i hardly ever buy brand new cookbooks, but i made an exception today. marian keyes' 'saved by cake: 80 ways to bake yourself happy' was selling at half the recommended retail price.
i must confess that i'm not a fan of the genre of fiction she's known for, but i did want to read about how baking has helped her cope with severe depression and alcoholism. describing what it was like when she was at her very worst, she writes, 'i couldn't sleep; i couldn't breathe; i couldn't eat; i couldn't read.' she'd tried anti-depressants, cbt, and acupuncture - all to no avail. but then, she discovered baking.
the book is really geared toward beginners, and marian freely admits that she's a novice when it comes to baking, but there's something really refreshing about her honesty and willingness to get stuck in and have a go. you don't feel at all daunted as you flick through the first few recipes, as many of them are basic and familiar. another plus is that many of her ingredients lists are short, sometimes no more than 5 items, so there's no need to rush off to the supermarket in a frenzy, hunting for and hoping to find some extra special ingredient, unless you want to, of course. save that for the more creative recipes as you progress through the book.
for bakers who don't do 'run-of-the-mill', she has included some rather more advanced and adventurous flavour combinations: wasabi & white chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel icing, upside-down saffron, mint & pomegranate cheesecake, lavender & white chocolate cheesecake, rosewater & coconut cheesecake, and 'slightly sinister star anise cupcakes'.
personally, i applaud her creativity and 'can-do' approach. she explains how life became a case of 'bake or break: i can kill myself or i can make cupcakes.' wisely, she chose the cupcakes. and the more she baked, the more she found it was helping her to get through each day. as the book blurb says, little by little, the depression started to lift, along with her victoria sponge cakes.
its divided up into the following sections: classics, cupcakes, cheesecakes, liquid cakes, pastry, meringues & macaroons, biscuits & cookies, fruit & veg, and chocolate.
you'll also find recipes for 'consistently reliable cupcakes', fridge-set honeycomb cheesecake, and blokey snickers cheesecake loaf (looks amazing). there's even a recipe for little shoe and handbag biscuits, which is rather fitting, as she likes to bake in her louboutins - fabulous, daaaarling!
all in all, if the thought of baking disturbs you somewhat, but you want to have a go, let marian hold your hand through the process. she will have you breaking out in fits of giggles before you can say 'wobble wobble palette knife'. just send her away when you commence icing, as you'll need a steady hand for that.
so far i've made her buttermilk scones, green tea panna cotta and chocolate baklava - and all have gone down well with The Chief Tester (my husband), family and friends.