Happy 20th Birthday Dear Cake Bible!

This month of October is the official pub date. And the coming out party was fortuitously on the very day of Maida Heatter's birthday. (It was my dessert goddess Maida who wrote the amazingly wonderful intro for the book.) Our wonderful Hector offered to digitalize the original New York TImes photos that appeared shortly after the party on October 19, 1988. I sent it to him in Hawaii and he returned the original and e-mailed the electronic file so that you can all enjoy it. The only thing missing is the bottom of the page, just below the recipe for the Chocolate Domingo, the cake dedicated to Placido Domingo. Could it have been pure coincidence that just exactly below it was a photo of Pavarotti raising a toast--not to the cake as the caption read "Pavarotti ends diet"!

From: The New York Times

October 19, 1988

A Cake Wizard Brings Out a Book of Magic


LEAD: RARELY does a book on baking attract widespread attention in the food world. Rose Levy Beranbaum's ''Cake Bible'' is different. Even before its official publication date, Sept. 20, bakers and nonbakers alike were telling each other that it was one of the very few books that, like Paula Peck's ''Art of Fine Baking'' and Flo Braker's ''Simple Art of Perfect Baking,'' would serve as textbook and inspiration for a generation of dessert makers. Nearly 100,000 copies of ''The Cake Bible'' have already been printed, and the publisher is shipping 2,000 copies a week to bookstores.

Mrs. Beranbaum has long been known for the flavor and decoration of her cakes - pictures of them have often appeared on the covers of food magazines - and for her Cordon Rose cooking school in the kitchen of her Greenwich Village apartment. Two years ago she gave up both the cooking school and professional baking to devote herself to writing. (A video she made on baking is available by mail or telephone from Videocraft Classics, 1790 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10019; telephone 212-246-9849.) In her new book she gives meticulously detailed instructions for making and decorating the cakes that built her reputation. She also tells serious bakers how to adapt home recipes to produce very large cakes and explains the scientific principles underlying her techniques.

Recently the food professionals who often commissioned Mrs. Beranbaum to make cakes for special occasions were given a chance to taste their favorites at the Rainbow Room, where she presented 17 examples from her book, among them a chocolate cake the book describes as ''the creamiest truffle wedded to the purest chocolate mousse''; another that is named for Placido Domingo because it is ''the tenor of chocolate butter cakes'' with ''the most intense, round, full chocolate flavor notes of any I have experienced''; a cheesecake that ''converts people who think they don't like cheesecake'' and ''spoils those who are already devotees,'' and a streusel brioche for which she feels such ''unbridled enthusiasm'' that ''it is guaranteed to become part of your heirloom repertoire.''

The delirious language sounds like a result of eating a surfeit of the cakes she describes. She believes so strongly in the book, for example, that she gave herself the party.

''I never had a big wedding,'' she said in a recent interview (she is 44 years old and has been married for 13 years).

''And I wanted to thank the friends who have given me so much help.''

One friend is Maida Heatter, to whom she attributes her gift for ebullient recipe introductions (''she gives me the most appetite to taste what she's writing about'') and who has written the foreword.

''Persistence is my favorite quality,'' Mrs. Beranbaum said. That explains not only her dogged efforts at promotion but also the discipline behind her unusual techniques. For seven years she attended New York University at night while working days, and earned a B.S. and a master's degree in food science. Torn between medicine and either fashion or some other craft, she hit on food as a vocation only when she decided to write her dissertation on whether sifting dry ingredients affects the quality of yellow cake. The paper earned her the skepticism of the doctor she was dating at the time, but drew her closer to another doctor she soon started dating. This doctor, Elliott Beranbaum, a radiologist whose specialty was the gastrointestinal tract, told her he had found similar results (that sifting does not uniformly mix dry ingredients) in his research on digestion. A year later, they were married.

Embarked on her career in food, Mrs. Beranbaum discovered that ''I loved the texture of cake-mix cakes, but I didn't like their flavor.'' She set herself a mission: ''I wanted that soft, downy, fine-grained, tender cake but to have it buttery with no funny flavors.''

This quest led to years of experimentation, culminating in the decision to adapt the blending method used by producers of cake mixes. Instead of creaming butter and sugar and then alternately adding flour and liquid, Mrs. Beranbaum's recipes call for first blending all the dry ingredients with the butter and a small amount of liquid, and then beating in the remaining liquid.

The decision not to cream the butter and sugar, which contradicts the instructions of nearly every other serious book on baking, was momentous to her. ''I never had any idea it would take so long to learn so much, or how much easier it would be once I knew it,'' she said. ''Now, I can throw a cake together in 10 minutes. It's virtually as easy as a cake mix.''

The method requires little expertise, and the texture suffers less from overbeating - always a danger, after the flour is added, in cakes that call for the creaming method. ''I get just as much volume, in fact a higher cake, without creaming,'' she said, adding that there is one requirement for success with this method. ''If you don't soften the butter you've had it.''

This is easily done, she said, in a microwave oven. Her white spice poundcake recipe, which includes cinnamon, cloves and cocoa, is an example of her blending method.

Another long-term goal of Mrs. Beranbaum's was to make cakes and desserts less sweet, trying to lower the amount of sugar without ruining the recipe. Mrs. Beranbaum has also developed several low-cholesterol cakes by using fats other than butter.

She is particularly proud of a chocolate chiffon cake made with walnut oil. ''I didn't know that chocolate and walnut oil had a synergistic effect until I tried them together,'' she said. ''It's so rare to have something that really tastes like chocolate and doesn't have saturated fat in it.''

The cake does include eggs. She has devised a chocolate angel food cake, however, that is virtually cholesterol-free and, in her opinion, the only low-cholesterol cake ''worth eating.''

Including as many recipes as she does that call for quantities of egg yolks and sticks of butter, Mrs. Beranbaum is hardly a health fanatic. ''It's so controversial, what's good for you and all that stuff,'' she said. ''But you'd be a fool to think that eating cakes is like taking vitamins. You don't have a dessert to improve your blood chemistry.''

She went on to say that everyone's health was helped by being in a good frame of mind. It's hard to finish a piece of Beranbaum cake in any other kind.

These recipes are from ''The Cake Bible'' by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

White Spice Poundcake

Preparation time: 20 minutes Baking time: 40 to 55 minutes Oil for greasing the pan Flour for dusting the pan 1/4 cup milk 4 large egg whites, about 1/2 cup 2 teaspoons brandy 2 cups sifted cake flour 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 6-cup fluted tube pan or loaf pan; if using a loaf pan, grease, line the bottom with parchment or wax paper, and then grease again and flour.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, lightly combine the milk, egg whites and brandy.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half of the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 minute to aerate. Scrape down the sides. Add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. Scrape down the sides.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. The batter will almost fill the pan. Bake 40 to 50 minutes in a fluted tube pan (45 to 55 minutes in a loaf pan) or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. (The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.)
  5. For an attractive split down the middle of the crust when using a loaf pan, wait until the natural split is about to develop (about 20 minutes) and then with a lightly greased sharp knife or single-edged razor blade make a shallow mark 6 inches long down the middle of the cake. This must be done quickly so the oven door does not remain open very long or the cake will fall. When the cake splits, it will open along the mark.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and invert onto a greased wire rack. If baked in a loaf pan, to keep the bottom from splitting reinvert so the top is up. Cool completely before wrapping airtight.
  7. Yield: 10 servings.

Chocolate Lover's Angel Food Cake

Preparation time: 30 minutes Baking time: 40 minutes 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-processed) 2 teaspoons instant coffee 1/4 cup boiling water 2 teaspoons vanilla 1 3/4 cups sugar 1 cup sifted cake flour 1/4 teaspoon salt Whites of 16 large eggs, 2 cups 2 teaspoons cream of tartar.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl combine cocoa, coffee and boiling water and whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla.
  3. In another medium-size bowl combine 3/4 cup sugar, the flour and salt, and whisk to blend.
  4. In a large bowl beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form when beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar, beating until very stiff peaks form when beater is raised slowly. Remove 1 heaping cup of egg whites and place it on top of the cocoa mixture.
  5. Dust flour mixture over remaining whites, 1/4 cup at a time, and fold in quickly but gently, using a large balloon wire whisk or slotted skimmer. It is not necessary to incorporate every speck until last addition.
  6. Whisk together the egg white and cocoa mixture, and fold into the batter until uniform. Pour into an ungreased, 10-inch, two-piece tube pan (the batter will come to within 3/4 inch of the top), run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets, and bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. (The center will rise above the pan while baking and sink slightly when done. The surface will have deep cracks like a souffle.)
  7. Invert the pan, placing the tube opening over the neck of a soda or wine bottle to suspend it well above the counter, and cool the cake completely in the pan, about 1 1/2 hours.
  8. Loosen the sides with a long metal spatula and remove the center core of the pan. Dislodge bottom and center core with a metal spatula or thin, sharp knife. (A wire cake tester works well around the core. To keep the sides attractive, press spatula against sides of the pan and avoid up-and-down motion.) Invert onto a serving plate. Wrap airtight.
  9. Yield: 14 servings.