Suzen and I listen to satellite radio in our car. Channels 4 through 9 are for songs from the 1940′s through the 1990′s. We are considering canceling our subscription because of the sloppy work on the service. They keep playing songs that are almost brand new, and then they have the gall to claim the song is from the 60′s or 70′s. It’s so frustrating. And I must say that when it comes to those songs from the 90s, well, I never heard any of them. It’s a totally made up channel.
This Rip Van Winkle thing is getting out of hand. It is now 25 years since Rose Levy Beranbaum published The Cake Bible. And Suzen and I have not yet worked our way through every recipe. The Cake Bible deservingly won awards and fame for Rose.
Now, it’s already four more years since Rose published Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, which won the IACP dessert cookbook award when first published. What’s the difference between the two books? Well, what is the difference between a house, a very good house, and a mansion?
Each of the recipes in Heavenly Cakes is a dessert mansion, a masterpiece. There are some recipes here you can easily knock off in a fairly short time but there are many recipes that go on for five pages or more. Those longer recipes often require you work in stages, with separate recipes for a cake, a filling, a frosting, a syrup. So, in fact, some of the “mini-recipes” there are wonderful to be used on their own.
For example, Rose has an English Gingerbread Cake, made in part with orange marmalade, which she describes as being truly authentically British and hence different from the many American versions. That cake is to be served with a lemon butter syrup which is quite lovely and quite versatile.
This syrup can be used with that gingerbread cake — yes, that recipe will appear here soon — but it can be used in many other circumstances: dribbled over pound or white cake, served atop ice cream, or — I suspect — thickened with some confectioners’ sugar and used to garnish cookies or cakes.
In short, this is a multi-use recipe.
I’ve gone through Heavenly Cakes page by page, amazed and the wonderful detail and careful articulation of each recipe. A Rose recipe is done in what is described as signature style with tables and heading aplenty to guide you on journey to dessert perfection
To do some of these cakes will take time. But a Rose recipe is one you can always trust. Many of the cakes in the book are accompanied by photographs by Ben Fink, an artist with light. Suzen and I met Ben at a signing for this book, and I asked him what it was like to photo shoot this book.
“Well, we did it all in one go,” he said. “Four or five days. One cake at a time.”
“Must have been hard,” I said.
“Oh, yes,” he said. His voice was stern but the seriousness was totally belied by the grin on his face. He did photograph, but he had a camera in one hand and a fork in the other.
Try Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, which will also be around for 25 years, and you’ll smile too.
Lemon Butter Syrup
Yield: ½ cup
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter at low room temperature [65° to 75°F]
In a small pan, stir together the sugar, lemon juice and butter. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.
Source: Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Concord grapes. They come only in the fall and they cannot be forgotten. They are the definitive sweet grape flavor. They also have skins you could make a tire from.
Or, a great, great syrup. Look, it is fall. The kids are returning to school and each weekday morning is a madhouse. Parents scrambling to get the kids to school by foot, bike or bus and then be off to your own jobs. Those kids are often scrambling too, hoping to stay home or just pick one more fight with a sibling.
And everybody is hungry. Now, I have never eaten a frozen, pre-made waffle. But people do, and I understand. If you are in that fast food lane, but want to send your kid or your spouse off with something special, then adorn that waffle with some wonderful syrup. Not store bought. Not maple.
No, make it home brew and very, very flavorful. Make your own concord grape syrup. This is a superior syrup, destined for many things:
- Waffles, of course
- Pancakes, naturally
- Biscuits, in place of jam or honey
- Beverage of all kinds, like with champagne
- Ice cream
This is universal syrup with a very intense flavor. We actually served it last night on watermelon granita, a red on red flavor powerhouse.
Now, about those grape skins. The original recipe calls for using a blender. We did. But it was a Vitamix, that very powerful blender you see in places like Jamba Juice. The Vitamix is able to truly pulverize the tough skins of the concord grapes, the exact place where so much nutrition and flavor is stored. The Vitamix simply outclasses a conventional blender here. So, next time you look at one at your cooking store, really, really consider getting your own Vitamix. They are incredible machines.
As a point of full disclosure, we have four of the Vitamixes here, donated by the company. We use them regularly and we could never, never go back.
And finally, about those frozen waffles. I have this corn waffle recipe that I’ll be testing this week. Since it, too comes from I Love Corn, I have high expectations.
Concord Grape Syrup
Yield: 1 cup
- 1 ½ pounds of concord grapes
- 2/3 cups sugar
- Juice of one medium lemon
Pull the grapes off the stems and place is a blender, ideally a Vitamix. Puree for at least one minute. In the Vitamix, you’ll hear the grape seeds smacking the sides of the container and then gradually the sound will dissipate. Those seeds, with important anti-oxidants, are being ground up to be healthfully enjoyed.
Strain the liquid through a sieve, pressing to get as much juice out as possible.
Put the juice, the sugar, and the lemon juice in a medium sauce pan and stir to mix. On medium-low heat, cook uncovered until the mixture is simmering, while stirring occasionally. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces to a syrupy consistency.
Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in a glass container. Use within two weeks.
Source: adapted from I Love Corn by Lisa Skye