Love is a Pink Cake by Claire Ptak, a review

Here is the next installation in my “Best of 2023″ cookbook review.   Today’s feature is Love is a Pink Cake by Claire Ptak.

About the book:

Renowned for the wedding cake she created for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Claire Ptak knows there’s nothing like a cake when it comes to expressions and celebrations of love. A Chez Panisse alum, Ptak is a Northern California native who now runs the wildly successful Violet Bakery in London. Reflecting on her upbringing and love of in-season produce, she shares 75 sweet and savory creations, including Huckleberry Basil Sugar Scones, Peaches and Cream Angel Food Cake, and a strawberry-coconut meringue cake. Her bakes are homey yet elevated, made with the best possible ingredients, so as to extract the best possible flavors. Included are gluten-free, refined sugar-free and vegan bakes, as well as the sought-after recipe for the Duke and Duchess’s lemon elderflower cake. Featuring gorgeous photographs shot in both England and California, Love is a Pink Cake is a treasure trove of inspiration for anyone eager to emulate Ptak’s unique sensibility and dreamy creations in their own kitchen.

What I thought…

There’s some cookbooks you enjoy reading and there’s some that you read for the delicious recipes. This book is the latter. (Besides, not to sound like an old fart, but the type is tiny.)

Ptak grew up in California and was Chez Panisse trained. She’s a seasonal baker and an artist. Her creativity is evident and her artistic mind creates some unique recipes.  In her introduction she honors and references another cookbook icon and innovative artist, Amy Vanderbilt (for her Complete Cookbook) and Andy Warhol for the illustrations (in said cookbook).  (I have a copy of my grandmother’s Complete Cookbook and I love it just for the illustrations alone, beyond it being a family heirloom.)

Ptak provides an ingredient glossary to match UK ingredient names with US ones. Caster sugar is super-fine granulated white sugar. Semi-skimmed milk is low-fat milk. Strong flour is bread flour. (Most of us may know these things after season after season of binging on “The Great British Baking Show.”) She uses English measurements with the the US equivalent in parentheses which is much appreciated.

A lot of the photos depict the setting of the sections, Northern California and England. While there might be more scones in the England section, I really couldn’t classify the recipes as being strictly NorCal or UK. They all sound worthy of making though.

On to her recipes.  Here’s a highlight of what I found inspiring.

There are cookies including Big Sur Cookies (with granola) and Blonde Peanut Butter Cookies (with white or dark chocolate, your choice).

There are sweets with lyrical names that could be from an English novel:

  • Pink Apple, Lime and Bee Pollen Galette
  • Pistachio Green Plum Cake with Candied Violets
  • Late Summer Peach Tarte Tatin with Peach Leaf Custard
  • Butterscotch Puff-Puff

There are inventive recipes:

  • Tequila Pumpkin Pie
  • Ras el Hanout SnickerDoodles
  • Apricot, Chamomile and Honey Scones

There are a few savory dishes thrown in for good measure:

  • Cherry Tomato Focaccia
  • Popovers (ironically in the California section)
  • Roasted Squash Cobbler
  • Basil, Parmesan and Pine Nut Scones
  • Blue Cheese Buns

Almost ever single recipe is accompanied by a softly lit photo that you can almost taste.  (You may be inclined to lick the pages.)

I was really going to make Cherry Tomato Focaccia but ran out of time last month when I had an abundance of tomatoes.   Instead, I made another cookie similar (but different) to the one I made to highlight The Everlasting Meal Cookbook.    

I made her Big Sur Cookies.   Unless I make substantial tweaks to the recipes, I’m trying not to reprint them here.  (In other words, buy the book if you’re intrigued.)  Ptak’s recipe is a basic cookie recipe adding in granola and white chocolate.  

Segue:   Before the Thanksgiving holidays I decided to clean out my mess of a pantry.   I did get that accomplished before the family came.  In fact, I got everything organized into little baskets—all the dried fruit together, all the dried peppers together, and all the chocolate together.  I was proud that I didn’t have to run to the store for white chocolate.  I had just seen a whole box during the organizing.   When I opened the first square to chop it, it was dusted with a brown powder.  I looked it up and there was a very long article at the National Institute of Health about lipids and enzymes and other things.   I solved my own mystery though when I looked at the expiration date:  Oct 2013.   Yep, it was ten years old.  Needless to say, I dumped it.  Sorry for the long treatise. (And, please don’t judge.)

Instead of white chocolate, I subbed in dark chocolate low sugar chips.   The cookies were good.  Would I make them again?  Probably not.  Ptak’s recipe has one form the cookies into balls on cookie sheets to refrigerate.  Then the cookies are removed and pressed down a bit and frozen.   (No time is given for this step.)  The next step is to let the cookies set out for 10-15 minutes before baking.   I’m not sure exactly why freezing was necessary.   I would chill again though.

This was just a lot of steps and a lot of refrigerator and freezer room to give up.  Please note that I made these just prior to Thanksgiving.

The cookies were a hit though to tide the family over the few days before gorging on Thanksgiving pie.

This cookbook is one I’m glad I checked out of the library.  I am sure I will make that focaccia next tomato season.

You can read all my 2023 reviews here.   What’s up next?  Either Yogurt & Whey by Homa Dashtaki or Salad Seasons by Sheela Prakash.  Stay tuned.


I’m linking up with Foodies Read for November.

2 comments to Love is a Pink Cake by Claire Ptak, a review

  • You have been busy…..This makes me realize that I need to go through and clean out some of my cookbooks that are taking up precious space on my shelves so I can replace them with more LOL>

  • I like reading books like this one but I’m not one to ever make the recipes from them. I’m just not inclined to make really fancy desserts. I do appreciate other people making them though!