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As with most things in life, the baking industry experiences various fads and phases over the years. However, one craze which seems here to stay is the cupcake. You can't go far on the high streets these days without seeing cupcakes being sold in some form or other. To accompany this new trend, there has been a wave of books and magazines specialising in cupcake recipes, and this is my personal favourite recipe book, being the one I tend to refer to when looking to try something new.
==Design & Layout==
The book itself is quite quirky looking, with the pages having a wavy shape at the sides. I did think at first this was purely for aesthetics, but in actual fact it makes it much easier to flick through the book by just holding the edge with your thumb and allowing the pages to tumble. Inside, the pages are lively and eye catching with each page having a different coloured or patterned background, from pinks and pastels to stars, stripes and polka dots. There is no doubt this book is trying to appeal to the female market!
Personally, I am a big fan of cookbooks which show photos of each recipe so you can see what the final result should look like, and also whet your appetite when browsing through the book deciding which recipe to choose. This is one of the reasons I like this book so much, as each recipe is accompanied by various photos of either the finished result, or sometimes a split shot of the finished result and the various stages of baking.
The book contains 80 recipes, which are split into five categories:
· Fun & Fancy
· Fruit & Nut
Although I love the recipes in this book, I find the categories a little vague and not overly helpful when choosing a recipe. For example, if I'm in the mood for chocolate or fruit, then there are chapters dedicated to these areas, but the other chapters don't give much of a clue what type of recipe you can expect. There is a list at the beginning of each chapter which is useful, but without the accompanying photos it's difficult to create a visual for each one. There is also no indication throughout the book of what chapter you're browsing in, so I tend to ignore the chapter categorisations and just flick through the book as a whole.
==Instructions and Ingredients==
This is where the book comes into its own for me. I find with each recipe I try, the instructions are so idiot-proof that it's quite difficult to go wrong with making the cupcakes. Each step is logically ordered, clearly explained, and well spaced out so you don't lose track of where you're up to. I have tried many recipes from this book, and have never had any disasters or disappointments. I believe this is partly down to the excellent instructions.
With regards to ingredients, I like the fact they split the ingredients into cupcake, frosting/buttercream, and what you'll need to decorate. This is because I quite like to mix and match frostings and will often make up my own decoration, so I don't end up buying ingredients from a list which end up going to waste.
The introduction contains lots of useful information and hints and tips for making your cupcakes a success, such as common mistakes to avoid and a checklist of what you might have done wrong if your cupcakes turn out less than perfect. It also outlines the basic equipment and ingredients, and basic tips such as allowing your eggs and butter to come to room temperature before baking. There is also a useful section on storing your cupcakes, and how long they will stay fresh for, which is useful because storage differs depending on the type of cupcake and frosting used.
Probably the most useful part of the introduction, however, is the section on decorating cupcakes, which gives lots of ideas and tips on how to decorate them for any occasion. This contains things like how to use a piping bag, what shop bought decorations you can buy and how to use them, and different flavour buttercreams if you don't fancy the frosting which is recommended for each recipe.
I find the quantity of cupcakes varies hugely between recipes, so you are looking at anything between 6 cupcakes to 30 cupcakes, with many random numbers in between such as 21, 28 or 10. I genuinely don't understand why cupcake books do this, given that cupcake tins generally come in multiples of 6, so it's normal practise for recipes to make 6, 12, or 24 cupcakes. The random quantities in this book make it quite difficult to scale up or down, but to be honest, I also find the cake mixture often makes less than they state anyway, so I tend to just "wing it" and use my judgement. I think this is because I prefer my cupcakes to be quite large and have a good rise, whereas if you made a recipe for 30 cupcakes from this book, you'd be left with fairy cake sized cakes rather than a nice chunky cupcake.
==Would I recommend?==
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys baking cupcakes. It contains a mixture of traditional and more adventurous recipes, but none that will have you searching round the supermarkets trying to source unheard of ingredients. There are recipes for every occasion, with some being quite seasonal such as gingerbread cupcakes, or toffee apple cupcakes. There are hints for decorating cupcakes, and not all of these involve spending hours moulding fondant, but also ideas on how to use shop-bought decorations to give a pleasing finish. This makes it particularly suitable for children's parties as it gives good ideas for Halloween/Bonfire Night themes, however anyone who fancies some unusual flavoured cupcakes will also benefit from this book.
==Price and Availability==
The book retails at £12 RRP, but I picked mine up in WH Smith during a sale where it was half price at £6. I notice is also available on Amazon, currently priced at £4. This is excellent value for 80 recipes and lots of decorating techniques all in one book, when you consider a cupcake magazine would cost around £4 - £5.
I have tried many cupcakes from this book, with the list below giving a few of my favourites:
Fudge & Raisin
Warm molten-centered chocolate
Rocky Road (these are especially popular with our young nieces!)
I also frequently refer to the different flavours of buttercream at the beginning of the book, for example if I'm making a sponge cake and just need a quick and easy buttercream or frosting to sandwich the layers together.
(Review may also appear on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)