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I've had 'Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery' for a couple of years now. I picked it up in one of those discount book shops - The Works I think, for just £2.99. I have the hardback copy and the full retail price of the hardback is £14.99, so I got myself a bargain.
Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery was first published in 2009, and it's written by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas, the founders/owners of The Primrose Bakery in Primrose Hill London.
I'd had my eye on this on and off for a while to add to my vast cookbook collection, and so when I spotted it for just £2.99 I immediately snapped it up, especially as it was the hardback version, I always prefer to get the hardback copies of cookbooks as I think they turn out to be much more durable than the softback copies. When I also spotted a quote from Nigella Lawson on the front cover ''this is an utterly enchanting book'', this cemented the fact that I had to have it, as I'm a huge fan of Nigella's cookbooks. However I should have actually paid much more attention to a little cartoon drawing of a bird on the front cover saying ''sweet! sweet!'', as this is what most of the recipes are in this book - (too) sweet, sweet. In fact they are way too sweet even for me, and I've got a real sweet tooth, just reading some of the recipes actually makes my teeth teeth hurt as there's that much sugar in them.
It is a lovely hardback book full of, as the title would suggest, cupcakes, with some layer cakes in the final chapter. The book is very beautifully presented and is lovely to just leaf through and browse. It's quite a substantial and heavy book, and the pages are thick high quality paper, with a slightly glossy finish to them. Each double page spread contains the recipe on one page and a full page colour photograph of the finished cupcakes on the other page. I always prefer to buy cookbooks that have photographs accompanying the recipes, especially cupcakes or baking books, so that I can see what the finished result is supposed to look like.
The book is divided into the following sections; Introduction, Basic Cupcakes, Basic Icings, Festive and Seasonal, Special Occasions, Weddings, Beyond Cupcakes, Decorations, Techniques and Equipment, Index, and Stockists.
The Basic Cupcakes section literally just has 4 basic cupcake sponge recipes, which are then used and adapted throughout the book. Vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, and carrot cupcakes. I can honestly say that the chocolate cupcakes recipe is anything but basic, it's the most convoluted chocolate cupcake recipe I've ever made, it takes forever and you seem to use every bowl you have. Everything needs beating or whipping separately, I have a freestanding Kitchen Aid mixer and so I really only have one bowl to whisk in so to speak, so I couldn't beat the butter and sugar in one bowl, and then whisk the egg whites in another, and then they also recommend that you beat the egg yolks separately with an electric whisk too! I've made the chocolate cupcakes just the once, it took me forever, and they really were not anything special after all that effort.
All of the basics cupcakes recipes are sweeter than normal, not excessively so at this stage, but certainly sweeter than most other cookbooks recipes. One other thing to mention here is that the quantities that the recipes state that they will make are way off. I've got at least another 50% out of all of the recipes that I've tried, so if the recipe states that it will 12 cupcakes, I've easily made 18, and sometimes even up to 24 cupcakes.
The Basic Icings section shows you how to ice your cupcakes using a palette knife as opposed to using an icing bag and piping the frosting on top. This takes quite a bit of practice, and even then they never look as good as the photos in the book. I also find that by icing cupcakes this way that you end up with much more frosting on the cupcakes than you actually need or want, especially when you see just how sweet the icing recipes in this book are! This section just has half a dozen basic icing recipes, and again they are used and adapted throughout the book. Vanilla buttercream, chocolate buttercream, lemon buttercream, coffee buttercream, orange cream cheese icing, and lime & coconut buttercream.
Just to give you an example of how sweet the frostings are; the vanilla buttercream icing contains a whopping 500g of icing sugar to just 110g of butter. I was always taught growing up to just double the quantity of icing sugar to butter for buttercream, so in this instance I would have used just 220g of icing sugar with the 110g of butter, and even that is bordering on the slightly too sweet side for me. I've made quite a few of the different frostings, and I've never once used the full amount of sugar, there's no way at all that they need it, even reducing the amount of sugar most of the frostings are still way too sweet. The frosting recipes also have the same problem as the cupcake recipes; they are way off quantity wise. I can easily frost double the quantity of cupcakes that the recipe tells me I'll be able to.
The Festive and Seasonal section contains seasonal cupcakes, and cupcakes for celebrations and special days. This is the largest section of the book, and the section where you'll see scrummy (looking) cupcakes, and get ideas and inspiration from if you do find the recipes to be too sweet as I do. It has cupcakes for new year, valentine's day, mother's day, easter, father's day, july 4th, summer, halloween, winter, and christmas.
The Special Occasions section is quite disappointing as it doesn't actually have any new recipes, just half a dozen very basic, and very boring cupcake decorating ideas.
The Weddings section only contains one actual recipe; white amaretto cupcakes with amaretto buttercream icing. It concentrates really on icing and displaying cupcake tiers for a Wedding. I have made these cupcakes, although I have adapted the recipe to make them less sweet. The cupcakes themselves are sweet, but not too sweet, however the recipe calls for an amaretto flavoured sugar syrup to then be poured over the tops of the cupcakes whilst they're still warm, sheesh what's with the sugar overload in this book! I omit the sugar syrup part, they definitely do not need any extra sugar. I also adapt the amaretto buttercream icing recipe and I use much less icing sugar than is stated!
The Beyond Cupcakes sections contains a small selection of layer cakes; chocolate layer cake, vanilla layer cake, coffee & walnut layer cake, and lemon layer cake. Once again all very, very sweet though.
The ideas in this book are fab, and some of the flavour combinations are delicious, however the main problem is that all of the cupcakes and the icings are sweet, with the majority actually being way too sweet. Another big problem is that the quantities are not accurate. I find myself having to adapt most of the recipes to use less sugar, and to make fewer cupcakes or less frosting. My copy has loads of post its stuck all over it with my adaptions that work and that I'm happy with.
Most of the recipes are easy enough to follow and to make, with the odd exception that's a bit more complicated. I don't actually think the cupcakes I've made have been outstanding, just good enough really. On the whole I think that the cupcakes are nicer than the frostings in this book, and a lot of the time I just choose to use a cupcake recipe and then frost it with one of my own frosting recipes
I find that I use the recipes, and the photographs, just as inspiration and a staring point most of the time and then I adapt them to suit my needs or tastes, head off on my own tangent. The photographs are stunning and they do actually inspire you to create your own little masterpieces. It is a lovely book to leaf through and dip in and out of, but maybe that's what it's best for just leafing through!
I love baking and often make cakes for family and friends. I also love experimenting with flavours, so am constantly looking for new and different cake recipe books. The Primrose bakery cupcake recipe collection is not necessarily different, but has near perfect recipes for classic cakes such as chocolate and vanilla sponges. In fact, the chocolate cake turns out so well each time, and is really well received, that I generally only use that recipe now, and adjust for different chocolate-based recipes (such as grating in orange rind or adding a shot of a flavoured liqueur). The cookbook also has useful tips on icing cakes and great suggestions for different times of year (the Easter caramel cake is yummy). It also has ideas for wedding cakes, including putting together tiered wedding cupcakes, which look very cute). If you don't yet own a good essential cake recipe book, you need this one!
I do a bit of cake decorating and will soon be making cupcakes for my friend's wedding so thought that was a good excuse to indulge in a cupcake recipe book. I chose the Primrose Bakery book as I found it in a cheap bookstore for the reasonable price of £5.99 and a quick look through the book suggested that the recipes were quite varied, rather than just repeating the same basic sponge mix over and over again with a different flavouring.
After purchasing I had a good read through the book, it is full of beautiful and inspiring pictures and the recipes were indeed very varied, producing a lot of different types and flavours of cakes and indicating icings to go with each. I couldn't wait to get started. I selected the ginger cupcakes to make first, these were very simple to make, just a matter of melting the butter and treacle and mixing in other ingredients, the ginger buttercream was also a very simple job with an electric hand whisk and after a bit of swirling and sprinkling I had a plate of very impressive looking cupcakes. There are instructions in the book on how to achieve the professional look with the icing which they spread with a palette knife rather than piping, I did follow these instructions and my cupcakes looked very nicely iced although not very much like those in the book. The cakes tasted great and lasted well and then it was time to make some more.
This time I tried chocolate cupcakes with caramel icing and I have to say these were much more complicated than the ginger cakes. The chocolate cake was easily the most complicated chocolate cake recipe I have ever used, taking 50 minutes, using 5 bowls and washing my beaters 3 times during the process of making the mix, they are really lovely, soft and light cakes so it is worth it, just a bit of a shock if you've started making them without fully reading the recipe first! The caramel icing was not completely successful, I followed the instructions but the finished result was grainy so I think the caramel needed boiling for longer, the recipe also stated to stir the mixture until the desired consistency was required with no indication of how long this would take. I actually used the icing about 40 minutes of making it (not continuous stirring for the entire time I have to add) and it was still too runny, so I think I might try an electric whisk next time.
There are recipes for all sorts of cupcakes in this book from the standard vanilla, chocolate and lemon to more exotic rose, amaretto and earl grey. I would say that the recipes are better suited to someone with a little experience in baking as they are not always explicit in their instructions and without some basic knowledge you could be left floundering. I would also advice thoroughly reading the recipe before starting as some do require some preparation in advance, or have quite complicated and time consuming methods which is fine if you're prepared for that when you start. Bearing those points in mind I would definitely recommend the book. The taste of the cakes is fantastic and the recipes seem luxurious. The cakes you produce from these recipes are definitely more like the individual cupcakes you buy from high end cupcake shops rather than the basic sponges you get in supermarkets and I'm sure everyone at my friend's wedding is going to be very happy with them.
One thing I should probably mention before I write this review...I am awful in the kitchen! My badges of (dis)honour include: burning pasta, serving Prawn Stir-Fry on a bed of singed recipe and nearly burning down an industrial kitchen when absent-mindedly forgetting to turn the deep-fat fryer off overnight! Needless to say I pretty much gave up after the final incident! That is until I discovered the art of baking cupcakes in this delightful book.
The recipes are easy to follow and specific, which allows for less error...something I desperately needed! There's a multitude of recipes within the book, from Vanilla to Chocolate Liqueur to Pumpkin and everything in between! Recipes for Buttercream Icing which compliment each cupcake are also included along with a tutorial showing how to perfectly ice your delicious cupcakes. There are also suggestions for cupcakes to bake on special occasions, for example, children's birthday parties, anniversaries and Christmas.
As for the finished product, I haven't baked a batch I wasn't happy with and in the year I've owned it, I've baked almost every recipe in the book! I now make sure I take a batch of my freshly baked and hand iced cupcakes with me to every family occasion...I even improvised and made some Oscars inspired ones for my sister's film premier at her college! It definitely gives you the confidence to go out on your own and adapt the recipes for your own needs.
I would highly recommend this book as I've had hours of very messy fun baking every flavour cupcake imaginable! The pictures of the professionally made cupcakes also manage to inspire different ways of displaying the masterpieces you will be baking with the help of this book!