Retro Desserts: Totally Hip, Updated Classic Desserrts from the '40S, '50S, 60s and '70s
By Brachman, Wayne

When I first saw this cookbook, I just had to buy it. In my mind I thought finally I wouldn't have to keep calling my mom to have her dig out the family cookbook for my favorite recipes from bygone eras. Ok, I wasn't expecting it to be perfect but I at least thought something like Mayonnaise chocolate cake, Texas sheet cake, or coca cola cake would make it. I didn't expect Mamie Eisenhower fudge that was printed in the newspaper during Eisenhower days or butternut pound cake. Boy was I disappointed, I didn't recognize a single recipe.

I was hoping that Wayne Brachman would come to my rescue. Wayne Brachman is the executive pastry chef at New York's Mesa Grilll and Bolo. I had enjoyed his desserts at Mesa and assumed that if they were half as good in this cookbook it would be a winner.

The graphics and the imagery displayed in this book amazing. The book is designed to keep you flipping through the pages. The graphics in the sidebars stir up images of '57 Chevy's and poodle skirts at the sock hop. They showcase retro style photography, artwork, headlines, and excerpts taken from vintage magazines and cookbooks. I just don't think Beaver would have been happy eating the desserts.

Heavenly Hash Brownies are amazing. This version has the proper soft center with a shiny crackly crust, made even more delectable by marshmallows tossed in during the last five minutes to melt on top. This recipe calls for brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup, bittersweet chocolate, and the marshmallows, melted through and on top. I loved how sweet the brownies turned out, but you may want to leave out a half a cup of sugar.

There are several recipes that I did run into a lot of problems with; Grasshopper pie that didn't set, black and white cookies that just merged on the tray, the Oreo cookies are to chewy cupcakes that are totally flat, and the fondant frosting was just a mess.

This book had such potential. Featuring recipes from an era when kitchens were turquoise, stainless, and your mom wore a frilly apron. When people were not afraid to cook really sweet chocolatey desserts. Brachman did try very hard to present these recipes without irony and to update classics. Somehow though they just came across as retro flakes that needed to be tested more before printing. The book is a lot of fun and should be treated for just that.

Review by Priscilla Meredith 2003