Magic Cakes

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Magic Cakes by Christelle Huet-Gomez, Hardie Grant 2015, $14.95 hardback, 70 pages

…and when dessert time came he himself brought to the table a wedding cake that drew exclamations from all. Its base was a square of blue cardboard representing a temple with porticoes and colonnades and adorned on all sides with stucco statuettes… The second tier was a medieval castle in gateau de Savoie, surrounded by miniature fortifications of angelica, almonds, raisins, and orange sections. And finally, on the topmost layer–which was a green meadow, with rocks, jelly lakes, and boats of hazelnut shells–a little cupid was swinging in a chocolate swing.

–Gustave Flaubert

Even without little chocolate swings and jelly lakes, the cakes in this book will elicit oohs and aahs when unveiled at the table, and sighs of pleasure when they are tasted on the fork.

These are unlike any cake you’ve made or likely eaten. The recipes are formulas that depart from the usual creaming of butter and sugar, beating in eggs, and adding milk and flour. The first step for most of these cakes are beating egg yolks and sugar, adding melted butter and flour, then folding in egg whites–as for a Genoise. But the batter is soupier than  you’d expect and as it bakes, it separates in a pudding-like base, a custardy middle, and a spongy cake top.

Huet-Gomez provides some “practical tips” before you start baking–use the size pan recommended, leave the folded in egg whites lumpy, bake until the cake has a slight wobble, and let it set, even overnight for the best presentation and flavor.

I have to admit that my attempt at the Salted Butter Caramel Cake didn’t quite result in three distinct layers, but it tasted extraordinary and quickly disappeared. Huet-Gomez is subtle and surprising in her flavor combinations. She starts with a straightforward vanilla, but moves on to Pineapple Coconut, Lemon Poppyseed, Pear and Speculoos, and Lemon Meringue, among others. She even has a few savory versions, including a Magic Mustard Quiche on a puff pastry base.

And she adapts the cakes to whatever taste or occasion you’re facing. Brownies, a chestnut-flavored log cake, a spicy Magic Halloween Cake, or a Magic Galette de Rois. There is always something special about a cake, but Huet-Gomez’s cakes are indeed magical.

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About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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