I like to think we all have an extraordinary moment in our lives and if it involves cake, so much the better. I, for one, cannot maintain extraordinariness for more than a moment. Any bold step into macarons or genoise inevitably retreats into gingerbread and chocolate chips.
But this is not the case for Karen Krasne whose book and cakes are indeed extraordinary. Orderly prose, glowing pictures, and (I fear) deceptively simple steps will tempt you to finally face down buttercream, mousse, and ganache.
Each of these very extraordinary cakes gets a moniker—the peach-paved Beau Soleil, the Versailles ringed with marching macarons, the Citronesse peaked with meringue kisses. And each recipe has a section on “décor,” how to assemble and decorate for maximum impact
And there will be assembling. Each recipe contains a multitude. Beau Soleil is created from a hazelnut vanilla joconde, orange simple syrup, mascarpone mousse, peach curd, hazelnut praline, and whipped cream.
All right, calm down. There’s nothing to say you can’t make that peach curd and sandwich it between two layers of a decent yellow cake that you’ve tossed some ground almonds into and brushed with a bit of orange syrup. You’re halfway to extraordinary!
This book makes me happy and sad—what a beautiful cake, which I’ll never get to eat. It makes me feel invited and intimidated—here’s the recipe, but I could never pull that off. It makes me feel tired and hungry—six recipes for one cake, that I want! Blow torches, rose petal ribbon strips, hair dryers (for unmolding), and piping everywhere you look.
The recipes are ordered by season, so summer gets strawberry shortcakes in flower-cut biscuits and Krasne’s Yule Log is a midnight dark layering of chocolate brownie cakes, chocolate raspberry ganache, and chocolate almond tuiles. Banish all thoughts of meringue mushrooms and marzipan holly. But don’t expect any complaints if you serve spring’s Ivoire Royale or autumn’s Banana Cream Torte out of season.
It’s kind of like a mountain. You can’t walk out the front door and head straight to the top. But everyday, a little bit higher every time and before you know you’ve scaled the heights. So peach curd one day, a ricotta pound cake another, coconut milk simple syrup, a few scattered rose petals on your best serving platter and extraordinary is suddenly within reach.