Vintage Cakes, by Julie Richardson (Ten Speed Press, $24), features the cakes your grandmother used to make — or would have if she had really known her way around the kitchen: mouth-watering, masterful and emphatically unfussy. Having acquired a treasure trove of recipes dating to the 1920s, Richardson went on to examine old cookbooks and poll family and friends about childhood favorites.
She tested the most promising recipes and revised them for the modern palate (less sugar, more flavor). The results include old favorites (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting) as well as twists on the classics (angel cake with chocolate and orange freckles) and temptations for the more adventurous baker (Peppermint Patty flourless chocolate cake).
Like her cakes, Richardson’s book is simple and beautiful. I loved the insistence on quality ingredients, as well as the wide range of recipes (Ozark pudding cake, anyone?) and the winning back stories.
In an era when too many too-perfect confections look and taste like plastic, Richardson is keeping it real.
— Nara Schoenberg