Reading Baked, it seemed the authors had a new lens on American classics; as other reviewers have said, they interpret old standbys with higher quality ingredients and updated flavorings. I also liked the light humor expressed in a sparing use of candy to decorate the cakes. Here's what happened in the oven and on the palate:
1. Coconut Cupcakes (with coconut filling and coconut frosting). We served them to Mom on Mother's Day, and they were a hit. They require a bit of effort (wouldn't any cake that has filling?) but were light, fluffy, coconutty, and decadent. 2. S'more Nut Bars (rechristened Smut Bars at the party I brought them to) were rich yet casual. Baked's chapter on bars makes a convincing argument for whipping up bars and carrying them with you to any/all events. 3. The Whiteout Cake was a knockout. We used high-cacao white chocolate disks (Valrhona) for the frosting. A serious pleasure was decorating it with a few well-placed nonpareils, as recommended by the book's authors. 4. Today we made Peanut Butter Cookies (with milk chocolate chunks) because we're having some kids over. They look professional and taste perfect.
At least one reviewer has gasped about the amount of butter in these recipes. In their cakes, the authors call for shortening along with butter: perhaps this combination makes their cakes so fluffy and perfectly textured. Meanwhile, the frosting recipes have truly helped me turn a corner in my baking. The frostings for the cakes mentioned above require cooking, yet they are not difficult, and there's no thermometer needed. They emerge gorgeous, light, and inexplicably perfect. While dazzling your guests, it can be a little frightening to know these stunners contain so much butter. (The coconut cupcake frosting called for three sticks of butter; I was skeptical, so made a 2/3 recipe and had some left over.) My husband and I have concluded that we shall make Baked's cakes when we have enough guests to serve everyone a generous amount and finish it all up! You simply don't want to be stuck with a Whiteout Cake in your household of two, planning to enjoy it for the rest of the week.
For impact, style, fun, and taste, this is my baking book for now. I see no reason to go elsewhere for a while.