Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baking with the Cake Boss Review

Baking with the Cake Boss 100 of Buddy's Best Recipes and Decorating Secrets – Buddy Valastro (Free Press)

Baking with the Cake Boss is Buddy Valastro's second cookbook and this time, the focus is all things sweet. In the "Introduction," Buddy writes about his first baking experience with his father at the family bakery. Buddy reveals how his baking progressed from making butter cookies to decorating gorgeous show stopping cakes. Buddy offers advice for the aspiring baker whether you are a home baker as I am or going for it as a professional baker.

In "Getting Started: A Tour of the Kitchen" Buddy stresses organization is key for successful baking. No baker can succeed without the right stuff and in the chapter, "Equipment" Buddy provides a detailed list of essential needs for baking.

Every baker has staple ingredients on hand like flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, eggs, extracts, chips and butter. "Notes on Ingredients" breaks down which baking ingredients every baker should have stocked in their pantry. Buddy shares his expertise on what works and what does not when baking.

The very brief chapter "The Zone and How to Get There" is a fun read and I get what Buddy means by being in "The Zone" when baking.

There are just four pages in "Basic Baking Techniques" but essential information for all bakers. Buddy offers his know-how in the "Cookies" chapter in terms of baking in batches, cooling cookies and storing them.

From page 42 and on "It's Go Time!" as Buddy says on Next Great Baker and we get to the recipes. I love that Buddy breaks down each recipe to a very simplistic level so it makes them all easy to follow. Buddy's first recipes are Butter Cookies in plain and chocolate, so you can bake them both ways or choose your preference. I think having a variety of butter cookies is best and tinting the plain ones in different colors is fun especially for Christmas. Double Chocolate Chip Cookies is the next recipe and they look so yummy.

I am happy Buddy included a recipe for Seven-Layer Cookies (Tri-Color or Rainbow Cookies) since I have always wanted to bake these. If you love nuts, you can enjoy baking Peanut Butter Cookies, and Pignoli Cookies. The recipe for the Chocolate Brownie Clusters looks delicious as well as the Tarelles recipe. I never had Rugelach before, so I may bake them one of these days to see if I like them. Buddy includes a recipe for the classic Black-and-White Cookies, which have a cakey texture and are so delicious. I am excited to bake these since I have eaten this iconic cookie since my teens. There is a recipe for Linzer Tart Cookies, and I baked the Icebox Christmas Cookies for my valentine hearts and they were delicious. I added 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract to the recipe.

One thing I have yet to tackle is making pastries, and I look forward to baking alot of the recipes in this chapter this year. The chapter opens with a recipe for Choux Pastry which is the dough used for éclairs, cream puffs, and French profiteroles. There are step-by-step recipes for Éclairs and Cream Puffs. One of my favorite pastries is Napoleons and I am happy Buddy included a recipe for it. The "feathered icing" technique looks simple, but the recipe itself will take some practice. There are recipes for Butterflies and Cassatini and Rum Babas. The Cannoli and Cannoli Cream recipes are not intimidating since Buddy has some beautiful photos to accompany the recipe instructions.

There is a recipe for Brownies and Brownie Icing for you brownie lovers, and the Raspberry Bars look so yummy. Buddy offers three Doughnut recipes: Old-Fashioned, Mae West and Munchkins. The final recipe of the chapter is Chocolate Truffles which are miniature flourless chocolate tortes baked in a cupcake tray.

The next chapter "Pies and Tarts" has me drooling and I am going to make Buddy's Pie Crust next time I make pie, since I usually buy the ready-made Pillsbury Pie Crust. The Lemon Meringue Pie is a beauty. Buddy's recipes for Pumpkin Pie, Coconut Custard Pie and Apple Pie look outstanding. I never had Pastiera di Grano Wheat Pie or Pasta Frolla before but plan to try them when Allen and I visit Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ. If I like them I will give them both a shot. The recipe for the Frutti di Bosco Italian Fruit Tart looks beautiful, gets an A+ for presentation and I bet tastes great. There is a recipe for Cream Puff Parfait, which would be a fun dessert to share for a family gathering since it serves 24.

The "Cakes and Cupcakes" chapter opens with a gorgeous photo of Red Velvet Cake, one of my favorites. Decorator's Buttercream is the first recipe in this chapter. The Cupcake recipes look too pretty to eat, but I do not really mean that. Buddy has recipes for Sunflower Cupcakes, Puff Flower Cupcakes, Flat-Petal Cupcakes, Daisy Cupcakes and his signature Buddy's Cabbage Rose Cupcakes. Buddy offers instructions on Piping Buttercream Roses, and the Red Roses Cupcakes and Christmas Tree Cupcakes are gorgeous.

The section on "Working With Cakes" tells you how to trim and cut cakes, fill and ice cakes and soak a sponge cake. Several illustrations guide you on decorating techniques before you get to bake the cakes. Both the Boy and Girl's Birthday Cake recipes are so pretty. The pages on the different Cake Combinations are really helpful and plentiful.

I found the "Fondant" chapter informative and less intimidating than I previously thought since I have never worked with fondant. The fondant cake recipes like the Dot and Bow Cake, Groovy Girl Cake, Valentine's Day Cake, Mother's and Father's Day Cakes, Summer Beach Cake, Fourth of July Cake, Halloween Frankenstein Cake, Autumn Cake and Winter Wonderland Cake are all beautiful designs and seem simple enough. They are so pretty which is the point of using fondant in the first place, since it gives cakes a clean and sharp look. Personally, I do not like how fondant tastes but Buddy mentions the type of fondant he prefers. Maybe this kind of fondant tastes better than the ones I have tried. Even if I never make a cake from fondant, I will use these recipes as design inspiration when I make my cakes with buttercream frosting. For fondant users, there are also advanced fondant recipes like the Thanksgiving Turkey and Animal Safari Cake I recently saw Buddy make on the Rachael Ray Show.

The "Basic Cake Recipes" chapter features recipes for Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Cake, White Chiffon Cake, Chocolate Chiffon Cake, Pan di Spagna (Italian Sponge Cake), Carrot Cake and Red Velvet Cake.

The final chapter, "Frostings and Fillings" features Vanilla Frosting, Chocolate Fudge Frosting, Italian Buttercream, Italian Custard Cream, Cream Cheese Frosting, My Dad's Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, Lobster Tail Cream, Italian Whipped Cream and Syrup for Pan di Spagna.

Baking with the Cake Boss will elevate your baking repertoire. The recipes in this cookbook are attainable for all bakers, and provide many recipes you can enjoy with your family for years to come.

-Sophia/Two Frys

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