In his twenty-five years as Executive White House Pastry Chef, Roland Mesnier prided himself on creating a unique dessert for every special occasion, from elaborate State Dinners and formal receptions to smaller family gatherings and birthday celebrations. In Roland Mesnier's Basic to Beautiful Cakes, the author of the classic and comprehensive Dessert University shows home cooks how to create desserts that can be beautifully embellished to serve any occasion by using a small set of foolproof cake recipes.
Hazelnut Ring Cake, for example, can be served on its own at teatime, as it was in the Reagan White House; or, with the addition of espresso-flavored whipped cream and a crown of caramelized phyllo, can become the memorable culmination of an elegant dinner party. Chocolate Dome Cake (one of the Carters' favorites) can be topped with raspberry glaze, served with Grand Marnier mousse, or spangled with berries. Blueberry Upside-Down Cake with yogurt sauce is a light treat for a long weekend morning; the cherry version, with its lattice of whipped cream, will delight children and adults alike, and the truly grand Peach and Spice Upside-Down Cake with Brioche "Peaches" is a show-stopping confection, elegant enough for the Clintons to serve to the chancellor of Germany and the prime minister of England.
Even on the most important ocassions, Chef Mesnier believes that desserts don't have to be filled with butter and cream. Recipes like the wheat-free Carrot Cake, the dairy-free Orange Sherbert Cake with Glazed Oranges, and the low-fat Apricot Soufflé Cake with Apricot Grand Marnier Sauce satisfy guests with special dietary concerns but still meet Roland's exacting standards for taste and presentation.
The easy-to-follow instructions for these time-tested recipes anticipate pitfalls and offer sensible suggestions for when it is worth to invest in high-end ingredients and equipment and when you can get by without them, and how to peel and slice fruit for the most attractive results. With Chef Mesnier taking you through every step of each carefully constructed recipe, you can be sure that your cakes will be delicious and spectacular every time.
Soon you will have mastered the basic recipes and a few of the more advanced techniques, and you will be able to develop a repertoire of your own. like Chef Mesnier, you'll be able to tailor your desserts to the tastes of your guests or the spirit of a celebration. Whether the table is lit by tapers and laid with your best silver or you are serving a few friends Sunday supper in the kitchen, you will be able to create sophisticated mouthwatering desserts that your guests will remember for weeks to come.
Roland Mesnier is the former Executive Pastry Chef of the White House. He developed the first professional pastry program in the Washington, D.C., area, at L'Académie de Cuisine, in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also the honorary president of the World Cup of Pastry, and every year L'Académie de Cuisine awards a scholarship in his name. He lives in Virginia.
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