This is me and my mom, a few years ago on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts.


This is me (on the right) and my mom – and sister, brother, and dad – one long-ago Christmas.

Somewhere in between those two snapshots in time, my mom taught me to bake.

Mom wasn't the world's most avid baker, and never claimed to be. She was more the handyman type (since Dad proclaimed himself a “mechanical Christian Scientist”).

Mom could build shelves, fix bikes, repair the washing machine... AND bake homemade bread and cookies and pie. White bread. Apple pie. And oatmeal cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate crinkles...

Now that I think about it, Mom baked quite a lot. Back then, baking wasn't a leisure time activity; it was just something moms did. For the bake sale. For your lunchbox. For your birthday, of course.

And on Sunday, back when that day was an actual day of rest. No shopping; the stores were all closed. It was fancy breakfast, church, and big midday dinner.

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake

Our Sunday breakfast was always one of two things: cinnamon-streusel coffeecake, or cinnamon buns. The coffeecake I loved because Mom always let me have the sugary crumbs in the bottom of the pan, after it was served. The best part of cinnamon buns? Licking the spoon after she'd spread on the icing, of course.

I watched. I scooped peanut butter cookies and made the fork marks on top. I poured muffin batter into the pan, spread butter on top of just-baked bread to keep the crust soft, and (haltingly) rolled out pie crust. And always, licked the beaters and bowl, learning to associate baking with yummy flavors and Mom time.

And gradually, I became a baker. No formal lessons; just osmosis, and the constant passing of wisdom from parent to child.

Now I bake every day. I've gone way beyond those initial cookies and breakfast sweets; now Mom reads this blog. And (she says), learns from me.

But I'd never be where I am today unless someone, long ago, took my hand and showed me the way. With patience, guidance, and love.

Thanks, Mom. I owe it all to you.

Oh – and if you want to re-create those Sunday cinnamon buns, I've worked up a recipe I think you'll love: Now or Later Cinnamon Buns. We'll make them together next time I visit, OK?

Now or Later Cinnamon Buns

Happy Mother's Day, to our mothers everywhere!

Readers, please share your family baking memories in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you.

[Ed. note: It's late in the evening of Mother's Day, and I'd like to thank each and every one of you for the wonderful stories you've posted in the comments section below. Funny, bittersweet heartwarming... And at the end of the day – particularly this special day – what it all boils down to is this: love is the answer.]

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A headshot of PJ Hamel and her dogs
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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.&nbsp...
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