This book was put together by a group of well-known bakers who have chosen their favorite recipe for a variety of cakes, pies, breads and other desserts. The book is filled with the basic information that explains the techniques that will give the best results and the reason they work. There aren't a lot of pictures, but there is a great deal of information. I'm planning to bake something from the book every other week until I've gone through the whole book. My first choice was the first cake in the book, "Our Favorite Butter Cake." I got all my best ingredients set up--everything at room temperature because that makes the batter "blend smoothly."
YES, that's my old sifter! I haven't used it in ages but I'm told it's important, not only to mix the dry ingredients well, but to aerate them. So I sifted:
The butter had to be beaten until light in color and then the sugar added in a steady stream following by mixing 4 to 7 minutes more. The book explains the importance of this step in creating millions of tiny air bubbles to create a light cake.
The eggs are also added a little at a time to prevent curdling of the mixture. (Although if the batter curdles, the book gives a solution.) The rest of the recipe explains the reason for adding the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients. I find it much easier to follow instructions if I understand the reasons for them. After following every little instruction, I pulled a perfectly-risen level-to-the-top-of-the-cakepan yellow butter cake out of the oven.
Now remember that chocolate you saw in the ingredients picture? That was for the icing. I had no particular plan in mind for the icing so I made one of the chocolate icings. For the first time ever I didn't have any confectioner's sugar in the pantry, so I chose the rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. It took a LOT of rich semisweet chocolate:
The recipe was extremely complicated, involving melting chocolate in a double boiler, simmering sugar and cream of tartar in water to the soft ball stage, beating egg yolks over simmering water and whipping everything together with softened butter. This icing was too rich and chocolatey for my light tender cake. I felt it overwhelmed it and was far more chocolate richness than I wanted on a piece of cake. I can see it on a rich, heavy chocolate cake of which one would eat a small slice, but I would try the lighter chocolate icing recipe next time for a light cake.
I love this cookbook--it reads like a class in baking. I think, in time, you could create your own recipes after mastering the basics in here.