Cookbook Review: Planet Cake Celebrate by Paris Cutler

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Having a long-time obsession with fondant, sprinkles, cupcake liners and ganache, it was with much anticipation that I carefully inked in the Lifestyle Food Channel-arrival of the television version of Planet Cake, taking 3D to a whole new level. Propped up on the couch with my similarly-obsessed 11-year-old daughter, we pressed our hands together in pink glee at the glamorous, be-sugared creations pouring forth from the tele.

Wowzers – Paris Cutler and her multi-national, multi-talented team are a clever bunch . . . carving, daubing, slathering and dusting 3-dimensional creations into edible works of art so beautiful, they should be encased in glass, not divvied-up and shovelled down the gullet.

It was also with much glee that I slid Cutler’s most recent book from its coverings – in heightened anticipation of the glory within. Planet Cake’s latest book is a celebration of celebrations . . . basically, any excuse to whip up a cake, from baby showers to kids’ parties and fund raising drives.

This is a much simpler collection for avid cake-makers – probably too much so. Most of the creations – all cupcake – are bordering basic, and while I realise the content is probably aimed at beginners, I’m not so sure anyone keen for a Planet Cake-making challenge wouldn’t at least have some pre-existing knowledge on how to roll and cut fondant. Honestly, I wanted these creations to challenge, surprise and inspire me to rush out and whip up a cupcake batch, post-haste – but instead, I just went and made a cup of tea.

On closer inspection, I see Celebrate is aimed at high production. We’re talking large parties and fundraising here – the sort of events that require the construction of a production line. Although my own personal cake-making efforts tend to be smaller scale, it is good to know that if I need to really get busy with it (like the time said 11-year-old daughter insisted we bake for the RSPCA’s Cupcake Day), Celebrate will become my very handy cake-creation bible.

Beyond the philanthropic undertones, what I like about this book is the personalisation the author brings, speaking of her experience and obvious delight in her cake-making career. I like how she has centered the book around throwing quality events – and has subsequently divided the book into helpful sections, beginning with themed parties such as little yellow hens and hearts for a bridal shower, adorable little caterpillar and flower cakes for a baby garden shower, and smiley faces for a team building event at work. Each party or event features an introduction, notes on how to throw the party, and an event timeline – the perfect party planning strategy.

This events section is followed by a chapter on Party Planning, outlining the basics, setting up work stations, boxing up cakes, food handling tips and notes on adding extra pizzazz. There are also worksheets on ganaching and covering the cupcakes.

The Recipes section features vanilla and gluten-free cupcakes, caramel fudge, fondant, royal icing, ganache and syrup – all you need to create everything in the book. And the final section – Basics – provides information on equipment, material and techniques, making this a one-stop shop to creating your own quality, wowzer creations. There’s also templates and a glossary.

For cake-makers interested in a little something extra, Cutler has provided some inspiring creations such as the tiny fudge gift boxes, little cubes (cubies) and adorable mini garbage cans, that can be used for fund raising drives. When Planet Cake wanted to protest against the closure of a local hospital, the team created 100 little cubies and sent them to the government where their voice was quickly heard. Always one for a cause, Cutler goes on to explain that her adorable little garbage cans can be used to tell others to ‘clean up their act’.

Like this story behind the cubies, I also like how each cake idea is foreworded with some kind of history or inspiration behind its creation.

Celebrate would suit kids and teens who want to get creative, or busy mums and teachers keen to produce something relatively simple, but of the highest quality. Dust off your rolling pin. It’s time to set up that production line.

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