Everybody likes cake, but the Japanese baking and blogging phenomenon Junko really loves cake. On her blindingly popular blog and best-selling books, Junko champions the cause of pretty “Deco” cakes. Now her newest book “Deco Mushi Cakes” (Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, Singapore, 2015, 80 pages) comes to shelves in English for the first time, and Junko shakes things up a bit.
“As I was thinking about what other recipes I could share, I came up with the idea of easily made and joyfully decorated cakes—ones that can be made on a daily basis,” Junko writes in her introduction. So the cakes themselves in this matte full-color book are basic: Just pancake mix cooked in a microwave oven or steamer. But it’s in the decoration that Junko, naturally, goes wild.
“Deco Mushi Cakes” is all about instruction, both written and visual. There’s a very helpful basic introduction at the beginning, and then it’s recipe after recipe. The focus is how and when to add the decoration (this is a more important distinction that you might expect). From the simplest (Pink Heart, which is exactly what it seems like, a simple pink heart decoration on plain batter) to 3D decorated Mushi cakes (whipped cream and fresh fruit on Strawberry Shortcake), Junko presents each recipe in the same, simple, precise fashion. There is clarity and patience that Junko displays in every recipe, like she expects the reader not to get it right away. So she recites the instructions carefully and slowly in your head. That’s how the instructions read. There are step-by-step photos literally for every step.
And man, the cakes are cute. Just check out that cover. It’s like the individual cakes are trying to win a popularity contest against each other. The Fluffy Alpacca versus Pudgy Pig Chinese Steamed Bun, anybody? Want Shoes for a Princess (ballet shoes) on your cake? Want an Arabesque with green tea powder on your pancake Deco Mushi Cake? Yes and yes. Musical notes, Jack O’Lanterns, Antique Chandeliers and Frosty Snowmen; they’re all here. Junko has sections on specific techniques like piping and even savory filling.
Junko even provides helpful patterns, packaging ideas and even a trouble-shooting guide for “Deco Mushi Cakes.” Beyond the cuddly and attractive designs, the book succeeds because of the ease involved with the recipes. Junko goes out of her way to really simplify and condense the recipes so even the genuine neophyte baker can try them out. These might be too simple for more experienced bakers but even they can learn from the numerous ideas and patterns found here. It’s also pretty enough to be a fine gift for a friend who cooks.
That “All Are Welcome” ethos in “Deco Mushi Cakes” is a winning formula when combined with the adorable photo illustrations. It’s entirely possible that this skinny but pretty book can serve as a gateway drug for those who might be interested in baking and might go on to even more complex techniques. “Deco Mushi Cakes” would serve as a great starting point with Junko being the perfect hostess.