The tall layer cakes you see at the bakery always look so impressive sitting on a cake stand or plate and sliced with two layers of filling. Somehow the two-layer cakes I make don't quite stack up (pun intended). But most recipes for the home baker are written for two layer cakes.
This book has recipes to make those fabulously tall, triple-layer cakes. I wouldn't buy it as a first cake cookbook (Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Cake Bible" or Nick Malgieri's "Perfect Cakes" coes to mind as better beginning cake baking cookbooks), but this book does deserve a place on the shelf if you really enjoy baking cakes and want to make the kind of cakes that will inspire "oohs" and "ahs" when you bring them to the table. There is a great variety of recipes. The recipe categories are: chocolate cakes, vanilla cakes, fruit-flavored cakes; nut and spice cakes; cakes with a world of flavor (e.g. chai, dulce de leche, black forest, blue cornmeal), and finally holiday and special occasion cakes. The last chapter has recipes for three different kinds of wedding cakes that will serve 80-100 people if you feel adventurous and want to bake a wedding cake!
Each cake recipe is followed by the recipe for a frosting and often a different filling that go with it so you don't have to flip to a separate section of the book to find the frosting or filling that will suit the cake you have chosen. The frosting choices and the cake flavors sound amazing. She covers the expected combinations: chocolate cakes with toasted coconut-pecan frosting or different types of chocolate frosting; vanilla cakes with white chocolate, white chocolate buttercream or chocolate frosting; strawberry shortcake; boston cream pie. She pumps up standard cake flavors with more adventurous frosting or filling choices (chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate peanut butter glaze, cakes with mango mousse or peach mousse filling, apricot carrot cake; banana cake with praline filling and white chocolate ganache(!); marbled lemon blueberry butter cake. And then she pulls out the stops with cakes I can't wait to try: pina colada cake, maple walnut cake, dulce de leche cake, chocolate hazelnut cake.
The photography is fantastic, bordering on "food porn." There isn't a photo for every cake but more than half of the recipes do have photos and they will make you want to bake those cakes.
If you already do a lot of cake baking, you may be surprised (as I was) by the mixing technique. I was taught the creaming method where you first beat the butter then add the sugar and beat some more until it is fluffy, and finally add the flour and other dry ingredients alternately with the liquid ingredients. Most of the butter cake recipes in this book use the two-stage method where the butter, all the dry ingredients and some of the liquid go into the mixing bowl at the beginning and after this is beaten smooth, the eggs and remaining liquid goes in. I found this so unexpected that, after reading this technique in several of the recipes, I had to go back to the baking techniques section at the beginning of the book to find out why. The author believes "the two-stage method produces a more finely textured cake and is more dependable" than the creaming method. Now that fall is here and my kitchen isn't so hot, I'll be trying these recipes I've been drooling over and will see if I agree.
The trouble is, I've been poring over the pictures and recipes so long, I can't decide which cake to make first! My friends and family may be eating a lot of cake.