When it arrived, the first page that fell open in Jill O’Connor’s new book Cake, I Love You! was her recipe for Salted Pecan Cake.
A not-so-subtle voice in my head screamed, “Stop what you are doing right now and go directly into the kitchen.”
Get the book! Cake, I Love You: Decadent, Delectable, and Do-Able Recipes by Jill O’Connor
As it happened, I needed something to take to a friend’s house for supper that night, so out came the mixer and the cake pan.
Salt and caramel and pecans! I was all over that, and so was my host that night.
Her parting words to me at the end of the evening: “Sally, do not ever, ever make that cake again and bring it to my house. I will eat the whole thing at one sitting.”
Jill O’Connor is no slouch. Cake, I Love You! is only the most recent of at least seven books this master baker has written – not to mention her recipes for Fine Cooking, Bon Appetit, Better Homes and Gardens and House Beautiful magazines.
The relatively small size (171 pages of 50 recipes) of Cake, I Love You! belies the hidden trove of information packed between the covers.
Jill supplies you with all you need to be a successful cake baker: advice on equipment, special tools and the best ingredients along with lots of tips on how to build a better cake.
Do you know why many cake recipes call for room temperature eggs? Or how to split, fill, stack and frost cake layers for a beautiful finish?
And if you don’t know what a crumb coat is, Jill explains that too. This is all good news for the novice and experienced baker alike.
The organizing principal behind the book is seven different flavor profiles: Banana, Coconut, Chocolate, Caramel and Butterscotch, Citrus, Spirits and Spice, Garden and Orchard, with advice and recipes for squeezing the best results from each flavor.
Can’t decide where to start? Look for a “crowd-pleaser” icon next to the recipe – these icons indicate a classic and iconic cake that you’ll want to make again and again.
After making the Salted Pecan Cake, I can’t wait to try Brown Butter Banana Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting, Black Irish Chocolate-Whisky Cake and Pastel de Tres Leches. And I will also surely make a few loaf cakes for gift giving.
I’ve already tried the Kona Coconut Loaf (splendid) and look forward to Luscious Lemon Loaf and Blood Orange Ricotta Pound Cake.
I also want to make Jill’s version of Old-Fashioned Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting again. This has been a favorite of mine for decades and my go-to birthday cake, but I’ll bet that Jill’s tweaks have brought it to new heights.
Recently I discovered the power of cake as an expression of thanks. An acquaintance did me a huge favor, and I wracked my brain to find a way to thank her.
A cake on a plate (a nice one from a thrift shop that she could keep), wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon, was a surprisingly well-received way to express my gratitude.
Now I have a whole new volume of recipes to choose from to please guests, family and favor-givers. I think I’ll stick with my first impulse: Open the book at random and march into the kitchen. That’s a no-risk strategy. And that’s why I love you, Cake, I Love You!