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'Queen of Cake' and cookbook author Maida Heatter dies at 102

The prolific cookbook author passed away in her home just two months after her final cookbook was released.
/ Source: TODAY

Maida Heatter, who was known throughout the food world as the "Queen of Cake," passed away this week at the age of 102.

A prolific writer and self-taught chef, Heatter spent the majority of her life baking. She became a household name after publishing nine successful cookbooks in the 1980s and 90s, and she was well-known for constantly having desserts on her person — including one especially memorable moment at the James Beard Foundation Awards in 1998 when she tossed brownies into the audience.

"Thank you for making the world a sweeter place, a better place," Norman van Aken, an award-winning chef, wrote in an Instagram tribute. "You invited us into your Miami home where you served your miraculous cookies and showed us your meticulously typed recipes as we sipped white wines."

"Today I think about Maida Heatter, who made such a profound impact on my life in so many ways," posted chef Michael Schwartz.

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck told the Los Angeles Times that Heatter “was like my mother." He added, "She was a great lady; she was so tough. I really loved her.”

Food Network guest judge and James Beard Award-winner Michelle Bernstein also shared a sweet tribute.

While the culinary world mourns Heatter's passing, there is no doubt that her legacy will live on through her many cookbooks, filled with her trademark to-the-point instructions.

One of her most popular — and most enduring — recipes is her East 62nd Street Lemon Cake. A version of it was initially brought to Heatter by her daughter, then the pastry chef tinkered with the recipe until it met her standards. Coated with a simple glaze of lemon juice and sugar, and bursting with classic lemony flavor, it's a perfect cake for pretty much any occasion that's clearly stood the test of time and changing trends in the pastry world.

Maida Heatter wrote many cookbooks about the art of baking during her prolific career.
Maida Heatter wrote many cookbooks about the art of baking during her prolific career.Getty Images

Another notable confection? Her Palm Beach Brownies. Heatter credited the origin of the recipe to a deli in the swanky Florida town but, once again, she put her own spin on it, adding chocolate-covered mints to create a glamorous black-and-white middle layer for an exquisite presentation.

Heatter's niece and caretaker, Connie Heatter, helped compile the recipes featured in the chef's final cookbook, "Happiness Is Baking." It has dozens of Heatter's favorite recipes for pies, cakes, cookies, muffins and other sweets, and features a moving forward written by the esteemed James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.