- Rose Levy Beranbaum
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- Rose's Heavenly Cakes
Recent User Reviews
"Cakes From Heaven"
Pros - This book contains a lot of useful cake-related information, beautiful photos and unique recipes
Cons - Some people are intimidated by recipes that are 2-3 pages long
Written by Sharyn Harding
Rose Levy Beranbaum is a cookbook genius! Even though Rose’s Heavenly Cakes is the fifth Beranbaum book I own, and I love them all, this is the one I am most inspired by. It has been many years since the author wrote The Cake Bible. That particular tome includes so many cake recipes you might wonder, as I certainly did, why she felt the need to write yet another cake cookbook. Didn’t she cover all the important cake types (sponge cakes, butter cakes, wedding cakes) already? She addresses this very question – since the Cake Bible, she has been trying new things and gained even more knowledge on the subject of cakes, enough it turns out, to justify the new book.
The cookbook is broken down into sections, each covering a basic cake type. Most recipes have a gorgeous photo and all have an introduction or description of the finished product.
The recipes are listed in the standard cup and teaspoon measurements, but for those converts that are using kitchen scales such as myself, she includes weights in both grams and ounces. Thank god I don't have to convert, or dirty up my measuring cups - just pour everything into the mixing bowl on the scale! This is quite a time saver and I wish more cookbook authors offered this option.
Beranbaum's instructions are very detailed. I confess that at times I was tempted to second guess her, asking myself, do I really need to bother wrapping the cake pan in cake strips? But for every time I was tempted to do a lazy shortcut, I found a well explained reason for each step - the cake strips allow the cake to bake evenly and not to dome in the center. And really, if I am going to make a cake like this, I might as well go all out and do it exactly as she describes. She is incredibly specific in her instructions, but I find this to be very helpful if I am wondering why I need to take that extra step and I am confident that a novice would be able to make even the most elaborate of her confections. She even goes so far as to explain exactly what number on a home mixer she means when she says to mix something at medium-high speed (i.e. 8 on a KitchenAid and 10 on a Cuisinart). Where many cookbooks seem to cover the same information, such as a description of tools and basic ingredients, she goes deeper, covering such subjects as plastic wrap (which is not as homogeneous as I thought. Apparently most plastic wraps have microscopic airholes that can be good for produce, but bad news for wrapping and freezing a cake airtight). She did her research and provides information on getting the brand that works best on cakes. Now, many bakers would be bored with discussions of plastic wrap, but I was fascinated with all the detail she provided. However, the casual baker can easily skip over these parts and go straight to one of the recipes.
The recipes offer a great variety from easy one-step cakes to elaborate, I-want-to-impress-someone concoctions. The recipe I picked to try first was the Bostini. True, the photo looked amazing, but the description really decided it. Apparently a chef in San Francisco had used Beranbaum’s orange chiffon recipe from her Cake Bible as a base for his interpretation of the classic Boston cream pie. His dessert became very popular and a friend of hers introduced her to the chef.
This recipe is in the Baby Cakes section and is beautifully served in an individual glass cup with a pastry cream sauce and chocolate glaze. The instructions for each component were easy to follow. My only momentary confusion came when I noticed that it said the cake batter would make 12 cupcakes, but the main recipe claims to serve only 8. No problem though, I was soon assembling my Bostini and with my first bite, any other thoughts vanished. I must explain that I tend to like rich desserts and American-styled moist, dense cakes. These orange cupcakes felt so light, they were a gram away from floating, in other words, not my usual preference. These changed my mind. This lighter-than-air cupcake is topped with a cream sauce that is a cross between a pastry cream and an anglaise. Then a dark chocolate glaze is poured over all. The result is amazing. I think I finished the first one in three bites. It was so light; I didn’t have trouble convincing myself to try a second. Even after that I was sorely tempted to go for a third and only barely restrained myself. For a few hours.
All of the components lasted well for three days and I had enough of the cream and glaze to serve with each of the cupcakes. I will surely be making this again.
For my second recipe selection, I thought I should put this cookbook to a bit of a challenge. Perhaps my first try was luck, but to really know how good Beranbaum is, I decided to try a chocolate cake. Working as a pastry cook, I have made and sampled many varieties of chocolate cake over the years and kept the recipes I thought were the best. Would she measure up? I went for the beautiful cake featured on the cover of the book – Bernachon Palet D’or Gâteau. This consists of a chocolate cake topped with crème fraîche ganache, then there is an option for a chocolate lacquer glaze, something I know as glaçage, but I decided to stop with just the ganache topping.
The unusual texture of this cake is what surprised me so much. The flavor is the same wonderful, deep chocolate you would get from a flourless-style chocolate cake, but without that awful wet quality that can sometimes go with it. The cake was moist without being heavy. It was certainly rich, but the ganache was a lovely accompaniment with the slightest tang from the crème fraîche. This cake would be quite the show stopper for company and kept very well. In fact, I froze several pieces and was pleased by how well they held up. The only drawback was that it truly tasted best at room temperature, but needed to be stored in the fridge, a minor adjustment for such a delicious cake.
Now that I have had two great hits in a row, I am thinking that I may just need to work my way through each recipe in the book. Sometimes I am a bit cynical towards cake, feeling that I have already tasted it all. But both of the cakes I made felt new and unique and make me curious to discover the rest of Beranbaum’s creations.Over the years I have collected quite a number of cookbooks. Many are written by accomplished chefs and some are written by accomplished cookbooks authors. Rose Levy Beranbaum is firmly in the latter category and I mean that as a high compliment. I find that some chefs are great at cooking, but are so used to working in a professional kitchen, that they have difficulty converting their recipes and techniques for the home cook. That is not the case here.
In a day when there are countless cake recipes available free on the internet, this book earns every penny of its cover price. On the occasions you want to make a cake to wow dinner guests, you don't want to take the chance you are wasting money and time on a recipe that was uploaded by some cook that doesn't proof read. Instead, with her book you know you can find recipes that have been well tested and include clear instructions to help along a novice or occasional baker.
Baking Time: 25 to 30 minutes
Orange Glow Chiffon Cupcake Batter
Makes: 12 cupcakes
cake flour (or bleached all-purpose flour)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (or 1 cup), sifted into the cup and leveled off
3/4 cup, divided
canola or safflower oil, at room temperature
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces)
about 4 large eggs, separated, plus about 1 additional white, at room temperature
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 fluid ounces)
orange zest, finely grated
1 tablespoon, loosely packed
orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 fluid ounces)
pure vanilla extract
cream of tartar
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon
Silicone muffin pan with twelve 4-ounce cavities, set on a wire rack and then on a baking sheet, or muffin pans (either type of pan should be coated very lightly with baking spray with flour; without flour the cupcakes would collapse). | Eight tall slender 6- or 7-ounce custard cups or cappuccino cups (the diameter should be about the same size as the top of the cupcake mold).
Preheat the Oven
Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F/160 degrees C.
Make the Batter
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, mix the flour, all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Make a well in the center. Add the oil, yolks, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 1-1/2 minutes, or until very thick. If you don't have a second mixer bowl, scrape this mixture into a large bowl and thoroughly wash, rinse, and dry the mixer bowl and whisk beater to remove any trace of oil.
Beat the Egg Whites into a Stiff Meringue
In the clean mixer bowl fitted with the clean whisk beater, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue beating until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.
Add the Meringue to the Batter
Using a large balloon wire whisk, slotted skimmer, or large silicone spatula, gently fold the meringue into the batter in two parts until just blended. Spoon the batter into the muffin pans filling them up to the top.
Bake the Cupcakes
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed in the centers.
Cool and Unmold the Cupcakes
Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, or until just warm. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cupcakes, pressing against the pans, and turn each cupcake gently in its pan to loosen it. Lift each cupcake out and invert it onto a wire rack, coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream Sauce
Makes: 3-1/2 cups/28 fluid ounces/1 pound, 14 ounces/860 grams
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces)
about 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (3.5 fluid ounces)
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 tablespoons (1.5 fluid ounces)
1 vanilla bean, preferably Tahitian (see Note)
6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons
2 1/2 cups (20 fluid ounces)
Prepare the Egg Mixture
Have ready a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Have ready the custard cups.
In a medium bowl, stir together the milk and cornstarch until smooth. Whisk in the yolks and whole egg until completely blended. Set it aside.
Mix the Vanilla Bean with the Dry Ingredients
With a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and salt. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar and rub them in with your fingers.
Make the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream Sauce
In a medium heavy saucepan, scald the cream, sugar mixture, and vanilla pod over medium heat (bring it to the boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery), stirring often. Whisk vigorously while adding about 1/3 cup of this mixture to the egg mixture. Quickly add all of the egg mixture into the remaining cream mixture, whisking rapidly. Continue whisking rapidly for 1 to 3 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Remove it from the heat and strain it into a bowl. Use the back of a spoon or silicone spatula to scrape any thickened cream from the bottom of the pan and to press it through. Whisk vigorously to cool it slightly. Remove the vanilla pod and rinse and dry it for future use.
Immediately pour the cream sauce into the custard cups to fill them about two-thirds full. (If you use a short, wider-mouth cup, it is best to fill it only half full with cream to prevent the cream from overflowing when the cake is eaten. The tall slender cup works best because the cake acts as a "cork" to prevent the cream from corning up over the cup.) Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the cream to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until cold.
Note: You can use 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, but a vanilla bean really shines here.
Chocolate Butter Glaze
Makes: 1-3/4 cups/14 fluid ounces/15.5 ounces/436 grams
16 tablespoons (2 sticks)
dark chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao, chopped
Make the Chocolate Butter Glaze
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter until it starts to simmer. (Or place it in a 4-cup heatproof glass measure in the microwave on high power for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.) Remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Whisk the mixture until smooth and strain it into a 2-cup or larger heatproof glass measure. Keep the glaze warm. (You can pour it into a thermos or reheat it in a microwave or double boiler.)
Compose the Bostini
Up to 30 minutes before serving, place the custard cups, filled with the pastry cream sauce, on small dessert plates. Push each cupcake top side down into the custard cup so that it rests on top of the cream sauce and the bottom rises at least a little above the cup.
Just before serving, pour the warm chocolate glaze over each cupcake so that it coats the cake and a little of it dribbles down the sides of the custard cup. Serve immediately while the glaze is still warm and fluid. If desired, garnish with chocolate shavings and a light dusting of powdered sugar.