If you enjoy the act of spinning flour, butter, and sugar into magic, this is a resource you should have on your shelves. 

By Darcy Lenz
June 05, 2020
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Holly Wulff Peterson; courtesy of Benjamina Ebuehi

Bake It Up a Notch is a column dedicated to sharing resources that can help anyone become a more skilled, knowledgeable, and inspired baker. Some weeks, it’s all about exploring a particular technique, other weeks it’s in sharing a recipe that illustrates an array of skills and tips or spotlighting a tool that really helps to get the job done. This week, I need to tell you about a book. A book that’s occupied one of the limited spots on my nightstand for the last couple of months: The New Way to Cake by Benjamina Ebuehi

It hit shelves in November 2019, but I only put my hands on a copy earlier this year. And it’s remained on my bedside table, alongside the partially-read novels and memoirs I have every intention of finishing, since that time. However, unlike its nightstand neighbors, The New Way to Cake has been devoured cover-to-cover multiple times. At this point, I have bookmarked at least two-thirds of the recipes with torn yellow sticky notes indicating a “must make.” 

You may already be familiar with Ebuehi’s pastry artistry from her time on The Great British Bake-Off, but don’t let her ability to make whipping up a Swiss meringue buttercream look as easy as checking the mail intimidate you. The recipes in her book deliver the level of creativity Wow flavor intrigue you might expect, and yet, no recipe is overly complex or unnecessarily fussy. As the book’s subtitle says, the new way to cake is through “simple recipes with exceptional flavor.” Ebuehi’s style—influenced by her family’s Nigerian roots and her growing up in London, granting her access to a wide array of ingredients—reflects a curiosity and imaginative uniqueness that is charming, to say the least. A sense of wonder seems to characterize the pages of The New Way to Cake, as  Ebuehi guides readers through a menagerie of unexpected “star” ingredients (broken into six chapters: Nuts & Caramel, Spices, Chocolate, Citrus, and Floral). Each cake creation featured in the book is fascinating, and elegant.

 

What I appreciate even more is that Ebuehi’s recipe writing makes this enchanted exploration of cake inclusive to bakers of all skill levels. At first glance, the length of step two for Ebuehi’s Chocolate, Rye, and Passionfruit Cake might strike fear into the hearts of less experienced home bakers, but give it a read. Ebuehi is simply providing thorough instructive detail and visual cues to guide the reader through without guesswork. The method for each cake reflects a level of mastery and thoughtfulness that’s so often missing in recipe instructions—her considered words enable a baker at home to feel confident. 

Clearly, there are a great many things I love about The New Way to Cake. The book’s elegance and ingenuity, I cannot overstate. Ebuehi’s way of making her baking approachable and inviting without implying assumptions about the reader’s skill level is absolute grace. But what I adore the most is that this book squelches my own weird, multifaceted indifference towards cake with pure excitement. Flipping the pages, marked by Ebuehi’s originality, makes me excited to bake, and to think about baking! It makes me excited to imagine what occasion I could make the Chocolate Fudge and Tahini Cake for. And who I might share the Plum and Black Pepper Cake with. Those are the musings that can carry me into the kitchen, where nothing else will matter for an hour or so.   

In my opinion, a good cookbook makes you drool, but a great cookbook makes you daydream. And that’s why I keep The New Way to Cake within arms reach.