MS Wedding Cakes Book
Posted: 11 July 2008 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In addition to obsessively reading over the Cake Bible’s ingredients, equipment and tips sections (and of course the specific recipes I am preparing) to be as prepared as possible for the wedding cake project I have been working on I have also purchased and read the Martha Stewart Wedding Cakes book. It is full of gorgeous photography and really a work of art.

However, I noticed several major differences in the actual cake recipes.

First, 3”-high pans as described as what “professional bakers” use and all the recipes call for 3” cake pans. I didn’t know that….

Second, no adjustment to baking powder/leavening is made for the different size layers. You pour the same batter into all the pans (in different quantities of course) and bake. I would be concerned about the larger layers not baking up correctly.

Third, Rose advocates Baker’s Joy here on the blog (and I have much, much better luck releasing cake with baking spray then with greasing and flouring) and even for large, tiered wedding cakes, the recipes still call for buttering and flouring. In fact, I have watched Martha demo several layer cakes on TV and she always greases and flours. I would think that they would be using spray because it’s so much faster and neater.

Fourth, all these large-scale recipes are given in measures of volume only, and not weight.

Do you think that this was done to make the recipes simpler for the home cook/baker to take on? (i.e. make it less intimidating for someone who doesn’t have a scale, for example?) What are your thoughts? Is this just personal preference? 

I would love to hear Rose’s thought on this, too…perhaps I should comment on a blog entry.

I have noticed this with other recipe books, too. Maybe I am just so used to baking by weight, that it surprises me to see a recipe for something as demanding and large of a baking project as a wedding cake without weight measures.

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Posted: 11 July 2008 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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As for 2” of 3” pans, it really depends on who the baker is - everyone has their preference.  3” tiers will yield more torted layers (sliced layers) per pan.  Pan prep varies from one baker to another too… whatever works best for you is fine. 

Factors you mentioned like leavening/ingredient weights are really for the more precise baker who is interested in the exact same results every time.  Yes, I believe the recipes in the MSW book, and other books like it, are designed accommodate most home bakers.

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Posted: 11 July 2008 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Just say that in the cake world we have very different people, one like Rose and another like Martha, both do great contributions to the world, and thanks goodness each has their own style, better for the consumer.

So 1.5, 2, or 3” cake pans.  Baking spray vs buttering and flour.  Or chemistry precision adjustments on baking powder.  Both work, and it is up to you which method you choose.

The majority of home bakers don’t have a scale and would get scared of a recipe calling for it, but I am certain this will change because electronics is so inexpensive now, so eventually everyone will prefer a scale.

Shall I add some dirt?  Rose has developed her recipes with her own hands, test and re-test.  I believe Martha has a team to do it for her instead!

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Posted: 11 July 2008 05:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Great points Hector!

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Posted: 11 July 2008 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Oh, and I like Martha, too! It was just so strange to see those huge recipes so .... short and basic. Maybe I just love the detail of explanation, weight charts and pointers in Rose’s books.
I bet the recipes that Wendy Kromer (the baker featured in th MSW book) uses in her bakery are by weight. smile

And that they adapted everything for the home baker…

Good points.

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Posted: 13 July 2008 11:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote ]First, 3”-high pans as described as what “professional bakers” use and all the recipes call for 3” cake pans. I didn’t know that….

Yes, many bakeries use 3” cake pans to make more layers.

Second, no adjustment to baking powder/leavening is made for the different size layers. You pour the same batter into all the pans (in different quantities of course) and bake. I would be concerned about the larger layers not baking up correctly.

These will probably yield cakes that become slightly more domed as the pan size gets smaller (more structure) and flatter as the pan size increases (less structure).  It is easy enough to level a slightly domed cake… probably easier than making different batches with different amounts of leavening for different pan sizes.  This is probably a matter of preference.

Third, Rose advocates Baker’s Joy here on the blog (and I have much, much better luck releasing cake with baking spray then with greasing and flouring) and even for large, tiered wedding cakes, the recipes still call for buttering and flouring. In fact, I have watched Martha demo several layer cakes on TV and she always greases and flours. I would think that they would be using spray because it’s so much faster and neater.

Many bakeries use “baker’s grease” which is a combination of equal volumes of oil, shortening and flour whipped together. Take a dollop and spread on the pan evenly. Perfect release everytime.

Fourth, all these large-scale recipes are given in measures of volume only, and not weight.

Probably an accommodation for home bakers, or at least, home bakers in North America.

Incidentally, when I switched from volume to weight measures, I did not find that the quality of my baking increased. What I found, however, was weighing was much easier. Volume measuring can be just as good as weighing when done properly, though the latter is foolproof and faster.

I find Martha’s recipes to be very reliable, partly because she has a test kitchen staff. They can be a bit complicated sometimes, so choose a recipe that is at your level of experience. In this regard, RLB’s recipes are more foolproof.

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Posted: 14 July 2008 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I own the Martha wedding cake book, too, and I love it. The photos are stunning and inspirational. I use it as a source of ideas for decorating and flavor combinations. When it comes to actually baking the cake, however, I always use Rose’s recipes because I know they are reliable and yield delicious results. I have a lot of cake and cookie books that I purchased only for decorating ideas, not for the recipes.

Don’t get me wrong, I also have a lot of books that I bought because of the recipes. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are many excellent cookbooks on the market. The most treasured cookbooks in my library are written by authors who have the same sense of taste and approace to cooking that I have, including detailed explanations. What I consider to be a “good” cookbook might not be another excellent cook’s cup of tea.

Hector, I have a question. How do you store baker’s grease? In the refrigerator? It sounds like handy item for a baker’s kitchen, and a real time-saver, too.

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Posted: 14 July 2008 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and contributions. I learned a lot! And that was my aim, not to criticize the other book. I guess I am just anal-retentive and prefer measuring by weight, especially for large batches. What I find myself doing now (for baking recipes by volume) is recording the weight of the measured ingredients as a guide for the next time I make the recipe.

I am definitely a fan of Martha & her faboo test kitchen - I have made marvelous recipes from her website. Her old-fashioned yet refined aesthetic (think vintage jadedite or milk glass cake stands…) is right up my alley. I will definitely try some of the recipes, the mocha spice and apple cakes look wonderful.

I also agree with Christine that the photos in this book are stunning and inspirational.

Julius- One of Martha’s recipes I most want to make is the Martha’s Birthday Cake you made! I have always wanted to do the meringue spikes on something. And to think that was your first cake? (wasn’t it?)

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R

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Posted: 14 July 2008 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Keep baker’s grease in an airtight container and store in the pantry.  Will last until the shortening goes rancid.

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