Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes

Can you remember the last time you laughed out loud when reading a cookbook? Admittedly when I am looking for a new cookbook it isn't at the top of my list of priorities, but it is an added bonus when it happens.

Irish author Marian Keyes has been a best selling fiction author for years but this book, Saved by Cake, is her first foray into writing a cookbook. As a reader, I hope that this isn't the last time she does so. As a fan, I really hope that she doesn't find herself in the same place as she was when she starting her cake making journey.

The title of this book is not just a fun title, it is a description of the role that cake played in Marian Keyes life. A couple of years ago Keyes found herself suffering with severe depression. In the introduction she talks about her depression and how baking gave her a lifeline. At one point she says "To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is: I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes. Right so, I'll do the cupcakes and I can kill myself tomorrow." Keyes acknowledges that baking may not be the thing that saves everyone, but for her it was the thing that helped her be able to face one day at time. She went from not even owning a cake tin to having a Drawer of Dreams and so many cookie cutters. If you watch either of the videos that I have linked to above you will be able to see how much joy this new hobby that is turned into something much more has given her, which can only be  a good thing right?

I know that I said that this was laugh out loud funny but so far it doesn't sound terribly cheery but if you have read any of Marian Keyes novels, you know that she is not afraid to mix up important issues into humourous situations and her voice comes through loud and clear in this collection.  Even within the recipe you can feel her excitement and pride with the comments that are scattered through the instructions. For example, in the recipe for Lemon Curd and Pistachio Pinwheels one of the paragraphs is "When you take the pinwheels out of the oven, prepare to be amazed. They will look so professional and impressive and totally different from the last time you saw them."

In another example, in the recipe for Lebkuchen Hearts, when talking about the equipment needed - "Finally, as these are Lebkuchen hearts, you'll need some sort of heart-shaped cookie cutter. If you don't have any, you could try freestyling it with a sharp knife. Or you could simply use a different shaped cutter and change the name of the cookie to - oh, just off the top of my head - Lebkuchen Shoes. or Lebkuchen Handbags." You just know that she has done this herself before!

The recipes range from quite simple classics, where Keyes has had to resist the urge to mess around too much with the tried and tested, to more unusual recipes like a Balsamic, Black Pepper and Chocolate cake that she recommends be served with mascarpone cheese, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar which she admits sounds unusual but "at least I am not advocating anchovies".

The book is divided into sections which focus on classics, cupcakes, cheesecakes, liquid cakes, pastry, meringues and macaroons, biscuits and cookies, fruit and veg and chocolate and there is a good mix of easier and more difficult recipes in each section.

I got this book from my local library, and it is obvious that others before me have actually cooked from it, as I fully intend to do. One of the previous borrowers even left a few post it notes marking the recipes that they found particularly of interest. Their choices included Three Milks Cake, Mam's Apple Tart, Sean's Rosemary Truffles and Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes. To that list, I would add my own choices of Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes and Red Velvet Swirl Cupcakes (for which I have included both the recipe and the video of Marian Keyes making them) below. I left the post it notes in the book for the next library patron to discover too. I wonder how long they will last in there until someone takes them out.

I wouldn't have necessarily said that I was more interested in sweet themed cookbooks than savoury, but when I buy this, and I will be buying it, it will be the third such cookbook this year (I have talked about the other two here and here). They are all different in tone and content but I can see myself cooking from them all quite regularly going forward.

Red Velvet Cupcake Swirls

For the red velvet layer 

110g butter
170g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
40g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon red food colouring
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 eggs
160g self raising flour

For the cream cheese layer 

200g cream cheese
1 egg
40g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Method 

Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases and pre-heat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. 

First, make the cream cheese layer by beating the cream cheese with the egg, sugar and vanilla extract. Keep it standing by. 

Make the red velvet mix by melting the butter. Put into a bowl with the sugar and beat well. Next - in this exact order! Something to do with chemical jiggery-pokery that I can't explain, but must be observed - add the vanilla extract, the cocoa powder, the salt, the food colouring and the vinegar, beating between each addition.

IN a separate bowl, beat your eggs in a separate bowl and then add to the butter/cocoa mix. Sieve in the flour and fold through. 

Divide most of the mix among the paper cases, reserving perhaps a fifth, then dollop a lump of cream cheese mix onto each paper case on top of the red velvet mix. Then divide the remaining red velvet mix into the paper cases, on top of the cream cheese mix. 

Now, swirl. You can use a cocktail stick, but I used a bamboo skewer - something with a bit of length is nice because you can get right down into the red velvet mix and dredge up its murky depths - and twirl until the red and white mixes are beautifully striped. this is an extremely enjoyable exercise, so enjoyable that I never want to stop, but I must because if I don't, the two mixes will become one and the whole thing will be pointless.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes. Cool fully on a wire rack.

You can watch Marian make these delicious sounding cupcakes in the video below:




Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.  

42 comments:

  1. This sounds like a wonderful cookbook with a powerful story behind it! And I love that it had post-its - it would be lovely if they were left in there. I really want this book now!

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    1. I hope they are left in there. I should have left mine in it too.

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  2. Marian Keyes is so cuddly! I love the way she talks :) Cookbooks that have a story behind them appeal to me more than "just" a cookbook. I had no idea that she battled with depression in the past.

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    1. She has had a number of issues and she is very open about them, both within in her books and in the way she talks about herself.

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  3. I have been getting a lot of baking books from the library recently, even though I never used to enjoy baking much before. This sounds like a good addition to my virtual collection. Sounds like fun, too, which is always a bonus, as you say.

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    1. I have done more baking this year than I have ever done before.

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  4. What a funny video of her cookie cutter drawer, the drawer of shame. Laughed out loud. This is great. I love her anyway so what an addition to what I already knew about her. Great post!

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    1. Pam, aren't they fun videos. You can definitely see why her books are as funny as they are when you see her.

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  5. That's my favorite kind of cookbook, the one with a story attached. I didn't know about her so I'm glad you brought her style to my attention, looks fun!

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  6. I watched all three videos. I *love*her!!!! I think I'm going to have to track down her book. Her story sounds like it's worth reading too.

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  7. I don't think I've ever laughed while reading a cookbook, but this one looks very good - a cookbook with a story/message. Loved the video, too. Hope I can get it from my library!

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    1. I hope you can too! I quite often borrow books from the library to help me decide if I want to buy it or not.

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  8. The book sounds absolutely delightful! Thanks for introducing me to Marian -- haven't read any of her fiction but now I'm curious to check it out.

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    1. Jama, start with the Walsh sisters books!

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  9. She is such a doll! I haven't read any of her books, but I will look for them now. Isn't it fun to see your favorite authors in a different light? And I never knew how red velvet originally got its color, so interesting.

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    1. I never knew that about red velvet colouring either. Entertaining and educational!

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  10. This sounds wonderful to me -- a humorous memoir about depression and the healing power of food is right up my alley!

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    1. It's not really a memoir as such. She only talks about her experience in the intro and then in asides throughout the recipes. It is very much a cookbook rather than memoir.

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  11. It sounds as though I MUST HAVE THIS COOKBOOK (baking has saved me a time or two, also). A cookbook that will make you laugh out loud sounds like the best thing ever. It's going on my Christmas wishlist immediately. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

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    1. Cecelia, I hope Santa bring it to you!

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  12. This one sounds great. I'm going to look for it.

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  13. I loved this (the recipe for rock cakes was delicious) but I was rather scared by the introduction. I think it is wonderful that she can be so open about the issues she is dealing with but it is still upsetting to read about anyone - especially someone you like and admire as much as I do Keyes - wanting to kill herself, especially since it is clearly an on-going struggle.

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    1. It does definitely seem to be an ongoing struggle. As I said, I really enjoyed the book but I really hope she isn't in that place again.

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  14. This sounds like a wonderful book to read, even if you don't bake.

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    1. It's beautiful just to look at too!

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  15. You must make the Lebkuchen Hearts - they are absolutely amazing!

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    1. Hmm. I will have to get the book sooner or later to try those out! Although I am not sure what shapes my Lebkuchen will be!

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  16. memoir/cookbook!
    I am not usually a memoir fan but this sounds interesting...and I love funny!

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    1. This is much more cookbook than memoir.

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  17. I made the Banoffee cupcakes yesterday - very nice.

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    1. I really need to buy this. I just took the book back to the library so can't look at those again. I do vaguely remember that they looked really good.

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  18. I love when there is some personal touch from the author in a cookbook. Food is such an important part of our lives and it's nice when that is acknowledged. This sounds like a good one to own - a discover made just as I'm doing my Christmas list, how lucky! :-)

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    1. I am impressed at how many people are already thinking of their Christmas lists.

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    2. I'm only thinking of it because it's already been requested by organised family members who like to finish their christmas shopping in November!

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    3. Ah, fair enough! My organised family member will ask for a list from us, but when ask the same will kind of shrug and say...whatever! lol

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  19. You mean they eat red velvet cake in Ireland? It is a recipe I have always associated with New Orleans.

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    1. I am not sure of where it came from. I suspect we had a similar recipe called Devil's Food cake. What I do know is that it is a favourite on our cupcake menu here in Australia so I assume it is conquering the world!

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  20. This sounds so good! And funny is a nice bonus :)

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