Good Food blog

James Martin’s United Cakes of America

Anna Sbuttoni - Good Food team

18th February, 2013

by Anna Sbuttoni - Good Food team

James Martin’s United Cakes of America

James Martin drove 634 miles along America’s East coast in just 11 days for his new series, sampling 234 cakes and five bags of pretzels with the production crew along the way.

James Martin

The trip formed the basis of James Martin’s United Cakes of America, which starts on Sunday and sees him drive from Leesburg Virginia to Salem Massachussetts to discover the best cakes in the States.

I caught up with James ahead of the launch of the show. “Travel broadens the mind and none more so than when you’re a chef,” he says, when we meet up in London fresh from the tour. “To learn more, you have to travel more. I looked at it and thought, I’ve done so many programmes in the UK – then it came to me about America and baking. With my pastry chef background, it was one of those things. I thought I could certainly do that. And then there was the driving side of it.

Coffee and chocolate meringue cake

“I’d been to New York before so I knew how fascinating the food is there, but never really been anywhere else – I’ve been to Boston once, but I wanted to do that route all the way up. Connecticut, Philly, so many different places in terms of food.

“We just drew it on a map,” he adds. “I’m surprised the car got round the whole lot, but it did.”

An average of every three miles, the team stopped to sample a cake. That’s a lot of cake.


Don’t believe us? The production crew kept a list for us - here goes...

3 x apple pie
3 x blueberry pie
2 x king cakes
74 x cupcakes
12 x butterfly cakes
10 x Washington cake slices
2 x Pimlico cakes
5 x peach cakes
4 x shoofly pies
5 x bags of pretzels
3 x key lime pies
25 x small cheesecakes
2 x large cheesecakes
1 x icebox cake
15 x slices of red velvet cake
2 x carrot cake
2 x honey cakes
35 x blueberry muffins
1 x rum cake
7 x small boston cream pies
25 x doughnuts
1 x bread cake
5 x bags of pretzels
Oh, and 2 bottles of rum

Coffee, chocolate and rum cake

Phew. So what were highlights of the trip? “The car would be one of them, the people and the places really – and food is among all that,” says James. “The people really make this programme, they are fantastic. And you’ll see places that you’ll never have seen before. I’d never seen a pretzel factory before. I’d never seen a Washington cake before. Probably 99 per cent of things out there I’d never seen before.

“The way they make apple pie, the way they make brownies – I’d never seen it before so I’m assuming the professionals haven’t either. I think people will learn a lot.

“I feel like if I’m learning from making a programme, then people will learn from watching it – it’s like what we do on Saturday Kitchen. Otherwise you’re preaching, and that’s a different thing.

“The way the Americans look at food as a business is fascinating,” he adds. “You can take an idea like a simple cake and turn it into a million pound a year business – no one else could do that in the world. The Americans have an open mind and an open culture when it comes to that and I hope it comes across on screen as well.”

Chestnut and chocolate cake

And James’ favourite cake from the series? “I think the chocolate cake topped with meringue mushrooms is the most impressive one,” he says. “The coffee and chestnut cake worked really well too, it was the first time I’d made it and just knew it was going to work. That one is my favourite.”

Want to try the cakes for yourself? Take a look at James' brand new cake recipes


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Latest Comment

Can I have the recipe for the Jewish Honey cake please? Honey, coffee, orange juice and no dairy - right up my street.

CarolineM35977 CarolineM35977 Posted 27 Jan 2014 8:31 PM

Just visited Ziggy's in Salem - the ladies are still swooning over James and coming from Yorkshire myself brought back all those memories. Brilliant donuts especially the fake cheeseburger! PS. If anyone can send the ladies a copy of episode 15 on disk they would be most grateful!

KeithA33708 KeithA33708 Posted 20 Apr 2013 12:21 AM

Loving the united cakes of Americas . James is totally doing what he loves best baking and driving-----what a car. Who would have thought the wee Yorkshire lad ,with the bandana, on ready steady cook back in the nineties would have come so so far .Some cake that pimple cake

JackieR89919 JackieR89919 Posted 01 Apr 2013 4:51 PM

In one of the episodes James says that it is very hard to transfer American recipes to the UK as the flour is different. As a Canadian I have exactly the same problem. None of my tried and true recipes seem to work here. Does anyone know how to adjust for the differences in flour?

KateR52761 KateR52761 Posted 18 Mar 2013 7:41 PM

I'm really enjoying the series and about to make the cookies and blueberry muffin slice. My problem is that when I try to read the comments on the recipies, it just won't go through. Just takes me back to 'rate this recipe' . Has anyone else experienced this. I like reading other peoples comments and suggestions when they've

GaynorG79688 GaynorG79688 Posted 08 Mar 2013 8:25 PM

Super series - (if a bit calorific!). The US doesn't do things by halves does it?

Roselind Roselind Posted 08 Mar 2013 10:32 AM

Great series. Just watched ep 4. Doesn't USA have wonderful summers? Maybe a little too hot and humid for comfort. I think the tip of sprinkling cornflour on apples was taken from the "old world" to America. My mum who's 80 and her mother before her did this. Never underestimate good old fashioned home cooks James!

snowlane snowlane Posted 26 Feb 2013 8:36 PM

Loved the program but had problems saving the recipes to my bookmarks as the images did not transfer.

MaggieM63298 MaggieM63298 Posted 26 Feb 2013 9:24 AM

I have always added cornstarch to my apple pie to stop the juices from soaking through the pastry, and another good trick is to brush beaten egg white across the bottom pastry, fill and top the pie and put it onto a really hot baking tray into a really hot oven. Just by the by though wherever did James get the idea that Americans call a crumble a "cobbler". We don't, a crumble is just that and a cobbler is a, well, cobbler.

VirginiaC76418 VirginiaC76418 Posted 25 Feb 2013 3:06 PM

Really excited for James' new show. One of my favourite chefs, still down to earth. Roll on Sunday!

SharonR86489 SharonR86489 Posted 22 Feb 2013 12:31 PM