80 Cakes from Around the World
When you flick through a cookbook of cake recipes, the first thing it should do is fire up your senses. Your mouth should water and your stomach gently quake at the thought of eating the delights within, while the flame that is your passion for producing such sweet treats should burn brightly.
Does this second book by celebrated pastry chef Claire Clark do that? Oh yes. In spades. Clark, whose past haunts have included the kitchens of Claridge's, the Wolseley and Thomas Keller's French Laundry in California, has produced a particularly delectable and often whimsical line-up of baked goods.
Its success lies in Clark's love for what she does, which oozes off the page. The premise is as simple as the title suggests, and while 80 is hardly an insignificant number, Clark admits in the intro that she could easily have tripled it. Those on a quest for intricate, advanced and authentic recipes
should either look elsewhere or embrace the fun Clark had here.
Nata cake, a traditional Cuban celebration bake boasting whipped cream and coconut aplenty is "jazzed up" with cubes of fresh pineapple and mango.
And while spiral pandan moon cakes from China are usually filled with lotus seed paste, red beans and a salty egg yolk, it is replaced here with sweet potato.
The opening recipe for rainbow cake from Fiji, a ganache-coated surprise that, when cut, reveals seven colourful layers of sponge, leads a few pages later into the more familiar territory of Black Forest gâteau. Both could easily take the title of ‘showstopper' (thanks, GBBO) but so too could
any number of Clark's recipes: the decadence of Italian torte gianduja, flecked with gold leaf and caramelised hazelnuts; the towering Scandinavian kransekake; the Belgian chocolate cake.
For the domestic cook, this book is a quirky and cheaper way to see the world of delicious cakes than the bucketload of flight tickets you would need.
For the professional kitchen, it's a treasure trove of inspiration, whether to vamp up a dessert menu or to go all out with a Eurovision/World Cup/Olympic-themed tea.
Either way, it's a lot of fun.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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