Caroline Wright always loved baking. The graduate of Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne, veteran of Martha Stewart magazine and author of “Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals” is coming to Richmond on Sunday, July 17, at 2 p.m.
She's headed for Mis En Place to demonstrate how to make two of the cakes in her new book, “Cake Magic! Mix and Match Your Way to 100 Different Combinations.” She’ll then take a walk down the block to Fountain Bookstore to sign a few copies.
In her book, Wright offers two baking blends, one traditional and the other gluten-free, plus a series of flavored syrups that can create almost endless varieties of cake. Style has never met a piece of cake that it didn’t like and decided to give her a call to hear how the baking magic happens.
Style: Did you specialize as a pastry chef in culinary school?
Wright: Nope. The training we did was pretty generalized classic French which obviously includes a great love of butter and all things pastry. There was more about pastry in the program than ones here in the States, I’d say.
As an avid baker, was there something in particular that made you fall in love with baking?
It really comes from when I was a kid. In my house, there just wasn’t any junk food. We weren’t allowed to have any unless we made it ourselves. Obviously, that backfired.
How did you come up with the concept for the book? I haven’t really seen a cookbook like it before.
Over the years, through a variety of food editorial jobs, I’d gotten to be friends with lots of professional bakers. One thing I found common among all of them was [the use of] syrup — I felt like that had been largely overlooked in all other home baking books. It’s just another way to deliver flavor and the moist kind of cake everyone is looking for. The cake mix idea isn’t a new one, but it’s exciting when paired with mathematics — you take the different components, mix them and turn them into a bunch of different things. With baking, in general, you take the same five ingredients — flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda — and it’s all about ratios. A little of this and a little of that and you can get radically different things. [The mix] is a way to get people into baking by taking a friendly approach to making cakes. I feel like people at home get nervous about it.
What’s your favorite cake in the book?
Well, that’s a hard question! Take for instance, my classic birthday cake. It’s obviously my favorite because it’s my birthday cake! I have to say, though, I’m really proud of the gluten-free mix. I worked really hard on it. The Black-Out cake [made with dark chocolate cake, chocolate syrup and bittersweet chocolate frosting] is one I’m really, really proud of. The gluten-free version turns out really well every time.
Were there any disastrous combos that you — obviously — didn’t include in the book? What was the testing process like?
There was a lot of cake-baking. And a lot of making friends giving away cakes. Some of the things I was trying to do in terms of new and different combos didn’t quite translate the way I’d hoped them to. But I started from a place of classic things that worked pretty well. There weren’t really any massive fails. Some of the things you might look at and say: “Hmm. Tea and cake? I don’t know about that.” I can tell you the flavors of the syrups are pretty subtle. The ginger or the red wine syrup — they’re not terribly aggressive flavors, they’re just a nice little background hum.
Wright is posting other recipes on her blog, The Wright Recipes, for non-cake things such as muffins or banana bread that use the "Cake Magic" mix she devised. You can also find her on Twitter as @TheWrightCook and on Instagram as wrightcook.