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Showing 1-10 of 14 reviews(3 star). See all 120 reviews
on December 27, 2000
I wanted to love this book. Really, I did. I was willing to follow the instructions to a "T", and even take decorating lessons so I could stun my friends speechless with the wonder of my cakes. But I can't. Let me explain here that I am regarded (sorry to be immodest) as a fabulous home baker. That I'm a well-travelled European (from the Land o'Cakes--Scotland--no less), and know what good cakes should taste like. And that I was willing to invest the time, energy and money to make these cakes work. And they did. I just didn't like them. The reviewers who don't rave about this book are in the minority, but (for the most part), I think we're right. The buttercream tastes like...butter. The ganache frosting ( made with Lindt chocolate, no less) is heavy and off-putting. The cakes I have made are heavy and buttery without that wonderful buttery taste of good cakes (and I used a wonderful butter from Pennsylvania that's virtually indistiguishable from the fine Danish kind). Most recently, I tried the Chocolate Cloud roll cake, and it came out perfectly. But nobody wanted seconds. In short, it doesn't surprise me that Ms. Berenbaum is fascinated by the chemistry of baking. These are cakes made to icy physical perfection, but lacking the art that makes genuinely delicious confections. If you're into elaborately-decorated cakes that will amaze your friends, buy this book. If you're looking for cakes that dance on the tastebuds, this isn't it. One last comment, and a more positive one, is that the general advice she gives on measuring, mixing and baking is very good, and this (plus the gorgeous pictures) make the book a good buy, especially if you like to read cookbooks.
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on September 29, 2003
The cakes are very good. The All American Chocolate cake recipe turned out great first time. I like the use of weights as well as volumetric measurements in the recipes. Now for the not-so-good: the buttercream frosting recipes are just awful.
This weekend we made five batches of buttercream frosting following the recipe instructions exactly and each time the frosting came out tasting like whipped butter; greasy and overpowering and ruining the taste of the cake. We used unsalted Land-O-Lakes brand butter.
While the cake recipes are worthwhile, the frosting section is so wanting that I would consider looking further if you need a book that has good cake AND frosting recipes.
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on April 29, 2003
This book has been hailed by professionals and amateurs alike in the realm of baking. It was even awarded The International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year.
The recipes are organized into Cakes, Complementary Adornments for all Cakes, Ingredients and Equipment, and a Special Section for Professionals and Passionate Amateurs. There is a Special Categories Index which lists recipes organized by special dietary needs, such as no cholesterol recipes, quick cakes, and even cakes for Passover. With the hundreds of cakes listed in this book, there are only pictures for 50 of the recipes.
I baked the Chocolate Bread Pound Cake recipe on page 28. All of the ingredients were readily on hand: cocoa powder, water, vanilla, eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter. The recipe listed the number of servings, ingredients by both measure and weight, an illustration of suggested pans, finished height, storage guidelines, adornment suggestion, serving temperature, and even pointers for success. This finished cake came out very dry. So dry, in fact, that I just threw it away. In the understanding section of this recipe, they suggest using a syrup for extra moistness. If I needed this recipe in the future, I would be sure to use the syrup with it.
I also used the Chocolate Ganache recipe on page 269. Her directions on using the food processor to prepare the ganache really saved time, and produced a perfectly smooth finished product. The recipe produces enough ganache to fill and frost two 8x1.5" layers or two 9x1" layers. The ganache is a delicious finish to a cake, and I use it often with dense chocolate cakes.
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on July 25, 2000
I received this book as a gift and was so excited - because I'm what Beranbaum calls a 'passionate amateur.' As I read through different recipes, I was sure they would all be excellent because of the painstaking way she describes how to bake them. The section on showcase cakes is especially good; it's so impressive when you see what's possible through the illustrations. I made the Christmas Log and it looked perfect because she gives such thorough instructions.
BUT... As many of these reviews have said, quite a few of the recipes seem to be too "gourmet" for most people - including myself. Many seem to be acquired tastes - even that Christmas Log I was so proud of tasted rather bitter to me and most of my guests. I do think, however, if you're confident in your baking skills, you can mix and match different recipes or substitute some ingredients for others in order to get the same aesthetic effect, but with a more "generally appealing" taste.
The book has great instructions for decorating and is really easy (though time-consuming) to follow. Also, I've heard famous things about THE CHEESECAKE and look forward to trying that. On the whole, it really just depends on what you like. I have made these cakes for different events and while they look great, they just don't always deliver.
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on April 14, 2000
I bought this book hoping it would give me definitive recipes on cakes. Unfortunately, while my tastes do run to homemade cakes, the recipes in this book were simply way too buttery for me. The All-American Yellow cake tasted like a very light version of Sara Lee frozen pound cake (it even had the same color and crust texture). I guess I prefer my layer cake to not taste so overly vanilla-ish and buttery. Also, I'm not a fan of buttercream, which is not the same thing as regular American frosting made with butter, powdered sugar, and cream. I made the Strawberry Buttercream for my cake, but it tasted just like flavored butter to me (might be good on toast). If your tastes run to this sort of thing, the Cake Bible might be a good investment. There are a lot of cakes, including several chocolate and a country buttermilk cake and a lot of recipes for fillings, meringues, and whipped cream. Also, she has a different recipe for genoise that supposedly works well, even for those who have never had success with genoise. This book is also helpful if you want to learn to make European cakes--i.e., those with dacquoise, genoise, syrups, meringues, and other sponge-type batters. Otherwise, I'd stick to a traditional American cake book!
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on January 14, 2000
While she writes painfully detailed and scientific descriptions, and her cakes are actually quite good, she makes a comment about using a convection oven that's not correct in my experience. She states that there's no need to adjust the tempurature or baking times for her cakes when using a convection oven--countertop model or not. (Conventional theory states that convection ovens require 25-50 degrees less heat than regular ovens.) Per her book, I tried using the same tempurature and baking times on a few different recipes from the book using my convection oven, and the cakes were as dry as sawdust. My oven tempurature is calibrated correctly, and I use the exact pans and equipment she suggests using (right down to the brand of cake flour, professional Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and magic cake strips), so those are not the issues. Baking cakes in less time but at the same tempurature resulted in cakes that were dry on the outside, but a gooey mess on the inside! I've been experimenting with different baking tempuratures and times but have yet to make a "perfect" cake. One convection oven cookbook suggested that for butter cakes, the tempurature should be lowered by 75 degrees (so instead of 350, try 275)! I'll have to try that next.
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on February 17, 2002
I found the section on the science of baking to be invaluable and refer to it constantly. However, overall, there weren't enough recipes to justify the cost of the book. In addition, I tried 4 recipes and they were all too dry (even with all the butter that her recipes call for, which made the cakes extremely tender). The "dry" feel is the type where you can't take a bite of cake without needing to take a gulp of milk or other liquid. I used a digital scale, since I do think it produces more accurate results, so I don't think it was a measuring error on my part. I also use various thermometers to make sure my oven is at the right temperature. A more modern book, with moister recipes, seems to be the Carol Walters Great Cakes book--I loved the Absolutely Best Yellow Cake recipe.
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on July 9, 2002
I have baked about six or so of the recipes....all of which have been dry and not very good. I have even tried redoing the same recipe in hopes that it was just me that goofed, but again the cakes weren't all that great. The directions are hard to follow and have you flipping around from the cake recipe, to the filling recipe, to the frosting recipe....just to complete one cake. I found that a lot of the ingredients I had to go to gourmet/specialty stores to get them and some got costly. I have been doing cakes for many years for everything from home treats to clients weddings but I would never use this book as my basis.
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on February 15, 2001
I have tried to bake several of the cake recipes and buttercream recipes. I have 6 years experience an I found them difficult to follow...The flower construction section with pictures was great as is the reference section...Many of the recipes do not contain items you would normally have in you house. I find I rarely open this book to bake from as a result. I use it often for reference.
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on December 24, 2002
Most if not all of the "fancier" cake recipes were too cumbersome to bake, requiring lots of prep time to make the frostings, fillings, etc., thus, leaving lots of room for error. Maybe if I had the leisure to spend this amount of time to bake, I wouldn't mind; however, this isn't the book for the not-so-serious baker.
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