By Karen Krasne
How to make cakes that are as delicious to eat as they are beautiful to behold. Karen Krasne, the “Queen of Cakes” according to Gourmet magazine, brings a fresh and contemporary sensibility to special-occasion cakes. Instead of the conventional fondant and gum paste, she relies on natural frostings based on chocolate, cream, or butter (which are also easier to make). What makes these cakes showstoppers is their unexpected flavor combinations-take, for example, the Blood Orange Ricotta Torte, the Chocolate Tiramisu, or the Yuzu Tea Cake. These desserts take full advantage of layering-contrasting textures in each bite-as seen in the New York, New York (chocolate ganache, devil’s food cake, chocolate chantilly, and caramelized apples) or the Beau Soleil (mascarpone mousse, peaches, pralines, and honey-soaked pound cake). Krasne favors vibrant touches like fresh fruit and real flowers, which add flair without being fussy. The recipes include tips from her twenty years as a pastry chef.
Some of the luscious cakes included are Toasted Macadamia Caramel Cheesecake, Shangrila (Guava Mousse, White Chocolate Mousse, Fresh Strawberries, Pound Cake), Vallarta (Key Lime Cream, Whipped Cream, Tequla-Infused Genoise), Marco Polo (Vanilla Mousse, Blackberry Gelee, Tea-Infused Cake), Chocolate Nirvana (Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Cream, Chocolate Cake), King Kamehameha (Coffee Mousse, Chocolate, Mocha Pralines, Chocolate Cake), Beau Soleil (Marscapone Mousse, Peaches, Caramelized Pralines, Honey, Pound Cake), Blood Orange Ricotta Torte, Carnaval (White Chocolate Banana Truffle, Chocolate Mousse, Rum), Caribe (Banana, Mango, Passion Fruit, Chocolate Cake), Tortamisu (Marscapone Cream, Espresso-and-Rum-Soaked Cake).
Karen Krasne is the owner and executive chef of Extraordinary Desserts, San Diego’s number one destination restaurant for desserts for the last twenty years. Her cakes have graced the cover of Bon Appetit, and Forbes recognized her as one of the country’s ten best pastry chefs. She has been featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, Sunset, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Tina Wright is a professional pastry chef and coauthor of two books. A graduate of the Institute for Culinary Education, she helped write the pastry curriculum for the French Culinary Institute in New York.