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Batter Chatter: Interview with Rose Levy Beranbaum

Rose Levy Beranbaum wrote the bible on cakes--literally. Her first book, The Cake Bible, originally published in the 1980s, is largely considered a classic and is currently in its 42nd printing (in case you needed to be told, that is a lot of books!). And it's not hard to see why--Rose approaches baking with a chemist's knowledge but an artist's eye, with recipes which yield delicious and beautiful results. And after a number of blockbuster baking books, now she's back to cakes again with the gorgeous volume Rose's Heavenly Cakes, which includes over 100 recipes for all sorts of cakes, ranging from decadent flourless chocolate cakes to the ethereal Golden Lemon Almond cake and so many more. Even non-bakers will find it hard to resist the gorgeous color photos by Ben Fink (some of which are featured here). Ready to learn more about the baker behind the cakes? Let's go:

CakeSpy: What was the first cake you ever remember baking?

Rose Levy Beranbaum: A Duncan Hines chocolate cake from a mix. The instructions just said to grease, not grease and flour and the cake came apart in three pieces so I had to glue it together with canned frosting. It was for my parents' anniversary.

CS: With Valentine's Day coming up, what cakes might you suggest to set
the mood for love?

RLB: Rose Red Velvet, Double Chocolate Valentine, Quail Egg Indulgence Cake.

CS: My mom will probably be mortified that I am saying this, but she recently confessed to me that although she knows it's wrong "because it says so in Rose Levy Beranbaum's book" that she still uses salted butter in her recipes. Can you give any advice as to why she shouldn't do this?

RLB: Salted butter varies in amount of salt. Sometimes being 3 x the amount of salt specified in the recipe.

(CakeSpy Note: Mama Spy, stop making salt lick cakes!)

CS: In the intro of your book, you acknowledge bloggers as a source of inspiration. Has the advent of food blogs changed the way that you work?

RLB: Hugely! My blog has provided a means of connection for people all around the world which quickly and exponentially increases all of our knowledge. I love seeing bloggers¹ renditions of my recipes with new variations and draw inspiration from requests for specific types of cakes such as the Orange Chiffon baked in a pan without a center tube. I am able to have my recipes tested by my assistant who lives in another state and see the results online.

CS: You say that "today, my goal in baking is to translate the chemical into the practical"--can you explain a bit more?

RLB: The Rose Red Velvet is a perfect example to demonstrate how my analysis of the individual components affects the creation of the recipe. Understanding that buttermilk benefits from baking powder rather than being neutralized by baking soda enabled me to eliminate the usual vinegar and still have a nice tang. Understanding the way in which ovens vary and mixing methods all contributing to the outcomes in baking taste and texture.

CS: Tell me about a favorite cake memory of yours.
RLB: There are so many! Research wise: After many years and many tests trying to make a chocolate chiffon cake, when I finally discovered that adding the egg whites to the batter unbeaten and then beating the batter created the perfect cake I was ecstatic. I called my assistant and he still remembers the words I used which were "cake history has been made tonight!" This cake became the base for my German Chocolate Cake and then the base for the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake. I traveled across country to make this cake for my friend chef/restaurateur Daniel Patterson and this version appears in my new book, presented on my mother's milk glass dental plate which used to hold her instruments for dentistry. It is the most stunning photo in the book! (pictured left)

Another favorite memory was my appearance doing the Pinecone Chocolate Cake on the Charlie Rose show. It started off with me being very shy but evolved to my favorite part of the long segment when Charlie said he wanted to go into business with me and would sweep my floors and I suggested we marry so my name could be Rose Rose!

Want more? You can easily lose yourself for hours on the informative and entertaining Real Baking With Rose Levy Beranbaum, which includes recipes, baking tips, discussion groups and so much more; you can also get baking with the Rose-inspired baking group Heavenly Cake Bake-Along, and follow the grande dame of cakery on Twitter and Facebook!

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Reader Comments (17)

Great interview! The blogosphere is a buzz with this new book, and this is the most interesting post I've read about it so far. I'm about to put it on my Amazon wish list.

P.S. Salt lick cakes are delicious!

January 12 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I LOVE ROSE! I am SO jealous. She is my cake hero!! Thank you for sharing with us. You two would DEFINITELY be be on my list of six amazing people to have over for dinner.

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterCARRIE FIELDS

Thank you so much for this wonderful interview. I have the book on my Amazon wishlist and will be getting it ASAP as I am intrigued by the red velvet cake mentioned here. It's great to hear when cookbook authors are sincere and down to earth. And even more kudos to Rose for sending Kudos to bloggers!

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterEliana


January 13 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Great interview! I love everything Rose does she's talented and cool!!

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

I loved how her first memory of baking a cake was from a cake mix. So was mine! Not everyone starts with their grandmother's recipes.

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

So glad you all enjoyed it -- isn't Rose just more and more inspiring the more you get to know about her? What a long way she has come since that Duncan Hines cake mix, eh?

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterCakeSpy

What a great interview. Wicked!

January 14 | Unregistered Commentershishkebab

Her recipes may be good, but in person she's an ego-centric obnoxious human being. My personal experience with her has turned me off of her work, ever since.

January 14 | Unregistered CommenterTara

I'm sorry you feel that way, Tara. I honestly think you may have met the wrong Rose. I met and worked with Rose for only a few days at a food festival, and I received a completely opposite experience. She really is a sweet, loving, and caring woman devoted to making everyone's baking experience into a successful one.

I really hope you have another opportunity to meet her and change your opinion about her. You really are missing out on all the great things about her new book.

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