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Customer Review

177 of 189 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book with decent recipes, 13 May 2009
This review is from: The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (Hardcover)

There have been a number of mixed reviews about this book - in fact, there're quite a few negative ones that almost put me off trying to make anything from the recipes. I really wanted to know if this book was worth anything so I decided to prove it to myself. I am a decent baker; that is to say, I taught myself to cook and bake on a regular basis (often with good success!) but have no real culinary skills or knowledge. However, I do spend enough time in the kitchen to notice that the methods for doing various things in this book is quite different from most recipes that are commonly used. For example, the methods for mixing the cake mixture in Vanilla Cupcakes provide that you first combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and a bit of milk in one bowl; and some eggs, milk and vanilla extract in the other. Once thoroughly incorporated, the book tells you to mix the two together. Now, most recipes would ask you to first beat the egg and sugar in one bowl, add the milk and vanilla, follow by the dry ingredients. But I decided to stick closely to the recipes provided - using whatever amount of ingredients (which may seem "ridiculous" to many people) that the book suggests, and have my fingers crossed. The results? Well, the cupcake recipes (vanilla, chocolate and the velvet cupcakes) that I've attempted so far have turned out pretty good! They're all very tasty and do not appear to be "dry" or "inedible" in any way. My guess is that for those of you who are rather experienced would question the validity of the recipes and so instead of sticking to the book, would be tempted to do "what they think is best" - which is probably why there're more experienced bakers complaining about their various failures, etc. So my advice is for you to turn blind eyes and ears and just follow the recipes to the letter, even though your experience and "instinct" are telling you otherwise!

***The book itself is simply beautiful. It is well laid-out, divided into several sections like cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, etc. The recipes include: the basic vanilla/chocolate cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, red velvet cupcakes, strawberry cheesecake cupcakes, lavender cupcakes, hazelnut and chocolate cupcakes, coconut and pineapple cupcakes, banana and chocolate cupcakes, pumpkin cupcakes, marshmallow cupcakes, ginger cupcakes, hummingbird cake, carrot cake, brooklyn blackout cake, coffee cake, blueberry cake, spiced pound cake, banana bread, nutty apple loaf lemon loaf, New York cheesecake, icebox banana cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, mississippi mud pie, apple pie, brownies, muesli bars, rocky road bars, ham and mushroom muffins, spinach and cheese muffins, blueberry muffins, banana and cinnamon muffins, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, white chocolate and pecan cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and gingerbread men. The photographs are all stunning, you get to see exactly what your cakes should look like.***

However, I must say that since I own over 80 books on cakes, cookies, ice cream and desserts, this book doesn't give you a very wide range of recipes - hence why I've given it 4 stars. The book is quite thin and it does have "enough" to keep you entertained for a while, but I prefer to have more choices so I usually have several books on very specific subjects. For example, if you're looking for a good book on cookies, I'd recommend "Martha Steward's Cookies", "The Good Cookie" and "Great Cookies"; for cakes, I'd recommend "Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book" and "Southern Cakes"; for cupcakes, I'd recommend "Cupcake Heaven", "The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake" and "Cupcakes: Luscious Bakeshop Favorites"; for general baking/desserts "Desserts by the Yard", "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts", "Jim Fobel's Old-fashioned Baking Book"; for ice cream "Ices", "The Ultimate Book of Ice Cream", "The Perfect Scoops"; and for chocolate, I'd recommend "The Essence of Chocolate" and "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts".

N.B. Many of the suggested books require US measuring cups - which can be bought at various online stores or decent bakery shops. A lot of people complain about the "inaccuracy" and "complexity" of using US cups. I personally don't understand why anyone would make such a big deal out of it, as not only is it SO EASY to use (just put it in the cups and start mixing! MUCH easier than having to accurately weigh everything!) but it also produces great stuff! If the whole US population can produce successful goodies using these "not so accurate" instruments, so can we! Invest in a set - it won't fail you. Trust me, many great baking books are from/for/published in America. You'll find that once you start exploring, you'll find plenty of amazing books/recipes to make the most wonderful goodies and not be restricted to European-style of baking only.

Overall, if you're truly passionate about cakes and are NOT looking for "healthy" cakes (whatever that means!), you'll love this book. It'll be a great addition to your cook book collection, although I wouldn't say that this will be the ONLY book you'll need, because the book just simply doesn't offer enough varieties in the long-run. I've also been to the bakeries in London and I am happy to announce that my most recent batch did taste rather closely similar to the "real" things! I can assure you that this book will give you some great ideas and the pictures will be able to keep you coming back to the book time and time again!


P.S. I've also noticed that a few people have been comparing this book with Magnolia Bakery Book. I own all of them (2 by Magnolia, 2 by Buttercup Bakeshop and The Hummingbird Bakery) - and I'd NEVER pick the Buttercup Bakeshop over the other two. In fact, The Hummingbird bakery book actually contains MORE cupcakes recipes than those Magnolia books! It should also be noted that none of these books offer "healthy" goodies! Have fun baking!
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 May 2009, 15:01:28 BST
probably the best and most informative reviews of a baking book. good info and honest opinion. thank you also for the tips for other books.

Posted on 29 Sep 2009, 21:33:07 BST
Thank you for this review, I agree with Mrs Kelly. After buying this book today I came online to send a link to my friend, and got into reading the reviews. I was rather disappointed at first by the negative reviews, but yours has made me more positive about the book - I will give the recipes a go, exactly as it says, and hopefully they will work out! Thank you again.

Posted on 23 Jan 2010, 14:15:10 GMT
selvaggia says:
I think the reason for the 'unconventional' ingredient measurements and mixing method for the cupcakes is that it is a 'high-ratio' cake recipe, see e.g. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-high-ratio-cake.htm

I've recently been reading in Paula Figoni's fantastic "How Baking Works" how high-ratio cakes typically use a two-stage mixing method like that described in the book.

Thanks for the great review!
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