Review: 1 Mix, 100 Cakes

1 Mix, 100 Cakes: Take 1 Basic Recipe and Make 100 Kinds of Cake1 Mix, 100 Cakes
by Christine France

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

1 Mix, 100 Cakes / 9781407564333

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I love the idea: there's supposed to be one basic cake mix here, with 100 variations on the theme. This is a great idea in theory - you can mix the basic cake elements even before you decide which variation to make - but it doesn't pan out in practice. First of all, there *isn't* one mix - there are variations on the "basic mix" depending on the extra ingredients; for instance, the moisture elements and sweet elements in the "basic mix" varies from recipe to recipe. Without the "1 Mix" aspect, this book just becomes "100 Cakes", but only in the loosest sense of the term. A lot of the "cakes" are cupcakes and bar desserts, which is fine for my own needs, but isn't quite Exactly What It Says On The Tin.

Another thing I like about this book is that *every* recipe here has a photo - that's a major deal for me. I really, really, really like to see photos before baking, and I think that aspect is very important. The implementation is flubbed, though, because a lot of the cakes are shown "post-icing" without any kind of "side-slice" view - this is particularly frustrating with cakes where the icing is just rolled-out fondant because I don't need to see what fondant looks like! And as much as I love the information presented in pictures, that doesn't mean that words become optional; there's no description of *any* of the cakes outside of the 'information' in the title - you have no way of knowing how sweet or sour or whatever any of the cakes are *before* you choose to make them.

I would definitely not recommend this book for beginners - the instructions are confusing and in some cases just plain wrong or strange. Instead of creaming the wet ingredients and adding the dry, the reader is told to combine all the dry ingredients and then dump the wet ones in all at once! This goes against everything I've read about baking cakes. Since the cakes don't have descriptions, sometimes the instructions are extra confusing - the "Whole Orange" cake *seems* to call for a whole orange (skin and all) added to the mix, but it's tricky to tell.

It's worth noting that the recipes I've tried with this book have all resulted in very dense and dry cakes and in icing that is very sweet but not very flavorful. I honestly thought this was my own fault, but it sounds like another reviewer had the same experience, so now I'm re-evaluating whether or not I want to continue trying to work with this book. I think, ultimately, it's not worth the struggle - there are plenty of good pictures-plus-text dessert books out there that make it clear what to expect in advance from a recipe and that have clearer instructions. Also, as much as I love this little hardcover with the puffy covers, the pages are starting to fall out after very gentle handling.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews


Leely said...

The book sounds like an interesting idea that was badly executed. One of my early courses in pastry school had one day of taking the same basic ingredients (flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, usually a fat of some kind) and ending with 7 completely different cakes depending on ratios and mixing method. However, I can't quite comprehend extending that to 100 recipes with completely different flavors, etc. The author may not deserve that much benefit of the doubt. :)

There are cakes - high-ratio cakes, to be specific - that are made by combining the dry ingredients plus shortening, then adding the wet ingredients all together (though not all at once!). But that's not something that should be presented without any explanation in a book that isn't aimed at professionals or high-level amateurs.

I'm a *huge* sucker for baking books with pretty pictures; too bad this one seems to miss the mark so bad. Off to read the rest of your cookbook reviews!

Ana Mardoll said...


I've actually gotten to the point where if it doesn't have pictures, I don't want it. It's part food-porn on my part, sure, but also the fact that I'm still such a novice cook that without pictures I would have NO IDEA WHAT I'M MAKING.

I am intrigued by your reference to "high-ratio cakes", however. I haven't heard of those before. OFF TO GOOGLE!

Laura said...

I am mesmerized by my imagined Whole Orange cake - a nice chocolate cake with an orange embedded in the center. I wonder if it would burst open during the cooking. Perhaps one ought to poke fork holes in the peel before adding it to the mix...

Post a Comment