Customer Reviews: Cakes to Dream On: A Master Class in Decorating
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`Cakes to Dream On', subtitled `A Master Class in Decorating' by major American pastry artist and teacher, Colette Peters has the ambition to be an advanced class in multi-tiered cake decorating. This ambition is not to be taken lightly, as there is very little in this book for the amateur home / bake sale cook. This is not to say that the book is not chocked full of great ideas, if you already know a lot about how to work with royal icing, fondant, marzipan, and multi-layered cakes. I have made a two and three layered birthday cake in my day, but these creations are entirely out of my league.

The book consists of four general parts. The first part is the first chapter on `How to Make a Decorated Cake', which covers materials to use as the base of a multi-layered cake, who to reinforce the layers, and how to make crooked cakes on purpose. For those few of you out there who actually make tiered cakes, this is one of the more useful topics, although I confess much of it is pretty common sensical.

The second part of the book is the next eight (8) chapters, which are almost all alike in being simply collections of decorated cakes done by the author and her company with instructions on how to make these cakes and their decorations. The instructions assume the person making the cake has access to a lot of specialized tools, materials, and specialized training. One decorated cake chosen at random requires:


Tracing Wheel

Gumpaste Ribbon Roses and Leaves

Royal Icing dots on wires (oh my)

Luster dust

Royal Icing

Gumpaste Pearls

Three foamboard circles

Foamboard base

Gumpaste curly hearts

Lemon Extract

Piping bag and #2 tip

Oval shaped dragees


Descriptions of how to construct several of the cakes include printed templates for preparing some of the designs on the cake. I find these particularly unhelpful, as they require one to have an enlarging photocopier handy to enlarge the diagrams on heavy paper from which they can be cut and used as a template. Now I am certain that a commercial pastry shop would have such a copier, so this reinforces my impression that this book is really meant primarily as an idea source for other pastry professionals.

The third section is recipes for cakes and icings. One is likely to find as good or better recipes for these things in books by Maida Heatter, Nick Malgieri, or Rose Levy Beranbaum. If your primary interest is in baking birthday cakes or bakesale cakes, I strongly suggest you get Beranbaum's `The Cake Bible' (which happened to win best cookbook of the year from the IACP a few years back) instead of investing in this book which works much better as coffee table decoration than as a manual for cake baking. Beranbaum includes such things as candy and nut embellishments, food processor fondant, rolled fondant, chocolate fondant, pastillage, rose modeling paste, crystal flowers, as well as her extensive recipes for cake, fillings, and icings.

The fourth section has a title suggesting that now the `master class' in techniques really begins. This chapter includes short sections on which one could easily write a whole book, such as:

Mixing paste colors into Fondant

Painting with Powdered Colors

Airbrushing a cake

Fondant Decorations

Gumpaste Decorations

Piping Techniques

Run-in Sugar

Brush Embroidery

Making Edible Crystal Beads

Sugar Beads

Basic Techniques

- Dividing a Round Cake evenly for Decorating

- Sculpting a Cake

- Getting Cakes from Here to There

Quick Reference Guide to Tools and Ingredients

Without a doubt, Ms. Peters' cakes are knockouts and her photographs and techniques are chocked full of ideas for professionals. Jacques Torres and Ewald Notter are not going to endorse just anyone's book. It is just that her book is simply not very well organized to teach people with modest skills and objectives.

So, if your objective is to daydream or to open a professional decorated cake store, this book is for you. If you simply want to improve your cake baking and decorating skills a bit, get Beranbaum's book and an inexpensive pamphlet on cake decorating from Wilton at your nearest hobby mart.
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on February 9, 2005
I am a (very) amateur cake decorator. I have been using Ms. Peters' books to make cakes for about 5 years, now. I have always been impressed at how she is able to show you in her books exactly how to create one of her cakes. I feel very successful creating cakes that I never could without the help of these books. This latest is no exception. I will never rise to the level of Ms. Peters' artistry, but she gives me something to strive for. And whenever I attempt to recreate one of her cakes, I get raves (I just don't show them the photo of how the cake is SUPPOSED to look).

These books are so much fun, and I have learned a lot from them without ever having taken a class.
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on August 6, 2005
I took this class with Colette Peters this summer, and this book now makes sense to me. It is really for those of us who already know how to decorate cakes using fondant and gumpaste. This is much more about the engineering of these crooked cakes, and techniques. Definately not for the beginner.
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on January 15, 2005
This book is absolutely mind-blowing.

I was not familiar with Ms Peters' work previously and after seeing this book was inspired to take a look at her earlier books. It was interesting to see how she has developed since "Colette's Cakes" -- her imaginative designs, her sense of color, her sense of whimsy -- even her writing, has grown with her talent.

This is, however, 'A Master Class in Decorating' as the title indicates. Although I think an attentive beginner could readily follow her instructions, as with anything, innate talent and experience will play a large part in the end result.

I imagine there will be those who will look at this book and think it is far too elaborate for the average person capabilties.

Well, if one never aspires to greater heights, one will always be.......average.

This is a book for inspiration.

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on February 4, 2009
When I bought this book, I though it was going to be very instructional and as the name says that it was going to be a Master Class, I was very disappointed, this book is only a catalog of the cakes Colette is able to accomplish and photos on how they looked.
In terms of learning it does not provide anything, there is very little explaining, no step by step instructions nor photos for the whole construction process (which would be needed due to the complexity of the designs presented), recipes range from 80 guests to up to 200.
I guess the author wasn't even interested in scaling the recipes for "regular" cooks.
If you want only to look at the pictures, then you can visit her website, if you want to actually learn then this is not for you.
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on August 26, 2005
Colette keeps on surpassing herself. Every cake in this book is beautiful. It's not a book for beginners, but if you're an intermediate decorator (like I am) or beyond, you'll find lots of ideas and inspiration here. The book is also very well designed. A pleasure to look at, and a great teaching tool.
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on February 8, 2005
I tried just her basic cake recipe in the back of the book, and it was to die for ,plus the chocolate mousse filling/ frosting my friends went crazy, and the fondant worked for me and I had never ever made a rolled fondant , I need more practice, but I was estatic that I got decent results . Most of the cakes are fantasy cakes ,but it is a great coffee table book that has real recipes that work . I think it is worth the price and I hate spending money
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on March 24, 2007
If you are a beginner in cake decorating, this is not the book for you. It's a bit advanced (as the title suggests) but it's a great goal to work up to! Ms Peters is sooo talented and creative! I've got half the cakes marked for making for special occassions. My only complant is that they are very small cakes, for the most part. If you want larger cakes, I'd suggest Colette's Weddings Cakes, and if you're a beginner, I'd suggest Colette's Cakes. Most of the tools she uses to make these cakes can be bought through [...] if you don't have a cake-making shop or a hobby shop that carries cake supplies in your town. The receipes for the cakes are absolutely delicious, too, a definite plus!
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on May 19, 2005
I think the cakes are wonderful and photos stunning but this, in my opinion, is not a "how too" book. The details in decorating are sparse and certainly are not intended to allow for reproducing the work or any variation of it.

If you choose to purchase this fine work, realize you are doing it to see the photos not to learn the techniques.
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on January 15, 2005
This is by far the best of Colette's books...she gives insight into the creative process she uses to design her spectacular cakes. The cakes are an inspiration to anyone who makes decorative cakes....Colette gives meticulous instructions and shares ALL her secrets ....Cakes To Dream On is just incredible!!!
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