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Jul 19

Review: American Cake

Posted on July 19, 2017 at 11:42 AM by Elizabeth Land

Many people only pick up a cookbook when they are hunting for a new recipe idea or looking up a recipe to share with a friend. But I think the best cookbooks are those that provide bit more meat, if you will. These "narrative" cookbooks often offer the story behind the food, providing a great read as well as a mouthwatering meal.

Anne Byrn recently created just such a cookbook with her "American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer, the Stories and Recipes Behind More Than 125 of Our Best-Loved Cakes."

Publisher's Summary

American CakeCakes in America aren't just about sugar, flour, and frosting. They have a deep, rich history that developed as our country grew. They're an icon of American culture, reflecting heritage, region, season, occasion, and era. In American Cake, Anne Byrn, creator of the New York Times bestselling series The Cake Mix Doctor, takes you on a journey through America's past to present with more than 125 authentic recipes for our best-loved and beautiful cakes and frostings.

Our Review

Tracing the history of cake-baking in America from 1650 to the present—including recipes for American Gingerbread from the 17th century to Smith Island Cake, which was named the state cake of Maryland in 2008—Byrn provides an enjoyable timeline of cakes in America. Each section begins with a description of the time period being represented, providing context for why cake recipes started calling for certain ingredients over others. For example, many cakes cooked during World War II called for shortening due to butter rationing. This thorough but enjoyable cookbook also starts out with an exploration of classic cake ingredients and techniques, and closes with a survey of popular frostings. Packed with factoids on everything from early colonial leaveners to the origins of Betty Crocker to history of cake pans, Byrn provides plenty of food for thought. And reading her cookbook will have you saying "That is as American as cake!"

Recipes you don't want to miss
  • Moravian Sugar Cake (p. 25) — "One of the earliest American coffee cakes was literally passed along from mother to daughter."
  • Boston Cream Pie (p. 46) — "With its thick custard filling and simple butter cake, the Boston cream pie is an iconic American dessert with a much-discussed past."
  • 1-2-3-4 Cake (p. 96) — "This is one of the simplest and best-known cakes in the land, based on the idea that a basic yellow cake can be made with 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs..."
  • Wellesley Fudge Cake (p. 118) — "Sealed in a centennial time capsule, and placed behind a bronze plaque in the Wellesley College library in 1981, is the recipe for Wellesley Fudge Cake."
  • Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (p. 145) — "One of the happiest cakes in America, a cake that brings smiles to anyone when it comes out of the oven, the pineapple upside-down cake was created with ingenuity, drama, and a novel ingredient—sliced canned pineapple."
  • Orange Chiffon Cake (p. 178) — "One of the most authentically American cakes, a cake that didn't originate in Europe and doesn't date back to Colonial times, is the chiffon."
  • Hummingbird Cake (p. 235) — "Who would have thought that a marketing promotion by Jamaica Airlines would evolve into one of America's best-loved cakes?"
  • Chocolate Earthquake Cake (p. 258) — "One of the first Earthquake Cakes was baked by Carlo Middione at the Italian restaurant Vivande in San Francisco."
  • Chocolate Stout Cake (p. 288) — "But this cake is unlike its predecessors, for it is a chocolate cake made moist and flavorful with stout."

Visit our online catalog to reserve your copy of American Cake today!