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Rahul Mandal – ‘Showstopping Cakes’ review

The 2018 Bake Off winner releases his first book.

Rahul Mandal - Showstopping Cakes
Credit: Kyle Books

Rahul Mandal is one of the most-loved ‘Great British Bake Off’ contestants of all-time. The shy baker seemed to genuinely lack confidence but it came as no surprise to viewers when he won the show in 2018. His ability to create unique bakes with surprising flavours, made him an early favourite with judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, and viewers fell in love with his unassuming personality. Four years on from his win, Rahul is finally releasing his first book entitled ‘Showstopping Cakes’ so bakers at home can try and recreate some of his incredible creations.

‘Showstopping Cakes’ is so much more than just a bunch of recipes. Keen to share his expertise, Rahul actually dedicates the first half of the book to ensuring that you know the basics. In the introduction, Rahul explains the different kind of sponges you can make, highlights the key ingredients you need to have ready access to and discusses the equipment that will make your baking journey easier. Perhaps the most interesting part of the introduction though is Rahul’s flavour pairing guide, which will allow home bakers to go rogue and try their own creations when they feel confident enough to do so.

The first chapter, ‘Fillings and frostings’, is an extensive collection of recipes designed to give home bakers plenty of choices when it comes to making their cakes. Rahul shares his recipes for several buttercream variations as well as the different pastry crèmes, fruit compotes, ganache, caramel and much more. Understanding how to use these is vital to a baking success and Rahul generously offers plenty of ideas. The second chapter, ‘Décor and accessories’, shares Rahul’s ideas for decorating using the likes of marzipan and royal icing, as well as tempering chocolate, to bring your bakes to life. Many of these techniques Rahul showcased during his time on ‘Bake Off’.

From chapter three onwards, Rahul digs into his recipe archive, staring with how to transform every day cakes into showstopping ones. Starting with a real classic, ‘Lemon and elderflower drizzle cake’, Rahul gives clear step-by-step instructions along with tips for each recipe to help you achieve success. There are some really interesting bakes included here including a ‘Fatless sponge with cream and summer fruits’, a ‘Spice carrot and walnut cake with whisked miso caramel, cream cheese frosting, miso caramel drip and honeycomb’, and a gorgeous ‘Lemon and raspberry cake with raspberry jam and white chocolate Italian meringue buttercream’. The accompanying pictures show how elegant the end results (should) look and it’s a reminder of just what an artist Rahul is in the kitchen.

Chapter four, ‘Decorated Cakes’, explores Rahul’s favourite decorating trends. I was immediately drawn to the ‘Lemon and fennel fault-line cake with lemon curd and lemon Swiss meringue buttercream’, which looks every inch the table centrepiece. It’s definitely high on my list of cakes to make from this book! If you’re feeling very adventurous, Rahul’s recipe for a ‘Triple chocolate collar cake with chocolate sculpture decorations’ will certainly test your skills.

Across the final two chapters, Rahul covers ‘Meringue-based and gluten-free cakes’ and ‘Tiered cakes’. Highlights here include Rahul’s take on the ‘Chocolate and coffee opera cake’, which looks simple but is technically fairly tricky, and his stunning ‘Cranberry, white chocolate and cardamom cake with buttercream flowers and foliage’. Honestly, all the cakes in the book are stunning but there are some especially eye-catching ones in these final chapters.

‘Showstopping Cakes’ delivers exactly what you’d expect from Rahul; elegant, technically challenging bakes with adventurous flavours and plenty of creativity. I really hope this is the first of many books from Rahul because his baking style is quite different to the plethora of baking books that are out there on the market. If you want to push yourself beyond simple bakes, this is the book you need to get your hands on (and ask someone to buy you for Christmas).

Publisher: Kyle Books Release date: 13th October 2022 Buy ‘Showstopping Cakes’ now

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