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updated: 10/19/2011 2:50 PM

Cake Boy, Cake Boss and custom kernels

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Since writing last week about the avalanche of baking books coming my way, even more have crossed my desk. So while I focused on cookie cookbooks last week, this week I'm giving cakes and cupcakes a turn.

Cupcakes made with "manly" ingredients like whiskey and bacon and beer fill the pages of "The Butch Bakery Cookbook" by David Arrick with Janice Kollar (Wiley, $19.99).

Arrick left Wall Street and in 2009 opened Butch Bakery in NYC to bring masculine-themed cupcakes to market. I'm not talking green frosted cupcakes with golf tees or cupcakes piped to look like a basketball, but cupcakes with bold flavor combinations like Guinness stout with chocolate-covered pretzels and peanut butter with banana and bacon. Yes, these treats appeal to women as well (you'd have to fight me for the last Tailgate, a caramel cupcake drizzled with caramel sauce and a salted caramel buttercream), but there's not a pink swirl or sugared flower petal in the bunch.

The recipes are even written in a manly tone, broken down into Ingredient Roster and Plan of Attack.

I especially like the last chapter, Butch's On-The-Go, which includes recipes for some of his favorite combos that start with cake mix. It's not that the from-scratch Defense Defense of red velvet cake and Jack Daniels-spiked buttercream is difficult, but his Jack Daniel's Rush cuts down prep time by using red velvet mix and store-bought vanilla frosting.

In "Cake Boy," master pātissier Eric Lanlard (the French-born, UK-based baker who counts Sir Elton John and Madonna as his customers) reveals in words and photos the secrets to his spectacular desserts (Mitchell Beazley/Octopus, $19.99).

His recipes range from classics such as Lemon Drizzle cake, Victoria Sponge, Madeleines and Banana Cake to the more contemporary Macarons and Apple and Honey Crumble Sponge. You'll even find flour-free cakes and modern variations on traditional muffins and cupcakes.

Each recipe includes a tip, like how to prevent dried fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake pan and how to achieve a light and airy texture for the best spongecake.

Lanlard will be in town this weekend and will be the special guest at a ChicaGourmet book signing and luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 24, at Cigale at the Sofitel Hotel Water Tower, 20 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. The event costs $89 per person and will include desserts from "Cake Boy" baked by Sofitel pastry chef Patrick Fahy.

Reserve your spot at ChicaGourmets.org or (708) 383-7543.

From cake boy to Cake Boss: Tickets are available for An Evening with Buddy Valastro: The Cake Boss Nov. 16 at the Rosemont Theatre.

Buddy Valastro, star of the hit TLC series, takes to the stage at 7:30 p.m. to share the stories behind the stories on the show as well as demonstrate some techniques that have made him one of the country's top cake artists. He even brings an audience member onstage to help out (will it be you?).

Tickets run $23 to $63 and are available through Ticketmaster.com.

Custom kernels: Don't you hate it when the cheese popcorn you bought for your kids is too cheesy for you, or that you want just a smidgen of that white cheddar flavor in every handful, but your partner wants the flavor to hit him over the head? Your family needs Orville Redenbacher's customizable Gourmet Popping Corn.

Available in single-wrapped, 3.24-ounce bags in White Cheddar, Extra Cheese and Sea Salt and Vinegar flavors, the bags contain a shakable topping that allows you to control the intensity. Try the White Cheddar variety with a nice fall lager for a break from the tired beer and pretzel pairing.

Charitable tastes: You won't go home hungry after nibbling on plates offered by Mago Grill and Cantina in Arlington Heights, Vittorio de Roma in Palatine and other restaurants at the 3rd Annual Around the World Food Tasting from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Toyota Scion Dealership, Palatine.

The event costs $30 in advance or $40 at the door with proceeds benefiting Clearbrook, an organization that provides programs and support for adults and children with disabilities.

In addition to the tastings and cash bar, there will be a silent auction. For tickets, contact Alla Ioffe at (847) 385-5009 or aioffe@clearbrook.org.

Recipe correction: The baking time for Don Mauer's Anniversary Gingerbread was incorrect in the Oct. 12 edition. The correct time is 45 minutes. The corrected recipe is available at dailyherald.com/entlife/food. Click "recipes."

• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at food@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at facebook.com/DebPankeyDailyHerald or follow on Twitter @PankeysPlate.

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