This interview may be considered treasonous by pie people, but please forgive me because I’m not talking just any cakes–I’m talking Booze Cakes. Mint Julep Cupcakes! Salty-sweet Honey Spice Beer Cake! Piña Colada Cake! Jägermeister-powered Deutsch German Chocolate Cake! This new Quirk Books cookbook by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone is a good time.
Krystina Castella enjoys creating books and products that inspire play. She is especially obsessed with playing in the kitchen and sharing recipes with others that are tasty and beautiful. Krystina is the author of Crazy about Cupcakes (Sterling 2006), Crazy about Cookies (Sterling 2010), Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone (Quirk Books, 2008) A World of Cake (Storey Publishing, 2010) and co-author of Booze Cakes (Quirk Books, 2010). She is also co-author/ photographer of the children’s book Discovering Nature’s Alphabet (Heyday 2006). She lives and works near Los Angeles as a writer, industrial designer, and professor at Art Center College of Design.
Terry Lee Stone is a design management consultant and writer who loves all aspects of design — whether the delivery media is paper, screens, cake, or yarn. She has worked with top U.S. design firms. For over 12 years she taught the business of design at the California Institute of the Arts, Art Center College of Design, and Otis College of Art and Design. She is the author of several books on graphic design, but Booze Cakes is her first cookbook. Active in the graphic design industry, she has written for design magazines; served on the Board of Directors of the AIGA; and has presented lectures and workshops for numerous creative organizations. She also blogs daily about her knitting obsession at sknitter.com. Terry lives with her husband and their pugs in the Studio City section of Los Angeles, in the Brady Bunch’s old neighborhood.
Gina: Whose idea was Booze Cakes? Can you pinpoint the moment of inspiration?
Terry: Krystina and I both were both teaching at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena CA, and she was a consistent guest lecturer in my class. After several terms of hearing her talk about her cool cookbook projects, I knew I wanted to work with her. So while making my mom’s 1970s-era Harvey Wallbanger Cake one night, it hit me that the world really needed was a Renaissance in boozy baking. And I knew Krystina and I were just the people to kick it off with a book.
Krystina: When I wrote Crazy About Cupcakes (Sterling Publishing), I developed “Cocktail Cupcakes” and did a lot of experimenting with booze and cake recipes. My inspiration was thinking about a dessert party like a cocktail party. I was learning tons more about the history of alcohol infused cakes and baking while writing my soon to be released book A World of Cake (Storey Publishing). I expanded on this experimentation with Booze Cakes.
Gina: How did the two of you come to collaborate on the book?
Krystina: As Terry said, we met teaching at Art Center College of Design. I have been a professor of there for 18 years. I teach Industrial design and materials explorations. Terry is a graphic designer and had been teaching creative business for many years both at Art Center and CalArts. Terry knew I was a cookbook author and approached me with the idea to do a cookbook called Booze Cakes. I told her I loved the title and we began collaborating.
Terry: I knew it was a “go” when she broke out laughing at the title!
Gina: What was your creative process like?
Terry: One of the interesting things about our development process was that we linked up new combinations of alcohol type + baking style + physical structure of the cakes. Since we’re both designers and very visual people, we sort of instinctively combined tastes and shapes first.
Krystina: We created an outline for the book including the chapter topics and then had frequent meetings at my house to brainstorm recipe ideas. We each chose recipes to test and expand on and reported back to each other with the results. Our favorites were chosen for the book.
Terry: We each had our “To-Do List” in terms of the cakes. When we swapped recipes, I think it really inspired us on to push our ideas further. It was always a bit of a surprise to see how the other person took the concept and ran with it. Very fun.
Gina: You don’t mention professional culinary training in your bios. How did you each learn to bake?
Krystina: I have been cooking, baking and developing recipes all of my life. When I sold my manufacturing company in 2000 I had much more free time on my hands and immersed myself into educating myself through reading about baking technique, fine tuning and developing new recipes. I took a great class at UCLA on writing cookbooks and took several other non-fiction writing classes. I developed a process and approach to baking and cooking that is very much like how I approach to design giving my recipes an easy to approach attitude and playful personalities. I have since written 5 cookbooks and when you are testing recipes to include in a cookbook you fine-tune each recipe by baking it over and over. That is the best culinary training you can get. I have made thousands of cakes, cupcakes, popsicles and cookies over the last few years.
Terry: I’m really just a designer who loves to cook. Initially I learned baking from my mother and Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook For Boys and Girls. A seminal work, right?
From there, I indulged my sweet tooth and refined my skills by reading many books, practicing, and lots and lots of trial and error! Happily, even my mistakes and cake wrecks are usually pretty yummy. My philosophy is basically: “Have fun, it’s just cake.”
Gina: Did you call on recipe testers to fact check your boozy creations to ensure they’d work for readers?
Krystina: We each did our own testing. I had my students taste test them after class. I teach grad students so they are all over 21. After the final recipes were selected Quirk had a recipe tester make sure they were AOK.
Terry: My friends ate lots of cake and rated each one, plus I had some of them try making the recipes as well. Our editor, Margaret McGuire, also made and tested cakes, then shared her baking experiences.
Gina: Who took the photos and where? The art direction is beautiful.
Krystina: Thank you. Quirk Books designer Jenny Kraemer designed and art directed the book. Our editor collaborated with us, Jenny, and photographer Daniel Kukla (who happens to be a dedicated home baker himself). Together, they managed to shoot pictures of more than forty boozy cakes within a few days.
The photographs have a very cozy, homey quality because they were actually taken in the homes of Jenny and Margaret (and their generous friends’ homes) in Philadelphia and New York. They found lovely vintage cake plates, cocktail glasses, tablecloths, and linens that matched the book’s color scheme at the flea market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In fact, the book’s color scheme is inspired by the retro palette of Mad Men and the fashionable era of classic booze cakes that Betty Draper might’ve baked. And they didn’t fake it: All the confections in the photographs were baked from scratch.
Gina: I was surprised to read that it’s a misconception that alcohol burns off entirely when cooked. Can you talk about the techniques that give cakes more or less kick?
Krystina: The kick comes from adding the alcohol to the batter before baking. More kick comes from soaking the cake in alcohol after it is baked- and adding alcohol to the frosting or topping. The cake is like a sponge and soaks it all up.
Terry: You’ll find a “Booze Meter” indication on each of our recipes. Then you can always add more hootch if you are into it.
Gina: The book is laced with lots of fun cocktail trivia. What did you find to be the best historic cocktail resources?
Krystina: For me, my father in law Olaf was the best resource. He was a bartender before during ww1 and through prohibition and he always talked about it with his fondest memories. He passed away at 101 last year and left me with some great bartending stories and trivia.
Terry: I’m not gonna lie: I come from a long line of booze lovers. However, I did do quite a bit of research. There is a lot of history and lore about drinking— lots of interesting stuff there.
Gina: I was especially amused by the cakes inspired by 80s cocktails. Please tell my readers about your recipe for Peachy Keen Fuzzy Navel Cupcakes with its many Regan era variations.
Krystina: The cocktail cakes are really fun to create because essentially you are mixing multiple ingredients in the batter in a similar fashion that you mix a cocktail. There are more elements to play with and create with then with cocktails. Plus garnishing cakes is just as fun as garnishing drinks!
Where did the name came from? In 1994-95 I owned one of the first designer shopping sites on line called peachykeen.com where I sold products by young designers. I’ve always loved the term “peachy keen,” and it fit so well with fuzzy navel, I named the cupcakes after that.
Terry: You’re definitely going to make people happy by just telling them the names of the variations on that cake. Who doesn’t want Sex-On-The-Beach?
Gina: Is “Booze Pies” next?
Krystina: Sounds like a good idea. I have already made a Kahula cream pie, a Margarita pie and a black cherry kirsch pie. I love pie as much as cake. Besides A World of Cake, I also Crazy About Cookies (sterling 2010) coming out soon.
Terry: “Booze Pies”— that’s wacky. Stay tuned! In addition to Booze Cakes, I’ve got a new design book series: Managing the Design Process: Concept Development (Rockport 2010) and Managing the Design Process: Implementing Design (Rockport 2010) being published this year.