Beginning with a chapter on cake basics, an invaluable compendium of tips for success with baking and frosting, the book then explores yellow, white, and chocolate layer cakes with recipes and techniques for frostings and fillings. Master recipes, such as that for basic yellow cake, are followed by formulas for variations, such as Old-Fashioned Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting and Marble Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting. The chapter on frostings offers recipes for all of the toppings and fillings called for in the book, and a final section on cake decoration explores simple techniques to make the cakes look their best. Throughout, underlying techniques are explored and illustrated (instructions for halving layers is a useful one), and sensible tips abound (for example, to avoid making a mess while coating the sides of a frosted cake with chopped nuts, use a spatula to lift the nuts to the cake rather than "throwing" them on).
A true primer, the book is part of the Cook's Illustrated Library series. Like the magazine, the books are dedicated to presenting tried-and-perfected recipes and cooking techniques in a concise, approachable way. --Arthur Boehm