In addition to being my entry for the Slashfood birthday contest, my “attempt” at making a White Chocolate Raspberry Almond Cake was supposed to be a very special thank you to Tish Boyle for sending me a copy of her latest cookbook, The Cake Book. It didn’t quite work out so well!

But this thank you has waited long enough so I decided to try my hand at another cake in the hopes that this would serve as a more appropriate and fitting way to express my gratitude.

As some of you may know, I love Tish Boyle. Her cookbook The Good Cookie is the standard by which I judge all other cookbooks on the subject of cookies. Two of the cookies from that book, Brandied Eggnog Cookies and White Chocolate Pistachio Thumbprints, have become part of the family repertoire of Christmas cookies. On Christmas Day, they better be on the table! Tish is also the editor-in-chief of two very fine publications:  Pastry Art & Design and Chocolatier.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when, many months ago now, Tish contacted me offering to send me a copy of her new cookbook on cakes. I was thrilled! Sure enough, a few months later I came home one day to find that the good people at John Wiley & Sons had sent me a copy of The Cake Book.

Cake_book_2Substantial and informative, The Cake Book begins with an introductory section on the ingredients of cake baking.  Each ingredient listed has a thorough explanation that includes useful tips like how to store items to ensure their freshness.

Tish has also included a section on the tools and utensils that will help you to be a better cake baker. Thankfully, Tish has not included a list as long as my arm of gadgets that you simply must buy in order to bake. The fact is that you need very few pieces of equipment to be a good baker. Remember, your hands are your most important tool. But it doesn’t hurt to have a basic set of baking pans, measuring spoons and maybe even a rubber spatula!

The section on tools and equipment is followed by a very helpful section on cake-making techniques and troubleshooting and a section on cake decorating which includes diagrams of various piping designs to help you.

The cookbook proper is divided into sections by type of cake: Angel Food, Chiffon and Sponge; Pound Cakes and Coffee Cakes; Butter and Oil-Based Cakes; Fruit-Based Cakes; Flourless Cakes; Cheesecakes; Mousse and Ice Cream Cakes; and Meringue Cakes.  The final section on Fillings and Frostings rounds out the book’s contents. Each section starts out with recipes that I like to call “building block recipes”. In other words, you learn to make those and you can then graduate onto more complex cakes with your building block recipes. For example, the Classic Génoise in the beginning of the Angel Food, Chiffon and Sponge section will be the base for the Strawberry Shortcake in the Fruit-Based Cakes section.

As with all Tish Boyle cookbooks the recipes are clearly written and precise. I don’t think I’ve ever run into a confusing direction in a recipe of hers. And The Cake Book stays true to form. While some of the more complex cakes have longer ingredients lists, most of the recipes require the basic ingredients of baking (butter, sugar, eggs, extracts) so it’s easy to just open it up and pick a recipe when the mood to bake a cake strikes.

What I especially like about the recipes is that extensive variations are provided. Sometimes I want to jazz up my pound cake and there are many options provided in the book for me to do just that. As well, the final section on basic recipes and accompaniments offers a number of recipes for extras that you can serve with your desserts like sugared nuts, candied orange zest, almond toffee crunch and red berry sauce to name just a few. For someone like me, who’s trying to expand her baking horizons, all of these variations allow me to mix and match and create my own unique recipes.

The book has two picture sections which feature many of the cakes and this will only serve to make you exceptionally hungry. While I always prefer pictures in a cookbook, it doesn’t make a big difference to me as long as the recipes work. But I know many people won’t buy a cookbook if there are no photos so The Cake Book won’t disappoint in that category.

I think of all the qualities that this book has my very favourite is the quotations that are interspersed throughout the book. It’s a nice little touch that, in my opinion, makes the cookbook more than just a list of recipes.

I like cookbooks with character. In my experience I’ve found that those are usually the ones where the author’s voice comes out loud and clear. Elegant, useful and inspiring, The Cake Book satisfies all of the needs of a good quality book on cakes. It has clear instructions. The recipes feature ingredients that can be found in your local grocery store (no trekking to another hemisphere for some exotic item no one has ever heard of). It has enticing recipes that you will want to try. And it’s got some gorgeous photos.

To thank Tish Boyle, I baked this lovely peach buttermilk cake from her book. It was fantastic. Tish, there’s a piece waiting for you!


Peach Buttermilk Cake

Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.

For the topping and filling:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, unblanched or blanched
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. In a bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and almonds.
  2. Add the melted butter and mix until the the ingredients are no longer dry and you have a crumbly mixture.
  3. Set aside.

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 medium-sized peaches, pitted and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine your dry ingredients:  flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pan. Tish recommends using a springform pan as it’s easier to unmold the finished cake.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. One by one, add the eggs and then the egg yolk. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix well after each addition.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. (The original recipe calls for a 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract but I omitted that.)
  6. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.
  7. Add half the buttermilk and mix well.
  8. Add the remaining dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk. Mix until combined.
  9. Pour half the batter into your prepared pan.
  10. Sprinkle half the prepared crumb topping over the batter.
  11. Beginning at the outer edge, arrange your peach slices in a circle, overlapping them slightly. Once you’ve completed the outer circle, make a second circle in the middle of the pan.
  12. Pour the remaining batter over the peaches. The batter may be a bit stiff so use a spoon or offset spatula to smooth it out.
  13. Sprinkle the remaining topping over the batter.
  14. Bake your cake in the centre of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  15. Cool your cake completely on a wire rack before unmolding.
  16. If you like, top the cake glaze (recipe follows).

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup (plus extra) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a bowl, combine the ingredients and stir until smooth. If it’s too thick to pour or spread, add some more cream until you get the consistency you want. It shouldn’t be too runny but it should be thick enough to drizzle on.
  2. Once your cake has cooled, using a fork, pastry bag or plastic bag with a corner cut off, glaze your cake by drizzling on the glaze. If you use a pastry bag or plastic bag you can even try a fancier design.
  3. Enjoy!

Note:  This cake will serve 8 to 10. You can peel the peaches if you like.

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