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Tuesday August 26, 2008 12:00 pm

Cookbook Review: CakeLove: How To Bake Cakes From Scratch


Warren Brown’s first foray into cookbook writing, “CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch”, was published on May 1st, and like many dessert lovers and home bakers, I could barely contain my enthusiasm when I finally got to plunk down my $27.50 for the oversized tome, full of beautiful photographs by Renee Comet.

If the name Warren Brown sounds vaguely familiar to you, it may be because you’ve seen him on Oprah or Today, or maybe because of his second (third, now) job hosting Sugar Rush on the Food Network. Brown left his law career and opened his first CakeLove bakery in Washington, DC in 2002, which has since branched out to three bakeries and a cafe, with two more bakeries in the works.

There are great things to be found in the pages of CakeLove. The exhaustive introduction to each chapter offers a lot of background information that isn’t in each recipe but gives valuable insight to both Brown’s philosophies and the chemistry behind baking. Additionally, tips for kitchen hardware are volunteered freely, which is a great plus for those of us diving in without a background in cake preparation or decoration. While Brown doesn’t come right out and give you the recipes for specific cakes that are available in CakeLove bakeries, he does supply the reader with cake, filling, glaze, ganache and frosting recipes that can be combined a ton of ways - personally, I’ve got my eye on a chocolate butter cake recipe paired with his very original Flame buttercream combination for some cupcakes. Recipes also include lists of equipment that will be needed, which is a great bonus. Brown’s insistence upon using all-natural ingredients is also a huge plus in my book - total control of your ingredients and their quality is yet another reason that home baking is the best.

This cookbook is not necessarily for every home baker, though. A lot of people who like to have a photo of the finished product for each recipe will be left unsatisfied. There are tons of gorgeous photographs by Comet, but because the recipes are for cake components and not assembled cakes there isn’t a photo for every recipe. Here and there some steps are assumed, so if the recipe isn’t read all the way through before starting to bake, there could be some missteps. Brown is a big believer in measuring by weight and not volume - he advocates using a food scale for the most accurate measurements of dry ingredients. And Brown’s commitment to using all-natural ingredients might send some home bakers to the Internet for some of the ingredients used. Not a big hassle for many of us, but it can get frustrating to try to track down potato starch or food-grade cocoa butter for a cake you want to bake the very next day.

Overall, I think “CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch” is a good cookbook to add to your collection. It holds lots of great recipes to be mixed and matched into some of the most interesting cakes to come out of home kitchens in years. Making an initial investment into a few of the tools that Brown recommends at the beginning of the book will definitely improve the entire experience, and some trial and error with the recipes - which is necessary in baking anyway - will net some amazing results.



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