The Art of the Cake: Modern French Baking and Decorating

The Art of the Cake: Modern French Baking and Decorating

by Bruce Healy, Paul Bugat

French cakes are among the most luscious and spectacular in the pantheon of cake baking. In The Art of the Cake, authors Healy and Bugat simplify the art form and bring together more than 100 classic cakes, from the Marquis (kirsch-soaked chocolate genoise cake rounds stuffed with ripe peaches and whipped cream) to the Moka, made from vanilla genoise brushed

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French cakes are among the most luscious and spectacular in the pantheon of cake baking. In The Art of the Cake, authors Healy and Bugat simplify the art form and bring together more than 100 classic cakes, from the Marquis (kirsch-soaked chocolate genoise cake rounds stuffed with ripe peaches and whipped cream) to the Moka, made from vanilla genoise brushed with espresso, filled with coffee buttercream, and topped with chopped roasted almonds.

There are recipes for poundcake-, spongecake-, and meringue-based gbteaux,in addition to bavarians, charlottes, mousse cakes, and loaf and log cakes (like the classic Chocolate Yule Log). There are also over 40 recipes for frostings, glazes, sauces, and fillings. In addition, there are detailed ingredient and equipment sections, and comprehensive instructions on general baking techniques—everything from separating and whipping eggs to working with a pastry tube to the correct way to temper chocolate. The more than 400 step-by-step illustrations (penned by Paul Bugat) that accompany the recipes and the 32 pages of color photographs of these magnificent cakes will be enough to tempt any baker, amateur or pro, into the kitchen.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This compendium of French classics presents plenty of challenges for even the most practiced baker, but is thorough enough to successfully guide the novice cook. Authors Healy and Bugat (who co-authored Mastering the Art of French Pastry) devote a large section of the book to instructions on techniques (everything from separating eggs to selecting a tube for a pastry bag) as well as equipment and ingredient glossaries. In an informative discussion of the various flours available, the authors suggest all-purpose rather than cake flour. Recipes are complex, but always sensible. Chapters are arranged by type of cake (e.g., meringue, mousse cake), and most of the recipes rely on several components, cross-referenced throughout. For example, the Blueberry Mousse Log calls for individual recipes of a raspberry jam sandwich, joconde and cr me anglaise. The authors emphasize the decorative: the clever Fromage with g noise, pralin buttercream and heavy syrup looks like a wheel of camembert, and the b niste sports a faux wood-grain top made with dark and white chocolate. These cakes are projects--most require a great deal of time--but the results are impressive. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Healy, who has a cooking school in Boulder, CO, and Bugat, a highly regarded Parisian pastry chef, are also the authors of Mastering the Art of French Pastry and The French Cookie Book. Like those, their cake book is a painstakingly detailed cookbook/reference; there are more than 400 step-by-step illustrations (by Bugat), as well as a 32-page color insert. The authors have updated some techniques, but most of the cakes are from the classic French pastry repertoire, and the headnotes include a good deal of culinary history. Instructions are impressively thorough, and there is a separate technique section offering even more guidance, as well as lengthy ingredients and equipment sections. For serious bakers, this is recommended for all pastry collections. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.57(d)

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Almond Pound Cake (Pain de Genes)

For 6 to 8 servings

Andre Massena was one of Napoleon's most important and trusted generals and a Marshal of France. He played a key role in the decisive defeat of the Austrians at Rivoli, in the Venetia, on January 15, 1797; for that service Napolean would one day create for him the title Duke of Rivoli. Later, in the beginning of the year 1800, Napoleon sent Massena to Genoa to command what was left of his Army of Italy. Massena defended Genoa from February until June when, having survived for months on a diet of only rice and almonds, Massena and his army were forced to surrender. However, by keeping the besieging troops occupied, Massena gave Napoleon time to defeat the Austrians at the village Marengo (celebrated in a legendary chicken dish) in the Italian Piedmont, eventually leading to the Treaty of Luneville in February of 1801.

Pain de genes was created in homage to Andre Massena's courage and tenacity in adverse circumstances. The cake has a hefty dose of powdered almonds, and while it is customarily made with potato starch (and sometimes wheat flour) today, originally it was made with rice flour. At first it was called gateau d'ambroisie because Napoleon had nicknamed Massena "l'Ambroise," ambrosia being the food of the gods of Olympus, which, according to legend, rendered anyone who tasted it immortal. During the nineteenth century, the name of the cake was transformed to gateau de genes and eventually to pain de genes (literally "Genoa bread"), which has stuck.

Despite the circumstances which inspired its creation, pain de genes is a very luxurious cake, with almondsmaking up one quarter of its weight and butter nearly the same proportion. It was invented by a pastry chef named Fauvel at the patisserie Chiboust, which was located on the rue St. Honori in Paris.


8-inch (20-cm) fluted tarte mold or deep quiche pan (or substitute a plain round cake pan)

  • brush with melted butter
  • sprinkle about 1 tablespoon (10 g) sliced almonds over the bottom of the mold
Heavy baking sheet
Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with flat beater and wire whip


1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon ( 4 1/2 ounces / 125 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups (12 ounces / 340 g) almond-and-sugar powder
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons + 1 tsp (3.5 cl)European kirsch or dark Jamaican or Haitian rum
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces / 45 g) potato starch

Preheat the oven to 320 F (160C).

1. Cream the butter in the mixer, using the flat beater if your mixer has one. Beat in half of the almond-and-sugar powder and continue whipping at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes to make the mixture very white and light. Beat in the remaining almond-and-sugar powder.

2. Beat in one egg (still with the flat beater if you are using it). Then switch to the wire whip and beat in the remaining eggs one at a time, whipping until the batter is smooth,light, and fluffy before adding each successive egg. When all of the eggs have been added, continue whipping for a few seconds longer, then gradually whip in the kirsch orrum.

3. Sift the potato starch onto a sheet of wax paper, and fold it into the batter using a wire whisk.

4. Scoop the batter into the prepared tarte mold. Smooth the surface from the center out to the sides of the pan, making a depression in the center. Place the tarte mold on the baking sheet.

5. Bake until the top of the cake is light brown and firm to the touch and the cake just begins to shrink from the sides of the mold, about 45 to 55 minutes. When the cake is done, the tip of a paring knife inserted into the center will come out clean.

6. Place the cake on a wire rack and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then unmold the cake onto a wire rack and let it cool right side up (that is, with the sliced almonds on top). Serve at room temperature.


Covered airtight with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days at room temperature (or refrigerated in hot weather).

Or, freeze for as long as 3 months. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then unwrap the cake and let it stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving to allow condensation produced by defrosting to evaporate.

Almond Paste

For 1 pound + 8 ounces (675 g)

There are two types of almond paste. The simplest is raw almond paste, which is just a mixture of egg whites with almond-and- sugar powder. Raw almond paste is used in batters and sometimes as a sort of frosting.

The other possibility, which is the one we will be exploring in this section, is cooked almond paste, or confectioners' almond paste. The ingredients required are hot sugar syrup (which is what does the cooking) and blanched almonds, plus corn syrup (or glucose) to prevent crystallization of the sugar syrup and confectioners' sugar to absorb the oil given up by the almonds. The proportions depend on how the almond paste will be used. If it will be a filling for chocolate bonbons, then it must be soft and contain a high proportion of almonds. On the other hand, the almond paste recipe we give here is designed for decorating gateaux. It contains more sugar than almonds, making it finer in texture, easier to model, and less perishable.


Bowl of cold water or candy thermometer
Food processor

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces / 300 g); granulated sugar1/3 cup (8 cL) cold water1/4 cup (6 cL) light corn syrup1 1/3 cups (7 ounces / 200 g) blanched almonds1cup (4 1/4 ounces / 120 g) confectioners' sugar

1. Combine the granulated sugar with the water in a heavy 1 -quart (I -L) saucepan or caramel pot and stir to thoroughly moisten the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Moisten a pastry brush with cold water and wash down the sides of the saucepan to dissolve any sugar crystals that form there. Add the corn syrup and continue boiling over medium heat without stirring, washing down the walls of the saucepan as needed to dissolve sugar crystals, until the sugar reaches the low end of the firm-ball stage. When you pluck a little syrup from the saucepan and immerse it in the bowl of cold water, you will be able to roll the syrup between your finger tips into a ball the size of a pea that holds its shape (1). The temperature of the syrup will measure about 243 F (117 C) on the candy thermometer.

2. Meanwhile, combine the almonds and confectioners' sugar in the food processor. When the syrup is ready, turn on the food processor and pour the syrup through the feed tube in a thin stream (2). Continue processing until the almond paste is completely smooth. It will be hot.

3. Transfer the almond paste to a stainless steel bowl, cover it with a damp kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out, and let cool to room temperature. Form the cooled almond paste into a rectangular pad and cover it airtight with plastic wrap.


Covered airtight, at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Or divide the almond paste into quantities suitable for finishing individual desserts--typically 7 to 10 ounces (200 to 300 g) for most gateaux. Wrap each piece of almond paste airtight in plastic wrap, enclose it in a small zippered plastic bag, and freeze for up to 6 months. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and use within a few days.

The Art Of The Cake. Copyright � by Bruce Healy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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