CAKE BOSS by Buddy Valastro [Review]

Buddy Valastro, star of the TLC show Cake Boss, tells the story of his family and their Hoboken, New Jersey bake shop in Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia. In the first two-thirds of the book, Buddy recounts how his father and grandparents came to America from Italy to find a better life. His father, Buddy Sr., bought Carlo’s Bake Shop in 1964 and spent thirty years working at his beloved bakery. After his death in 1994, 17-year-old Buddy dropped out of high school to run the shop. Although he initially met resistance, Buddy updated Carlo’s recipes and began specializing in customized, boutique-style wedding cakes. Buddy’s creations began to be featured in bridal magazines, he started appearing on Food Network Challenge, he landed his own TLC show, and the rest is history.

At the end of Cake Boss there are 38 recipes adapted from Carlo’s Bake Shop. The recipes include cookies, biscotti, cannoli, pumpkin pie, carrot cake, cream cheese frosting, etc. A few of the recipes have accompanying color photographs in the center of the book, but only a few. The infamous lobster tail recipe is also included, although it does come with the warning that only professional bakers should attempt making the sfogliatelle dough.

Buddy is a fourth generation baker, and the book gets off to a great start as he talks about the struggles his parents and grandparents had as poor Italian immigrants. It’s a story common amongst many American families, and I think a lot of readers will relate to the Valastros.

Unfortunately, that first chapter about Buddy’s ancestors was the most interesting, and I struggled to maintain interest in the rest of the book. There were pages and pages about how Buddy made the bakery more efficient, tweaked cake and frosting recipes, and researched shortening options, and all this information just made my eyes glaze over. It’s a shame too because I feel like Buddy is an interesting guy and there were hints that he has juicy stories to tell (he mostly glossed over any drama in his colorful family and only briefly mentioned that he partied hard in his younger days). Still, even if his story isn’t very compelling, it’s clear he has a great passion for what he does.

As for the recipes, many of them sound absolutely delicious, if a bit intimidating. They’ve been adapted from the bakery, so a lot of the recipes require a stand mixer or special ingredients like baker’s ammonia, orange blossom water, or leaf lard (sources for hard-to-find ingredients are listed in the back of the book). So if you’re a novice baker, these might not be for you.

Fans of TLC’s Cake Boss and Carlo’s Bake Shop’s loyal customers will probably enjoy Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia a lot more than I did. It wasn’t for me, but I do recommend checking it out of your local library if it sounds like something you might like.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Free Press | Pages: 272 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon

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