Thursday, November 26, 2020

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes

This week I have finished an Aussie rural romance book called Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell. This is my first book by this author, and in fact was her debut novel, but I have been following her on Instagram for a while now. 

Like me, Maya loves baking, so it wasn't really a surprise to see baking mentioned more than once in this book, but I was surprised when I saw Marian Keyes' cookbook Saved by Cake mentioned. It has spurred me to reshare my thoughts about the book which I originally posted in 2012. The funny thing is all through this post I say that I am going to buy this book, and yet, I never actually did. Bad fan! And now, I wouldn't mind Red Velvet Cheesecake cupcakes.



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


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:


    1. i adore marian keyes. i've read her novels and short stories, and her cookbook. she is a wonderful writer, and it amazes me that she just decided to write (or so she says), picked up her pen in her twenties and became a best-selling author. i've met her once and she was lovely. but she still looked a bit haunted. her twitter account is a hoot too, but i think depression is always on her tail...

      1. I think you are right Sherry. I think it is something that she has to manage.

    2. That’s a great post, Marg. I agree that Marian does a wonderful job of balancing humour with important issues. I was lucky enough to meet Marian in 2017 and I was so moved by her advocacy for mental health awareness, a subject close to my heart. Thank you for reading Wildflower Ridge too, glad you liked the Marian reference 😍

      1. I think that she would have been amazing hear speak Maya!

    3. I'm not all that familiar with Marian Keyes, but I like her style! Ha ha on the cookie cutters. Sounds like she found some great ways to cope with her depression, even though it may be an ongoing issue. I enjoyed watching the video; I feel that I got a sense of her personality

      1. She has a great sense of humour!! I could listen to her speak for hours.

    4. The book sounds delightful, entertaining and useful. Thanks for the review. I love her cover.

    5. I am a huge fan of Marian Keyes and follow her on Twitter. Not a big fan of her books but she is very funny.
      Currently she is watching the Canadian series Schitt's Creek and she is loving it!

      1. I am currently watching Schitt's Creek too so snap!

    6. I've read a few books by Marian Keyes, but I didn't know she had written a baking book or suffered from depression. Baking got a lot of people through the first shutdown. Now we've had time to lose the weight, we can gain it back in the second wave. How's that for a depressing thought? :(

      1. I just went straight from lockdown 1 to lockdown 2! Not weightloss in the middle!