Cooking Reviews | November 15, 2013

Whether a small bite or a splurge, a homemade dessert makes a sweet ending to any meal. These dessert and baking books offer readers professional tips, decorating ideas, and delicious recipes to suit many tastes, moods, and lifestyles.

Alpers, Jackie (text & photos). Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts. Quirk. 2013. 144p. photos. index. ISBN 9781594746383. pap. $18.95. COOKING

With quirky, visually arresting recipes, award-winning food photographer Alpers illustrates the many ways that sprinkles can be used to add whimsy to desserts and edible gifts. After introducing readers to types of decorative confections (e.g., nonpareils, edible glitter, candy melts), she shows how to incorporate them into cakes (confetti layer cake), condiments (I heart sprinkles butter), party favors (party spoons), cocktails (birthday cake martinis), and more. Many projects, such as the kid-friendly confetti popcorn cake (similar to marshmallow cereal treats), can be prepared with just a microwave, mixing bowl, and spatula. VERDICT A fun niche title for the kid at heart.

Bertinetti, Heather. Bake It, Don’t Fake It! A Pastry Chef Shares Her Secrets for Impressive (and Easy) from-Scratch Desserts. Atria. Nov. 2013. 208p. photos.index. ISBN 9781476735542. $20. COOKING

After a foreword by television personality and celebrity chef Rachael Ray, professional pastry chef Bertinetti teaches readers how to make restaurant-worthy desserts—including hazelnut dacquoise roulade, maple pumpkin cheesecake, and red velvet macarons—at home. Like Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts, this cookbook contains base recipes (e.g., cakes, crusts, fillings, glazes) that can be combined for more complicated creations. “Chef It Up!” and “Insider Tip” sidebars offer flavor variations and technical tips for bakers looking to hone their craft. VERDICT Novices will benefit from this cookbook’s practical information, and experienced bakers will gain new ideas for their repertoire.

Bussanich, Kyra. Sweet Cravings: 50 Seductive Desserts for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle. Ten Speed: Crown. 2013. 144p. photos. index. ISBN 9781607743606. $18.99. COOKING

Bussanich, the first gluten-free winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, owns Kyra’s Bake Shop in Portland, OR. In seven chapters (e.g., “Muffins and Scones,” “Cobblers and Crisps,” “Brownies,” and “Bar Treats”), she shares gluten-free recipes she developed after being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. Once readers have stocked a pantry of gluten-free baking staples (e.g., millet and rice flour, potato and tapioca starch, xantham gum), they can re-create treats such as apple crisp, peanut butter truffle crispy bars, and African yam cupcakes with relative ease. VERDICT Bussanich’s gluten-free desserts, which prize taste and presentation, are not at all conciliatory. They will tempt all dessert lovers, regardless of lifestyle.

Clark, Pamela. Decorating Cakes: Beautifully Decorated Cakes from Easy to Experienced to Expert. Sterling. 2013. 240p. photos. ISBN 9781454910169. $19.95. COOKING

Clark, an editorial and food director in Sydney, Australia, oversaw the Australia Women’s Weekly test kitchen for more than 30 years. Appealing to all levels of cake decorators, she shares a range of techniques for creating desserts for special occasions, such as cookies, cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, and petits fours. Even seemingly easy creations that employ store-bought shortcuts are elegant showstoppers that will thrill readers who aren’t ready to attempt the more advanced gum paste flowers, sugar, and fondant techniques (e.g., quilting, embossing, stenciling, ruffles). ­VERDICT This decorating book contains step-by-step photographs, cake patterns, and a section devoted to mechanics—everything readers will need to achieve professional results.

redstar Donroe Inman, Tammy. Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts To Warm the Home. Running Pr. 2013. 240p. photos. index. ISBN 9780762445370. $30. COOKING

Donroe Inman, a food blogger with a culinary degree, has worked for Cook’s Illustrated magazine and TV show America’s Test Kitchen. Her debut cookbook encourages readers to spend their winters in a warm kitchen preparing comforting seasonal desserts such as pear crostada, brown butter pecan ice cream, and gingersnap-crusted pumpkin cheesecake. These unintimidating recipes, organized by main ingredient (e.g., apples, pears, persimmons, citrus, tubers, nuts, cheese), will inspire bakers to see winter as a time of abundance, not scarcity. ­VERDICT Like Diana Henry’s Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food To Warm the Soul, this weighty and beautifully photographed cookbook captures the season’s best qualities.

Holland, Monica. Lick the Bowl Good: Classic Home-Style Desserts with a Twist. Skyhorse. 2013. 176p. photos. index. ISBN 9781626360389. pap. $$16.95. COOKING

Holland, whose blog ( shares a title with this debut, started sharing recipes as a way to cope with family tragedy. Her collection of heirloom and favorite desserts includes cakes, cookies, bars, pies, puddings, and more and features an attractive layout with full-page color photographs. Vanilla bean pound cake, oatmeal cream pies, Lick-the-Bowl-Brownies, and other dishes mostly fail to deliver the promised “twist,” but a few, such as a stunning banana pudding cheesecake, succeed. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in family-friendly recipes with subtle variations in flavor and presentation.

Maksai, Krisztina. European Cookies for Every Occasion. Running Pr. 2013. 200p. photos. index. ISBN 9780762445295. $22. COOKING

Growing up in Central Europe, home baker Maksai developed a passion for baking that she now shares through YouTube videos ( and other outlets. Here, she’s revised and repackaged recipes from her out-of-print Baking Love with Krisztina: European Cookies the Easy Way into an attractive compendium organized from easy (orange medallions) to challenging (chessboard cookies). Recipes include U.S. and metric measurements and detailed step-by-step photographs, but a few omit important details regarding equipment and ingredients. VERDICT Maksai’s cookies, most butter and nut based and prepared with an electric hand mixer, are little works of art. This title will add variety to most cookie collections.

Mitchell, Karen & Sarah Mitchell Hansen with Rick Rodgers (text) & Frankie Frankeny (photos). The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery. Chronicle. 2013. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9781452113838. $35. COOKING

The Model Bakery, whose free-form English muffins appeared on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate, has provided Napa Valley with brick oven–fired breads and pastries since 1984. Founder Mitchell, with daughter and business partner Hansen and veteran cookbook author Rodgers, has scaled the bakery’s recipes for home kitchens and largely succeeds at making them accessible. Even the most involved recipes are approachable, offering just enough technical guidance for novices. VERDICT This attractive bakery cookbook contains a charming business history and a familiar assortment of breads, muffins, pies, cakes, and cookies. It is, however, one of many similar titles, so buy for demand.

Stuart, Michele. Perfect Pies & More: All New Pies, Cookies, Bars, and Cakes from America’s Pie-Baking Champion. Ballantine. 2013. 272p. photos. index. ISBN 9780345544193. $26. COOKING

In her follow-up to Perfect Pies, decorated pie baker Stuart (she’s won 26 blue ribbons) shares more of her award-winning specialties alongside cookies, bars, tea cakes, and other treats. She includes unique choices for special occasions—birthday cake surprise “pie” (a frosted cake in a crust), star-spangled flag pie, and apple caramel crunch pie, for example—as well as sugar-free options and easy, everyday recipes. Each recipe has clear instructions, with detailed information on serving and storage. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers looking for a mostly traditional American baking collection with some creative surprises. Stuart’s debut was popular, so public libraries can expect demand.

Wyman, Carolyn. The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book: Scrumptious Recipes & Fabled History from Toll House to Cookie Cake Pie. Countryman. 2013. 200p. illus. index. ISBN 9781581571622. pap. $19.95. COOKING

Chocolate chip cookie cookbooks often promise perfection and embellish their recipes with words such as ultimate, essential, or best. Taking a different approach, popular foods expert Wyman (Spam: A Biography) focuses instead on history, detailing the cookie’s role in American culture. In six chapters, she shares recipes sourced from or inspired by cookbooks, chefs, and businesses; profiles of famous cookie makers (e.g., Otis Spunkmeyer, Tate’s Bake Shop); and a directory of merchants known for their chocolate chip cookies. VERDICT Though there are many similar books, this one is worth acquiring for its fun, historical perspective. Highly recommended for public libraries.

By Lisa Campbell, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor