Great Cakes: Over 250 Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy Hardcover – 1 Nov 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
But here are tips and gems that I have not gleaned in many years of baking. Yes, all the usual stuff is there, but do you know the best time to add sugar to your egg whites for a soft or a firm meringue. Do you understand the importance of separating your eggs when cold but beating them when at room temperature? Do you know what temperature butter should be for creaming and why? Or why you shouldn't substitute honey for sugar? Do you know the difference the various sugar types make to the texture of your cake? All this and so much more is crammed into a few introductory pages, without getting over technical. I really feel that I have learned something from reading this book. Yes, it would be lovely to have more photography, but if the trade off would be fewer recipes and less information, I would rather it left just as it is. This is an amazing book.
This is a very informative book. From the begining she talks about the right equipment, substitutes if you don't have the right ingredient, conversions charts, what went wrong etc. The only downside is that there are not enough pictures, however, if you can live with that, and want to make really great cakes , buy this.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Please note that this is not a "throw it together and bake" kind of cookbook; for these, I suggest books like The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, or Pillsbury's Best of the Bake-Off. The chapters are arranged like a textbook. The author expects you to systematically bake your way through each chapter in order, gaining skill and experience with each chapter. You are not suppose to skip around at random, picking out a few appealing recipes. The first chapter has pound cakes, the easiest; last chapter has European tortes and gateaux, the most difficult.
It has chapters on ingredients, equipment, techniques, pound cakes, butter cakes, coffee / streusel cakes, cakes with fruit, sponge cakes, roulades, chiffon, angel food, american, cheesecakes, tortes and gateaux, filling, frosting, glazes, sauces and toppings, and decorations.
The quality of the cakes are very high. When I need a high caliber Sacher Torte in a professional setting, the recipe comes from this book. It has a rare and complete recipe for Genoise. It is also one of the few books that insists on clarified butter for the Genoise (the only other one I can think of is Beranbaum's Cake Bible). The only real complaint I have is the suggestion to bang Genoise batter in the cake pan on the counter just before baking (never do this; better a couple of small holes in the finished cake than a deflated cake). Her recipe for chiffon cakes produces more loft than conventional procedures. I also wish the author would use the classic European names for the recipe titles; it would make looking up certain patissiere classics easier. The last section tells you how to match frostings and fillings to the cake, some valuable and hard to find recipes for glazes, and a definitive recipe for creme anglaise. There is also information on substituting different baking pans, and a sufficient amount of information about cake decorating for the home baker.
The most vexing feature of this book is the format of the first part, which has critical information on tools, pantry, and techniques. This is a most important collection of information that is essential for baking, but is usually left out of most baking books. The bad part is that these three chapters do not have a listing of the subjects; if you need to find something, say how to fold an egg foam batter, you will have to leaf through the entire chapter to find it. All other chapters have a complete listing of recipes in the Table of Contents.
One can disagree with the author on a few points: unbleached flour does not have a higher protein content than all-purpose (this is brand dependent), the silly notion of melting chocolate in a 225 degree oven, and not supplying the flour measurements in weight as well as volume (she describes sift, spoon, and sweep, which is about 3 1/2 oz when I tried it). I also dislike her idea to dump out excess flour when flouring a cake into the sink; since flour tends to clog drains, I do it over a garbage can. The section on suggested equipment is comprehensive: 30 different cake pans are listed, about a dozen categorized as essential, and 50 different tools, about half categorized as essential. The pantry chapter has a good dissertation on the important ingredients and what to do with them. The chapter on techniques gives complete instructions for all of the important baking tasks, such as how to handle butter and fats, beating eggs, folding batters, lining baking pans, bain-marie, telling when cakes are done baking (it differs greatly depending on cake type), de-panning cakes, storage, and a fascinating section on freezing. The metric conversion table for liquids in the Appendix is wrong.
Overall, this is a wonderful book. There are pages and pages of terrific explanations of ingredients and equipment and things to look out for. The explanations are all very clear. This is a great book for the beginnning cake baker. Even if you're intermediate, you can learn a lot from this book. I feel this is at a slightly lower level than "the cake bible". Many of the cakes are really easy and fast, and I don't think that, in general, the decorating taught here is that fancy. On the other hand, I really like the parts on "what can go wrong" which are comprehensive for each type of cake. So it's a different type of book. There is a much bigger cheesecake section here than in the "cake bible" and low-fat cakes that aren't included there. Like "the cake bible" there aren't that many pictures - if you're looking for a coffee table book go elsewhere. This book deserved its James Beard award.
NOTE: Taste the batter before you bake, I find that I have to add a little sugar to the recipes.