1 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
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