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October 13, 2010

Baking with booze

Adding liquor to mix takes the cake

Classic cake-making calls for eggs, flour, butter and sugar. But some bakers are juicing up the flavor by throwing liquor into the mix.

Or, as Terry Lee Stone, co-author of the recently published "Booze Cakes" cookbook, puts it, "Baking is fun and drinking is fun — let's combine them!"

Stone and Krystina Castella, friends from teaching at a design college in Pasadena, Calif., started working on the book after Stone was inspired when making an old cake recipe of her mother's that called for adding alcohol.

But the concoctions they came up with for their book go well beyond the typically tame "add a tablespoon of kirsch" school of cooking with liquor.

"It was really important to us that you tasted the alcohol," Castella says. "When we first developed the idea, there really wasn't much out there. We found people adding different liquors and alcohols to food, but not much in baking."

The recipes they did find generally used liquor as a substitute for vanilla. "So we would find (recipes calling for) one teaspoon of rum. One teaspoon of rum is not going to really give it a rum flavor. You might need 1/4 cup of rum and then soak it in rum and having rum frosting."

Castella and Stone have invited readers to explore variations on their themes, and bloggers have enthusiastically taken to it, posting their results on the "Booze Cakes" Facebook page.

In fact, there seems to be a surge of interest in baking with libations. A second book, "The Boozy Baker," by the aptly named Lucy Baker, also was released this year.

Baker sees a general trend toward slow-paced activities like baking that she views as a reaction to a high-speed, 24-7 world. "People are looking for ways to relax, to kick back, to reconnect. Having a speakeasy-inspired cocktail is one way to do that and another way to do that is baking."

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