As traditional as Champagne is traditional for New Year's, it's nice to mix it up now and then with a few champers-based cocktails. My favorite affordable bubbly is Chandon Blanc de Noir, a Napa Valley California sparkling wine made by the French house Moet et Chandon.
Kir Royale: This classic was my first champagne cocktail, and remains a favorite. Creme de cassis, bubbles.
Kathleen: Limoncello and bubbles. Very refreshing.
Elderflower: A bit of Elderflower syrup topped by bubbles. Have you noticed a theme here?
Aperol Sprizz: Aperol and then bubbles on top. If you prefer a drier champagne, this will balance any sweetness.
Champagne cocktail: Drop a cube of sugar at the bottom a flute, drop with Angostura bitters, top with bubbles, stir to dissolve sugar.
Blini: Peach juice or juice blend, top with bubbles.
Black Velvet: Stout beer and bubbles.
Jade: From my friend Jack Persico. Shake 1/4 oz blue curacao, 1/4 oz Midori, 1/4 oz lime juice, dash of Angostura bitters over ice. Pour into flute, then top with bubbles.
French 75: This is our current house favorite and what I'll serve this New Year's Eve. It's is slightly more complex: gin, lemon, sugar syrup, shake with ice, then bubbles on top.
Happy New Year!
Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking and The Culinary Institute of America Baking and Pastry
My final go-to volumes for basic cakes are two textbooks from Le Cordon Bleu and The Culinary Institute of America given to me by my aunt-by-marriage, food writer Anne Mendelson. Both focus on basic technique and recipes &emdash; building blocks &emdash; rather than a specific dessert. Meant to be used in a retail or commercial bakery, the yields are usually triple a home recipe (six dozen cupcakes or six nine-inch cake layers). Very useful for wedding cakes, and other situations calling for insane amounts of cake.
Interestingly enough, they don't have the same recipes. From Gisslen's book, I bake the spice cake and angel food cake. From the CIA cookbook, I bake the lemon chiffon cake, creme anglaise, German buttercream, and cream cheese icing (which is equal weights of cream cheese and butter, and less powdered sugar). I refer to both for basic research when I need a new cake or sweet yeast bread recipe; they provide me with good ideas and point me in the direction to go.
From these basic recipes, both show how to build ever-more complex pastries up to architectural wonders.
If you don't want or need six dozen cupcakes (or you need twelve dozen, or four fifteen-inch layers), Professional Baking has a chart of how much batter to use for any size layer. Both teach scaling (how to increase and decrease a recipe for more or fewer servings) and basic recipe ratios. The also cover most baking ingredients, from all-purpose flour through lychees, and equipment from measuring spoons through steam-injection ovens.