Somehow Vintage Cakes snuggled deep inside my heart. Wasn't difficult at all, you see. Oh yes. I am shallow. I judge books by their cover. The prettier the better. But, if content doesn't match the pretty cover, then I'm done with it. I'll bury pretty covered book and never use or look at it again. Or even, pass it on to someone else or sell it for nothin' to a used book store.
I spotted Vintage Cakes in the "coming soon" section of The Good Cook. Y'all belong to that book club? Knew I'd have to own it, so I didn't worry with contacting Richardson's publicist about a review copy.
Ya'll know how to do that, right, for your own blogs, whether they be food blogs or regular lit blogs? I posted about that process about three years ago, but I could probably re-write and update. Because when I think about value, what value this blog provides, well, I know a few things, and getting review copies of books is one of them.
In the meantime, read the old thing and see whether you have questions. Shoot me a comment and I'll include your concerns in an updated blog.
What I love about living and what I love about almost everything that I do is the learning. So with cooking, and each new recipe, I usually learn something. Much of it comes from my inability to read through a recipe. I dive right in. I fail at mise en place. And then have to remind myself to pay attention, read ahead, be prepared.
In the back of my mind I know whether I have ingredients on hand. Many times I dash out to the grocery for a half gallon of milk. Or some other thing. I turn the burner off. Slip something into the fridge to cool, or stop cooking, then grab Elsa, tuck the dogs away--just locked in the den, but Ginger, our Jackrat, goes into her kennel, because she's the one who can jump 4-5 feet onto our gathering table and snarf cake batter like a Hoover.
Did I set the scene?
It's the same with knitting. I love a new knitting project, because I learn something new. Have to rip out stitches because I was distracted by Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead and then got to do over, do over. These moments of grace are what make us human. What keep me real.
But cake. Let's get to cake. That's what you came for, right? Oh. My. Goodness.
Vintage Cakes has recipes to die for. Erin Kunkel shot the photos and they are mouth-watering. Styling credits go to Robin Valarik and prop styling to Ethel Brennan, but this book does for cake what Photoshop does for Vogue. I pay attention to photography, and styling because that's a major aspect of cookbookery.
Obviously, there's the recipe. If it doesn't work, well, there you have it. But, to put it plainly, simply reading the list of ingredients don't float my boat. However, a sharp photo with snazzy styling makes me want to try a recipe every damn time. Pardon my cursin. I've spent too much time on twitter of late, where the cursin is abundant. Surely, you see it too, photography and styling are important when packaging a cookbook, just as it fantastic typography and layout--which, I don't believe the graphic designer for Vintage Cakes is credited, unfortunately.
Maybe you've noticed in other cookbooks when fonts are too small or distracting--should have gone with a serif--or not, or they prevent you from reading the list of ingredients, or instructions? Not the case in Vintage Cakes.
Julie Richardson is the brain behind the recipes inside Vintage Cakes. She co-owns Baker & Spice, a Portland bakery. Naturally, her skills are displayed in the book, but she also trained at the Culinary Institute of America.
And somehow I threw photos of this yellow cake with white icing into this post and the recipe doesn't appear in the book (I think it's from Miette or Sky High: IrresistibleTriple-Layer Cakes). Oh well. Cake photos happen, ya know? During the time I was playing with Vintage Cakes my sister was approaching matrimonial bliss and I volunteered to make the wedding cake and the grooms cake. Then my step-mother said
No, just make the groom's cake.
Whew, lots of pressure off me. So there was a lot of cake baking and a lot of cake book interplay going on at my house. And just a little bit of cake photography as well. Hence, the mix up herein, but a good cake photo for illustrative purposes can always be forgiven, right?
This pink cake with raspberry buttercream made my toes curl up, twas so delish. Was my first time making buttercream. Trying to recall that process. Admittedly, I was fearsome scared. Didn't know what to expect, especially since Julie's instructions warned me about some kind of curdling and such. I remained calm. I breathed through the so-called curdling like nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
Had to mash or muddle the raspberries and add their juice to the icing to tint it pink, though it was such a pale color I would call it cream. When I make this again, I'll probably add a dab of natural food coloring to the mix for a proper pink color instead of replicating such a wimpy conclusion again. And my chocolate batter doesn't look as deep and dark as the one in her photo. Perhaps it came down to the difference in chocolate used? I was on an organic kick whilst cooking up this cake, so twas all natural Green & Black's.
Anyway, here's my advice: If you don't already own Vintage Cakes, you should. Though I've only shown two of the cakes I've made from its pages, it's filled chockablock with standards that you can replicate in your kitchen that will make your family and friends rot each and every one of their teeth out until their last days.
Vintage Cakes offers a plethora of cake recipes as well as baking and icing techniques that will stretch your skills. There's something inside to please everyone. Granted, there are flips and rolls, which I think are tacky as sin, but they might appeal to you. And there are lots of kitschy and "regional" type cakes that "time has forgotten" like the Stack Cake, which most Appalachian folk are quite familiar with, but y'all from off would not be.
Richardson says this about the Stack Cake:
This was the traditional wedding cake for settlers in the southern Appalachians. Back in the day, wedding guests would each bring one layer of cake, and the bride's family would assemble the layers with a spiced dried apple compote in between... the more popular the bride (and groom), the taller the cake.
Naturally, finding the Stack Cake within VC's pages tickled me, but I've never seen nor eaten the fabled Stack Cake. As a native Southern Appalachian, dontcha find that rather strange? I don't love apples, maybe that's why. Or maybe they're more like Sasquatch of the foodie world.
Or not, those were some strong words, no doubt. Wink. So, drop by your public library and browse Vintage Cake's pages, or stroll to your independent bookstore. Develop an acquaintance with the book with it and then commit. You won't be sorry. Promise.