Random House Canada sent me a complimentary copy to review, however all opinions are my own.
If I slept with a book under my pillow like my kids, The Sweetapolita Bakebook would be the one I’d tuck under my head and dream about each night. Baker, blogger and photographer extraordinaire Rosie Alyea invites readers to a magical land where playing with your food is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. Colour and paint on decadent cookies and cakes with edible paint and chalk, make your own sprinkles and candy clay, and top your cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting — Alyea shows you how in step-by-step instructions even the newest (and littlest!) bakers will want to try. And if you have a few flops along the way, she’s there to remind you she’s had her share of failures too. The teenager who fell in love with the world of cake and confection working at a bakery grew into a multi-talented entrepreneur, mother of two, and author of this most endearing first book where decorating takes the cake.
Like so many thousands of her fans, I have been eagerly anticipating Alyea’s book. And when the cover photo was released a few months ago: wahhhhh! I thought I would burst from excitement. The Doodles and Daydreams Cake was unlike anything I’d seen before! (You can see Alyea working on one here.) How could you not want to make that cake?
Every page is just as enticing. Every. Single. One.
Cut & Paste Illustration Cake
Watercolour Graffiti Cookies
Alyea used 520 pounds of sugar and 256 pounds of butter making the book. And obviously some supplies you might not have in your cupboard, but they’re easy enough to find. I ordered the food decorating markers and some special cookie cutters from Golda’s Kitchen in Mississauga and they were shipped in two days. Sprinkles, fondant, gel colours, edible paper, meringue powder and other supplies were all widely available at Bulk Barn and Michael’s. (They also had the markers but a different brand than the ones Alyea uses.)
Speaking of sprinkles, did you know there was a difference between American sprinkles and sprinkles made in Canada? American-made sprinkles are short and chubby like these ones above (they’re from New Jersey via Winners), while Canadian sprinkles are considerably longer and thinner. You can find this fun fact and many others in the book’s Guide to Sprinkles (Alyea calls herself a “sprinkle-junkie”), as well as the how-to’s for several baking and decorating techniques from how to prepare and fill a pastry bag to how to dowel and stack a cake. Oh, and a recipe for Canadian sprinkles too!
My kids and their friends (and me!) had a ball trying some of the recipes and techniques from the book. First up: the Doodles and Daydreams Cake from the cover. We’d made a rainbow layer cake a few days before that so we didn’t use Alyea’s recipe, but we did follow her tutorial for covering it with fondant. I’d never worked with fondant so I was nervous as all heck, but the two seven-year-olds had every confidence helping me roll it and smooth it over the cake. Had I been working on my own I would have obsessed about it for an hour but the kids were eager to decorate it so we didn’t fiddle with it too much. And you know, for a first-time effort it turned out okay.
My daughter also loved helping me make a couple of batches of the Vanilla Sugar Cutout Cookies. (Aren’t the unicorns and and the cloud shapes adorbs? They’re from Golda’s Kitchen.) They’re the first sugar cookies I’ve had repeated success with. I iced them with Alyea’s Royal Icing (first time making and decorating with that too) and used her guide to outlining and filling them.
One batch went to the Rainbow Doodle Cookies. The white icing serves as a blank canvas to decorate with the edible markers.
Your little bakers will be so proud of their creations!
A second batch went to these bunny cookies, inspired by the Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries on Alyea’s blog. I was so happy with how they turned out! (Not all of them turned out of course. But those ones got eaten before I could show you.)
The Dark Chocolate Sugar Cutout Cookies were just as delicious and fool-proof. I got such a kick out of mastering the magical “10-second” consistency of the Royal Icing (when you can drag a knife through the icing and it’ll leave a line that will disappear in 10 seconds) so I upped my game and decorated these like the Happy Happy Cupcake Cookies on Alyea’s blog. (If you think these are cute, you must check out Alyea’s. They’re so adorable you’ll want to tickle them!)
Next up: Sprinkle-Dipped Meringues! My first batch of meringue never reached the proper volume, and I think it’s because I used egg whites from a carton, straight out of the fridge. Alyea says room-temperature egg whites from fresh eggs create the most stable, voluminous meringue and indeed, when I tried a second time with the fresh egg whites the meringue fluffed up lighter than air.
Honestly, I wanted to make every recipe in the book! (I still do!) But at some point I had to put down the spatula and write this review. But not before trying the Sky-High Chocolate Covered Cupcakes. And I know, you’re wondering where is the chocolate but I loved the marshmallow frosting so much on its own that I left the glaze for another day. The cake part of the cupcake is a dense, moist, deep chocolate wonder and the marshmallow frosting so scrumptious I could easily eat a bowl of it on its own. I think I need a few more goes before I get them sky high, but for a first try I’m pretty happy with the size of these peaks.
And I’m even happier that Random House Canada has given me an additional copy of The Sweetapolita Bakebook to pass along to one of you! YAY! If you’re a Canadian resident over the age of 18, hop on over here to submit your name and email, then come back here and tell me your favourite cake, cookie or confection (and if you can’t pick just one, tell me several!). You must leave a comment here on the blog in order to be eligible. One winner will be randomly chosen via Rafflecopter. Contest ends May 9.
Good luck everybody! I hope you’re feeling inspired to bake (and decorate!) something sweet.
Update May 10: Congratulations to the winner, Amanda Fontaine!