Surely everyone would like a slice of cake. Many of us whenever we are allowed, and most of us at every opportunity. It’s naughty comfort food, a treat, a memory of childhood, and difficult to refuse on any grounds.
Alisa Huntsman, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and her uncle Peter Wynne, author and journalist, have produced a truly delightful book. It’s the nature of the subject that Sky High – Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes would need a photographer able to show off the sweet confections to best advantage. Tina Rupp is a New York-based food photographer who has done the book proud.
Europe has a marvellous collection of classic baked goods. We have rich fruit cakes, light and delicate petits fours, chocolate tarts, apple tarts, simnel cake, Christmas cake, but America has perfected layer cakes. Yes, there are layer cakes in Europe. One thinks of Victoria Sponge cake and perhaps even Battenberg cake might qualify as a layered cake, but America does it BIG.
Is it that we Europeans have suffered from culinary vertigo, do we think that it’s too ostentatious to have more, have we considered that too much of a good thing is just “not done”? Well, it seems that the reason for the difference in dessert concept has more to do with chemistry than culture. It’s just that the bakers, both home and commercial in the US, took to baking powder and baking soda with almost missionary zeal when it was first introduced in the 1800s. They are the ingredients that have elevated cakes to a higher form.
Layer cakes must be light and airy or the end result will resemble a stack of perfectly-formed but weighty cheeses. If you want to add that impressive third layer then it’s imperative to have a recipe that has a soft texture but that will take a filling, frosting or glaze, and slice without disintegrating. Sky High – Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes offers such recipes as well as those for the frostings and fillings.
This volume is stuffed with tempting three-layer extravaganzas of taste and visual impact. They are, for the most part, simple recipes. The key to success is combining flavoured cake with appropriate filling and a frosting or glaze to complement the whole. These combinations are imaginative and the results are striking. There are cakes for special occasions and those to just share with family and friends, but they all have a professional style with nothing over-decorated or gaudy.
The Tiramisu Wedding Cake will be welcomed by many who have a dislike for traditional British wedding cake (rich fruit cake, marzipan, and icing the like of which has kept dentists in business for decades). It has a Genoese cake as its base, an espresso-rum syrup to moisten and a topping of Zabaglione Cream and chocolate shavings. The authors provide all recipes and even advice on cutting the cake so that Auntie Winnie does not miss out.
Dulce de Leche Cake has become trendy in the US. It takes a bit of effort to make but that work isn’t difficult and the resulting cake is fabulous. It uses the same rum syrup as the Tiramisu cake and the Dulce de Leche Cream is used as both filling and frosting. It has the flavour of caramel that works well with the cinnamon-perfumed sponge.
Ginger Chiffon Cake with Key Lime Curd and Lime Buttercream has an adult taste for those who prefer a tang from their dessert. If you can’t get Key Lime Curd then use regular lime curd. The sponge is flavoured with a grating of fresh ginger for a bit of summery bite. A truly exotic cake.
Sky High – Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes is a winner. It has all the recipes and advice you need to produce memorable cakes. It’s a book full of innovation that will be welcomed by the confident baker, and support and tips for the novice.
Cookbook review: Sky High – Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Authors: Alisa Huntsman, Peter Wynne
Published by: Chronicle Books LLC
Price: $35.00US, £18.99
ISBN -13: 978-0-8118-5448-1
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018