The baked and the beautiful

mattress cakes

When it comes to books about cake, there are the ones you use and the ones you don’t.  There are the ones whose recipes you can, with a little attention, manage to produce yourself.  And then there are the ones where you just look through the pictures, slack-jawed.  I’m thinking of a book called Cakes to Dream On, with cakes that look like mattresses, like Fabergé eggs, like teapots.  I’m talking about Toba Garrett’s Wedding Cake Art and Design, with its scrupulous and subtle trailing vines and flowers.  These cakes are beyond my wildest imaginings and, in some cases, you get the feeling, on the very edges of their authors’.

The perfectionism of bakers can be inspiring, when it’s not intimidating.  Julia Usher’s adorable Cookie Swap drove me to make little cookie hats and butterflies last year for my 4-year-old’s birthday. And how many people were charmed by Hello, Cupcake! into baking little Scottie dog cupcakes and spaghetti-and-meatball cupcakes?

I have the feeling that the gorgeous and soigné Miette Bakery Cookbook, from the eponymous San Francisco bakery, is going to inspire another just-barely-within-reason cake fit.  It may be summer, when the icing drips and the butter melts, but some charming, perfect little baked good can still steal your heart.

What’s your most aspirational baking book?

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