Great Cake Decorating, by Erin Gardner (2014)

Great Cake DecoratingI’m not a fancy cake baker, but I’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful creations come out of my amazing stepdaughter’s Edmonton-area kitchen ( Inspired to give it a try, I pounced on this recent title in Taunton Press’ NetGalley offerings. Organized in a logical way, this is exactly the kind of book you want as a beginner. Gardner, herself a pastry chef who now specializes in cakes, begins with a discussion of must-have and optional tools and how to use them, then moves to step-by-step instructions on how to decorate a cake with frosting and fondant (that flat finished look common in wedding cakes), how to build layers, and how to create and apply decorations such as buttercream rosettes and fondant bows and ribbons. She includes useful tips, such as keeping the domed cake tops you’ve trimmed to level a cake for future use as “sand” (p 15), or using a ‘crumbcoat’ on your cake to keep it moist but also to make it easier to do the final frosting finish on sides and top (p 18). Troubleshooting tips help you solve common problems as you learn the techniques, which include plenty of accompanying photos. For those more interested in even more advanced techniques, she offers cake painting techniques, and using gum paste to make realistic roses, wired peonies and more. The book then offers some 30 design ideas, from a seashore-inspired blue and white elegant creation to colourful “fiesta” cupcakes featuring cacti, sombreros and other designs suitable for Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Each design idea includes photos and instructions, as well as variations and tips for making smaller creations such as cupcakes. The final section provides six recipes for ideal cakes to use as base: Chiffon (with a couple of variations), Devil’s Food, Pumpkin Spice, Hazelnut, Vanilla Swiss Vanilla Buttercream, and the decadent Chocolate Ganache. For frostings, you can choose from Cream Cheese or Peanut Butter (!), making your own Marshmallow Fondant for the flat finish, and Royal Icing for gluing on candy or fondant decorations. Choices for fillings include Lemon Curd, Salted Caramel, and the classic Pastry Cream. Each recipe includes suggestions on how to use it and what to watch for. She finishes with tips on transporting your cake, and three single-page appendices offering advice on how much buttercream and fondant to prepare for different sizes of cake, metric equivalents for oven temperatures and measures, and where to source specific supplies. I was very pleased to see an excellent index, just over three pages, which lets you access hard-to-find tips and instructions.
My thanks again to NetGalley for the e-copy of this already published book, in exchange for my honest review.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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