11 May 2019

Weekend Cooking: Icing on the Cake by Tessa Huff

Review of Icing on the Cake by Tessa HuffSometimes there's a baking cookbook that just calls to you. Tessa Huff's Icing on the Cake (Abrams, April 2) is just such a book. Thanks to my participation in the Abrams Dinner Party, I received a copy of this inspiring book for review.

This is a book I plan to bake my way through. Huff has two goals for Icing on the Cake. First is, of course, providing a variety of incredibly delicious recipes that are easy to bake at home. Second, is to learn a few dozen decorating techniques so that everyday desserts can be taken to the next level.

I love to bake, but I'm less experienced at the prettifying, and I'm so happy to have a chance to learn. Each recipe in the Icing on the Cake provides an opportunity to try out a specific decorating technique.

Some of the methods are in the are in the baking, like making a checkerboard cake. Others are in the piping or frosting: I really want to make a watercolor cake, as is shown on the cover. Icing on the Cake also gives us step-by-step directions for making lattice and braided pie crusts as well as the perfect macarons and beautiful frosting flowers.

Break for a Funny Story

I've already learned one lesson the hard way. I decided to bake Huff's Mini Mocha Cakes but instead of cutting out individual cakes, I thought I'd make a single two-layer cake. So far, so good. Then it came time to decorate. I started topping the cake with pretty rosettes. Some even looked like the photo in the book. But then I squeezed the piping bag too firmly and the tip popped out and landed on the cake, squashing my work. SOB! Nothing for it but to smooth the top. Oh well, now I know to check the tip before piping. The good news? The mocha cake was absolutely fabulous and the brown butter buttercream was soooooo delicious--maybe one of the best homemade frostings I've ever had.

Review of Icing on the Cake by Tessa Huff
That's me on the right and the pretty rosettes from the book on the left.

Review of Icing on the Cake by Tessa HuffNow back to our regularly scheduled review.

I haven't even bothered to mark recipes because I'm serious about working through this book. As soon as I buy a more professional-style piping bag and tips, I'm going try some of the cupcakes, maybe opera cakes, and for sure a re-do on the mocha cake.

The very next dessert I'm baking, though, is going to be the Rosy Rhubarb Strawberry Slab Pie. I've always wanted to make a slab pie, and the first local rhubarb is finally available. The decorating technique I'll learn here is how to make a classic lattis and crimped edges. Doesn't that pie look delicious? It just screams spring!

How about Lemonade Cupcakes with two-tone frosting? I really want to try my hand at paint-spatter decorations, striped frosting, gold painting, and poured glazings.

Recommendation: Tessa Huff's Icing on the Cake lives up to its subtitle: Baking and Decorating Simple, Stunning Desserts at Home. The recipes (the ones I've made and the ones the other Abrams Dinner Party members have made) work perfectly, and the results are amazingly delicious. If you want to learn to up your baking game, this book is for you. If you want some terrific recipes and you're too lazy to pipe rosettes, you can still bake from this book.

As for me? I'm going to have to start walking 5 miles a day to compensate for all the incredible baking I see in my future. I'll keep you in the loop.

The following recipe is for the brown butter buttercream. While you're waiting for your copy of Icing on the Cake to arrive from the library or bookstore, you can use this your own coffee-cocoa cupcakes or layer cake.

Brown Butter Buttercream
for 9 double-layer mini-cakes (see photo above)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/170 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups (315 g) confectioner's sugar, sifted if needed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk, if needed
In a light-colored medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring to keep the milk solids from sticking and burning at the bottom of the pan, for about 8 minutes, until the butter is very fragrant and nutty and light-medium amber in color; there will be dark brown bits at the bottom of the pan.

Strain the browned butter through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof container and discard any burnt milk solids. Chill the browned butter in the refrigerator until it has the consistency of room-temperature butter, about 1 hour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl using a handheld mixer), mix the browned butter on low until smooth. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar, vanilla, and salt. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix for a couple of minutes or until smooth and creamy. If the filling is too thick, add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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Tina 5/11/19, 8:03 AM  

Funny story indeed. My sister was always great with cake decorating and making things look like a bakery produced it. Not me! I did not inherit or learn that talent.

What a lovely book of recipes. Looking forward to your creations.

Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza 5/11/19, 8:15 AM  

I like baking too but am just not good at the making it pretty part. You eat with your eyes first so I do believe it should be a part of the process...need to work on that and maybe should check out this book!

rhapsodyinbooks 5/11/19, 8:23 AM  

Oh the mocha cake with the buttercream frosting sounds wonderful! I will undoubtedly try it your way [i.e., as a single cake, rather than by misfiring a piping bag (as if I could use a piping bag AT ALL! and kudos to you for attempting it!)] but as long as it is delicious, we don't care what it looks like (especially since we go through cakes so fast!)

Clarissa 5/11/19, 9:10 AM  

I just don’t have the patience for pretty. There’s too many other things I need to do. My son asked me one time to make a specific “pretty” cake. I told him “I got at most one in me a year. Are you going to sacrifice your birthday cake for this?” He decided it wasn’t worth it. :)

Deb in Hawaii 5/11/19, 11:29 AM  

That cover is gorgeous and I think I could eat a bowl of the brown butter buttercream. I wish I lived nearby so I could come over and beg for treats! ;-)

Vicki 5/11/19, 3:14 PM  

That is a funny story! My daughter loves to bake and wants to open a bakery. The individual cakes and your cake look so good, I want some :)

shelleyrae @ book'd out 5/11/19, 11:01 PM  

I’ve always told my kids I bake with heart not art, though I’ve produced some fairly spectacular birthday cakes over the years if I do say so myself, they never look like as good as I wish.
Thanks for sharing your review, good luck with the baking and decorating.

Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 5/12/19, 11:31 AM  

I'm mad for baking these days. I must look for this one.

Carol 5/13/19, 3:01 PM  

Sounds so yummy! And I love the idea of learning some decorating techniques too.

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/19/19, 5:11 PM  

That slab pie looks soooo tasty! I've never made one, I wonder if I dare try.

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