I recently visited my ex-son-in-law and his young family and was proudly presented with a slice of Chocolate-and-Vanilla Zebra Cake, baked by his two children. It was perfect in every way: stripes clearly delineated, frosting smooth and creamy, cake tender. I thought to myself, If two kids under the age of twelve can execute such a seemingly complex cake, this new book, with its Show Cakes, its Layer Cakes, its Celebration Cakes, and its Cupcakes, will be a huge success.
I, my daughter Alexis, and many of my friends and colleagues bake our own cakes—for celebrations, of course, but also for all sorts of non-events, just because we love to bake, to experiment, to be challenged. We have worked a long time perfecting the new and old favorites in this book, honing techniques so each cake will look and taste like the prototype pictured. Your cakes will be Instagram-perfect and will not last very long once that first slice is cut.
Like pie-making, where golden rules apply, cake-making needs attention to details. Have all ingredients set out, mise en place–style, so there are no surprises. You don’t want to discover, as you cream the butter and sugar, that you forgot to buy the cake flour. Prepare your pans according to instructions and please pay attention to the size of the pans—inches matter! Weather also affects how the cake will turn out: Cool is better than warm, and air-conditioning, when you’re frosting and decorating, can result in a finer-looking masterpiece.
I have always been a baker, creating cakes for my siblings and parents. My father loved his yellow cake with orange filling and dark chocolate buttercream, and my mother adored cakes with fruit in or on them. I have always loved anything lemon—try the Lemon Mousse Cake on page 46; it’s one of my favorites. Alexis bakes big
cakes: My fiftieth birthday cake was a mammoth coconut dessert that took one’s breath away in its deliciousness and flavorfulness and size. Her children, Jude and Truman, are treated to ice cream cakes, solar system extravaganzas, and shapes emulating storybook characters and objects—all entirely natural, baked with impeccable butters and flours and creams, with the promise that each bite tastes as good as it looks.
I think you will enjoy all the cakes and the clear instructions in this book, and that you will wish there were something special to bake them for every week. Don’t wait, bake anyway!
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