Angel Food Cake
by Jeannie E. Roberts

          “Out of love I made you a cake. Also out of milk,
          eggs, flour, sugar, and vanilla.” ―Jarod Kintz

The food of angels was placed before my feet;
from its center, a single candle rose. Baked
within my frosted celebration: 1¼ cups egg

whites, 1½ cups sugar, 1 cup cake flour, 1¼
teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon vanilla
extract, ¼ teaspoon almond extract, and ¼

teaspoon salt. My maternal grandmother had
made me an angel food cake, and she made it
out of love. Clinging to her dress, cloth diaper

askew, I sat shyly unaware of my privileged
life and how good I had it. It was October
1957, when men ruled the roost and women

didn’t. My grandma was different; she was
tough as nails and outspoken as hell. Orphaned
at age twelve, she worked as a department store

clerk in Stockholm, Sweden, until she married
and gave birth to my mother. At age twenty-four,
she emigrated to the United States and made

a home for her family in Minnesota, all while
learning English and helping my grandfather
get through high school, college, and then dental

school by doing others’ laundry and shoveling coal.
Later, she did the books for my grandpa’s dental
practice because she had a head for numbers.

I can now appreciate her determined spirit,
practical nature, forthright demeanor, and
her angel food cake.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My maternal grandmother, Edith Malvina Karlsson Smith, and me, celebrating my first birthday with an angel food cake, 3811 Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 10, 1957.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first task in writing this poem was finding a photograph of me with something sweet. It took a while, but I found one photo of me sitting on my maternal grandmother’s lap; it was taken on my first birthday, October 10, 1957. Before I could complete the poem, I needed a few facts about my grandmother, which the poem is centered around, so I asked my sister, Mary, for more information. We emailed back-and-forth, and Mary was able to provide quite a bit of detail about our grandmother, Edith Malvina Karlsson Smith, born on April 29, 1900, in Filipstad, Warmland, Sweden.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring rural setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Her second book of poetry, Beyond Bulrush, a full-length collection, is forthcoming from Lit Fest Press in 2015. She is also the author of Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book. She draws, paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Learn more about Jeannie at