Immediately, I wanted to get baking but wanted an excuse so as to avoid the whole bake-it-just-because-and-then-eat-it-cos-it's-there thing. Thankfully I found the perfect excuse. My sister hopped on a train with her three wonderful kids this morning and came to spend the day with us and we're off to friends for lunch tomorrow. So I baked, naturally.
This book is such a treat to leaf through. The Hummingbird Bakery seems to value flavour over flair which is wonderful. If you visit Slice of Barnes, you will see she says "believes that modern cupcakes are too much about the icing, and not enough about the taste." I am inclined to agree. Cupcakes have become fashionable (which is no bad thing, it has got people interested in baking, after all) but there is generally a mound of piped generic buttercream frosting, too sickly sweet to properly enjoy, and decorated to within an inch of its life. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for beautiful cakes - I am all for the odd sugar paste rose, or lightly glittered butterfly, atop some beautifully piped frosting - but it is a real shame when the look far outweighs the taste. If something looks enticing, you want to take that first bite and not feel you've been lured to something decidedly ordinary tasting (or worse!)
As I read through this book, the first thing that struck me was that all the frosting was smoothed over with a pallet knife with just a little flicked swirl in the centre. And not a piping nozzle in sight. Now, you'll know from reading my list that cake decorating is on there and I love it. I understand this book though. You get the sense that they want a cupcake (or cake - there are lots of whole cake recipes too) to be a comfort, a real treat, a joy to both bake and eat, and to taste divine. All their frosting is a complimentary flavour to the sponge, not merely a decorative tool.
The second thing I noticed was that they only use plain flour with different raising agents. This is new to me (obviously, I have used plain flour with baking powder before but it's unusual for an entire book!) I realise, though, that baking is a science and by taking this route, it allows more control over the kind of rise and texture you get in a bake.
The third thing about this book is the flavours they have come up with. They're soooo tempting, I hardly knew where to begin! Flavours so creative and mouthwatering that to cover them with lots of decoration would seem a tad sacrilegious to be honest. The book has such a relaxed, yet beautiful, feel to it that it makes you feel you could achieve the same results you see on the page. Which you totally can. The recipes are more complex than I am used to (as a result of the science-ness) but as long as you read the directions thoroughly it's fine.
I have already baked twice from this book and would definitely say it is expanding my baking horizons and pushing my limited skills (thus helping me in item one on the list!) I am already excited about what I can make from this book next... all in all, it's a big thumbs up and huge recommendation from me (that counts for a lot, don't you know?!)
Watch this space for a review of the recipes I made for my sister, kids, and our friends!