May 10, 2009
By Teo Pau Lin
Grand, celebratory and reeking of romance, wedding cakes are the ultimate in baked goods. But which books out on the market actually teach you how to make one?
MARTHA STEWART'S WEDDING CAKES
2007/Clarkson Potter/260 pages/Hardcover/$119.95/
Martha Stewart's Weddings magazine has been at the forefront of featuring the most creative, contemporary and beautiful wedding cakes over the past decade. So when this book first hit the shops here, I was probably among the first to pounce on a copy.
But rabid fan that I am, I could not help but feel cheated after flipping through the pages. The more than 100 cakes inside had all been featured before in the magazine. So this book is merely an easy way for Stewart Inc to make a quick buck by repackaging old editorial material.
Sure, there are new, step-by-step guides on how to stack cake tiers, pipe with buttercream and make gumpaste roses. But that is only a fraction of the techniques required to make its range of awe-inspiring cakes. If you are wondering how one makes fondant look like expensive matelasse fabric, this book is not going to show you that.
Followers of the magazine will find nothing new in this tome. But if you are new to the wondrous world of Stewart's wedding cakes, this book is the one to get.
COUTURE WEDDING CAKES
By Mich Turner
2009/Page One/160 pages/Hardcover/$42.69/
Page One bookstore
Not quite as refined in style but showing occasional flashes of brilliance is Mich Turner's book.
As founder of the Little Venice Cake Company in London, she has made cakes for celebrities and royalty, including actor Pierce Brosnan's wedding cake.
Many of her designs are inspired by fashion and the Art Deco movement, and thus boast intricate piping, swathes of ribbons and extensive work with fresh flowers.
But there are a number of duds in the book, including a three-tier cake that has a black, flouncy flamenco skirt cascading down one side. Without reading the description, you would think it was an outpouring of bird droppings.
Still, kudos to her because this book actually does teach readers how to make every single cake featured. Each one is accompanied by how-to photos and instructions, right down to how much sugarpaste and how many piping bags are needed.
It is best to use your own cake recipe though. The ones she shares at the back of the book look disturbingly dry and unpalatable.
But at least the steps to replicating her cake designs are all laid bare.
SYLVIA WEINSTOCK'S SENSATIONAL CAKES
2008/Stewart, Tabori & Chang
/206 pages/ Hardcover/$81.56/
When the biggest Hollywood celebrities and wealthiest American socialites want a cake, they look for Sylvia Weinstock.
This grande dame of New York's cake-design scene has been in the business for 25 years and is known for spectacular creations that are the ultimate in ostentation.
Her wedding cakes, many of which are featured in this book, are so dramatic that they soar up to nine tiers high, with one particular design even mushrooming onto the ballroom ceiling.
Her famously realistic sugarpaste flowers festoon most of her creations, many of which show more flora than cake.
But in no way does this book tell you how she achieves her towering confections. There are no guides on how to make the sugar flowers, how they are attached or how to construct the tiers.
She writes only about the inspiration behind each cake, and frankly, it all gets deathly boring after a while.
It is a crime that readers are charged such a hefty cover price for what is essentially a glorified brochure.
Unless you are into over-the-top style and are bent on making your baker's life hell, do not buy this book.
THE WEDDING CAKE DECORATOR'S BIBLE
By Alan Dunn
2009/Page One/144 pages/ Paperback/$15.94/
Page One bookstore
Okay, say you like Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes book but lament that it does not show you how to copy her cakes.
One thing you can do is to buy this handy guide, which features many step-by-step cake-decorating techniques - some of which you probably never knew existed.
Apart from the more common techniques such as crimping, embossing and piping work, you will also learn how to make royal icing lace, brush embroidery, frills and flounces, a wide range of flowers and even your own silicone moulds to reproduce sugar laces and leaves.
Pity the cakes featured here look dated. But at least the book offers you the foundation on which to create the wedding cake of your dreams.