Friday, January 15, 2010
Every now and then I get the opportunity to review a cook- or baking book that keeps me up into the wee hours, turning pages and slapping Post-its into margins, making grand plans and mental shopping lists. Rose's Heavenly Cakes (Wiley) by the award-winning Rose Levy Beranbaum is one such book.
If you're an avid cake baker, you probably already have Beranbaum's Cake Bible. If bread is your thing, her Bread Biblecertainly has a spot on your shelf. And if it's pies and pastries that move you, no doubt her Pie and Pastry Biblehas been an invaluable asset.
If you're at all familiar with Beranbaum's books, then Heavenly Cakes probably won't need much of an introduction from me, other than to say that it meets or exceeds the excellence of her other works ~ and I'm not hyperbolizing here. I've seen a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of baking books, and it's a rare thing to find books that blend recipes with technique so seamlessly into a book that both home cooks and professional bakers can embrace.
As a pastry chef and pro baker, I've gone to Beranbaum's Bibles countless times for guidance. Not only does she do an excellent job of writing a recipe, but she explains the hows and whys behind her method ~ terribly valuable to those who want to develop their baking chops.
Heavenly Cakes is a comprehensive, trustworthy guide to baking the most amazing cakes possible ~ from whoopie pies to wedding cakes and pretty much everything in between. Tutorial photographs, clear and easy to follow instructions, as well as more in-depth exploration into decorative touches and techniques make this what I consider an indispensable book for cake bakers of all skill levels.
For those you who collect cookbooks for the food porn (come on, we're all a little guilty ~ Tastespotting didn't get popular by accident!), Heavenly Cakes is the baking book of your dreams. Every single cake in this book is accompanied by a full-colored picture. That's right . . . full color, baby.
And if you're a novice cake baker and feel a little intimidated by the prospect of working through some of the more advanced projects in the book, here's some exciting news. There's a bake-along blog: Heavenly Cake Baker. Others in your shoes will be baking the same cakes along with seasoned bakers, and everyone benefits from the shared experience ~ failures and successes included. If you've never participated in a bake-along blog, I can assure you, it's one of the most proactive things you can do to advance your skills (and meet some pretty cool like-minded folks).
Click here if you want to see a brief clip of Rose Levy Beranbaum discussing Heavenly Cakes ~ she offers some useful tips (really only the tiniest tip of the iceberg of valuable information contained in the book) for cake baking in general.
*Many thanks to Lauren of SpruceTV.com for providing me a review copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes and the video link that appears in this post.