Organic and Chic is a gorgeous cake book, by cake decorating pro Sarah Magid. Her beautiful, quirky, rustic style is a joy to look at and she shares full instructions about how to recreate it.
I discovered this book by Sarah Magid, quite by chance, looking through an unremarkable bookshop. I had wandered into it to stave off boredom while I was living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (first world problems I know, but who actually wants to hang out with expats??). It was at a time when my thoughts were turning to how I could work with food professionally and this collection of creations, by custom cake baker Sarah Magid, blew me away with its gorgeous opulent style and its natural organic focus.
Although everything is organic, this is not really a book of healthy food – there is plenty of butter, white flour, refined sugar and artificial colouring. But even these ingredients are infinitely better than the processed treats eaten today, with their manipulated vegetable fats and their incredibly long list of mystery ingredients. As Michael Pollan explained when he said you can “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself”. Such foods are not necessarily off limits, although they are unlikely to really contribute any significant nutritional benefits after the negatives are taken into consideration. People used to eat these decadent treats occasionally, for special occasions that deserved the mess and work that go into layers of sweet, rich, creamy flavour and texture. Today’s problem is these super-high sugar and fat foods are available without the work. Even worse, they are no longer made with basic natural ingredients such as eggs and milk which do contribute in part to the maintenance of a healthy body. They are made, instead, with a staggering range of highly-doctored unknowable ingredients which are created for ease of processing and long-term preservation with considerations of health, even of flavour, firmly a lesser priority.
Organic and Chic emphatically supports the make-it-yourself ethos. Sarah Magid describes how she lured her young child away from the shiny, packaged, extremely well-advertised sweets he was drawn to with the promise of an interactive experience with food, of making his own versions at home with her. Not an everyday activity for sure, but an incredibly important learning opportunity, the chance to help build a lifelong confidence with working with food and to pave the way for a positive, skilled, educated and engaged relationship with this most basic of human necessities. What a great message.
On top of this Sarah Magid, previously a jewellery and shoe designer by profession, executes absolutely beautiful cakes. They are colourful, creative, elegant, artistic, whimsical reinterpretations of a wide variety of classic US and European desserts, cakes and junk food. The book’s lightly vintage styling and photography are also a delight to behold.
The recipes are clear and easy to follow and the results I have had from baking these recipes have been excellent. Ginny Tapper’s Fuji Apple Tart (see my slightly adapted recipe Apple cheesecake tart) has become a dessert staple.
This is an inspirational book. Inspirational for the artist, the designer, the home baker, the food professional and the parent. There is loads of excellent, detailed cake decorating technique, loads of stomach-enviable recipes, a clear friendly writing voice and the imaginative touch of a stylish, unpretentious, positive artist. This is one of my seminal food books. And I have about 1000 books. Really.