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This book has become my cupcake bible. it really has.
It's probably best if I start by talking about the back of the book (unconvential I know). At the back of the book you'll find a fab run through of baking tips, equipment needed, and a full explaination of methods and techniques.
Ok so now lets talk about the recipes!
I'm the kind of girl that doesn't just want to bake plain fairy cakes... I don't necessary want to spend ages making cupcakes look pretty but I DO want to spend time making sure they taste good and that is where this cook book is really good!
The recipes have been split up into really useful categories such as "Valentines", "Easter", "Birthdays and Celebrations" and "Christmas" - this enables you to quickly go to the pages that are most likely to be suitable for what you are after. For example, you'd hardly want a eggnog cupcake for a summer afternoon tea would you? (well I wouldn't!).
The really best feature of this book is the flavour that is packed into the recipes. Just a few of my favourite recipes are the:
Chocolate guinness cake - a really moist cake that always goes down well
The mojito cupcakes - although be really careful with that recipe, I nearly set the house on fire reducing the rum in the pan!!!!)
Malteaser cupcakes - which involves a not standard method of preparing the cupcakes (I loved this because it allowed me to test myself a bit)
The book isn't just about cupcakes, there's celebration cakes, tray bakes, and cheese cakes too, so if you do get a bit sick of cupcakes (I can't imagine you would), there is a bit of variety.
The nice thing I have found about the cupcake recipes is that most of them work as muffins too, they often taste nice without any icing on at all - and they freeze really well like this too.
The Hummingbird Bakery is one of the most famous cake shops in London, specialising in beautiful cupcakes and large sharing cakes. I have had the original Hummingbird Bakery book for a couple of years now (which I have already reviewed) and received their latest offering, Cake Days, as a Christmas present in 2011.
* Overview *
Cake Days is subtitled 'Recipes to make every day special'. The cover is a relatively simple design, with just over half the front of the book covered in a hot pink fabric with the title embossed into it. The only images on the front are the iconic Hummingbird logo and a photograph of a single chocolate cupcake in a pink cake decorated with chocolate shavings. The back cover has a photograph of a sliced cheesecake and the slogan 'Some days are just made for cake', a sentiment that I completely agree with! Inside, the book is divided into chapters arranged by key dates on the calendar - Valentine's Day, Easter, Mothers and Fathers' Day, Halloween and Bonfire Night and Christmas, as well as some more generic chapters such as Spring Weekend Bakes and Summer Afternoon Tea. The recipes themselves are presented in a clear, easy to read style with the ingredients clearly shown down one side of the page, so that you can scan a recipe and work out what you need with minimal effort. I find this really useful when the urge to bake something spontaneous strikes as it makes it easier to find a recipe that matches the ingredients I have in my cupboards. Each recipe is accompanied by a beautiful, and appetising, photograph of the finished cake.
* Chapters *
Valentines Day - This chapter includes such delights as Tiramisu Cupcakes, Mocha Cupcakes, Vanilla and Cardamon Whoopie Pies, Kirsch Soaked Cherry Cupcakes and Chocolate Fondant Cupcakes. There are only a couple of recipes which I would say were aimed exclusively at Valentine's Day itself - just an Angel Food Cake and a Coconut Layer Cake - the other recipes are based more on a luxurious 'adult' theme, dinner party cupcakes rather than the type that you'd make for the children after school. I haven't actually baked anything from this section yet, probably because most of my baking is focused on providing after school treats and birthday party cakes.
Spring Weekend Bakes - As you might expect, the content of this chapter is a bit less 'showy' than the previous one, although there are still a range of interesting flavours on offer. Some of the bakes here include a Lemon and Thyme Loaf, Apple Blossom Cupcakes, Apple Streusel Cak, Rhubarb and Almond Loaf and Mixed Berry Muffins. I have made the muffins, which were delicious and relatively simple to make.
Mothers and Fathers Day - This chapter features a recipe which has become a firm favourite for adult celebration cakes in our family, the Chocolate Guinness Cake. This is a rich, dark chocolate cake, kept beautifully moist by the Guinness it is cooked with and topped with a cream cheese frosting. Other recipes in this section include Pistachio Whoopie Pies, Boston Cream Cupcakes, Mixed Nut Slices, Rose Cupcakes and Blueberry Crumble Loaf.
Easter - Again, this book steers away from the 'traditional' Easter cakes (chocolate cornflake nests anyone?), although there is some emphasis on carrot as an ingredient, perhaps inspired by the Easter Bunny. Recipes in this chapter include a four-layered carrot and ginger cake (which may well be on this year's Easter Menu!), a Blood Orange Cheesecake, Malted Chocolate Cupcakes, Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies, and a Courgette, Walnut and Cinnamon Layer Cake (not convinced by that one myself). I have made the Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies and the Marbled Cupcakes from this section - the children liked the cupcakes and the adults enjoyed the whoopie pies.
Summer Afternoon Tea - Predictably, for a summer chapter, most of the recipes in this chapter are lighter than their predecessors and there is much less emphasis on chocolate as an ingredient. Recipes include a Summer Fruit Cheesecake, Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes, Lemon Meringue Cupcakes, Peach and Raspberry Tart and Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes. These recipes would be lovely for a summer garden party or to hand round at the end of a BBQ - unfortunately, as it never stopped raining last summer, I didn't get around to trying out any 'summer' recipes.
Birthdays and Celebrations - This chapter is mostly a 'party' chapter. It features the delicious chocolate cupcakes (which are a real staple recipe in this house), Banoffee Whoopie Pies, Cola Cupcakes, a Maple and Pecan Layer Cake, a Spiced Apple Cake and my personal favourite, an assortment of boozy party cupcakes. I made the Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes for an Olympics BBQ in the summer and they were delicious - as was the leftover strawberry-infused rum after soaking the fresh strawberries in it. Next on my list to try are Mojito Cupcakes and Pina Colada Cupcakes - not that I will be feeding those to my children!
Rainy Day Treats - Unlike the previous chapter, this one focuses more on comfort baking and simple, yet indulgent treats to cheer you up on a rainy day. It includes recipes for Apple and Oatmeal Cookies, Coffee and Chocolate Loaf, Apple Crumble Cupcakes, Chocolate and Chestnut Biscuit Bars and a Butterscotch and Pecan Cheesecake.
Halloween and Bonfire Night - This chapter boasts the recipe for possibly the most iconic of the Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes, the red velvet cupcake. These are absolutely delicious, although the amount of food colouring you need to use to achieve the red colour is actually pretty scary! Also making an appearance are recipes for Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie, Sticky Toffee Cupcakes, a Spiderweb Cheesecake and, for a savoury treat, Pumpkin, Cheese and Chive Muffins.
Christmas - The conclusion to the book is the festive season. Again, this book steers away from the traditional classics like mince pies and Christmas cake, instead featuring bakes such as Candy Cane Cupcakes, Snickerdoodle Cookies, Eggnog Cupcakes and Chocolate Orange Cupcakes. I love the Lemon and Cranberry Cupcakes as a way of using up leftover cranberries and providing a lighter option to the traditional fruit-laded Christmas baked treats and the Cinnamon and Raisin Loaf has become one of the recipes I bake time and time again as it is simple and delicious.
* Cost *
Hummingbird Bake Days has a RRP of £20.00 but is currently available for £10 on Amazon. You can also buy it in a Kindle edition but, to be honest, I prefer my cook books to be in book format.
* Final Thoughts *
This is a fantastic baking book with a wide range of recipes ranging from simple, every day bakes to multi-layer show-piece creations. If you already bake and are looking for something to take your creations on to the next level then I would definitely recommend this book. It isn't a beginners baking book, although some of the recipes are definitely simple enough for novice bakers, so I wouldn't suggest buying this if you are just starting out - there are books out there which give a much better starting point, but this is a valuable addition to my ever-growing collection of baking books. The only slightly annoying thing for me is the layout of the book - I'd actually prefer if the recipes were grouped by type rather than the very loose grouping by 'occasion' - i.e. big cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes, whoopie pies, cookies - as it would be easier to search through the type of thing I fancied making rather than having to flip through the whole book. On the other hand, it is such a beautiful book and the photographs are so appealing, that flicking through it really isn't that much of a hardship. In summary, if you love baking, you'll probably love this.
My other half and I know each other too well. Without discussing it in advance, and with no knowledge of what the other was planning, we both bought each other a cupcake recipe book for Christmas. Thankfully we didn't both buy the same book.
My offering to her was this book, The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days.
About Hummingbird Bakery
The Hummingbird Bakery started out on London's Portobello Road in 2004 when Tarek Malouf, the owner, saw a gap in the market for American styles cupcakes and whoopie pies. They have since expanded to four different London locations as well as a festival van and two cook books. These guys know cupcakes!
The book itself is is a hardback volume with the covers made partly of coarse pink material and part shiny paper. It's a little smaller than A4 and has about 256 pages. It currently costs about £10 on amazon, and I believe I paid £8 when I bought it in November.
Most recipe books are organised by the type of thing you're making; a section for cakes, a section for frosting and a section for cheese cake for example. This book takes a different approach and has organised it by celebrations, ranging from Valentines day to Easter, to Summer afternoon tea and, of course, Christmas.
I cannot say that I'm taken by this way of organising the book as the recipes don't lend themselves to a specific holiday. For example you'll find espresso cupcakes under Mother's and Father's day, whilst the Hummingbird Bakery consider Mocha cupcakes to be far more suited to Valentines day. The only thing linking several cupcakes the their category are the accessories in the background of the photos, like a plastic spider sitting next to a cake in the Halloween section. I could forgive them if they used seasonal ingredients but, alas, no.
The individual recipes are nicely laid out, with ingredients down the side of the page listed separately for the cake and for the frosting. Recipes don't usually take up more than one side and every single one has a full colour photo of the finished product. Overall, a very pretty book.
All the recipes are easy to follow, although it's worth reading the whole thing before you start. Unlike some books, especially American oriented ones, there aren't lots of impossible-to-find ingredients. You'll be able to find practically everything in this book in your local Tesco. The most outlandish ingredient I've spotted is Marshmellow fluff but they've included a suppliers list at the back to help you track this sort of thing down.
You'll be getting through a lot of icing sugar and butter with this book, as these the primary ingredients for a lot of the frostings.
This book has a lot of cupcakes but there are also recipes for whoopie pies (think cake sandwich), cheesecakes, muffins, slices and tarts; more than enough to keep you going.
You also don't require any specialist equipment to make most of these recipes. A piping bag might come in handy and you'll want some oven tins and an electric mixer but it doesn't go much beyond that.
Unlike other American books this book uses grams and ounces to measure ingredients rather than cups. The use of cups in recipes is a pet hate of mine as it's not a clearly defined unit of measurment so I'm glad they've done the sensible thing and done it by weight.
I've tried a number of recipes and on the whole the results have been pretty good. I highly recommend the chocolate orange cupcakes. The cake is rich and moist and, oh my, the frosting! It's smooth, rich and chocolately. It's the stuff dreams are made of.
The cardoman loaf also came out very well. This one is far more subtly flavoured than the chocolate orange but delicious none the less and perfect when you want something a little lighter. This isn't to say it's healthy, it's a still a cake after all!
A few of the cakes I've made have come out a little on a dense side and I would have been happier if they'd been a little lighter and fluffier but I'm sure it was an error on my part.
Overall I'm pretty happy with this book. The recipes are good and varied and the ingredients easy to come by. Personally I'd prefer it ordered by the type of thing you're making rather than by season but it's a small point. There are plenty of recipes I still want to try! I'm not sure my waist line is so keen though!