Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review - Party Cakes (Part Two)

Title:       Party Cakes
Subtitle:    Delightful Little Treats for Special Occasions
Author(s):   Mich Turner
Publisher:   Universe Publishing
Published:   November 2007
Format:      Hardcover, 160 pages

Cake projects are only half of this book. If you are able to tear yourself away from these projects, you will find yourself lost once more in the recipe sections. We begin our review at the aptly named ‘delicious treats’ section.

In a similar fashion to the decorated cakes, each recipe is introduced with a full page, full colour photograph of the finished product. Before we get to the recipe, we see a small blurb from the author. Generally, this is a short description and/or comments on the recipe’s suitability for use in decorated cakes.

The author has included a nice range of recipes. There are tropical/summertime recipes such as ‘Lime and Coconut’ and ‘Vanilla with Fresh Raspberries’ and chocolate recipes such as ‘Chocolate and Almond’ and ‘Chocca Mocca Pecan.’ There are also recipes for cheesecakes and cookies. The cookie recipes include brown sugar cookies, Lebkuchen and a gingerbread house.

You will also find a few recipes for edible gifts such as truffles (white chocolate and pineapple, and, rum and raisin), rocky road, shortbread, and some Christmas desert accompaniments such as hard sauce (a form of brandy cream) and liqueur custard. These look delicious. I will definitely be making the hard sauce this year!

Assuming you have not read it already, the final section I will be reviewing is the techniques section. This section contains the instructions for the techniques that are common to the projects located in the first part of this book. These include:
  • cutting small cakes from larger cakes;
  • making piping bags;
  • using the flooding technique to make butterflies for the ‘Sugar Candy’ cake;
  • covering cakes with chocolate plastique, sugar paste, fondant and marzipan;
  • the method for and yield from cutting small cakes from larger ones;
  • two tier cake stacking; and,
  • methods for tempering chocolate to create chocolate scrolls, fans and curls.

In this section, you will find recipes for buttercream, chocolate plastique, petal paste and modelling paste, and royal icing (piping and flooding). It is worth mentioning that the buttercream recipes listed in this book are not decorator’s buttercream recipes (i.e. for figure/flower piping etc). They are recipes for eating and therefore include flavours such as lemon curd, espresso, and, chocolate ganache.

One thing you quickly notice about this book is that the author puts taste first. There are numerous comments on flavour where the author remarks on which flavours and fillings works well together as well as provides appropriate warnings on what to avoid.

Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time for each project because they look deceptively easy. Whilst they employ simple techniques, they can be quite fiddly, especially when piping rows of pearls, as they have to be spaced evenly and of a uniform size (dependant on the design). In my mind, the hardest techniques in this book are those required to create the gorgeous sugar paste polar bears, rabbits, elephants, teddy bears and farmyard animal heads (duck, sheep and pig). As long as you have plenty of patience, a beginner/intermediate decorator should have no problems creating each of these projects.

Over all this is a lovely book, for both beginners and seasoned decorators alike. These simple, yet elegant cakes are inspirational. It is good to find a book dedicated to small single serve cakes. Whilst I love cupcakes, I must admit I am starting to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cupcake decorating books that have flooded the market in recent times. There is only one true cupcake project in this book!

If you are a lover of cupcakes, you could easily modify the majority of the projects to suit cupcakes, for example, a Japanese themed cupcake spread would look gorgeous with sprawling cherry blossoms piped across the tops of adjoining cupcakes. The ‘Bollywood’ design would look absolutely amazing on cupcakes, especially if you were to use gold cupcake wrappers.

If you love Mitch Turner’s style look at the little Venice cake company website - You will notice a number of cakes from this book in the gallery as well as other inspirational designs.

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