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Gifts for Cooks: 'Rose's Heavenly Cakes'

December 1, 2009 |  6:00 am


If your grandmother’s gingerbread recipe is just a list of ingredients on a stained index card, you might find it daunting that the gingerbread recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s new book is two full pages, including her standard chart and in fairly small type. But, be assured, because Beranbaum is really just holding your hand all the way through.

“Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” arrives, full of color photographs, just over two decades after the “Cake Bible” made Beranbaum the baking guru whose recipes are used by home and professional cooks alike. In the intervening years, she has come up with a book full of gorgeous new cakes in line with changes in her own tastes, which have moved toward simpler, less-adorned desserts.

She investigated cakes made with oil instead of butter, and likes them. Beranbaum loves cold banana cake with cream cheese frosting; made with butter, the cake becomes too hard and dense, she said by phone from her New York home. But with oil, it’s perfectly moist and tender. Her apple upside-down cake is elegant and so light. And that gingerbread takes the standard up many notches.

She has a chocolate cake, using what she calls a “groundbreaking technique”: adding unbeaten --  rather than the common stiffly beaten  -- egg whites. “The texture is amazing. The cake is fudgy and light,” she said.

Beranbaum, who notes that she has been thinking about baking for 40 years, doesn’t take much for granted. It’s as if she were in your kitchen, answering every little niggling question as you tackle apple caramel charlotte or Lemon Canadian crown cake: How long should I preheat the oven? If I use all-purpose rather than cake flour, how much should I use? Her “Highlights for Success” at the end of the recipes are the product of her meticulous efforts at recipe testing and her knowledge of the science of baking.

"Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Beranbaum, $39.95. 

-- Mary MacVean

Cover photo by Benk Fink