Monday, March 8, 2010

Cookbook review: Rose's Heavenly Cakes

(Published yesterday on Goodreads) 

by Rose Levy Beranbaum
September 2009
Wiley, 978-0471781738

This book is gorgeous to look at. I've had my eye on it since Christmas.  It finally dawned on me that instead of pining for a $40 cake cookbook, I should just see if the library had it and give it a test run.  Tah-dah! They did! 

Several things I noticed about this book:
-The photography is excellent and while not every recipe has a photo, there are enough pics to make the mouth water. 

-all recipes have ingredient measurements by both volume AND weight. I love that the weights are included as that's the most accurate way to measure most ingredients.

-this is not a book for casual/beginner bakers. Most of the recipes contained are involved, time consuming, or intimidating in length. There is no way most home bakers will be able to get the same results as Rose. I think home bakers with cooking/baking experience and know-how should be able to turn out some of these recipes, but they will really have to commit themselves to the project. For example, the recipe for the cake on the cover of the book (a Bernachon Palet D'Or Gateau) is over four pages long.

-many of the recipes do not require unusual cake pans. Quite a number of them call for the standard 9x2 round cake pan or basic 9" springform. There are recipes where other pans are needed, but I think there are enough to choose from using the standard 9x2 to satisfy.

-Rose is picky; almost snobbishly so. It's her way or the highway. She's picky about what kind of flour, what size pan (and why not to use the size not listed for a particular recipe), high quality ingredients, the importance of weighing eggs rather than just cracking in an egg. The list goes on. I know baking has a reputation for being picky, but really, for an average home baker, such pickiness isn't really necessary to get a good, delicious cake. That being said, I do agree that the better quality of the ingredients, the better the result will taste and feel.

-there are some good, basic cake recipes as well as ganache and frosting recipes. All of the cake recipes in this book are for the complete cake - meaning cake, frosting/ganache/filling, and decorations. This is one reason why each recipe is so long. Many of the basic components could be broken out and used on it's own with another cake or frosting.

-a good list of sources for specialty ingredients and a long, informative, section defining and breaking down ingredients

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. Her tips and techniques are sound in their reasoning as she is a baker who makes an effort to understand the science behind everything.

I get to keep the book for three weeks thanks to the BPL and I will probably only get to try one of the cakes. I marked about two dozen of the recipes as ones I'd like to try. So what shall it be? Here are some of my picks:

-Karmel Cake
-Gateau Breton
-Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake
-Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache
-Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache
-Chocolate Genoise with Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache
-Lemon Meringue Cake
-Torta Las Tres Leches (one of my favorite cakes!)
-Lemon Cheesecake
-Mud Turtle Cupcakes
-True Orange Genoise

Bottom line:
-Not for beginners
-Almost text book in its approach to ingredients and technique; a great learning tool (but very few pictures illustrating those techniques; it's not a photo step-by-step book which is why the baker needs to have some know-how of baking basics before attempting)
-Gorgeous food photography
-A great variety of cakes is covered (including wedding cakes and how to construct them)
-Very thorough in recipe steps, ingredients, and technique explanations
-Only purchase for serious, experienced home bakers who love to make complicated and beautiful cakes (or for people who like to look at pretty pictures of food) 

No comments:

Post a Comment