27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
I have to admit, that I love the authors other books. I dont always have the motivation to do the more difficult ones, but just looking at the pictures makes me smile. This book is just as interesting and wonderful. The advantage of this book is that she uses desserts other than cupcakes (although cupcakes are still heavily used). This allows for a lot more creativity. There are some really novel ideas here, like high heeled cupcakes that really look like shoes! And a pie topped with marshmallow pigs under a blanket. However, this book is not necessarily all about the pictures...it gives great guidance on techniques. It is loaded with step by step how to pictures. I think it really helps give the reader more confidence if they are cautious about trying a recipe. You get to see things almost every step of the way. I also like that there are a good mix to projects including many holiday themed ones. I cant wait to get started!
45 of 57 people found the following review helpful
This is a terrifically clever book filled with wonderful ideas for making baked goods that delight the eye. The projects range from the lovely (The Whiteout Cake) to the hilarious (The Spider Bite) with some truly inspired designs such as the Social Network Cake and the cupcakes made into high heels, which is sure to delight anyone who loves pretty shoes. The instructions seem very straightforward, and if these are not easy or quick projects, they're ones which will garner a lot of "oooohs" and "aaahhhhs" from your guests, and some good laughs, too.
But here's my problem with the book -- and I freely admit that your mileage may vary on this one -- a great many of the recipes make my teeth hurt even to think about. When the emphasis of a baked item is on style, you have to be willing to use a lot of sugar to produce decorations which many adults (like me) won't eat. And since the point of baking is, for me at least, to produce something that delights the palate, many of these projects, adorable as they are, seem fairly unappetizing.
If you're baking for children who will eat anything sugary, if you're baking for an event where you don't really care if people eat your baked goods, then this is the book for you because it demystifies a good deal of the process of turning out awe-inspiring cakes, cookies, pies and so forth. You can be the hit of your child's kindergarten class, create hilarious Halloween treats, and be that person, the one who always shows up with the show-stopping dessert.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I consider this more of an idea and decorating book than a cookbook. There are only a few recipes in the book, but lots of adorable ideas for decorating.
The authors make use of things like pound cake, convenience mixes, candies and other things to create some very cute desserts that are sure to impress at children's birthday parties or at casual parties with adult friends.
My favorite ideas in here are the ones that don't look like desserts at all, like the toast and jam which uses gelatin, fruit, whipped cream and a loaf cake to create a fairly realistic "breakfast". I also really love the Waterlily cupcakes. I'm not crazy about the idea of putting them in blue gelatin, but the waterlilies themselves are just lovely.
Instructions for made up animals, fashion items, miniature cake slices on forks are all easy to follow. The authors use doctored convenience foods for a better flavor, like changing a cake mix recipe, or using cakes from the frozen food aisle of your grocery store.
If you're looking for fun, easy to assemble ideas for cakes and other treats, this is a great starting point. I love the clever use of candies and decorating techniques like flood filling.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
First off, I want to adress the concern that people have expressed in past books such as the NY Time Besteller, Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make, their first book. I bought that book and was imediately hooked on their stylish but accessible approach to making awe-inspiring desserts. All their books and their website now feature indices that list many online sources for all the items and/or basic candy Clay or dough recipes that they use to create their adorable Fluffy Lambs, Gnome Sweet Gnomes, or High-Heeled cupcakes. In truth, most of those special sugars and candy melts which you can't make can be purchased right here on Amazon! Also, as stated above, this book and most of their others contain ALL the basic recipes for their basic Candy Clay, Quick Doughs and Perfect Cake Mixes which are ALL made with normal household items plus or minus an ingredient here or there. The photos in the books and videos on the website are also a terrific help. Even a basic cook can learn how to make these Centerpiece Desserts with a single trial run. If you've never baked a cake or iced one though, you might need to start with a one of their simpler creations first.
That said, let me point out that I received the Advanced Reader's Copy so there were some page numbers missing when they referred to these basic Candy Doughs but all I had to do was pencil them in. No fuss at all! The book contained all the templates needed and the instructions were easy to follow. The two items that really cought my eye were the cupcake Year of the Dragon centerpiece and their take on Monet's Water Lillies that includes a base of blue Jell-O and using a very clever technique for the Water Lilly petals involving the ever-present candy melts and the backs of plastic spoons. Oncs set, the petals can be gently removed and formed into the Lillies atop minicupcakes frosted with pale pink which are then sit into round cut-outs of the Jell-O "Pond" . Very clever! Also a big favorite of mine were some lovely miniature cake bites for small apetites and some techniques for smaller layer cakes that are truly dazzling, especially the Whiteout Cake. That lovely crytsal creation would make a nice surprise for anyone's Wedding Anniversary or for a bridal Shower without breaking the bank. Also included in the book are sections for the various Holidays including an inspired Day of the Dead Cupcake idea or their "Pigs in a Blanket" cupcake idea that takes the name literally with sleepy little piggy cupcakes under a candy-clay blanket that can be removed for serving and saved for treats later in the week. The Cake section has some other terrificly fun ideas such as a crispy treat Skatecoard cake, a Sock Monkey Cake and a lovely little Bichon Frise doggie cake made with poundcake and frosting complete with his own doggie bowls.
Some reviewers have suggested that these desserts are too sweet for the average person. One should remember that there is nobody commanding you to eat an entire confection yourself! In fact, many of these centerpieces come apart easily into single servings or can be cut in half or into individual slices. As someone who has to watch my blood sugar, both highs and lows, I am especially concerned about cupcake books that slather the icing on both as glue and the primary decoration. With this, I believe their 4th book, food Stylists Karen Tack & Alan Richardson have done their best to create memorable and unusual desserts such as their Poundcake version of Shrimp Cocktail, complete with tails, served over Jell-O "ice cubes" ! They have tried to keep their serving sizes appropriate or easily sliced or borken down from the full creation. Also, these are special occasion desserts intended for parties, holidays, birthdays and such. I don't think there's any harm in serving half of a larger cupcake to a person or child.
In fact, making and serving these creations could be a good exercise in portion-control for children; showing them that even on special occasions, we do not stuff ourselves silly with sugary treats. Add a balanced meal before-hand, followed by one appropriate serving of these lovely treats and you can send some of the leftovers home with each child for their parents. Just be sure to take lots of photos and to go to their website. They are on Facebook too. There's a wealth of info there. Other books by these authors wrth getting include: What's New, Cupcake?: Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion,Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Their creativity never ceases to amaze me. If you are looking for fabulous cookie and cupcake decorating ideas, this new release from the authors is one you should consider. I have their other books and I thought that they must have plumbed the depths of their creativity, but they did not. There are some creepy designs in here that miss the mark a bit (bandage and stitches cookies?), but others like the Chinese dragon are amazing. Like another reviewer, this is a design reference book not really a cookbook - they use packaged mixes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I have enjoyed the earlier books these authors have written and must say that they are very creative when it comes to cupcakes. Who know you could do so much with a cake and candy?
Reading the book is easy so I decided to try one of the recipes - the brownie dartboard. I am neither a baker, nor a decorator so this was a challenge. They state that the recipes are simple in this book, but when I attempted to make the darts, I had some problems. Although, they show enough in the photographs, I had to double the thickness of the feather (fruit rollup) and really play around with the gum drops and spice drops. The sugar coating kept on getting on the fruit.
Don't get me wrong the dartboard came out nice and people loved it and wanted us (my wife and I) to make them one. It just wasn't easy for a non-decorator to do; but loads of fun.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the most creative books I've seen -- full of dessert-decorating ideas developed by Karen Tack (a food stylist known as "the cake whisperer") and photographed by Alan Richardson.
To be clear, it's not a cookbook -- the projects begin with store-bought goodies (think pound cakes and packaged cookies, frostings and candies; you could substitute home-baked goods for some basic items). But that doesn't mean the projects are simple or quick; in fact they're complex and laborious, requiring the goodies to be transformed by rolling, cutting, melting, mixing, etc., and then assembling. To give an example, the sheep project featured on the front cover involves:
-- cutting slices of Sara Lee pound cake to form the sheep bodies, dipping the leg portions into melted frosting and setting it to dry, then covering the rest of the body with regular frosting onto which you stick mini-marshmallows (some of which have been shaken with cocoa powder for the black sheep);
-- cutting Milano cookies to form the sheep heads, coating them with melted frosting as above, attaching the heads to the bodies and then decorating the faces with piped frosting, mini-chocolate chips, decors and Jelly Belly beans;
-- then there's still the pretzel-fences and patches of coconut-grass to make.
The directions are extremely well written and are presented with a *mise en place* methodology that gets all of the components prepared and in stand-by mode before beginning the overall assembly. And there's meticulous clarity, for example (my emphasis added): "For the eyes, pipe two dots of vanilla frosting onto the cookie. For the pupils, attach the mini chocolate chips, *flat side out*, to the frosting." In most projects, there's room to get children involved in at least one step. Each project includes a beautiful photograph of the finished dessert; most have additional photos showing the techniques of interim steps.
My favorites are the rainbow-trout cupcakes that have fish scales made of M&Ms and swim in waves of blue and green Jell-O; the high-fashion shoes composed of decorated cupcake fronts, graham-cracker soles that are tapered and coated (with frosting, as above) and stiletto heels made from Pirouette cookies; cupcakes baked in tall popover molds and decorated to look like soda-fountain drinks; and a pumpkin pie (one of the few actual recipes in the book) decorated with colored leaves and a rake made from extra pie dough. My only quibble is that most of the desserts end up being mostly decoration (i.e. sugar).
These projects are special-occasion treats, not everyday, and they're WOW-worthy -- hugely fun and inspirational to browse through, and then destined to be the talk of a birthday party, shower or family gathering.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
First let me just say I'm not a cook. By no stretch of the imagination could one ever apply the term "cook" with my name. I got this book in order to expand my cupcake and cake decorating repertoire for my grandchildren who are insatiable in their hunt for the perfectly decorated cupcake. Rather than don a baker's cap to whip up cakes and pies that have the potential to be the darling of the current cupcake crazed world, I tend to use mixes and put my efforts into decorating.
Secondly I am reviewing from an advanced reader's copy--and the pictures are all in black and white so as I 'discuss' a few of the designs I'm guessing a bit on colors!
And now to the review. I have four and six year old granddaughters. They love cupcakes--although they tend to eat the icing rather than the cake, so in this instance, mixes work fine! Secondly they have a great great appreciation for cupcake beauty. When I bring them to a cupcake shop to treat them, they can spend an incredible amount of time discussing color, style and design (alas, for my son, this may continue into the teen years and be applied to designer clothing). So far I've made about a half dozen of the designs in this book for them and they have had such expressions of delight and joy when Nana brings out the cupcakes.
One of the first cupcake I made them was the "Big Mouthed Frog." Super easy to make. Aside from the cupcakes and frosting, the candies needed are easy to find (Jolly Rancher, Laffy Taffy, fruit leather, M&M's, Jordan almonds and chocolate cake decorating icing and sprinkles). I found some gummie bugs which I put in the frog mouths. The girls thought that was hilarious (ah to be young and so easily amused).
For another fun afternoon, I made them the Dog Pound Cake. Again, the ingredients are all easily found in your grocery store. The recipe design includes little dog bowls. The girls thought those were really really cute!
The next recipe in the book is for cupcake fish. We have BJ the goldfish as a pet so the fish cupcakes were a huge hit. I changed some of the coloring so that the cupcake fish looked more like BJ and they too passed the nana-toddler taste, style, and design test!
And if you really want to sugar yourself and the kids out--I made the Turkey Vulture cupcakes which includes cake, donuts, frosting and candy!!!! The girls know that the Turkey Vulture is one of my favorite birds so they were thrilled to help make these and decorate them! We had some weird vultures that is for sure.
Finally as many of you know small children love bandages. This is a little more complicated for those of us who don't cook. Takes a sugar cookie recipe, but ever the intrepid shopper--I had looked at the back of the cookbook and found they encouraged the use of premade cookie dough! So it was off to the grocery to find some. I let the girls help with these. The recipe calls for strawberry jelly and they laughed and giggled their way through putting 'blood' on the band aids!!!
There are plenty of ideas for holiday cakes--some nice ghoulish ones for Halloween and some cute ones for Christmas. There are several other recipes I can't way to try out on the girls--including cupcakes shaped like shoes!
As another reviewer mentioned, this is not so much a cookbook with original recipes, but rather than a decorating book. It has lots of ideas and the items needed for decorating the cakes, pies, and cupcakes are easily purchased at the grocery store. That said, though, some of the creations take a fair amount of candy, icing etc. which can have the costs of your sugared creation mounting up!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book is so fun to look at! One of my favorite things to do is to linger over tasty looking delicious beautiful cookbook photographs. Tack and Richardson have created a bounty of gorgeous treats that will wow adult and kid guests alike.
They include a collection of master recipes that allow you to turn store bought mixes and simple supplies into improved better than box cake, cookies and frosting. They present a wide variety of goodies from an elegantly simple do it yourself wedding cake with fancy sugar coated marshmallow flowers to a sock monkey made from cupcakes. What nursery class wouldn't love a batch of big mouth frog cupcakes, rainbow fish cupcakes or some pound cake sheep?! Giggly girls of all ages will adore the cupcake purses and high heeled shoes and makeup compacts. Teens will rave over dessert nachos cheesecake, fork pops and the "build a pet" section. This book is a must have for cupcake connoisseurs.
The only reason I didn't give this book five stars is that some of the great looking decorations don't taste as amazing as they look. The cute chocolate sheep need the marshmallows to be coated with more than just cocoa powder. I used a hot chocolate packet and it tasted much better. I also cringe at using spice drops when I prefer fruity flavored ones if available.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Last year I received tools and books to make cupcakes since I bake a lot and like to bring something portable for work functions. I'm also a big fan of the show "Cake Boss"....you know the one...where they make these incredible looking theme cakes? Well, this book is like a cake boss episode to me....full of good ideas that I can implement in my own designs, but I might not do the whole recipe that they outline in the book. This book, as well as "Hello Cupcake" are great for design ideas showing you how to use candies, cookies, pretzels, etc. to create clever decorations. Just this piece alone starts to get the ideas rolling. If you are looking for home-baked by scratch cooking, this isn't the book for you. Box mixes and canned frostings are used and really the fun of it all is in decorating, but I have to mention that in case you are put off by convenience foods. That being said, I don't think any of these recipes are "quick". This would be the kind of thing you take several hours to do because these goodies are pieces of art, clever, fun treats that anyone would enjoy. That being said, if you already can't find time in your day, you might want to skip over.
If you love to bake, decorate and let your artistic side show through your baking this is a fun book. So many really clever ideas-I liked the rainbow trout cupcakes that make a school of 12. You present those with "jello" waves and gummy worm bait. The sheep on the front of the book are also beyond cute. No doubt those recipes will take you some time.
In the back of the book is a supply resource that tells you places to go to buy some of the items used and also there is a master recipe section in the back that tells you have to make candy clay, almost home-made buttercream icing, royal icing and other items.
Overall, a great book for a resource in your baking adventures. One thing I would have liked to see is an approximate time it would take your average baker to prepare the recipe from start to finish, as I think this would be a helpful tidbit, but very pleased with the book and in incorporating their ideas into my next baked treat!