There is plain cake and then there is CAKE that shouts out to you: Eat Me! Laugh! Smile! Be Amazed!
Which would you eat: Plain or Fantastic?
If you chose the latter, then Amanda Rettke’s Surprise-Inside Cakes (William Morrow 2014) is just the book for you. Some are whimsical, some a bit garish, but all of the cakes in this book are achievable by a good home cook. She tells the story of how she started making surprise-inside cakes:
The first surprise-inside cake was the Jack-o’-Lantern Cake (page 189). I wanted to bring a cake to a church potluck, but couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t too ghoulish or scary, so I settled on a jack-o’-lantern. But then I was nervous that there would be a bunch of pumpkin cakes, so I wanted to try and make mine different.
She put a cake candle inside – so when you cut it, you can see the yellow flame burning – just like a real jack-o’-lantern.
My end design was a far cry from the original plan of execution, but every single moment of labor and planning was worth it when I saw people’s faces. (p. 3)
Don’t start with that cake – try something simpler and work your way up. There is a chart on page 7 listing the recipes by difficulty. She suggests you start with Rainbow Cakes (pp. 40-43) a three-tiered brightly colored layer cake with a second layer cake inside – each layer a different color of the rainbow. The photograph by Susan Powers shows a multi-colored cake, topped with matching twirls of colored frosting. Think Easter Eggs and you’ll get a good idea. You cut out a column from one set of three layers and replace it with the other – thus, you end up with two cakes. There are basic recipes in the beginning of the book for White Cake, Chocolate, Red Velvet, Strawberry, and Brownies (pp.19-23) and recipes for different kinds of frosting. Once you get good at cutting out and scooping out cake to create different forms, you can try more complex cakes, such as a spring-themed Daisy Cake (p. 79) with a flower in the center, or the fanciful Cherry Cake (p. 266-9) in honor of Washington DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival next month – this one has red cherries with green stems made out of cake inside. Many of the cakes are more serious affairs – like the Ombre Cake (p. 37) with Dark Chocolate, Chocolate, and White layers – it reminiscent of a LeNotre cake, Gateau Concorde, of alternating layers of meringues and mousse with different flavors.
Do you have a birthday or family gathering coming up and you want to make a big splash? Amanda Rettke’s Surprise-Inside Cakes is just what you need.