"The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Pros: Velvety cakes
Cons: Too-buttery icing
Rating: 4 out of 5

First posted 7/10/2000

The cakes in this book truly are divine. Every year for the past several years we’ve made the white chocolate whisper cake for my fiancee’s birthday. It melts in your mouth, but holds together for icing and cutting better than most cakes. The author explains that this is because white chocolate melts at a different temperature than butter. This is one of the wonderful aspects of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s approach to cakes–she explains the whys and wherefores as well as the how.

The sauces are also wonderful. I found that the fresh blueberry sauce went perfectly on top of a white chocolate cheesecake from a different cookbook. The raspberry sauces go wonderfully with the white chocolate whisper cake, and help to keep it from tasting too sweet.

The author gives precise measurements for ingredients – very precise. Even eggs are measured by weight and volume rather than number. In my experience, this is the mark of a truly professional pastry chef. The directions are similarly clear and precise.

If you want to create the complex creations from her pictures you’ll want some experience, and you may need certain equipment–the recipes in here range from simple to extravagant. Even without that experience you may find this book to be worth it for the basic recipes, however, because they are truly extraordinary.

My only problem with this book was the icing recipes. I’ve found three kinds of buttercream icing recipes in my experience. The first type uses too much shortening – ick. The second uses too much butter – it makes the cake beneath taste wrong, and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste (however, it’s still a lot better than the shortening recipes!). The third type is heavier on sugar, not too heavy on fats, and is absolutely perfect in my opinion. Unfortunately the icings in this cookbook are of the second variety (too much butter). I would instead use icing recipes from a different cookbook or adjust the ratio of sugar to butter. Since icing is rather an important part of fabulous cakes, that does drop my rating of this book from 5 to 4. If you prefer that kind of icing however, then this cookbook may be perfect for you!

Visit Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum for more of the author’s tips, including information on her new cake kits!

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