Cake Craft Review: Eating Your Feelings IS a Solution

By Christina Ladd on

About Christina Ladd

One of the Books & Comics editors at Geekly. She/her. Sailor Rainbow. Glitter and spite and everything bright.


If you’re a horror fan who also wants to cozy up with a book and a bite to eat, I have the perfect pairing for you. Cake Craft by Hannah-Freya Blake will satisfy any craving for haunted houses and dark comeuppance, but also balance it out with some light, sweet romance. There are notes of T. Kingfisher in both the tendency toward whimsy and the willingness to delve into serious and complex issues with unflinching tenderness.

The novella, the titular Cake Craft, is dark and eminently readable story of a woman bullied relentlessly out of her self-confidence by her ex-husband, and of her re-learning power not by eschewing coping mechanisms but by leaning into them. I like this formulation very much: rather than Kat learning to channel her sadness and anger into a socially approved strategy like working out or what-have-you, Blake explores the magic of indulgence. Kat finds that she can have her cake and eat it too, and what’s more, she can share it out.

And look, working out or cleaning or other “productive” coping mechanisms are absolutely fine for those who benefit from them. And sometimes having cake is counterproductive—at the beginning, it certainly isn’t helping Kat as much as she wants it to. But I do like that Blake is subtly questioning the underlying message that recovery has to conform to sexist standards of body image, or that it needs to serve a capitalistic ideal of manufacturing some kind of worth. Kat bakes her grandmother’s secret recipe in order to cope, and that’s a worthy response: pleasure in connecting with yourself or others needs no justification.

Cake Craft reads like a long short story, if that makes sense. I really like the additional context we get for Kat’s fraught non-divorce and her day-to-day life, but the kernel of the story is a concise narrative of Kat finding a new source of happiness after a long period of anxiety and depression brought on by her abusive ex, and in so doing she helps other women find justice—or retribution, depending on which way you slice it. Some of the other women are new victims of her ex, but others, including the alluring Stella, are living under a different man’s shadow.

Stella’s grandfather, Arthur, was coincidentally the least popular resident in an elderly care home where Kat used to work. Kat seems unnerved by Arthur, but his moniker “the Devil” seems extreme. It’s not until we learn why his own family hated him that it makes more sense for them to despise him. A long history of sexism and abuse do very much make him seem demonic, and the story draws his cruelties in clear parallel to those of Kat’s ex just as it draws Kat and Stella closer together.  

As for the romance, it’s very sweet but perhaps a little swift. Yes, I know all the U-Haul jokes, but Stella and Kat’s liaison progresses a bit more like a hookup than a relationship. I would have liked to see a connection between the two women beyond just disliking Arthur that would give more justification to how quickly they fall into such intense mutual support.

Still, I can’t be too upset at girls being cute and vengeful together. A nice coven of older women rounds out the tale’s protagonists, which is always a nice bonus, and I blazed through the novella in a single go.

The short stories are all great additions, especially “Old Jack,” a gothic elegy to loneliness with a dash of slightly cosmic horror thrown in for good measure. Eerie and mournful, I can see why it won a Creative Showcase award. It shares a fascination and even gleefulness about spite and vengeance that ties it to Cake Craft and to the other short stories. This is a nicely assembled collection perfect for an afternoon reading accompanied by a generous slice of something sweet—and maybe a nip of something strong in your drink.

Cake Craft comes out today, April 27, 2023 from Nyx Publishing.

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