Thursday, 14 April 2011

Review - Bake & Decorate, Fiona Cairns

I can't resist a good cookbook, especially the pretty ones that line the shelves in my kitchen, but I have to admit, I'm a bit sick of cupcake books showing plain old cake with a variety of fanciful swirls, painstakingly moulded flowers and icing decorations (who has the time? the inclination? can resist not eating the cakes whilst fiddling with the icing!?) so when this book was given to me as a gift, I marvelled at how beautiful it was, but groaned inwardly at another book load of basic cakes with fancy decorations.

I was wrong (add that to your favourites and note it down. This never happens).

Fiona Cairns has produced a book that is full of imaginative cake recipes that can be decorated any which way, as she demonstrates in the second half of the book. And whilst Cairns dares to show you how to make a delicate rose from icing, she also does it my way - get edible flowers from the garden, brush them with egs whites and dust them with caster sugar to create a stunning display for your cake, all very local. Fabulous.

Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns, published by Quadrille
Photography ©LAURA HYND
As well as this decoration technique, I have a sweet-spot for the cake tooth-achingly decorated with all the sweets from my childhood, not to mention the fugdy chocolate cake covered in Gold leaf (surely this should be the Midas Cake?) It looks fabulous. Every page is adorned with something more spectacular, and achievable than the last. No fancy tools needed, just a little imagination, creativity and the ability to read, and a joyous cake is yours.

With the book having flown over this hurdle, I flicked with trepidation to the front of the book for the cake recipes. Not a bland sponge in sight. My particular favourite is the Sticky Toffee Cake, swirled with salted caramel buttercream. Not one for swirling, I slapped the buttercream on the first one and realised this cake needed due care and attention, so out came my icing bag and nozzle to create 11 more delicious cakes, as sweet and salty as the dessert - better, perhaps, as they don't have that cloying sweetness you can get with the pudding.

The marvel of this recipe was the caramel for the buttercream. Whilst you can buy dulce de leche in a tin, I love to experiment so gave the homemade version a whirl. I stood, transfixed as I added the cream to the sugar mixture to get a bubbling mass that turned into sweet and salty smooth caramel. Never will carnation get my money again.

This book is a triumph and to discover that Cairns is designing and baking one of the Royal Wedding Cakes was music to my ears. They've gone for the fruit cake. My plea to Wills & Kate - go for the Sticky Toffee, it will make your day.

I love this book, so much so that it's now covered in cake mixture, crumbs and icing. A hard back copy is on order to keep all pristine and nice - this one's a keeper.

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