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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars wobble wobble palette knife, 10 Mar 2012
This review is from: Saved by Cake (Hardcover)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Apr 2012 09:49:44 BDT
Fraggle says:
Why not give this book a better rating? The review sounds more favorable than 3 out of 5 stars...

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Apr 2012 07:46:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Apr 2012 08:33:46 BDT
indeed, my review is a favourable one, for the book has many positive aspects on which to recommend itself. keyes has picked up some useful baking tips along the way in her journey toward cakey happiness. however, as a cookbook collector, i bake my way through a sizeable number of books, so for something to really get me excited and merit a 4 or 5 rating, it has to be absolutely outstanding: i would expect amazing, avant-garde photographs, but above all, inventive recipes that actually work when tested in my kitchen.

i love reading about the culinary history of dishes, and ireland has such a rich culture of cakes and bakes that have been made for generations. keyes didn't really elaborate on this, which is a shame, but i suppose that's because she didn't want to overwhelm her audience with historical [yawn] anecdotes, especially since the book [according to the blurb] is aimed toward beginners.

in order to stand out to me, a cookbook must be highly original and have instructions that are to the point. that said, there are some unusual recipes in the latter part of the book - as keyes cranks up the difficulty level up a notch - balsamic, black pepper & chocolate cake, chocolate, chilli & cardamom tart, and, wait for it... wasabi & white chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel icing. wow!

keyes likes the craic so tends to waffle a bit [pun intended], which devoted readers of her other books will find endearing, but in a cookbook its a little distracting, especially when one is trying to read through and work out the method - after all, baking is a precise science; lapses in concentration can lead to disaster - trust me, i know from bitter experience! however, i must say that her chocolate baklava is inspired and delicious - and i can't wait to make it again. the buttermilk scones are also good too.
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