And your recipe details and pictures are great. You have really made me want to bake. Where did you get the “I love you more than chocolate cake” plate. I’d love to get one.



    1. Hi Kathy,

      Loved your interview with Christopher (which I linked to here), and all your Illustrator Saturday features (so comprehensive and interesting)!

      The plate is made by Bridgewater Pottery in the UK, and is an older pattern which I don’t think is currently being sold via their website, but it’s possible it could be available via eBay or other secondary markets. I’ve had it for awhile — there’s also a big cake plate that says “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too.” 🙂


  7. LOVE love love this book! Brings warm memories of my grandma and my mom baking, with kids/grandkids around, letting them/us play with dough to create our own treats!


  8. I misread your title as “Chocolate Cake Giveaway.” Sigh. It’s been so much fun to read your recent posts featuring bear books and the bears’ favorite treats. I’m going to share this book with my mom — even though my kids are teens, we have little kitchen helpers in the family.


    1. No need to wait for a chocolate cake giveaway! Make your own :)! Love that you plan to share this book with your Mom — I do think it’s a book for all ages :).


  9. *sigh* Another deliciously decadent post, Jama. Chocolate cake and a picture book about baking a chocolate cake are two of my most favoritest things in the world. *sigh again* My birthday is coming up so I’m going to put this recipe in front of my husband in the hopes this will be my birthday cake this year. Thank you. =)


  10. Jama,
    I love your foodieness. Oh, the cake sounds delightful and the book looks like a great read. I’m putting both the book and the cake on my to-do list. Thank you for sharing this georgeous , mouth-watering post with us. It takes the cake.


  11. Jama, reading this blog post was a wonderful departure from housework. I come from a long line of bakers so this post was inspiring and made me recollect my own days as a child in my Nonnie Rose’s kitchen helping her bake the Italian confections. I followed this stream of thought to the days when my mother baked the most scrumptious cakes for my children. Chocolate is a big favorite in our house so thank you for showcasing the book, video, and recipes. From the amount of responses, I say that your post is a visual journey to memory lane.


    1. Lovely to hear about your family’s baking traditions, Carol! And what a nice coincidence that your grandmother’s name is/was Rose. 🙂


  12. What HAPPINESS there is in those illustrations! I’m in love. (And I’m thinking I need to add this cake to my repertoire, after hearing Mr. Jama’s compliment!)


  13. Loved seeing all those bears — in the book and out. That cake looks delicious! No need to enter me in the contest since I don’t have anyone in the right age group for that book but I sure enjoyed my moment with it this morning.


  14. Love the idea that I can read, be inspired to write, be introduced to new books, and gain a new recipe for my recipe binders. Will want to try this with grandkids because it bubbles!!!!


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