Joan Bauer



"The smartest thing I ever did in sixth grade was give Mrs. Ritter a cupcake. I think it might be why I passed sixth grade."

















"Sometimes a cupcake just has your name
on it."























"In the cupcake world, anything is possible."



It's midnight and Foster McFee and her mother are being chased out of Memphis by an Elvis impersonator.

Where are they heading? Somewhere.

Foster was hoping for a location you can find on a map.

She has a lot of hopes, this girl.

And one of them is to make the world a better place, one cupcake at a time...



Hidden somewhere on this site is a secret link that will give you the recipe for a brand new kind of cupcake: Malted Milk. Yes, you heard that right. Malted Milk. My daughter created the recipe.



Questions. Answered.

Food and cooking play a big part in this novel. Why did you make Foster a young baker who dreams of having her own cooking show?

This was when I first realized the power
of baked goods.

Oh, that's my love of baking coming through — I baked when I was little, I bake now — it's something that has always given me joy. When I was young I watched Julia Child on TV — I so wanted to go to her house and have a meal. And today's TV chefs are so wonderful to watch and learn from. There's an intimacy in a kitchen, a warmth when people are making food for others. So many young people love to bake and watch TV chefs, so it seemed like a perfect connection.


Who is your favorite character in Close to Famous and why?

Miss Charleena, the award winning actress who left Hollywood and came back to her hometown of Culpepper to live after her husband took up with a super model, causing a media frenzy. She's just bigger than life. I could hear her voice and feel her presence in the scenes. She kept surprising me, too, with what she had inside. I had great fun writing her evolution from an imperious actress who snapped her fingers and people jumped, to an honest, loving human being.

What was your favorite part about writing this novel?

Exploring baking as a survival skill for life. I thought I knew all about cupcakes when I began this story — there's more power packed in them than I ever knew. A fine cupcake can take you places you can't imagine.

What is your favorite baked good? Favorite cupcake?

I adore coconut. If anyone hands me a large piece of coconut layer cake with an embarrassment of frosting, I'm in heaven.

My all-time favorite cupcake is made with a great deal of real maple syrup and pecans and it's piled so high with maple frosting it almost tips over. I actually make a praline and stick it on top. You must have a moment of silence before biting into this cupcake.

Praise for Close to Famous

"Bauer skillfully brings readers to the heart of Culpepper with rich descriptions of a contemporary small town and its residents and rhythms. The characters' eventual triumphs are the type that this author's fans eat up." Publishers Weekly

"Readers will likely find driven, talented Foster rewarding company, and she'll certainly fire up their entrepreneurial impulses."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"It's a feel-good tale with life-affirming lessons laid on like the frosting on Foster's cupcakes, and as expertly wrought. Foster's engaging first-person voice and interior monologue, the solid characterization, and the nimble, fast-paced prose are the quality ingredients of this tale cooked to perfection. The ending is best read with a cupcake in hand...but don't let tears spoil the frosting." Horn Book

"Amid this agreeable foolishness, heavy issues of domestic violence, mental illness, illiteracy and the pain of the recent economic downturn make themselves felt. Bauer expertly balances these grim realities with Foster's ebullient personality and spunk, which could convince anyone that she will be able 'make the world a better place one cupcake at a time.'" Kirkus

"Bauer gently and effortlessly incorporates race (Foster's mother is black; her father was white), religion, social justice, and class issues into a guaranteed feel-good story that dodges sentimentality with humor. Readers who want contemporary fiction with a happy ending will find it here." Booklist


Foster's Famous Vanilla Cupcakes

1 & 1/2 cup cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter softened (one stick)
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut (for moistness)
1/2 cup milk

In one bowl, sift cake flour with baking powder and salt. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar with mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla until creamy. Add cake flour mixture a little at a time with the milk until well blended and fluffy. Fold in coconut. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Makes around 15.

Bake at 350 for 20 - 25 minutes. Let cupcakes cool on rack. Pile on the vanilla frosting.

Vanilla Frosting

1 box confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter softened (1 stick)
3-4 tbsp milk or, if you want it extra special, instead of milk add 3 & 1/2 tbsp half and half
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all in a bowl, and beat with your mixer for two minutes until creamy.

Sonny's Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes

2 cups cake flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I use Hershey's)
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup mayonnaise plus 1 tblsp mayo
1 egg
1 cup sugar plus 1 tblsp sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Sift in bowl — cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir well to blend.
In another bowl, cream sugar, mayonnaise, egg, water and vanilla together in mixer on low at first, then high to blend.
Add dry ingredients to wet 1/3 at a time until well blended.

Bake at 350 for 18 minutes, then check for doneness. Can go 20 - 25 minutes depending on your stove.

Makes 16-18 regular cupcakes. Frost high and deep with chocolate or vanilla frosting. Grate chocolate over the frosting if you really want to show off.

Serious Chocolate Frosting

1 stick butter
1/2 cup cocoa (I use Hershey's)
1/3 cup milk — if you add a little cream, it's heaven
3 cups powdered sugar
1tsp vanilla

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla in bowl with milk and mix on low.

Melt butter, add cocoa. Add to sugar mixture, beating till fluffy. I whip this on high at the end.

To download the recipe cards as a pdf file, click here.

Author Photo


"It's a feel-good tale with life-affirming lessons laid on like the frosting on Foster's cupcakes, and as expertly wrought."
Horn Book


I was always very serious about cooking.


"All we can say is order it now. We are way over the age of 10 and we truly loved this sweet book."




Order your copy today from your intrepid local bookseller, or online at




"Bauer skillfully brings readers to the heart of Culpepper with rich descriptions of its residents and rhythms."
Publishers Weekly











"You don't know the power of a cupcake until your life depends on it..."













"Everyone needs to feel like a kid again. This is why God made cupcakes."













copyright 2011 Joan Bauer