My friendship with Rose Levy Beranbaum and her new book, The Baking Bible

How Dropping Something on the Floor Cemented My Friendship with Rose Levy Beranbaum

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s New Book, The Baking Bible, is Coming Soon

the cake bible

All the buzz is about Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s forthcoming book, The Baking Bible. We received our advanced copy, took it into the kitchen, baked and played with it and will be reporting all about it in late October. But for me, my relationship with Rose and her recipes began in 1989…

The The Cake Biblehad been published the year before. I had my first edition in hand, already stained and dog-eared. I was about to meet Rose in person and was quite excited.

I was living in the Northampton, MA area and was part of a volunteer group who were putting on a Books and Cooks event where we paired authors and their books with local restaurants and chefs for a night of eating and schmoozing as a fundraiser for the United Way. Julia Child was also one of our authors and her alma mater, Smith College, was excited about her visit. I had my sights on Rose.

After the event we had a swanky dinner for the guest authors and about 20 of us were seated around a huge table in a private dining room at our town’s most upscale restaurant. The night had been very busy and now was the time to corner Rose.

Cake bible dedication

I approached her and asked her to sign my book, which she did graciously. I then started to tell her about one of my experiences baking out of the book.

pine cone cake

At the time I was working at The Black Sheep Deli & Bakery in Amherst, MA. Nick Seamon, the owner, was very generous with my time and allowed me to experiment with whatever caught my fancy. One look at the Chocolate Pine Cone cake in Rose’s book and I knew I had to tackle it. Yes, I said tackle, because it just looked like one of those “project cakes” that one gets immense satisfaction from completing and I was up for the challenge. The exterior of the cake is time consuming and frankly a pain in the butt. Rose called for dipping a small offset spatula into tempered chocolate and making neat, oval dabs on clean parchment, chilling, and then using these oval petals (as she calls them) to create the texture and look of the pine cone. You can see the well worn and even torn page in my book copy, above.

I explained to Rose that I had spent many hours on the components and the finished cake was gorgeous. We put it in the cake case and it sold for some crazy amount of money because we had to cover my time. I didn’t think it would sell due to the cost! Well, apparently it made quite a visual splash in the display case; several people had seen it and ordered it for the holidays. The front-end workers didn’t realize this was supposed to be a one-time deal and had taken the orders! All of a sudden I had to create an assembly line to make several.

We had a large commissary kitchen at the time and I worked alongside some fabulous bakers who helped strategize. Eureka struck. We dumped a bunch of large chocolate drops out on a parchment lined sheet pan and placed them all upright and spaced apart. Then we placed the pan in the oven for a minute or two until the chocolate just softened. Upon removing the tray from the oven we dropped it flat on the ground from a height of about 4 feet and voila! All the chocolate drops spread into perfect ovals, ready to be chilled and used to create the pine cone!

So here I was recounting this to Rose. Her eyes grew wide.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You made that cake several times?”

“Yes,” I responded.

“I’ve only made that cake once! My editor had wanted me to come up with a real showpiece so I created it for the photo shoot. I didn’t know if anyone would actually make it,” she exclaimed!

“Well, I think we ended up making it half a dozen times, “ I laughed.

Rose pulled out a small pad and started taking notes.

“Tell me again what you did. Exactly. This is brilliant,” she asked as she scribbled down details.

That was it. It sealed the deal. A friendship was formed that night that has continued to this day. We don’t speak or see one another often but when we do every few months or so it is as though no time has passed. We have our own approaches and niches but there is a huge base of shared perspective. And our taste buds are very much in sync. We always have something to chat about – usually some nerdy baking nuance – and the conversations always dissolve into laughter. If you only know Rose through her work you probably envision a very serious person – and she is, when she needs to be. But Rose also has a wicked sense of humor and joie de vivre that I cherish. Her new book, The Baking Bible, is about to be released and is available on pre-order. Order it now. This is destined to be as beloved (and butter stained) as The Cake Bible. Check back on October 2nd, 15th, 27th and November 11th for more articles about Rose and The Baking Bible.

Baking Bible Jacket

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