Title: The Birthday Cake Book
Author: Dede Wilson
164 pages; Soft cover PhotographyColor
Publisher: Harvard Common Press, Boston, MA 2008
Reviewed by, Chef John V. Fall 2008

The review---

It'seems like no one makes their own birthday cake anymore. I say this from my trips to the grocery store and seeing customers picking up these type of cakes. I've even seen customers 5 deep waiting in line! Yikes can't anyone bake anymore? Well, other than convenience, why not make your own?

New to the cookbook circuit is The Birthday Cake Book by Dede Wilson, a colorful book with 75 recipes and suggestions galore within the 164 pages. There is everything from a traditional sponge cake (yellow cake) to Amaretto-Chocolate Cheesecake and more. Some of the recipes have pictures of the finished product which is a big help to anyone without the skill of a pastry chef. If you need some help making the fancy piped swag decoration or even want to make your own roses from butter cream, then it's in the book too! Technique is described and pictured along with suggestions for presentation and serving. I made the Hummingbird Cake with Fresh Fruit on page 108. The cake was moist and tasty with the addition of the bananas and pineapple. The only caution is to use fruit in season so you don't wind up with overly crisp peaches or nectarines. I also tested the recipe for yellow cake on page 28. The basic cake is easy to make and as the author says, "Every baker'should have a basic recipe like this." and I agree as it can be a base for any number of cakes and cupcakes.

There are some traditional recipes and modern creations to get you through a whole family's worth of birthday celebrations. The recipe we tested worked and tasted goodthis is a good book! This is a great book for any one who loves cake! It certainly will create many memories especially if you bake and create these cakes with kids.
Recipes tested---

Yellow Cake

Every baker'should have a recipe for a basic yellow cake like this one. Its buttery flavor and moist texture make it the most versatile cake in the book. It has less sugar than most traditional yellow cakes, yielding a more delicate crumb. The eggs must be at room temperature, or they will not incorporate well into the butter.

Makes two 9 x 2-inch round layers 3 cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat the insides of two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment rounds, then the spray the parchment.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl to combine and aerate; set aside.
3. Beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Beat in vanilla.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition and allowing each egg to be absorbed before continuing. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternately with the milk, while beating on low speed. Begin and end with the flour, and beat briefly until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the layers shows a few moist crumbs when removed. The layers will be tinged light golden brown around the edges and top and will have begun to come away from the sides of the pans.
6. Cool the pans on wire racks for 8 to 10 minutes. Unmold, peel off the parchment, and place the layers directly on the racks to cool completely. The layers are ready to fill and frost. Alternatively, place the cooled layers on cardboard rounds and double-wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature, and assemble and serve within 24 hours.

Hummingbird Cake with Fresh Fruit

A favorite in the southern United States, this cake is loaded with pineapple, nuts, and bananas, making it moist, flavorful, and a good keeper. Baked in a Bundt pan and covered with cream cheese frosting, the cake makes for an unusual but welcome birthday cake. To gild the lily, I fill the center of the cake with fresh fruit, making it a perfect choice for a fruit lover.

Makes one 10 inch Bundt cake; serves 16
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil such as canola or safflower
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large ripe bananas, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans halves, chopped
1 cup canned crushed pineapple, lightly drained
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (page 52)
3 cups fresh fruIt'such as quartered strawberries, whole raspberries, or peeled and sliced peaches or nectarines

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat the inside of a Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray, then completely dust with flour and shake out the excess.
2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl to combine and aerate; set aside.
3. Whisk together the oil and eggs until well blended in a medium size bowl. Stir in the bananas, nuts, pineapple, and vanilla.
4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until combined. The batter will be heavy; make sure you combine well and there are no pockets of flour left. Scrape into the prepared pan.
5. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the cake shows a few moist crumbs when removed. Cool the pan on a wire rack until almost completely cooled. Unmold and place the cake directly on the rack to cool completely. The cake is ready to frost. Alternatively, place the cake on a cardboard round and double-wrap in plastic wrap; store at room temperature and assemble within 24 hours.
6. Have the frosting ready to use. Cover the entire cake, top, sides, and inside the center with frosting. Make attractive but casual swirls here and there all over the cake with an icing spatula or the back of a spoon. The cake may be served immediately, or refrigerated overnight in a covered container. Bring to room temperature before serving.
7. Right before serving, fill the center of the cake with your fruit of choice, making sure there is a generous amount, mounding it in the center. If desired, individual pieces of fruit can be used to decorate the base of the cake as well; this works best with berries.

Tip---Strawberries or raspberries can also be used as candleholders. A generous application of frosting will anchor the berries. For raspberries, use dry, firm berries and place them open side up around the top of the cake; insert candles gently so that each berry hugs the base of a candle; push the candles all the way into the cake. For strawberries, choose smaller berries, remove the stems and place stem-end down on top of the cake. Use a skewer to make a hole through the berry vertically, then insert a candle.

Here's how to make a parchment paper pastry bag or cone for piping swag and other decorations.
Pastry Cones