I absolutely love the author Marian Keyes! I have read all of her books and always eagerly await her next one. I always like the way she writes as her style is always light hearted humour whilst tackling some difficult subjects such as drug abuse and depression. It came as a surprise to me when this book came out and I read that she herself had suffered from 'the black dog' and I suppose this is how she is able to write so brilliantly about the illness when she creates her characters. This book is not a novel, it is a recipe book but with personal insight into how this well known author managed to overcome her black dog by turning to baking.
Marian Keyes is an Irish writer who tends to write chick lit style books. I always feel as though that kind of title is a bit degrading as her books aren't full of tacky obvious stories but have much deeper elements to them with interesting twists and turns. I have found her style of writing to be just what I like and I have read all of her books. Some of her publications include Last Chance Saloon, Under The Duvet and This Charming Man. I have read them all so it's come to the point now where I am always waiting for her next one to be published so when this one came up on Amazon I was excited to see a new book but then disappointed to see that it was just a cook book and not actually a novel. I didn't buy it at first but for Christmas this year I asked for it seeing as now I am enjoying baking too. This book gives an insight into one of my favourite author's lives as well as gives some great recipes in a more informal manner than any other baking book I have so it is just perfect for me!
Saved By cake
This is a hardback book which was published in 2012. There are about 230 pages and include the chapters: Introduction, equipment list, some rules, techniques and helpful hints, classics, cupcakes, cheesecakes, liquid cakes, pastry, meringues and macaroons, biscuits and cookies, fruit and veg, chocolate, index.
The introduction is not like any other cook book I have read or flicked through. The introduction doesn't talk about where food has come from or how you need to eat healthily or whatever, this introduction is all about how the author of the book first came to get involved in baking. I hadn't known anything about Marian Keyes before except she was Irish and I enjoyed her writing so reading about her was very interesting. It doesn't go into huge detail but it tells about how she became to get depressed and on edge, how she struggled to do anything and every day seemed endless. She talks about how she felt suicidal and at times I wasn't sure if she was joking or being serious when she mentioned her suicide bag that she would have with her and how she planned to kill herself in a hotel... it was actually really quite sad to read and also very down to earth, she says she knows she has lots of brilliant things in her life and that makes it all the more frustrating. She then explains how she one day began to bake and found that it gave her purpose, she didn't have to worry about how she would fill her days, she didn't think ahead just followed the instructions and found that she really enjoyed it. This part of the story I really related to as I find baking and cooking a brilliant way to forget my worries and although you are following instructions it is amazingly relaxing too. The introduction really made a change from other books, it made me want to keep reading and to know more about what happened next!
The equipment list is written in a way which you can understand, she talks in such an informal way it's like a friend advising you- for example talking about how you should buy a purple spatula as essential equipment and an amusing apron. When she writes about the equipment she also gives tips too such as waiting for your cake to cool down before putting it in an air tight tin- this is something I did not know! Then when she goes onto the tips section again this is really useful, you can tell that she has learnt as she has gone along, she isn't an establish cook and the tips she has learnt are the kinds of things that I need to know, these novice type tips. They include things like how do you know if your cake is cooked? how to get a cheesecake out of the tin and so forth.
The recipe section is obviously the largest part and it's broken into useful categories. It is probably not the most logical of recipe books but I really like the style. The reason why it isn't logical is that this is not written in a very basic step by step guide, yes there are steps but there is also some waffle that occurs too! I find this a nice, informal way a bit like a friend telling you how to cook but it could cause some people to be distracted! For example instead of 'rub the butter by hand' it's "I'm afraid you'll have to rub the butter by hand and pile it into a prepared tin'. "Don't make the mistake that I did in the first few minutes of thinking that if the butter was melted that we were bombs away, don't be tempted to turn the heat up any further!" so these extra bits of information and conversation may not be your standard way of writing a recipe but actually they are really useful, they are the kinds of tips you NEED whilst cooking. Sometimes I do think "Is this hot enough? Should I turn it up?" And obviously so does she and she's warning against it!
Nearly all recipes have a picture and they are beautiful pictures too, not just a shot of a cake but they are always really pretty and arranged on pretty flowery plates or with a bright pink napkin next to it. These are really bright and colourful pictures that make the recipes really appealing! The recipes are laid out with the heading and then a little paragraph underneath which explains why Marian Keyes has chosen this particular recipe for example her mother used to always make it or she wanted something that was more of a challenge and again this makes the book sound really informal that it makes you smile whilst cooking. The ingredients are clearly laid out, it uses grams. It also tells you how much it serves and breaks the ingredients down if it needs to for example the base, the filling, the topping and so forth. This is a great way to do it, I struggle when they put it all in one section and then I have to work out how much is for the top, how much for the filling and so forth. As I said the recipes themselves are in a step by step fashion but with quite a bit of padding too but it works fine for me!
This book is fantastic! It is my favourite baking book! Sometimes I flick through my baking books and look at the pretty pictures and glance at a recipe, with this book I actually read the recipe, read the introduction to the recipe and enjoy just doing that. It's almost like a story in itself and when you do read it you can get an idea of how hard it is to do or how easy whereas some other books are so blunt you don't really know. The way that Marian Keyes has written this is so informal it really does feel like a friend is giving you advice and tips.
I have followed a few of the recipes and they have all turned out really well so far. One which I have recently made is the rosewater and coconut cheesecake. I was just so interested in it when I read it, a strange combination of flavours but it works really well and it was just amazing and of course Millie loves it because it's pink! The recipe was really easy to follow too and more enjoyable than normal because of the informal style. Another recipe I have made is John's sticky toffee pudding. This was really nice! It was also really interesting to read the story behind this particular pudding too.
Millie and I look at our books all of the time and pick out what we want to cook next and although she can't read the informal recipes or the banter she seems to really like this book to and I'm sure it's because the pictures are so attractive, everything is laid out so nicely it is hard not to be attracted to it! I just look at a page and suddenly want to start baking!
My only criticism with this book is I want to know how Marian Keyes is now and she doesn't say! in the introduction she says how she isn't cured but that baking just gives her a release, a way to focus on something else and it would be nice to know if now that she is baking a lot, she feels a happier person again. I can really relate to her though and recently I have heard of other people who use baking as a way to kind of give them therapy. It is so nice to be able to tune out from the world but to still have focus for a while; baking a cake is a scientific process, you have to concentrate, you can't be fretting about what you're doing later, you have to just get on with it and it's brilliant when you achieve a brilliant bake. I find it really helps me to feel better and this book is even better for that because it's written in such a friendly manner.
As well as making me smile whilst cooking his has also taught me some really useful tips that I didn't know previously, I really didn't know some of the things she said and I think this book says a lot about the 'real' professional cooks out there. I have learnt more from this book than any other as it's written by someone like me (a novice, not someone who has been trained) so the tips are all relevant and have really helped me to improve various aspects of baking that alternatively I wouldn't have been able to do. Some people may look at this book and see it as not being professional or up to the standard of other baking books but I completely disagree I think it's full of inspiring recipes, brilliant backgrounds to the cakes and really well written instructions. It's great to learn whilst baking.
I think this is a brilliant baking book. I love how it seems just like a friend is talking it through with you rather than a formal guide like the others I have. If you like baking then give this book a go even if you are well established but especially so if not. There is good variety with some recipes that are really easy to carry out whilst others are much more complex so there really is something for everyone and something for all occasions. Also even if you're not interested in cake but you like Marian Keyes you may find this book really interesting as you get to know her really well whilst reading the recipes. Highly recommended well worth every penny.
The RRP is £16.99 and I would quite happily pay that twice over! Brilliant!
I try and bake a new recipe at least once a week, so I get good use out of my cookbooks. At the beginning of 2012 I told my boyfriend that I had made something like 80 different cakes in the previous two years, which must have made him panic that I was going to run out of recipes. [Some chance!] Anyway, a few days later he came back from work bearing two new baking books one of which I am reviewing today. It is "Saved by Cake" by Marian Keyes. No, it is not a fiction book, despite the author's fame as a novel writer!
My boyfriend didn't buy me this book because I am a fan of Marian Keyes, although he thought there was something familiar about her name. I have never read any of her books, and I didn't know she had moved into writing cookery titles. This is in fact her first. The sub title of the book is "80 ways to bake yourself happy". When I read that, my heart sank and I thought "oh no, not another one!". That is because I have lost count of the number of blogs, magazine articles and books explaining how baking cupcakes/bread/anything you can think of has helped someone get over their depression/divorce/entire previous life. I don't doubt that baking a cake can make you feel happy and give you a sense of achievement but I feel some of the authors are peddling over simplistic answers. I don't think Marian Keyes could be accused of the same. The introduction explains her motivation for writing the book and the origin of her interest in baking. She tells us that she suffers from severe depression, and has been on the brink of suicide more than once. Baking has become a distraction from dark thoughts but she never presents it as a cure. In her own words - "to be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is I can kill myself, or I can bake a dozen cupcakes...I'll do the cupcakes and I can kill myself tommorrow." That sets the tone for the first part of the book, and I could understand some people finding it flippant, or distressing especially if you are a fan of hers. The remainder of the book is like any other recipe book though, and you can leave behind hearing any more of Marian's personal situation if you wish to.
THE BOOK ITSELF
Rather in contrast to the subject matter of the introduction is the presentation of the book as a whole. The cover is pink and bears a photo of the grinning author in a 50's style scene, surrounded by delicious cakes. Inside there are plenty of pictures amongst the candy coloured pages. The cakes look as though they have been set down in amongst a Cath Kidston catalogue, as they are surrounded by retro flowery prints and girly florals and ribbons. It looks very pretty, and just short of kitsch I think. I can imagine the publishers deciding that suicide and depression wouldn't sell as well as pictures of cute little tea tables. It is a hardback and has proven to be a well made one as it has been well thumbed in the 9 months I have had it.
FOR BEGINNER COOKS ONLY?
The author had no interest in baking, and no equiptment either, prior to her depression. So having started from the point of being an absolute beginner, she assumes that the reader will be too. Therefore the first part contains useful information such as what equipment you really need and why you need it - the last point isn't always well covered in other books. There are also plenty of useful tips gained from bitter experience. I have used lots of baking books before this one so I didn't find much information that was new to me here. It is still good stuff though - and I can heartily second the advice not to try and transfer a floppy silicon cake tin full of cake mix to the oven without a solid tray underneath! Having a "been there and done that" attitude means that Marian Keyes is not patronising and I think she would fill even the most nervous of bakers with confidence.
The above doesn't mean that the book is only for new cooks though. I was pleasantly surprised by the range of creative recipes included as I was half expecting the book just to contain the usual staples such as butterfly cakes. They are all very well explained, with clear instructions and side notes to offer extra advice as needed. This means that whatever recipe I have tackled has been easy to follow, and more importantly, they really do work.
TYPE OF RECIPES INCLUDED
The first thing that surprised me, given the title, is the fact the book doesn't just include cakes. There are also some biscuit, tart, pie and meringue recipes for example, but as they are nice in their own right I am not going to complain. While there are recipes for basics both big and small such victoria sandwich cake and rock cakes, there are also many more unusual types too. Wasabi Cupcakes anyone? I haven't tried that particular recipe myself! To shortlist my favourite makes from the book is quite hard, as my copy is bristling with post it notes of recommendation. At a pinch I am going to select a sinful Snickers cheesecake which is vegetarian, blondie cupcakes [white chocolate and macadamia nut] which are extremely easy as well as quick, and some chocolate and treacle biscuits which burst with flavour. The last is the only recipe that takes a bit more effort than usual, but that is solely due to the fact they are crumby and need care when handling but you are warned of that fact. There really is a good variation of things to make, whether you want something relatively quick or something a bit fancier for a special occasion.
WOULD I RECOMMEND THE BOOK?
Marian Keyes doesn't pretend to be an expert, but she has produced a good cookbook nevertheless. I probably would have dismissed the book as a celebrity title that was bound to be full of recycled ideas if I had seen it in a shop. If I had read some of the publicity material online, I may also have thought it was a self help book. For the author it undoubtedly is, but you don't need to suffer from depression to use it!
I think the excellent range of ideas has kept me coming back to the book, and it means that there are recipes to grow into once you have mastered the basics. If you want to learn to bake and feel that some books intimidate you by presuming on what you "should" know how to do, this is the book for you. If you know what you are doing already, buy it for the great range of reliable and interesting recipes. If you hate things pink and flowery, you may have to avert your eyes from the pictures though! The book cost £16.99 at full price, but my boyfriend paid £10 and it is still available for that price on Amazon. It is definitely worth that.
[This review also appears under my user name on Ciao.]
I was delighted when I saw this book. Marian Keyes is an author that I really enjoy reading. Her books are full of humour whilst actually tackling some difficult subjects. This is a cookery book by herself which also has some biographical parts to it too.
Marian Keyes has gone through depression and apparently learning how to bake helped her through the dark days. She has created this book to help others too.
The book has recipes as well as some personal stories by Keyes. She talks about what she went through and how baking helped her.
What I really like about this book is that the recipes are very straight forward. They are definitely not for the expert, they are very simple recipes, explained in a way that the most novice of baker would understand and be able to follow. I am not amazingly good at baking cakes and so it is ideal for me! I often read baking books with lovely, amazing sounding deserts but know that I am unable to create them myself so this book is great! The recipes are achievable.
My favourite recipe in this book is the carrot cake. I also like her cupcake recipe too.
I never knew that this favourite author of mine had been through depression and has to battle it throughout her life. It is a very interesting insight but in a different way to some other books. It's more light hearted with bits of wit in and obviously recipes so it's like nothing I've come across before.
I really recommend this book if you like Marian Keyes and also want to try out some fool-proof baking. If you are an expert baker then it may interest you just to read her story alone but the baking is probably a bit too simple. I love this book, it's great.
It cost £10 off Amazon and was published in 2012, February.