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As some of you will know, I have a hobby I am quite passionate about which is cake decorating. There are hundreds of books available on the subject, so usually for birthdays and Christmas I'll create a "wishlist" to make life easier for my family, and to increase my collection at the same time.
This book is one of my favourite books in my somewhat specialised collection. The author is May Clee-Cadman who runs a very successful cake business called Maisie Fantaisie. If you're interested in this kind of thing, it's worth taking a look at her website as some of her cakes are truly inspiring. In this book, she shares her passion for creating sensational show-stopping celebration cakes.
**The Useful Stuff At The Beginning**
I find most books on cake decorating follow a similar layout, and this is no different. It contains the usual practial information at the beginning, such as what equipment you need, lining and preparing tins, cake recipes for different sized tins, cake fillings and icings, preparing cakes for icing, icing cakes, assembling tiered cakes (a VERY useful chapter as anyone who has ever made a wedding cake will agree!), finishing touches such as piping, and finally cupcakes and mini cakes. Although I do tend to groan when I see the usual introduction to these books, I did find this one particularly useful, as it gives some very good little hints and tips. I used this book when I made my first wedding cake, and it really helped me with things like dowelling the cake to ensure it didn't collapse (this wouldn't have been good at one of my best friend's weddings!), and how long you can store different cakes for so I could plan baking them in advance. This is especially helpful for when I have a cake to do for a special occasion, because I currently work full-time so it's sometimes difficult fitting everything in the required timeframe.
**The Rest of the Book**
After the practical-but-essential stuff at the beginning, the book is then split into three sections: pastels, whites, and brights. Although the book is called "Sweet and Simple PARTY Cakes", I would say about 90% of the cakes are best suited to weddings. This is something to bear in mind if you're looking for a novelty cake for a child's birthday, as it's not really appropriate for that kind of cake. I would say this book is aimed at people wanting to make a living from cake decorating, or those who have just started out making wedding cakes.
With regards to the chapters, the clue is in the name, and the cakes follow the broad themes given.
"PASTELS" - contains a lot of romantic colours such as pink, and has cakes which are more suited to traditional themed weddings. Themes such as butterflies, blossom flowers, elegant piping, and roses, are all in-keeping with traditional romantic wedding cakes. There is one cake in here which would be suited to a christening, but other than that they are all either tiered or mini cakes which would be great for traditional weddings.
"WHITES" - As you'd expect, this chapter contains a lot of very simple cakes which intricate designs. The cakes focus more on detail than colour, so the cakes themselves are white, with lots of ruffles, piping, blossom flowers, bows, and different textures. There is a Christmas cake amongst this collection, but the others are classic white, very elegant and simple cakes. I say simple, that doesn't mean they're easy to make, it just means they're not fussy or over-complicated.
"BRIGHTS" - This chapter gets very colourful and a little different in style. We have large bright sunflowers, retro circles, beautiful bold red flowers, candy stripes and glittery pink cupcakes.
**Layout and Design**
One of the reasons I love this book is because it has beautiful photographs of each cake design, including photos of some of the stages which shows a close-up of what you should be doing and how. For each cake, there are step-by-step directions on how to decorate the cake, and scattered around the page are tips which stand out because they are designed to catch your attention. Because of this, I've picked up some useful hints and tips just by flicking through the book, without having to do every single project. Each cake also has a section at the end called "Simply Inspired" which gives variations on the cake, such as slightly altering the colour scheme or taking part of the theme to make matching cupcakes. This is good because not only does it give fresh ideas, it also encourages you to become more creative when making cakes, and is quite inspirational. I feel if anyone asked me to do a cupcake tower with a larger cake on top, I would now have the imagination to come up with something creative.
**Would I Recommend This Book?**
If you're a keen cake decorator, and want to branch out to wedding and big show-stopping tiered cakes, I would definitely recommend this book. If you're a cake decorating "dabbler", and enjoy making novelty cakes for family and children, I wouldn't recommend buying this. This book is quite specialised, and focuses more on intense in-depth projects rather than having lots and lots of different cakes for you to choose from. I also think it would be quite difficult for someone to create these cakes without a reasonable amount of knowledge and experience, I think if I'd attempted one of these as my first cake I'd have given up by now!
As a keen cake decorator, I love this book, and have taken inspiration from it to create two wedding cakes for friends of mine. It also contains lots of useful information, some of which might not be available in more basic books. It does focus on quality rather than quantity, but at this stage of my hobby this is what I was hoping for from this book. As it's one of my favourites, I give this one five stars.
(This review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)