• The sub header ‘Cookies, cakes and everything in between’ seen under the title is probably the most suitable phrase to describe the contents of the spectacular book Modern Baking by Donna Hay.

    Upon first glance, Modern Baking  displays tones of dark browns and auburn with a bold white title embossed into the front cover, the book gives off notes of authority and power with it’s strong presence. You feel almost comforted, that it is here to guide you into a life of sweetness.

    Donna is concise in her introduction, but still captures the real reason why many of us love to bake. Whether it’s the precision needed for measuring out volumes, the organisation of moving ingredients in and out of cupboards or becoming entranced by the beauty of the emulsification of butter, sugar and eggs, baking connects to different parts of ourselves, our mind, soul and body. Baking has the power to heal, relax, and allows you to get lost in the moment while still knowing exactly what you’re doing.

    Now,  you may be reading this and thinking “she’s crazy” – I admit that am definitely describing a certain type of baker, and I acknowledge that for some (many?), baking can actually be incredibly stressful, confusing and absolutely not a form of relaxation, but despite this many still want to try. The best part of this is that Modern Baking welcomes in those who are obsessed with, those who are hesitant to, and those who are avoidant of baking as a whole. Whether you’re looking to broaden your knowledge skills, find a reliable recipe for a sweet treat, or for a quick fix for a party, Donna Hay really has included ‘cookies, cakes and everything in between’ to connect with every single one of you.


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    Beauty on every page

    One immediate factor that stands out as you page through Modern Baking is the heart-stopping images accompanying each recipe. Scatterings of caramel drips, frosted berries, fresh mint leaves and golden cake crumbs decorate the recipe pages. These all leap off the surface and pull you into the scene; we are the main character of this baking story, and Donna is our fairy godmother. Every image elicits an “oooh” or a “wow!”, an automatic tense of the hands or gurgle of the stomach; all visceral responses to the kinds of cakes you actually want to recreate, the biscuits you’ll buy tahini for, the rising time you’ll happily endure.

    Donna’s imagery makes you want to look through the book like a clue game; you’ll go back and forth between pages just to soak in the stunning glimmers of sugar-coated pecans,  the crystals of condensation on mocha ice-creams, the flakes on the pastry layers, again and again in case you didn’t get a good enough look last time. Each image tells a story, one you’ll jump at to even get just a taste of.

    Cravings cured

    Modern Baking features a few different sections with hero ingredients for each; Chocolate, Caramel, toffee & coffee, Sugar and spice, Fruit and berries and Milk and cream. Each of these sections contains thorough recipes that require investment, time and love, paired with two other subsections: Fresh and Light, and Quick fix. Fresh and light are pretty self-explanatory, it looks into the hero ingredient and focuses on recipes with natural or raw produce and healthier ingredients.  A quick fix will appeal to those who aren’t able to pop to the store, who don’t have a lot of time, or who want a result ASAP. There is a space for every kind of baker, with over 250 recipes, Modern Baking will feature something perfect for you.


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    Tried and tested

    If the food styling and photography doesn’t convince you, then hopefully knowing that these recipes are reliable will. Having made a few of these already, I enjoyed testing the flavours behind the words. I recently made Donna’s Salted dark chocolate layer cake with milk chocolate ganache, which was comforting and nostalgic. I then played with some new flavours by making Donna’s Almond and nutmeg layer cake. The wonders almond flour does to cake texture always amazes me, and the ricotta icing was one I had never tried before, tangy, and warmed by the nutmeg, orange and honey glaze. I am looking forward to trying out her Raw chocolate, cherry and coconut bars and her miso-glazed doughnuts soon.

    Final thoughts

    Modern Baking is truly magical and would make a perfect gift, either to yourself or a friend. Whether you’re looking to splurge on cream cheese, almonds and berries, or looking to save using store-bought ice cream or pastry, the options are endless and there to cater for your every need.

    Find it at your nearest bookstore like Exclusive’s, or online at Takealot

    Follow Donna on Instagram @donna.hay


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    High Tea at the Cellars-Hohenort



    Sjaan is a food stylist and recipe developer for Food & Home. She aims to create mouth-watering images and exciting How To videos on our Instagram, hoping to inspire people to try new recipes and have fun in the kitchen.