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I bought this book hoping to get some great (and simple) ideas for making fun cakes. The ideas were great, but simple? Not so much. I own another cake decorating book by Debbie Brown. Her work is flawless, which is not surprising, considering the level of detail she puts in to each cake design. The cakes were so complicated in the first book, however, that it took me close to 15 hours to build one of them (and I worked 8 years in the industry). This book, I assumed, would have her more simple creations. I also assumed (incorrectly) that the cakes would be for general parties (birthday, anniversaries, showers, etc.). I was wrong on both counts.
First, with the exception of the cover cake (which, to me, looks like it could work for a girl's birthday), the cakes have strange themes and none are really appropriate for general purposes. For instance, there's a cake made to look like a garbage can with someone's desk accessories in it; another cake is made to look like a washing machine with dirty laundry thrown about; another cake is a kitten on a pillow; still another is made to look like a moving van with a man trying to stuff in a mattress; you get the picture. There are no frosted cakes for standard celebrations. I'm not certain what sort of parties Debbie Brown is having, but they don't work for me.
Second, I cannot say that the cakes are simple to make. All of her creations require fondant, which is easy to make, but does require some general instruction (which she does not give). Having worked with fondant I did not have any trouble with that piece of it, but I don't know that the average savvy baker would know, for instance, to generously cover her work surface with powdered sugar, or that you cannot properly dye fondant with the over-the-counter egg dyes. In addition, her cakes require gum paste, which can be difficult to find if you don't live in a large city. Even for the very simple cake I made (a diver in an ocean), I needed tragacanth gum. As it happens, I have some, but again, I'm not sure the average cook carries that in his or her larder.
Finally, the recipes are not particularly good, so don't buy it for that reason. They have been adapted for U.S. kitchens (she's from the U.K., I believe), but flavor is not the focus of the cakes and frosting. The base of the buttercream she uses is powdered sugar and butter which you can get off of any box of flour or can of Hershey's cocoa (I make a cooked swiss meringue buttercream, which adds loads to the flavor of a cake). The cake recipe makes a firm dry cake, good for cutting into shapes, but not so good for eating. For me, I want my cakes to look and taste good. After all, once you slice in to that baby, people forget what it looked like.
Here is what is good about the book: The pictures are beautiful and you can pick and choose from her designs to add to your more subdued cake. For instance, I wanted to make some edible stones for a cake I was making, so I used her idea from a more complicated cake. Worked perfectly. Also, she outlines very clearly all the things you will need if you do choose to make the cakes she's listed. Finally, the book's whimsical designs will give you ideas for your whole party. Her "diver" cake, which I could barely get through, gave me the idea to give each guest their own hand-poured chocolate shells, nestled in a pail of sand (made of cookies). The kids loved it.
In short, I have other cake decorating books that I think are more valuable, and I do believe the title is somewhat misleading. If you're a novice, or you don't like working with fondant, this is not the book for you.