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Wild about Cupcakes
By Rachel Lane
ISBN: 0764162772
Publisher: Barron's
Publication date: October 2009
Format: Hardcover, spiral-bound
Number of recipes: 130
List price: $16.99
Type: Baking: Cupcakes; Desserts
Sample recipe: Santa Claus Cupcakes
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: Who starts a cupcake book with a recipe for Rhubarb and Vanilla Cupcakes? (Note to Australian pastry chefs: In this country, a cupcake book would generally start with a rich, over-the-top chocolate cupcake.)

Yes, OK, this book is from Australia, and it starts with a chapter of cupcakes that are "simple and healthy," perhaps more like what we might think of as muffins. Many people will love it for these cupcakes that combine various grain flours, fruits, and spices. Others need not worry, though. Among the 130 recipes are many that that are rich, over the top, make good use of chocolate, and are heavily decorated.

The recipes are divided into categories:

  • The aforementioned Simple and Healthy – those that aren't too sweet and are "good for breakfast"
  • Chocolate cupcakes – some of which feature only white chocolate, so if you're expecting them all to be brown, you may be disappointed
  • Children's cupcakes – colorful, with loads of decorations, including a clown, honeybee, soccer ball, Superman, bunny rabbits, etc.
  • Party cupcakes – sticking primarily to holidays, including Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, St. Patrick's Day, the new year, as well as birthdays and other celebrations
  • Special Moments cupcakes – including those for wedding showers, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, graduations, baby showers, Mother's Day and Father's Day, and other fancy cupcakes where we can't quite figure out the occasion

There is a lot of variety among these recipes – it's not four basic cakes, eight frostings, and 12 decorations that are mixed and matched. There are dozens of cakes, dozens of frostings, and all the decorations are unique. There are lots of fruits and lots of spices, all of which help make these cupcakes unique. Some of the decorations use Australian candies and confections that are impossible or hard to find here, so you may have to substitute now and again, but not often.

Recipes are graded according to difficulty (from 1 to 3), with most in the easy category. Frankly, we didn't think that anything looked outrageously complex; it just appears that some are more time-consuming or use more ingredients.

There are also 10 recipes that are gluten free, five that are dairy free, eight that are egg free, four that are sugar free, and six that are labeled as diabetic friendly. There is some crossover among these recipes, but we didn't find any that fell into more than two "free" categories.

There are a few places where the instructions are not crystal clear. When you spoon in the two batters for the Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes, is one on top of the other or are they side-by-side? The photo doesn't help as there is no swirl visible in the cupcake. Surely it is delicious, but you may have to wing it a little bit (but that's what home cooks and bakers do all the time, isn’t it?)

You will need a kitchen scale. Most measurements are in the volume quantities that we're used to (and metric quantities that much of the rest of the world uses), but occasionally a little measurement in ounces creeps in.


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