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THESE 2 NEW COOKBOOKS REALLY TAKE THE CAKE

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"Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven."

And nothing from the oven compares to a cake. Whether it's the association with birthdays or weddings, the recollection of grandma's specialities or the quick microwave bites, a cake is a memorable dessert.Susan Purdy's contribution to the continuation or rediscovery of cake baking is called "A Piece of Cake."

The book "chronicles the history of cakes" and also contains a "large, international and highly accessible collection of recipes, understandable theory and practical technique."

Overall, the recipes are thorough, containing basic as well as exotic ingredients. Instructions are precise, yet detailed. From butter cakes to charlottes, from fillings to decorating, "A Piece of Cake" is an encyclopedic reference for cake bakers.

In "Country Cakes," Lisa Yockelson covers cake-baking basics, but in a down-home, laid-back style.

The collection of recipes includes "Backporch Cakes," "Traveling Cakes," "Picnic Cakes" and "Bake Sale Cakes."

The result is a homey collection of recipes - the kind your grandmother passed down to your file.

Fresh Berry Coffee Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoon sour cream

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries or other berries (can substitute frozen berries)

Crumb Topping:

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Grease a 9-inch square pan; preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift dry ingredients together; set aside. Cream butter and sugar until smooth; add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix well. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to batter, beginning and ending with flour.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Spread berries on top of batter. Cover berries with remaining batter and spread the top as even as possible; some berries will show through and the top will look a little rough. Prepare crumb topping and spread evenly over top of cake. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

-From A Piece of Cake

Chocolate Pan Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter

4 tablespoons cocoa

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

2 cups unsifted cake flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk blended with 1 teaspoon soda

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped

5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature

1 tablespoon light cream

1 pound powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 cup pecans, chopped

Lightly butter and flour a 9-by- 13-inch pan; preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place butter, cocoa and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Sift together sugar, flour and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the hot butter/cocoa/water mixture over the sifted dry mixture and beat until blended. Add the whisked egg mixture and continue beating, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour into pan. Bake about 20 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the cake is done, make the fudge frosting. Place the butter, chocolate, milk and cream in a large saucepan; set over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted down completely. Remove from the heat and beat in the sugar by cupfuls with the vanilla and salt; blend in the pecans. Spread over warm cake.

-From Country Cakes: A Home Style Treasury