The Twelve Little Cakes

by Dominika Dery

The first thing we learn about Dominika Dery is that she appeared
to her mother in a dream before she was born. It was in a garden
and she came running through the trees to say hello. As soon as her
mother, Jana, began trying to have a baby, the girl disappeared
from her dreams. When finally Jana became pregnant, she and her
husband Jarda were joyful. Although they did not have a lot of
money for a second child, Dominika was welcomed and had a loving

Growing up in Prague in the 1970s and early 1980s, Dominika did not
know her grandparents because, as members of the Party elite, they
disowned her mother. She tried multiple times to meet her
grandmother and grandfather, and invited them to ballet
performances that she was in, but to no avail. Instead, she forged
relationships with elderly members of the community.

While the family was not wealthy, Dominika enjoyed many treats in
life and spending time with her parents. After seeing "Swan Lake"
with her family, she was determined to become a ballerina, even
though she was young and small. Throughout the reading of this
memoir, you learn that Dominika was not an average little girl, and
that when she set her mind to do something, she did it.

Dominika's father worked as a taxi driver because his political
beliefs made it almost impossible to get another job. As a result,
many of the children who were Dominika's age were not allowed to
play with her. She spent hours with the older women in the
neighborhood, who told her stories of their youth and baked cakes
for her.

Dominika dealt with much disappointment before even completing her
first decade of life. She became a dedicated and talented
ballerina, but she was so small and young that it was hard to
obtain roles in performances. When she did receive them, the
costumes were too large or she would run into orchestra conductors
who did not appreciate it when little girls sang along to the
music. She began going to church and had quite a scare when she
learned that, because she had taken communion at church without
having been baptized, she must be baptized or she would be sent to

The small town of Cernosice was full of gossips, and Dominika's
parents were forever warning her not to say anything, because no
one could be sure whether a neighbor was an informant or not. In
one of her childhood memories captured here, she shares a time when
her father outsmarted three informants by putting them to work in
his backyard.

Our last glimpse into Prague's communist era is when Dominika and
her parents, not accompanied by her sister, traveled to Poland for
a vacation. Through hardships and disappointments, Dominika still
managed to make friends, keep smiling, and put her mother and
father into good spirits once again.

Dominika's good nature puts readers in good moods as well. THE
TWELVE LITTLE CAKES is a touching, sweet story, and it will remind
you of your childhood days, when you were as loved as you wanted to
be, and anything was possible.

Reviewed by Hannah Gómez ( on January 23, 2011

The Twelve Little Cakes
by Dominika Dery

  • Publication Date: September 23, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 1573222836
  • ISBN-13: 9781573222839