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All Cakes Considered Hardcover – October 14, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811867811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811867818
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #686,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Turning the offices of National Public Radio into a sugar-dusted gastrolab, NPR producer Gray (of the news program All Things Considered) spent a year testing cake recipes on coworkers to find the most satisfying among them. The result is this eclectic but cohesive cookbook, with a gentle learning curve especially useful for novices. An untrained pastry chef herself, Gray begins with a basic, lemon-glazed sour cream pound cake (which she calls the "Man Catcher") that introduces several key baking techniques: creaming the butter and sugar, incorporating eggs, beating batter, and lining the pan. She increases the skill level gradually as she goes, moving on to bundt, layer, and fruit cakes, followed by trickier temptations like angel food cake and the spicy, molasses-rich Appalachian Stack Cake. Each recipe comes with the story of its origin, reception, and variants. Readers will spot many bold-faced culinary names like Paula Deen and Ina Garten, but also obscure sources like out-of-print cookbooks, local publications, and small-town prizewinners. A handful of no-cake recipes includes cowboy cookies, butterscotch bars, and sinful fried pies. The instructional tone and homespun quality are signature NPR ingredients; fans of the network will find this cookbook a useful and companionable tool for family eating, potlucks, and easy entertaining.

About the Author

Melissa Gray is a producer for National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

Annabelle Breakey is a San Francisco-based photographer.

Customer Reviews

This book would make a great gift for someone who likes baking.
Absolutely witty cookbook with great photos and very simple and easy to follow recipes.
Nicole M. Smith
Melissa Gray, NPR'S All Things Considered" approach cake making at its best.
Dr Adam Weiss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By G. Dawson on October 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
All Cakes Considered is all you need to progress from a beginning baker to an impressive one. Gray starts with a simple recipe for Sour Cream Pound Cake (a cake she calls "The Man Catcher"). She deconstructs the recipe and explains each step in great detail, down to how to properly center a cake in the oven and how to prepare the pan so your cake won't stick.

The recipes then progress in order of increasing complexity, finishing with a cake Gray dubs "The Liberace of Layer Cakes." With seven layers and a chocolate ganache frosting, the cake certainly deserves a spot on the stage. Along the way, Gray introduces each new technique with simple instructions that are easy to follow, so it's easy to pick up difficult techniques.

I'm a fairly experienced baker, but instead of jumping to the more difficult recipes, I decided to follow Gray's advice and to bake the cakes in order of difficulty. I started with the Man Catcher and diligently followed all of Gray's instructions, some of which were very different from my usual baking habits. The cake turned out better than any pound cake I've ever made in the past, so I'm impressed. I'm looking forward to working my way through this entire book.

Interesting anecdotes are interspersed with the recipes. You can skip them if you're only wanting to bake the cakes, but I liked reading about the origins of the Gray's recipes and the other interesting tidbits. Gray's witty, plain-spoken style is confidence-inspiring and fun to read. On top of great recipes and fun-to-read instructions, this cookbook is well designed. The attractive color scheme and the large pictures are inviting. The thick pages rest easily in the open position and stay open on the counter as you're cooking. All in all, this is one of those perfect cookbooks that's beautiful enough for the coffee table but practical enough for the kitchen.
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128 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Scott Maxwell on November 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book based on all the exceptionally positive reviews and have been sorely disappointed. It has numerous errors both baking and editorial, some serious, some not so, but altogether resulting in a sloppy effort that even a folksy tone and some good photographs can't disguise. I am particularly surprised that anyone thinks this is a cookbook for beginners. Ironically, the author's complaint about old, inherited recipes is that they aren't clear enough, which is exactly the problem with hers. Here are just a few examples of many:

Most cookbooks begin with a discussion of basic materials and techniques, most of which sound virtually the same because they impart the same basic information, except for Gray's, which is more about being cute than being right. The section on pans revolves around bundt pans, with no mention of the layer cake and springform pans shown in the photo on the opposite page, both of which are used later in the book. The implication is that her not particularly helpful advice in this chapter applies to all pans, which it certainly does not.

She dismisses "teflon" because the coating isn't stable, but I'm not sure "teflon" pans are even sold any more, at least not those of yore whose coating scraped off with the most minor touch of a metal instrument. Nonstick pans these days (such as those in the photo) are incredibly durable and the choice of many professional bakers. The cheap "Baker's Secret" nonstick pans sold in grocery stores are even recommended by Marcel Desaulniers, author of Death by Chocolate, one of the best bakers around. When it comes to layer cake pans, some experienced bakers prefer the nonstick ones (which tend to be costly) because the dark coating adds a slight browning to the cake and makes it "sturdier" if that's the right word.
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60 of 70 people found the following review helpful By S. D. Fischer VINE VOICE on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author deserves credit for presenting the basics of baking in a slightly different way than in the dozens of other baking cookbooks I have read. She starts with a recipe - the Man Catcher Sour Cream Pound Cake - and provides the requisite baking steps and tips within the recipe (starting with reading the recipe, preheating the oven, preparing the pan, etc). After beginning bakers have one cake successfully under their belts, they can move on to learn about the different types of flours, sweeteners, fat, leaveners, etc. There are small color photos of some procedures such as separating eggs, cutting cakes into horizontal layers, and marbling batter in a cake pan.

The cakes get more difficult as you progress through the book. The author highlights the new tips throughout the book (including how to plump fruit, toast nuts, and separate eggs).

There are some very tempting recipes such as the Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pattie Cake, Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting, and Stephen Pyle's Heaven and Hell Cake (which includes angel food cake, peanut butter mousse, devil's food cake and chocolate ganache).

As you may notice in the list below, not all of the 49 cake recipes are original. The author reprints recipes from Paula Deen's tv shows, Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, Carole Walter's Great Cakes: Over 250 Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy, Ina Garten's
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