Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude is a book that's hard to ignore. On the front cover, colorful calligraphy wraps itself around a glinting, frosting-streaked knife extending from the outstretched arm of author Libbie Summers, whose defiant stance and frilly dress encapsulate the books' ethos: something sweet, served with plenty of spice.
Having cut her culinary teeth serving all manner of guests on private yachts, Libbie Summers has been working with, and in, food ever since. Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude is her second cookbook, the first being imaginative takes on tried-and-true pork-based dishes. The Whole Hog Cookbook showed off her penchant for bright color and smart styling, but Sweet and Vicious takes things a step further, using hot pink curlicues and rose-tipped pages to lull readers into a false sense of security before slapping them upside the head with bold combinations and novel approaches to baking.
However, having attitude doesn't mean being messy. Cakes and pies are executed with Martha Stewart-esque precision, with Anthony Bourdain-style titles. Her Post-Coital Pie is chocolate on chocolate, finished with some, um, chocolate—a recipe to be made only in a very specific state of being. There's also Pull-Apart Boy Bread, flavored with the herbs and spices that remind Summers of some of her favorite men. Just like the title, Summers has a firm foot in both camps: the sex appeal never becomes sleazy, and her technical mastery never feels condescending.
In fact, it's Summers' welcoming, almost conspiratorial tone that makes you feel like you can attempt any of the recipes she's laid out. Each one has the requisite sweetness you would expect, but with some kind of twist that revitalizes the recipe. Side-Slap & Tickle Cookies are a prime example: most people are familiar with chocolate crinkle cookies, which usually only appear around Christmas. But this version takes malted milk balls and malted milk powder to make crackling, chewy cookies that can be served anytime of year. There's also Habanero Carrot Cake, which uses the eponymous pepper to liven up an otherwise completely tame recipe. Stoned Tart is drug free, but dizzyingly fruitful: delicately sliced stone fruit is arranged in layers over buttery tart dough. Lastly, Upside-Down Skillet Corn Cake is a countrified version of a classic upside-down cake, made with cornmeal.
With equal parts class and sass, Sweet and Vicious is a visually arresting, stomach-gurgling work of art. It's packed with useful, and ridiculously indulgent, recipes. Bake along with us and find out for yourself just how fun being a little vicious can be.
Win A Copy!
Thanks to the generous folks over at Rizzoli Books, we are giving away five (5) copies of Sweet and Vicious this week. All you have to do is tell us your best bad-ass recipe.