Gourley (a graphic designer at Workman Publishing) does her mentor, Grandmother Mattie, proud in this precious jewel of a cookbook. She walks the reader through each step of these show-stoppers with helpful hints about everything from separating eggs (separate while cold, then bring to room temperature) to licking the bowl (not a good idea if the batter contains raw eggs). Even baking novices will discover that cake-making has nothing to do with alchemy—it's about accurate technique, presented so simply here even for complicated delectables like the infamous Rocky Mountain Fruitcake, which packs a sugar punch with a dried-fruit- and-brown-sugar frosting, or the sophisticated, three-tiered Lady Baltimore, which combines cake, rum-soaked-currant filling, and frosting topped with candied cherries. These are southern recipes, so sometimes subheads, which for the most part offer accurate descriptions (the pineapple Rise and Shine Cake is a ``zingy mixture of fruit and nuts'' and the Bàte Noire is ``wantonly rich''), can also be misleading for those accustomed to less heavy fare: the Hummingbird Cake, described as ``delicate,'' actually satiates after a few bites with its weighty combination of pecans, bananas, and cream cheese. To her credit, she complements these sugar-laden basics of Confederate fare with refreshingly light tea cakes. Gourley's own watercolors appear on every spread, along with personal anecdotes about activities like fall picnics and berry-picking. The beauty of this slim book just might justify paying $15 for only 25 recipes. A sure cure for baking phobia.
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