The Icing on the Cake: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Decorating Baked Treats by Juliet Stallwood (2013) Hardcover Hardcover
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In addition to running a successful bakery of "bespoke" goods (meaning those ethereal cakes and pastries that make you "ooooh" and "aaah"), Ms. Stallwood has written a teaching book for a variety of party treats and presentations.
This would have been a wonderful teaching book for beginners if it contained more visually detailed explanations for some of the projects. That being said, I would recommend this book for those with intermediate skills. The main reason is because many of the projects are not accompanied by photographic or step-by-step tutorials; just the instructions.
Another drawback was some of the steps for making the decorations were omitted, I am assuming that the author feels you already have that skill set. Otherwise, you might want to have another reference book handy for some of the projects. I say this only because the wording on the front of the book states "your ultimate step-by-step guide" and I found this isn't quite the case.
As an example, there are several projects that use chocolate transfer sheets, and while an explanation of chocolate transfer sheets is mentioned in a side note, there are no photos of the steps needed to use these sheets and it can be a bit of a time for someone who hasn't used them before. In another project, nothing is mentioned on how to make chocolate cigarillos. While the cake is very beautiful, for someone initially learning, any visuals are much appreciated because most people new to the decorating field need help with this.
That being said, there are some photographic tutorials that accompany some of the projects such as an adorable little mouse that sits atop a cake, or a dapper penguin, though none for the teddy bear or rabbit for the cupcakes. The projects themselves are not intensive but pretty.
The book is nice and large and has clear, crisp photographs of each project. One of the lovely surprises with certain batter or icing recipes was that she showed in which projects that particular recipe could be used, through the use of charming pastel-colored sketches.
The book is divided into 5 chapters of projects; while the essence of this book is regarding the decorating skills, she does give recipes for batters, frosting's, icings, etc. There are several charts to help in determining amounts of ingredients for batters and pan sizes as well. While not divulging all the projects, here are some of the idea's within:
CHAPTER ONE: Decorate to Indulge
An ivory buttercream-covered cake with sugared pink rose petals makes a beautiful presentation with a simple and genteel appearance, especially when you don't have the time for more intense cakes. In this chapter, she also teaches how to work with chocolate to make standing embellishments for swirled cupcakes, as well as show you very delicate and welcoming petit fours. Cookies and brownies are also displayed as well as a chocolate-drenched cake adorned with a chocolate bow.
CHAPTER TWO: Decorate to Love
Stenciling, royal icing swirls, and truffles are part of this chapter which includes a round cake with white chocolate cigarellos, which hold white chocolate-dipped strawberries, as well as cake pops, and many cookie selections.
CHAPTER THREE: Decorate to Celebrate
These are more intense sweet projects that cover Christmas cookies to decorative party cakes to gingerbread houses. I would liked to have seen the visual instruction for the Christmas ornament project as that was quite beautiful and though it wasn't a main project, the detail on it was quite lovely. A sweet cookie tutorial for Mother's Day was a very wonderful idea and this had just the perfect amount of teaching needed to accomplish this project, especially for a beginner.
CHAPTER FOUR: Decorate to Impress
A beautiful ivory-colored wedding cake with open roses, butterfly-topped petit fours, cake pops, and more fill this chapter with pretty treats for the eyes.
CHAPTER FIVE: Best Kept Secrets
A good presentation of the equipment needed for the projects within this book. All are photographed in sets such as those used for icings and those for decorating. Prepping the cake prior to decorating, covering the petit fours with icing, stacking cakes, etc are also covered, as well as templates for the projects.
A list of suppliers rounds out the teaching for these projects.
All that being said, I recommend the book for those who want to decorate backed goods but do not want to learn how to pipe icing.
The author runs a bakery which specialises in decorated cakes and here she gives a bit of an insider's look at an art form that need not be complicated. Time, patience and a sense of humour seem to be the key ingredients for success. Unlike other books the author cuts straight to the chase and within a few pages you would be making something that could not fail to get a gasp or two of appreciation from a recipient. Yet, when you look behind the curtain it isn't that difficult to do once you know how.
The book is open, accessible and literally splitting at the seems with information - there is a bit of unavoidable too-ing and fro-ing through the book but strangely enough this does not seem to be a problem. Possibly the brilliant, engaging photographs help draw you in, get you dreaming a bit and BANG, you are hooked! At the end of the book is a large chapter of "best-kept secrets" with a lot of hints, tips, templates and resources. You might find that you keep referring to this handy section even if you are using another book for a recipe source!
When you combine the book's content and its very low price (for what you are getting) this is really a steal, a key resource for those who need a bit of a hand with baking and decorating their baked goods. The more seasoned professional might not get as much out of this book as the beginner would, although you only need to find a couple of good recipes to get your money's worth! The only negative thing is that if you are on a diet, or should be…. too much temptation can be found within and you don't like to waste good food, do you?
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