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For the Kitchen Bookshelf : Cookbooks. Big books, little books, showy cocktail table books . . . all arrive in time for holiday shopping each year. The Times' Food staff took a look at some of this year's offerings, many of which will make excellent gift choices for last-minute shoppers. Here's a rundown on some we found interesting.

December 21, 1986|Minnie Bernardino

Cake Decorating by Elaine MacGregor (HP Books: $25, 224 pp., illustrated).

For the avid cake decorator, particularly beginners with a lot of enthusiasm and time, there could never be enough books on cake decorating. An accomplished teacher and accredited judge and member of Britain's Cookery and Food Assn., Elaine MacGregor produced this step-by-step guide to making traditional and fantasy cakes. All edible decorations from marzipan figures, flowers, chocolate shapes, food color paintings to piped borders are discussed in detail and illustrated with full color step-by-step photos.

A Mother's Day cake basket made of a rich fruitcake base with marzipan roses and tulips is stunning. Similarly, a Thanksgiving cornucopia filled with gelatin icing shaped into cabbages, fruits and pumpkin may take all the time in the world to make but the impact is certainly worth it.

I particularly liked the chapter on fantasy cakes, which makes the book stand out among other cake decorating books. Some ideas were borrowed from Crumbs of London bakery, which specializes in cakes made to order. A bright red strawberry cake decorated with almond paste makes a strong statement, and a spaceship Madeira cake with butter cream filling is a riot with its offbeat colors and planetary design.

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