Anyone who has ever set foot in a diner knows that nothing looks better than a big slice of mile-high strawberry shortcake, with layers of fluffy cake, whipped cream frosting and bright red, ripe berries. It’s a classic and it is one of the many recipes inside Retro Desserts: Totally Hip, Updated Classic Desserts from the ’40S, ’50S, 60s and ’70s. The cookbook, by Wayne Harley Brachman, is full of recipes that are either classics in and of themselves, or are inspired by, classics. Run and Cherry Cola Marble Cake, Grasshopper Pie and even a Fruit Cocktail Gelatin Ring (much better looking and tasting than it may sound at first) are just a few of the recipes, and there are also recipes for homemade versions of perennial favorites, such as Oreo cookies.
This is one cookbook that I go back to again and again even if I don’t bake anything from it, because the recipes are very well presented, with clear and easy-to-follow instructions and full-color illustrations of almost every item in the book. If you’re not baking from it, it’s fun to see how once-popular cocktails inspired cakes and pies, and it’s easy to get inspired to do some baking of your own. All of the chapters come with an introduction of the topic, with baking tips as well as quick facts as to why the included desserts were hits the first time around. All of the recipes also come with similar notes, baking instructions and factoids.
It might not be for someone who likes utility, but many of the recipes have cute names and the chapters have even cuter ones, such as “For Whom the Ice Cream Bell Tolls” and “I Tawt I Taw A Pudding Tat.” If you are going for utility, don’t worry that this book is just fluff. There is a very useful section at the back with recipes for sauces that is a great reference point, especially if you’re interested in making your own hot fudge ice cream sauce or creamy marshmallow fluff (among other things!).