Leslie Miller is in love. With cake.
She is a woman obsessed. When she isn't eating or baking or writing about the thing she loves most, she is thinking about it. Those simple ingredients of flour, sugar, butter and eggs are seemingly in her every thought.
And now, with the release of her book "Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt," her love affair is immortalized in ink, for everyone to follow. However, Miller said it's not a guide to cake-baking as it is so much a chronicle of cake-loving.
"I didn't set out to write a book about baking and that was surprising to people who asked me," she said. "It wasn't meant to tell people how to bake. It was really a love letter to cake."
Miller said her infatuation with cake began with that first-birthday cake and has continued ever since. The book touches on many elements of cake, featuring a little bit of history, interviews with famous cake-creators and stories of Miller's various, oft-entertaining interactions with cake.
All of it is recorded in Miller's distinctive and honest voice, which, by her own admission, also sometimes sounds like the frenzied voice of a sugar fiend.
"It's a huge topic and I could have gone on forever and written many books about it," she said. "But this was sort of the way my brain was going and it turned out to represent the person on the sugar buzz. It was a little buzzy and flighty at times."
The light, unabashed tone of the book is part of what makes it fun to read. It makes the reader think more about something so silly and yet, suddenly so sacred, as a cake. But Miller said she never took cake too seriously, blinded as she was by her love for it.
"I think you always have to take a step back when it's something you are passionate about so that you can give it a truly critical eye, but I don't think I can give cake that critical of an eye," she said. "Even the sheet cake at the grocery store."
The idea of an entire book devoted to cakes came first from an essay Miller did for a college English class she was teaching, which then evolved into her master's thesis. Following a lecture on how to write query letters to publishers, Miller wrote her own query and heard back from an agent.
"I sent it to an agent, who asked me to send a manuscript," Miller said. " I sent a manuscript and she said: 'OK. Let's go.' It was a Cinderella story. It was like magic."
Lest the entire process sound too easy, though, one must remember that Miller has conducted, literally, a life's worth of fieldwork and research on the topic. In spite of that, she remains smitten. When asked if she ever tired of cake in the three-year writing process, she gave an immediate and emphatic: "No."
"No, no, no. Even the really bad homemade frosting that I had to make out of Crisco for the cake decorating class … even that I don't get sick of," Miller said. "The only way I could stop eating it was to put it down the disposal even though after the first bites of the cake I was thinking: 'Oh, I can taste the Crisco.'"
While she doesn't discriminate against Crisco-laden frostings, she does have a favorite cake: the carrot cake found in "The Silver Palate Cookbook."
"It's the No. 1 cake I have ever baked or served, even when you put it side by side with other great cakes," Miller said. "It's my husband's favorite cake and my daughter's favorite cake, so I make it twice a year, and when company comes, and probably in a couple weeks …"
Miller doesn't even pretend that this book is the culmination of her infatuation with cake, her final act of devotion.
"I wish I could say that it cured me for all time, but I am forever beholden to cake," Miller said. "It's the first love that sometimes loves you back and sometimes doesn't, but you always go back to it."