“Cakes from Scratch in Half the Time” by Linda West Eckhardt

A guest review (and recipe!) from Ruth!

Title: Cakes from Scratch in Half the Time: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Bake Cakes Forever
Author: Linda West Eckhardt
ISBN: 9780811842402
Pages: 196
Release date: July 2005
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: Cookbook
Format: Paperback
Source: Ruth’s collection
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Linda West began her journey into baking more than a decade ago. As time went by, she came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to make delicious baked goods without spending too much time in the kitchen. She went on a mission. Several years later, she wrote a book on baking bread that became the top baking book in the nation. With such success, she decided to expand on her baking knowledge into the cake world and wrote this book.

My opinion: Let’s begin with the end. I love the index in this book. When I’m considering a cookbook, I always start in the back. If I don’t know what’s in the book, then I don’t want it. The index is very detailed, and finding a specific recipe is very simple.

Speaking of the end, I absolutely love the very last page of the cookbook. It’s called a Table of Equivalents, which lets you know liquid to dry measurements along with inches to millimeters and Fahrenheit to Celsius. I adore this page because it is not only a great reference for this cookbook, but also because I often use it for my other cookbooks, too.

In the introduction, the author explains all of the necessary tools for baking her recipes–another feature I appreciated about the book. Her recipes are very specific to the types of pans, ingredients, and heat she uses. Let’s be real; we are all guilty of skimming (or skipping) the introduction, but I suggest that you read it to become familiar with her tools and tips.

One of the things that I would change in the book is the addition of more photographs of her cakes. I can use my imagination when I comes to fiction, but when I’m reading a cookbook I prefer my cakes to look somewhat like the picture so I know I’m doing it right. The handful of pictures that she does include let me know that I did a good job on those particular cakes, which is a boost of culinary confidence.

Furthermore, this book is not for the novice baker. I was blessed to have a mother who baked from scratch frequently and who taught me some tricks to the art of baking desserts. But even I had a challenging time with some of these cakes. If you are a novice baker still drooling at the sight of this book, I wouldn’t attempt some of the more complicated cakes. But there are simpler recipes to follow than the ones I chose, such as a delicious New York Cheesecake recipe–it is to die for.

As a whole, I give this cookbook a 7 out of 10. I would give it a higher score, but it’s not very beginner friendly. (Beginner as in: preheat according to package, open package, and place contents on sheet pan kind of baking.) But if you are a little more experienced, then you can expect a cookbook filled with a few good cakes that should be stolen for your “passed down from generation to generation” recipe box.

The Lady Baltimore White Cake

Ingredients

8 large egg whites
2 sticks of softened butter
2 cups of sugar
3 1/2 cups of sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1 cup of milk
2 tsp. of vanilla extract

Instructions

Arrange rack in middle of the oven. Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Butter and flour 3 shiny round pans.

Put 8 unbroken eggs in warm water before separating. Separate the egg whites, beat them in bowl until stiff and peaks form.

Cream softened butter and sugar in mixing bowl until fluffy.

Sift flower, baking powder, and salt into another bowl.

Combine milk and vanilla in a liquid measure.

Spoon a third of flour mixture into butter mixture and mix in. Next, mix a third of the milk mixture into the butter mixture and mix in. Spoon in the last teaspoon of baking powder in the butter mixture. Keep mixing until all thirds are combined beating constantly.

Now, fold the butter batter by hand into the beaten egg whites.

Divide among the pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool layers before icing.

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