If you like mini things, or if you are a cake decorator with a load of patience and time, or if you just want to challenge you limits and patience making fiddly little cakes, this may be the book for you.
I'm a bit of all three of the above. Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse: Cupcakes, Small Cakes, Muffins, and other Mini Treats is a cutesy cookbook and instructional manual on how to make a large variety of the mini treats touted in the subtitle.
It's a very nice-looking book. Each page is full of bright colours and the pictures of the finished products are gorgeous. Apart from the design of the book, there is a good collection of staple-type recipes for muffins, cakes, fillings, and icings - all you need to get yourself started on the road to creating lilliputian delights. There are also a lot of very neat decorating ideas and a handy template section at the back.
Some of the techniques I have seen before, like painting chocolate onto an actual leaf and then peeling the leaf back so you get a perfect chocolate version of the leaf for decors. Other things, like the use of a fine paintbrush to paint details for what the authors term the "Chocolate Method" are quite impressive-looking.
For the purposes of this book review, I selected two muffin recipes to make because I have no special occasion for which to go to the trouble of baking and decorating a batch of cupcakes. The Coffee Chocolate Chip muffins on page 56 were to die for: moist, cakey, and very tasty, they made an excellent dessert one night. The other recipe was the Blueberry Muffins on page 50. These also had an amazing texture and were super yummy. Both of these muffin recipes used the creaming method of combining butter, sugar, and eggs - similar to most cookie recipes - rather than the more common use of a liquid fat. I think this contributed to the wonderful texture. On the downside, however, neither muffin recipe puffed up much during baking. They remained fairly flat on top. While this is advantageous in a cupcake (flatter surface = easier to decorate) it isn't necessarily desirable in a muffin. But, that's minor. (Incidentally, I recently invested in silicone muffin cups and they work great.)
My only real criticism of this book is that apart from the photos illustrating the Chocolate Method, other piping and decorating techniques are only explained with text without the aid of visuals. Although we'd all like to believe that piping easy, it really isn't if you're inexperienced. I think it would have been helpful to have more photo illustrations of the piped decorating techniques, and because of this lack, I wouldn't really classify this as a beginner's manual. Otherwise, a great resource book full of lovely ideas and some killer recipes.