Melissa Murphy loves to bake and her goal is simple, "to make everyone's favorite desserts better than they've ever had them before." Murphy practices what she preaches at her three very popular Sweet Melissa patisseries in New York City, and now with The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, she invites you all to whip out the flour, sugar, chocolate and nuts and indulge in the treats you and your friends and family like best. Murphy is a formally trained pastry chef whose real passion is for the homespun desserts she grew up with. So, we get American desserts with elegant French influences—innovations and fresh takes on the tried-and-true winners. And the blue ribbon certainly goes to Orange-Scented Scones, Sweet Plum Clafoutis with Almonds, Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes, Toasted Almond Lemon Bars and Chestnut Honey Madeleines that Proust would have loved. Her layer cakes are fantastic and homey at the same time—think Fluffy Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Filling or pink Hazelnut Raspberry Cake—and come with detailed instructions on assembly and icing. Fruit pies, puddings, preserves, mousses and gift-able confections get their due. Life with Melissa Murphy is sweet indeed.

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