Cookbook review: 'Cake Magic!' shares how to mix, match cake, frosting flavors

Posted August 11, 2016

"CAKE MAGIC! Mix and Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations," by Caroline Wright, Workman Publishing, $17.95, 186 pages

"Cake Magic! Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations" is a unique recipe book for cake lovers. Author Caroline Wright wrote in the book's preface that giving a gift in the form of cake is magic, and she hopes to pass the ability to create that magic on to her readers.

What makes this cookbook different from most is that it allows for 100 different combinations of cake with only a handful of recipes. And even at that, the only limit to the combinations that can be made is the imagination.

Each recipe starts with a single "Cake Magic! Cake Mix" — like a boxed cake mix, except it's made from scratch. Chefs can then choose a syrup and a frosting to complete the cake.

Wright showcases her creations at the beginning of the book with beautifully photographed cakes and includes the formula for which kind of cake, syrup and frosting are needed for the recipe.

The actual recipes for the cakes are included in a section after the pictures, and she also shares substitutions for vegan and gluten-free recipes.

Given the mix-and-match nature of the cake recipes, it can become confusing flipping between several pages. In order to make it easier to use, three ribbon bookmarks are bound with the book for place keeping.

Wright's cake combinations are sure to please the entire family — from the kids' favorite Classic Birthday Cake to the more adventuresome palates with the Maple, Bacon and Chocolate Cake.



Peanut Butter Cake, Blackberry Syrup and Malted Vanilla Frosting

How to Assemble a Cake Magic! Cake

The quintessential Cake Magic! cake is an 8-inch, round, two-layer cake. (Instructions to make one in a different shape or size, or with four layers instead of two, can be found in other areas in "Cake Magic!")

Here is the basic method:

1. Bake the cakes. Make and bake the cake layers according to the recipe directions. Be sure to whisk the dry mix before spooning and measuring it. While the cake bakes, prepare the syrup and set it aside.

2. Syrup them. After removing the cake layers from the oven, pierce them while they are still in the pans at 1-inch intervals with a skewer or paring knife. Pour or brush the syrup over the layers, dividing it evenly. Set the layers aside, in the pans, on a wire rack to cool completely. The syrup will soak into the cakes.

3. Make the frosting. When the cakes are cool and no longer wet to the touch, 1-2 hours, make the frosting according to the recipe directions, noting any substitutions or additions.

4. Frost a layer. Run a knife or an offset spatula around the edge of one of the layers to loosen it. Turn the layers out of their pans one by one, as you frost them. Place the layer on a cake plate with strips of waxed paper or parchment paper underneath; these will catch any drips and keep your cake plate clean. Spread the layer with about a third of the frosting on top, along with any desired additional fillings.

5. Frost the rest. Run a knife or an offset spatula around the edge of the remaining cake layer. Invert it onto the frosted layer. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting.

6. Add toppings. Scatter the frosted cake with any toppings, as directed.


Cake Magic! Cake Mix

Makes: 4 cups (enough for one 8- or 9-inch two-layer cake, one 13-by-9-inch sheet cake, one 10-inch Bundt cake or 24 cupcakes)

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ cups sugar

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon table salt (see note)

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together well to combine. Whisk the mix again before measuring.

Note: It’s important to use table salt in the cake mix; other types will eventually settle out of the mix.

Peanut Butter Cake

Makes: one 8- or 9-inch two-layer cake (or one 10-inch Bundt cake, one 13-by-9-inch sheet cake or 24 cupcakes)

Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pans

All-purpose flour, for dusting the pans

4 cups dry Cake Magic! Cake Mix (see above), whisked well before measuring

¾ cup full-fat plain yogurt (preferably not Greek yogurt)

½ cup smooth peanut butter

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, or 1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter the bottom and side of the pan. Dust with flour to coat, then invert and tap out any excess. If you're making cupcakes, use liners instead of greasing and coating the tins.

2. Place the cake mix in a large bowl. Whisk together the yogurt, peanut butter and eggs in a small bowl. Add the peanut butter mixture, butter and water to the cake mix and stir until moistened and no lumps remain. Be careful not to overmix. Divide the batter between the prepared pans.

3. Bake until the layers are domed and a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer inserted in the center of the cake, 32-36 minutes (40-50 minutes for a Bundt, 25-35 minutes for a 13-by-9-inch cake and 20-25 minutes for cupcakes). At this point, coat the layers with syrup as directed and let them cool completely in the pans.

Blackberry Syrup

Makes: 1 cup

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

2 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, water, jam and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then stir in the vanilla. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep, covered, for at least 20 minutes. Strain the syrup. Use the syrup warm or at room temperature.

Blackberry Syrup will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to one week. Reheat it in a small saucepan over low heat before using.

Malted Vanilla Frosting

Makes: 4 cups

1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup malted milk powder

Pinch of salt

4 cups (one 16-ounce box) confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Combine the butter, malted milk powder, salt and 2 cups of the sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until incorporated, about one minute. Add the remaining sugar and beat on medium speed until the frosting is pale and no longer grainy, about two minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until the frosting is very light and fluffy, about two minutes.

Malted Vanilla Frosting will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for one week. Before using, bring it back to room temperature and stir it vigorously or beat it again for best results.

— "Cake Magic! Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations" by Caroline Wright

Jennifer Lambert is a freelance writer and editor in Provo, UT. Email her at


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