In Frosted: Take Your Baked Goods to the Next Level with Decadent Buttercreams, Meringues, Ganaches and More (Page Street Publishing, Co.; June 8, 2021; $22.99) Bernice Baran, founder of Baran Bakery, shows readers how to craft 60 indulgent, over-the-top frosted treats including impressive layer cakes and easy sheet cakes – all with creative custom toppings.

“Frosting is a topic that can be intimidating because there are so many types to learn about, each with its specific rules and challenges. Some frostings are similar and can be used interchangeably, but some are completely unique and only work under certain conditions,” says Baran in the introduction. “Fueled by my curiosity and a desire to learn how to successfully make and use the most popular kinds of frostings, I experimented with each kind. In the process, I discovered the nuances of whipping up buttercreams, meringues, ganaches, creams and cream cheese frostings.”

Baran gained the foundations of her bakery training from her mom, who baked mostly for friends and family and specialized in European desserts.

“I learned from her what she knew but I was always a science fan. I wanted a deep understanding of baking,” Baran recalls. “I ventured out and taught myself why and how things work and how to develop your own recipes and how to alter recipes without compromising the results.”

She has always been on a quest to learn everything and anything baking related. Today, she considers her area of expertise is in traditional American cakes and all things frosting. 

“My first inspiration comes from cravings… lol. I usually bake whatever sounds good to me in the moment,” Baran says. “I’m also a very visual person so I get some inspiration for flavors and texture from wanting the dessert to look a certain way.”

Texture matters

Baran admits that if forced to choose, she would pick texture over flavor “but really, you need both. The right texture is definitely much harder to get in a bake. For instance, when baking a layer cake, you’re not only looking for the right texture in the cake itself but also in the frosting. Then adding different textures, such as a crumble or creamy caramel sauce, between the layers, can take it from good to great.”

When she gets an idea about a bake, she does “a lot” of research. She starts with general base recipes for most things that she uses already, so they’re easy to adapt into different flavors. But she is always looking to see if something has already been done and how can she make it better.

She has also learned how ingredients affect bakes, so that she can get the perfect texture or change a flavor without compromising the texture.

In her new book, with the help of Baran’s expert insight, readers learn how to make popular options like buttercream, meringue, cream cheese frosting and ganache using her go-to base frosting recipes and foolproof tips and tricks. They also learn which option makes the perfect addition to each dessert and occasion in her Frosting 101 section, which breaks down the different flavors, textures, and characteristics of each topping and what it pairs best with.

“I’m not sure I have a favorite single ingredient to work with,” Baran admits, “but I do love creating desserts that involve homemade salted caramel sauce. It tastes amazing on just about anything you put it on and elevates all kinds of desserts.” 

New horizons

Over the years Baran has noticed that many people, including herself, are picky with frosting. Frosting needs to be not too sweet, not too buttery, perfectly light and fluffy, and full of flavor. 

“I think it sounds easier than it actually is because, generally, frosting is not very forgiving,” she admits. “Frosting can easily break, ruining its beautiful silky texture so it’s hard for people to customize their own recipes. My goal for Frosted is to make the world aware of all the different types of frosting and how to customize them so everyone finds their perfect balance when icing their cakes.”

Bakery professionals can learn from her experiences and wisdom by starting with a good foundation and understanding of the basics and the science of baking, which will give you much more creative freedom. 

“I’d love to walk into a bakery one day and see different options, for frosting especially, because so often people just do what they’re comfortable with which can sometimes end feeling stagnant,” she says. “I’d love to further my own education in different fields of baking, such as patisserie, decorating and bread making. I’d also love to teach and help beginner bakers to get a good foundation in baking so that they can turn their hobbies into a career.”

Quest for balance

Among other leading bakery professionals, Molly Wilkinson teaches small, private classes at her home in Versailles, France, and she’s taking the next step in her pâtissière journey with her debut cookbook, French Pastry Made Simple: Foolproof Recipes for Éclairs, Tarts, Macarons and More (Page Street Publishing, Co: June 8, 2021; $22.99). 

“There always needs to be a balance – for example, a dessert that is different layers of cream is very one note and not super exciting,” she points out. “There should be a mix of soft, crunchy, chewy, pillowy, and crisp to create interest. Flavors should also go together to make a symphony in the mouth. You can do this in many ways, melding together several flavors in different components or choosing the star and then those that will play the supporting roles.”

Go big with color

As cake decorators, never be afraid to add color. That is an important lesson to learn from cake decorating expert Mark Seaman, CMSA, culinary applications chef, specialties for Barry Callebaut.

“Color is ‘free’ to add to cakes and cupcakes! Color makes your product more appealing and provides a great background for chocolate decorations to pop,” he explains.

Seaman also recommends using different piping tips. Just changing the style of the icing on a cupcake or cake gives it a completely different feel. Your customers will see your case as filled with a huge variety of different options, even though you have not had to add in any new recipes or labor.

Another valuable tip involves using chocolate to your advantage.

“Chocolate is the number one preferred flavor for desserts,” Seaman explains. “Drizzle chocolate (or colored white chocolate) over cupcakes and cakes for added pizzazz. You don't need to be a chocolatier to add eye-catching chocolate accents or chocolate decorations.”

Here’s another idea. Pipe some chocolate ganache over the edge of your cakes or dip your cupcakes in it – the look of the chocolate oozing down the sides of a cake or cupcake are great attention grabbers.

In addition, roasted, natural almonds provide a great color contrast to desserts along with a great crunchy texture against the soft consistency of your cake and buttercream.  

Almonds also provide a great way to appeal to consumers' search for desserts with a "healthy" component