Valerie Gordon launched Valerie Confections several years ago with her partner, Stan Weightman Jr., with a box of chocolate-covered toffees. They have since expanded into a full-fledged bakery. Gordon's just-published cookbook, "Sweet: Inspired Ingredients, Unforgettable Desserts" (Artisan), chronicles the menu of iconic cakes, petit fours, pies, cookies, chocolates, jams and more.
A self-taught baker and confectioner, Gordon's desserts might be described as super-refined homemade: Everything is made with the best possible ingredients and to exacting standards with a clean aesthetic. And the spectrum of flavors hits all the right notes: chocolatey, buttery, creamy, fruity, nutty and spicy.
The cookbook is divided into categories that cover desserts for celebrations, everyday cakes, pies and tarts, chocolates and confections, spoonable desserts, cookies and bars, jams and snacks. The cakes are spectacular: retro cakes that Gordon has revived such as Blum's coffee crunch cake, the Brown Derby grapefruit cake, Chasen's banana shortcake and Scandia's apple cake, as well as her own creations including mini-cakes and really luscious petit fours in flavors such as lavender-Earl Grey cake with lemon ganache and vanilla bean cake with rose petal-passion fruit ganache.
Gordon always seems to add the right "extra," such as grated aged Gouda in the crust for her apple crostata or matcha in her white chocolate macadamia cookies or fraises des bois in mousse. But there are plenty of the kinds of simple dishes that resonate with elemental sweet-tooth cravings: glazed citrus pound cake, salted peanut blondies and Eton mess, to name a few.