“Let them eat cake.”
It’s very unlikely the doomed queen ever uttered these famous words. But if she did, I’ll bet she was thinking of cakes from the likes of Milk Bar. Crazy cakes. Inspiring cakes. Revolutionary cakes. Well ok, M-A probably wasn’t so keen on revolutionary cakes, but the point is that cakes have a deeply symbolic role in our society and can be – under the right chefs – truly crave-worthy creations.
Cake should have personality! Integrity! Texture! And a visual appeal that draws you in and gets you excited about eating!
– Christina Tosi
Before We Start
You know the routine. Before gushing and raving about a cookbook, I have to fess up to my experiences and limitations on the subject – so you know where I’m coming from as you read the review.
I’ve baked nearly my entire life. Baking was my pre-teen introduction to the kitchen – cookies at first, and then expanding to brownies, scones and (gasp! 🤣🤣🤣) boxed cake mixes. Today, I bake birthday cakes for my kiddos. I make a passable pastry crust, brioche and baguette. But, I am not a baker. I really don’t understand how and why the ingredients work together. I cannot create my own recipes and as a matter of fact I have to follow a recipe pretty darn closely to get it to turn out at all. So why do I love All About Cake?
Cake With Oomph
The first thing that I really admire about Chef Tosi is her passion – for cake, for life, for people. It’s infectious and inspiring! She started as a home cook, went to culinary school and worked for restaurants like best-selling chef David Chang’s Momofuku. But as a young girl, Chef Tosi didn’t care for cake – “cake was a bit boring for me.” So she set off to correct that wrong with passion and personality. And all of that comes through in her recipes. It’s like she’s next to you in the kitchen, cheering you on and challenging how you think about cake, baking and (yes, I’m going to say it) love.
The second thing that I really love about All About Cake is how thorough Chef Tosi is. There are nearly 20 pages of descriptions of ingredients, bakerware and techniques. This isn’t a simple “100 Things Every Baker Needs in Their Pantry” kind of list. Instead, Tosi gets into the what and why: for example, Morton kosher salt is about 60% heavier by volume than Crystal Diamond, so you need to make measurement adjustments if you’re using volume measurements. That kind of insight is incredibly important since baking is a precision art.
Unless you’re making angel food cake, sifting is a waste of time.
– Christina Tosi
This is a chef who’s practical and direct. That doesn’t mean that the recipes are boring or simple. Through six chapters, Tosi pushes the boundaries of bundts, mug, sheet, cupcake, truffles and layer cakes. Almost every recipes has components that you’ll want to start adding to your cake repertoire. For instance, the cake batter for Lemon Meringue Cupcakes as well as the batter for the White Album Cupcakes are my go-to any time I want to bake a lemon or white cake. Likewise, the Strawberry Frosting and the Chocolate Cupcake Frosting are just plain yummy and show up regularly at holiday and birthday parties!
Best of All
However, the real stars though are the layer cakes. Gorgeous, insane creations like the Strawberry-Lemon Layer Cake. This knockout includes a vanilla cake, lemon cheesecake, pickled strawberry frosting (yes, pickled strawberries!) and milk crumbs. If you’re wondering, milk crumbs are these wonderful nugget creations of powdered milk, butter and flour covered in white chocolate. Yes, Tosi is a genius. There, I’ve said it.
All About Cake fires on so many levels. For me, the greatest take aways are confidence and inspiration. It’s pretty likely that I will always need to follow a baking recipe very, very closely. Despite my limitations, Tosi makes me feel like I can create truly marvelous things – even if I have to follow the recipe very, very closely. And maybe – just maybe – I can make some substitutions along the way and realize my own cake dreams.
We believe in sharing recipes. That’s how we learned how to bake! The tips and tricks to our beloved baked goods cannot be chained down. So use them, be inspired by them. But please don’t open a Momofiki Moo Bar. Be brilliant, give yourself more credit than that! Come up with your own universe, and remember, you’ll always be welcome in ours.
– Christina Tosi
Thanks to Christina Tosi, I will give myself a bit more credit the next time I break out the stand mixer.