It doesn’t take a milestone to motivate Odette Williams to bake a cake. A rainy day stuck inside with sick kids is just as likely to prompt her to pull out the sifter as a birthday or holiday.
Williams is a Brooklyn-based home baker and mom whose enduring love of cakes launched a designer apron business, and now a cookbook that makes the cake-baking process itself sound as sweet as the reward.
“Simple Cakes” is Williams’ repertoire of tinkered and fine-tuned recipes that reflect her nurturing, easy-going sensibilities: unfussy, not overly sweet, endlessly flexible, and “simple enough to survive a little household chaos.” Their genius lies in how they are organized: 10 classic base cakes (Very Vanilla, Tangy Olive Oil, Cinnamon Spice) and 15 toppings (Nana’s Simple Glaze, Toblerone Ganache, Beautiful Buttercream), followed by 30 “Cake-worthy Moments” where the author illustrates the infinite creative possibilities for assembling these elements to suit any situation.
There’s a Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake drenched in Citrus Syrup for the working week; a Versatile Coconut Bundt Cake to deliver to new parents along with a jar of Caramel Sauce or Raspberry Curd; and Summertime S’Mores Cakes made by cutting out rounds of Chocolately Chocolate Cake with a cookie cutter, layering with Silky Marshmallow Icing, and decorating with buttery graham cracker crumbs.
Breezy prose, clean and uncluttered photography, and clever suggestions for variations inspire us to start assembling our own combinations.
Each cake recipe gives yields and bake times for multiple pan sizes: layer, sheet, loaf, Bundt, cupcake and mini-cupcake. A one-page flavor chart is a quick reference if you need help mixing and matching.
Don’t worry if the presentation is a little lopsided. Williams certainly wouldn’t judge. “Give me a slice of heavenly warm cake, straight from the oven and impatiently cut anyday. I’m completely okay with the topping sliding off my slice.”
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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