Our Favorite Dessert Cookbooks
People will compliment a good meal. Those same people will rave about a special dessert. People might request a certain meal when it’s their birthday but odds are they will insist on their favorite cake for a birthday cake. We love desserts, we will eat less of a meal so that we can have desserts. What every good dessert has in common with one another is that it started with a good recipe.
Finding A Good Dessert Cookbook
You can locate thousands of recipes with little effort. Just type “chocolate cake” into a search engine and see what happens. Google returned 370 MILLION sites for chocolate cake. You can’t count on all 370 million of them having a good recipe. What you need to find are some well written, easy to follow dessert cookbooks that will point you in the right direction.
Like anything else when it comes to food, there will be a wide variety of cuisines, tastes and styles for dessert cookbooks. Some are cake based, some are chocolate based, some require a fairly high skill set. We have a few all purpose dessert cookbooks that we really like. They don’t require advanced skills, most of the recipes are easily handled by beginning bakers. Likewise, the ingredients are fairly common and don’t require access to a gourmet food store. Does anyone really have jaggery on their shelves (it’s an unrefined sugar used in some Indian cooking)?
We also like cookbooks that rely on basic appliances and utensils found in most kitchens. A stand up mixer, baking sheets, some bowls, maybe a flour sifter. Nothing to exotic or elaborate. You shouldn’t need thousands of dollars worth of kitchen equipment to create a delicious dessert.
Our Favorite Dessert Cookbooks
#1 Happiness Is Baking
Maida Heatter has been called many things; The Queen Of Cake, The Queen Of Chocolate, The Queen Of American Baking. She is all of those and this latest update of her cookbook should be a go-to for all bakers. Sadly she died in 2019 but her wonderful recipes will live on forever. Be sure to try her Palm Beach Brownies, they are positively addictive.
-Maida Heatter was a master baker and she explains clearly why certain ingredients work they way they do in her recipes. There is no guess work, you are given very detailed instructions on how to make the dessert.
-The recipes are very well written and illustrated. Each step is clearly laid out so that you know exactly where you are in the recipe and what you should have completed by that point. The illustrations are old school and beautiful.
-Ms. Heatter won 3 James Beard awards but still managed to keep her recipes concise and easy to follow. She has a wicked sense of humor that comes out in her writing.
-There is a very wide variety of different types of desserts.
-There are no photographs, just illustrations. While the illustrations are extremely well done, most cookbooks rely on photography and some people have problems visualizing food without photos of the finished product.
-If you don’t like chocolate, or don’t plan on making chocolate desserts, you will find some gaps in this cookbook. Ms. Heatter loved chocolate.
#2 Tasty Dessert Cookbook
The title says it all, this book concentrates on tasty desserts. There are over 70 easy to follow, well written recipes that will be able to fill any dessert requirements that you may have. Each recipe has a beautiful photo of the finished product and detailed steps to help you get your dessert to look just like the photo.
-Over 75 well written and well photographed dessert recipes of all types. Beginning bakers or seasoned pros will appreciated how well written these recipes are.
-Based on input from social media, most of the recipes have fun suggestions to customize and personalize each dessert.
-A very wide variety of different desserts. Pies, cakes, fritters, muffins, cookies and bars all are represented in this book.
-Some of the recipes lack detail. One pitfall of social media is that there is often no one checking on the validity of suggestions.
-Photos are very well done but don’t always reflect what the recipe calls for. Some are pictures of special versions of the recipe made by a reader.
#3 Sally’s Cookie Addiction
Who doesn’t like a great cookie? While this cookbook is a bit single minded, the name does say it all, the offerings are tremendous. There are so many cookie recipes in this book that you will have to control yourself a bit and pick a few to get started. There are the usual offerings, chocolate chip and peanut butter, along with some really fun offerings like a pinata surprise cookie. You will have a lot of fun with this cookbook.
-There are some wonderfully creative cookie recipes in this cookbook. The basics are covered, and done very well, but the unique recipes are where you will find some fun baking ideas.
-Excellent photography. The images are crisp and really help understand what it is that you are trying to make.
-Most recipes have a great tip at the beginning, such as a “make ahead” section. This gives you a chance to prepare some ingredients ahead of time and works as a great reminder that you need to check all of your ingredients before you start baking.
-Some readers have had trouble with measurement conversions. Some recipes use weight, some use volume (cups). You will want a good kitchen scale to take full advantage of this cookbook.
-Many of the recipes have appeared in the author’s other cookbooks. If you have her earlier works you may notice some repetition.
#4 Williams Sonoma Dessert Of The Day
365 dessert recipes, all in one wonderfully appealing cookbook. Beautifully photographed and illustrated, this is a visual as well as a culinary treat. The variety of desserts is breathtaking. Rustic treats, contemporary sweets, seasonal ideas and a few classics highlight the assortment of recipes that are compiled in this amazing cookbook. This will quickly become your go-to dessert cookbook.
-An amazing number of well written and beautifully photographed recipes. The choices are outstanding.
-The recipes are concise and clearly written. There is no guesswork and all of the steps are laid out in a manner that is easy to follow.
-There is a great assortment of seasonal and holiday recipes available. It’s easy to get sidetracked with pumpkin pie recipes around Thanksgiving but this cookbook gives you some excellent fall and early winter dessert ideas.
-Many of the recipes rely on pre-made pie crusts or packaged puff pastry dough. While both can be fine in most recipes, having a good pie crust recipe as an option when creating a pie would be very nice.
-If you have diet restrictions (gluten, allergies) you will have issues with many of the recipes.
Cookbooks can be wonderful, but like all books there will be good and there will be bad. Pay close attention to details when you are looking at purchasing a cookbook. Do the instructions tell you which order to add ingredients or does it assume you know what to do? If you are not an experienced baker it can be an expensive lesson to learn when to add the dry ingredients to the wet.
Do the illustrations and pictures look like real food? That may sound silly but if the photographs look like they are picturing shiny, waxy food you may want to hesitate before trying the recipes. A meal shouldn’t require abnormal efforts to create.
Are the ingredients items that you have in your kitchen? Most people don’t keep flaxseed meal on hand, if the recipes are calling for exotic ingredients you may want to move on to a cookbook that is a bit more practical.
Baking is a true science with a bit of art added. Be creative, experiment. A recipe is the formula for success but, as you become more experienced, a recipe can be a starting point. Create, experiment, enjoy while you bake.