on 20 October 2005
I bought this book in January this year. I am at the beginner end of the scale and have found it an extremely good book with good explanations and helpful tips. I am about to purchase a second copy for my nephew's Christmas present as we have done quite a few recipes from it so far, with great success. The millionaire's shortbread goes down a storm every time and is very straightforward and a new favourite is the chocolate birthday cake, very rich and gorgeous. I would highly recommend this book as the recipes do not talk down to the reader at all but at the same time do not assume that the reader has any prior experience. All recipes have been successful first time and develops confidence, especially for those like myself who are just starting out. I am about to embark on my first Christmas cake and wouldn't consider using any other recipe other than Mary Berry's.
I've bought a lot of baking books and after buying this one I wish I hadn't bothered with any others. It is by far and away the most reliable and useful cake book I have ever used - in particular I found it a much better buy than Leith's enormous Baking Bible. There are sections on chocolate cakes, meringues, traybakes, celebration cakes, cheesecakes, scones and teabreads, biscuits and shortbread, continental cakes, family cakes, little cakes, cakes for bazaars and fetes, cakes for children to make, cakes and biscuits for presents, and healthy cakes and biscuits. There are also very useful sections on ingredients, equipment and methods, and a section on questions and answers. (These sound dull, but in fact they teach you a lot about cake-making.)
Every cake I have made from it has worked and has been delicious and has evoked the sort of compliments I have (sadly) never received before for my cakes.
One of the best things about it is that there is such a range of cakes in terms of difficulty and time. There's plenty to make if you've only got an hour before the children get home from school. There's also plenty to make if you've got a whole morning to potter and create something complex.
I'm thinking of getting rid of my other cake books. This really is the only one you'll ever need.
on 9 February 2006
I bought this book a few months ago and have made several different cakes from it, and each one has tasted wonderful! My husband and children can't wait to see which one I've made this week and my friends say that the chocolate sponge is the nicest they've ever tasted! Easy to follow recipes with not-over-fussy ingredients. Highly recommended for those who like baking like me!
on 1 April 2007
I used to find baking very tedious, complicated and intimidating. In many ways, baking is still those things but this book is so helpful with giving an absolute beginner like me the confidence to try. The all-in-one method is such a revelation to me. Why haven't I heard about this before? I have made the Victoria Sandwich Cake over and over again and it is absoutely THE best! It's wonderfully buttery and so so so soft and moist! It's even better the day after. Best with a tart raspberry jam!! I've compared her recipe with both Delia and Nigella. Mary's wins hands down. Maybe this is because I love that her recipe produces a very generous and tall cake. I know the other two prefer "thinner" cakes, as they say: to balance with the jam. But if I were to serve it to guests, I'd bake Mary's recipe because not only is it simpler to make and more delicious, it also looks spectacular! I have also tried the chocolate version but if you're someone used to intense chocolately cakes, this is not the recipe for you. It looked like a chocolate cake but with only 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, the taste just didn't do it for a chocoholic like me.
The other recipe I am absolutely in love with is her Lemon Traybake (also using the all-in-one method)!! In this book, the recipe calls for lemon icing as a topping but since I don't like the overwhelming sweetness of icing sugar, I use granulated sugar and lemon juice (which is used for her Crunchy Lemon Cake recipe - in "Simple Cakes" it is called Lemon Drizzle Traybake). Nigella has a similar recipe which she calls Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake using icing sugar. Not anywhere as good! The granulated sugar adds a wonderful and interesting crunchy texture to the supermoist and soft cake. And unlike icing sugar, granulated sugar doesn't overpower the taste of the lemon juice. As the granulated sugar mostly sits on top, the juice soaks into the cake - which makes this yummy buttery cake taste surprisingly refreshing!! For someone who never really cared for lemons, this recipe has changed my life! Because of this cake, I absolutely love love love lemons now!!
Food is all about taste - different people have different taste. This is so with cakes. I'm sure I won't like all the recipes in here (I hate having bits of nuts in my cake, and I'm still trying to muster enough courage to try a semolina cake). As it is, when a recipe calls for margarine I just use butter - not only do I prefer the more natural taste, but it's a healthier and safer choice (see: transfat). However, what I can vouch for is Mary Berry's calming and assuring attitude in this book. She has no airs about her. She explains things simply and in the end makes you feel so comfortable about baking. Since her recipes are reliable, I have found success each and everytime! Very important when you're a beginner! She makes a great teacher! At the end of the day, I don't want to be a domestic goddess - I just want to make yummy cakes!!
This is a must-have! I also highly recommend her book "Simple Cakes" or "Fool-proof Cakes", as the hardback edition is called.
on 14 May 2007
This book is just amazing! It's one of the first baking books I bought and it is just so versatile. The range if recipes it contains is impressive, without a doubt. It has chocolate cakes, cheesecakes, biscuits, savoury items, children's cakes and biscuits, even home made chocolates! Whatever you're planning to make, you can just pick up this baking bible and flick through it, and you are sure to find the perfect recipe. Mary Berry uses detailed cooking instructions so it's fairly easy to recreate her mouth watering recipes, and then the ingredients she uses are all things you would have lying around. This is very convenient as most cookery books you get these days are full of unusual or 'rare' ingredients which are so hard to get hold of it puts you off the recipe. I have tried the chocolate fudge cake, which was delicious, and the millionaire's shortbread is a favourite of mine. It even contains healthy recipes which appeal to everyone, diet or no diet. Then again, when you own a book as tempting as this one, why diet? I recommend it to everyone.
I bought this book a few weeks ago because it seemed to be close enough to being an important reference book for English cake baking. On that basis, it comes close, but doesn't win. As a large compendium of English baking, it is very good.
Since then, I have baked my way through about a quarter of the recipes, which is very good going. Most of the results have been close to perfect: I can especially recommend her Bara Brith recipe, which is utterly delicious, and her carrot cake and rich brownies are likewise almost perfect. The pictures are luxurious and tempting, and cover the majority of recipes; they are also very representative of what the recipes actually will produce, and aren't overembellished.
I have a few criticisms. Cooking times aren't always precise, and I find that I have to check very carefully to make sure that the cakes are really ready. Additional sugar is a very popular topping on rock cakes, sponges and other types, which I find excessive. Mary Berry also invariably specifies margarine instead of butter, except for one or two recipes where the taste of margarine would be truly obnoxious. The chocolate chip cookies were the only recipe so far to disappoint, with the result being more like a sponge than a cookie. The only sponge technique used is all-in-one, even for the Victoria sponge, and examples of other traditional sponge techniques would be appreciated. Most of the cheesecake recipes relied on gelatine rather than baking, which I felt was inapproriate for a book with a full chapter on cheesecakes.
The chapter division and sequence I found rather puzzling. The first chapters are on chocolate cakes, meringues, "traybakes", and celebration cakes. Most books would have saved three of these more difficult chapters for the end of the sequence. Then there are separate chapters on celebration cakes, Bazaars, gift cakes, continental cakes and then family cakes; although this is feasible, I find it hard to decide in which of these chapters some recipes should really belong.
Back to the good; the beginning chapters on tools, ingredients and techniques are brief but excellent, and the short chapter at the end on problem solving is also very good.
If you want an easy to follow cake book with many British traditional recipes, as well as a few surprises, where 90% or more will give excellent results - then this is a book for you. It isn't complete, and doesn't include many representative international recipes - but that may not be a fault for you.
on 12 October 2007
The recipes that I have tried from this book have never failed. I make the fairy cakes, and the two different types of brownies quite often. The effort involved is minimal with these resipes and the results are always spectacular! It is a good book for a beginner as the instructions are very clear and easy to follow.
on 3 March 2004
I had a copy of this book which i lent to a friend she then lost it i used it so much that i couldnt function in the kitchen without it. So i bought a 2nd copy everyone i bake for always ask for certain cakes crunchy top lemon cake its so simple but really tasty. This book has cake,bicuits for bakers on every level and so easy to follow and very tasty.
on 30 June 2009
If you are a person who needs to see what the final product looks like to get the mouth watering, to make you choose that recipe and to know that it has come out correctly, this book is not for you. Only about one third of recipes have matching pictures but if you can get pass that, it's a great book with a range of sweet treats that will suit everybody.
on 3 October 2012
I needed another baking book, so i could vary the cakes i make now. This book is just what i was looking for. It is excellent!!!! Have tried many of the recipes already, with great sucess. The best book i have ever purchased, by far. So easy to follow recipes. Thank you Mary Berry!!!!