Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes by Tessa Huff is just the kind of book you need to bake stunning layered cakes for all occasions. Just look at that gorgeous Strawberry Short Cake on the cover. Don’t you wish you could just cut a slice and eat it now? This month's Cookbook Corner takes a look at Layered to find out if it's bookshelf worthy!
About The Book
I consider the first few chapters of Layered as a mini-reference to baking and decorating cakes. The chapter A Well-Layered Pantry lists ingredients and tools of the trade. This is a must-read chapter to ensure you have all the equipment necessary before starting to bake. I purchased 6-inch and 8-inch baking pans since I didn’t have any in my baking stash.
Since decorating cakes is not my forte, I was inspired while reading through the Cake Making and Decorating 101 chapter. It lists baking and pastry techniques, tips and troubleshooting, step-by-step photos on frosting cakes, simple frosting finishes, piping bag finishes, piping techniques and the final touches on how to garnish, decorate and display cakes.
The Sweet Staples chapter lists recipes for Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Salted Caramel Sauce and Dark Chocolate Ganache. Once you’ve read the introductory chapters, you’re ready to bake Classic Cakes, Chocolate Cakes, Casual Cakes, Whimsical Cakes, Adventurous Cakes, Holiday Cakes and, as a bonus, Three-Tier Wedding Cake.
The Mix and Match chart on page 279 is a guide that lists cake, filling and frosting flavours to encourage you to create your unique cake creations, while the Sources on page 283 lists where to purchase the products and brands used throughout the cookbook.
The recipes all begin with a relevant anecdote, are well-structured, easy to follow and include side-bar Baker’s Notes, shortcuts or decoration ideas. All the ingredients are listed by components as are the instructions, which include cake assembly. Stunning colour photos complement each recipe. The list of ingredients and instructions are not on the same page. I would have preferred the ingredients and instructions listed on facing pages for easy reference.
Reading through the cookbook, I bookmarked quite a few recipes to make such as: Neapolitan Cake, The Birthday Cake, Boston Cream Pie, French Opera Cake, Cookies and Cream Cake, Honey Fig Cake, Blood Orange Thyme Cake, Cinnamon Roll Cake, S’Mores Cake, Strawberry Short Cake, Lavender Olive Oil Cake, Banoffee Tiramisu Cake, Golden Champagne Celebration Cake and Caramel Apple Cake.
Bake and Taste
I ended up with a cookbook filled with sticky notes, making it difficult to select which cakes to bake for this review. Finally, the Boston Cream Pie and Cinnamon Roll Cake made the cut this time around, and I served them as dessert at our Sunday family suppers. I gave my daughters portions to bring home so my husband and I wouldn’t be eating cake all week (not that it’s a bad thing).
Classic Cakes: Boston Cream Pie (Page 62)
Boston Cream Pie is one of my favourite layered cakes, and this version is the best I've made. My past attempts at making this cake weren’t successful: either the pastry cream didn’t set, the cake was too dry or the icing was too thick to spread.
In the Layered recipe, the Vanilla Pastry Cream, which is prepared at least two hours ahead and refrigerated, had set, the Buttermilk Cake (baked in 8-inch pans) was moist, and the Silky Chocolate Icing spread like a charm. When I took a bite, I loved the taste of the combined flavours and textures, as did my family with requests for seconds all around.
Whimsical Cakes: Cinnamon Rolls Cake Recipe (Page 158)
Since I’m a huge fan of all things cinnamon, for me this recipe is the ultimate cake version of the beloved cinnamon roll.
There are five parts to making this cake, but with the mise-en-place and the easy-to-read instructions, it was a piece of cake (pun intended!) to assemble. Biting into a slice of the Cinnamon Rolls Cake is like biting into a cinnamon roll with the flavours of cinnamon and velvety cream cheese melting in your mouth. Although some family members thought it was too sweet, I wouldn’t change a thing.
- Butter or nonstick cooking spray, for the pans
- 2¼ cups (295 g) cake flour, plus more for the pans
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) sour cream
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 1 cup (2 sticks / 225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 ounces (115 g) cream cheese, softened
- 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 3 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick / 55 g) butter, melted
- ¼ cup (55 g) firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 8 ounces (225 g) cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks / 170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups (375 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- ½ cup (65 g) all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (75 g) firmly packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick / 55 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC).
- Grease and flour two 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans and set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
- Stir together the sour cream and milk and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
- Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla, then add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of the dry ingredients are combined.
- In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
- Pour one-quarter of the batter into each of the prepared pans. Spoon one-quarter of the cinnamon mixture on top of the batter in each pan and use a wooden skewer or the tip of a knife to gently swirl it. Divide the remaining batter between the pans. Divide the remaining cinnamon mixture between the pans and gently swirl it. Bake for 24 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla until incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until the frosting is fluffy.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, butter, honey, and cinnamon with a wooden spoon until combined. The mixture should resemble little clumps of sand. Sprinkle them over the lined baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the crumble cool before use.
- Just before assembling the cake, place 2 tablespoons water, the sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture starts to simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Mix in the flour until combined.
- Let the syrup cool slightly, then use it immediately before it thickens.
- Once the cakes have completely cooled, and choose which layer will be the bottom cake. Place it on a cake plate or serving dish. Spread on half of the cream cheese frosting with an offset spatula. Sprinkle it with the cinnamon crumble pieces. Drizzle half the cinnamon syrup over the top. Top with the second layer of cake and repeat with the remaining frosting. Use a spoon and a zigzag motion to drizzle the cinnamon syrup across the top layer of cake, letting it drip over the edges.
Cookbook Shelf Worthy?
The Layered (affiliate link) cookbook contains well-written, easy-to-follow, spectacular layered cake recipes, and a wealth of baking information that benefits novice as well as seasoned bakers. You’ll be motivated to mix and match flavours to bake your unique cake creations. Layered will become your go-to-cookbook to bake impressive layered cakes for all occasions.
I’m a Bundt cake girl at heart but the Layered cookbook has inspired me to venture out of my baking comfort zone. Considering all the bookmarked cake recipes, it does have a place on my cookbook shelf.
Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes
Author: Tessa Huff
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Stewart, Taboori & Chang
Recipe and photo reprinted with permission from Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes by Tessa Huff, copyright (c) 2016 by ABRAMS
The Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes cookbook review was written by Liliana Tommasini, author of the aptly named blog My Cookbook Addiction. Her passion for baking and cooking began at an early age. Liliana grew up in an Italian household where each meal was made from scratch with fresh ingredients and Sunday family lunches were always a celebration. She has a passion for collecting cookbooks and is improving her photography skills. Now, Sunday lunches are celebrated in her family. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.