This book was sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost. It’s out now; RRP $39.99.
Elise Strachan has a website and a YouTube channel. She’s been sharing her cupcakes and baking in general with the world since 2011; this is her first book.
Some people, I’m guessing, won’t like this book because they’ll find its design too cluttered. I like it: I think it’s exuberant and joyful and lovely.
The book is divided into chapters designed around themes: celebration, Valentine’s, high tea, Halloween…. Each chapter has a huge decorated cake that’s intended to be a centrepiece; smaller baked goods and a couple of no-bake options; drinks; and DIY decorative elements. The back of the book has recipes for vanilla and chocolate cakes, mud cakes and cake pops, and a variety of icings and ganache; pretty much all of the cake options use these basics, with variations in the decoration.
I have to say that this is not the sort book that immediately appeals to me. While I love baking, I’m not much of a one for decorating – neither food nor house. My idea of preparing for a party involves tidying things up, and – maybe – putting flowers in a vase if there happen to be any in the garden. So the DIY options are really not my thing, with one exception: I am completely besotted with the idea of taking an old teacup and an old pretty plate and turning it into a cake stand. That is SO AWESOME and I will be haunting second hand shops to find the perfect pieces.
I know that each chapter is simply themed as a way of presenting different baked goods and options for decorating. But I’m a bit intimidated by seeing them all presented together, because I don’t think I will ever throw a themed party. And I’m very intimidated by the big cake! I honestly can’t ever imagine making a four- or five-tier cake – let alone decorating such. Some of the smaller things appeal, though.
I’ve made the Confetti Cupcakes – vanilla cupcakes with sprinkles in the middle – and they’re a good idea but the sprinkles I bought didn’t taste very nice. Sadly. Better were the chocolate mug brownies: they didn’t make very big brownies, which was completely fine because they were delightfully rich and not overwhelming.
I have every intention of making the white-chocolate ice cream bowls (using water balloons as a mould); cookie pots that involve choc biscuit ‘soil’ topped with a chocolate mousse and raspberries; and Strachan’s variation on trifle looks delightful. If I owned mini bundt cake tins I’d make her chocolate-filled ‘pumpkins’ in a heartbeat. And I will never, ever have the opportunity to make the Giant Peanut Butter Cup, but by golly I wish I did.
Finally, I like the opening of the book a lot. There’s a beautiful few pages laying out ‘tools of the trade’, styling essentials, and what to keep in the pantry. These insights are very useful for someone, like me, who has pretentions of awesomeness.