There are so many shows on cake decorating on the Food Network these days, I can’t even name them all. From cakes that are 6-feet tall to cakes with moveable parts, “impressive” almost doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe them. Watching the shows is inspiring, but the skills needed to turn out a cake like that are not taught in most cookbooks, so unless you want to intern at a bakery or spend an untold number of hours working and practicing on your own to figure out the techniques, even the above-average home baker is unlikely to produce anything that approaches these showstoppers. As with all cooking subjects, if there is a gap that needs to be filled a cookbook that does just that will eventually come along and fill it, which is what Cake Art: Simplified Step-by-Step Instructions and Illustrated Techniques for the Home Baker to Create Showstopping Cakes and Cupcakes does.
Cake Arti one of the newest releases from the Culinary Institute of America and covers all the techniques needed for top-notch cake decorating. It starts out buy discussing all the different icing mediums – from modeling chocolate to royal icing to fondant – that are necessary to craft cakes and things like piping gel and tempered chocolate, which are often used to add finishing touches to them. From there, it moves on to guide you through the process of prepping cakes (filling, leveling, etc.) and putting the first layer of icing on them, before moving into more specific guides on piping icing, using stencils on fondant and chocolate, and even how to paint with edible food colorings for a very artistic cake. The book also has a chapter devoted to modeling with marzipan, gumpaste and modeling chocolate, showing you how to create everything from little flowers to little people.
The book also starts off with a recipes for cakes and various icings, so you’ll have several base recipes to use when working with their techniques. It is full of decorating ideas and absolutely bursting with beautiful, full-page (the book is oversized) photography. Some of the ideas are for wedding cakes, others are simply for other fanciful cakes. My favorites are the cupcakes, which are really taken to a new level of cuteness with just a few, relatively simple touches or toppers. If you have a chance to look through the book, be sure to take a peek at the Farm Animal Cupcakes – they’re probably my favorite.