Book Review - Saved by Cake - Over 80 Ways To Bake Yourself Happy

Saved by Cake - Over 80 Ways To Bake Yourself Happy by Marian Keyes (Penguin, hardback; 230pp ?15.99)The therapeutic nature of baking is well known - we all know that it’s a cosy and all-consuming activity that demands concentration, involves all the senses and rewards you with much more than delicious things to eat, as, above all, it gives a wonderful sense of satisfaction in a job well done.

But the idea of using it as an actual therapy for an illness as serious as depression is quite another matter. Yet that’s exactly what one of our most popular writers of women’s fiction, Marian Keyes, did when none of the orthodox therapies worked for her: one day she decided to bake a birthday cake for a friend and ‘that was it’. After that she baked to get through the days, wrote down her recipes – and the result is Saved By Cake – Over 80 ways to bake yourself happy (Penguin, hardback; 230pp €15.99).

It’s a book that could help many other people in the same situation, but you don’t have to be feeling down to wat to but it and dive straight into it. It’s practical – all the basic information you need about baking equioment and techniques etc – entertaining and includes lots of classics as well as plenty of unusual recipes that Marian has developed herself.

The range of difficulty is wide “…Some are very straightforward and simple because that was all I could handle at the time and some are more complex because there were times when I concentrate hard”.

So you’ll find everything from rock cakes and buttermilk scones to banana cream pie (which involves making pastry, making a custard and a meringue), macaroons and ‘shoe and handbag biscuits’ which are a challenge to the imagination as much as test of decorating skill. And there’s even a ‘healthy section’ on baking with fruit and veg; not as strange as it sounds – try the Beetroot Cake and see for yourself!

A good book to buy for yourself, or as a gift – especially as all of the Irish royalties will be donated to the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

*If you're a keen baker, why not have a go at the Dr. Oetker Cupcake Challenge - and maybe win a holiday for two to the home of the cupcake, New York City. Entries close 30th June; details from

Fridge-Set Honeycomb CheesecakeRECIPE: Fridge-Set Honeycomb Cheesecake

The most exciting part of this cheesecake for me was making the honeycomb. Others mightn't be as excited as me, and may decide to simply go out and buy five Crunchies. That's grand. This is a fridge-set cheesecake, which means it's not baked.

The setting agent I've used is gelatine, but it isn't suitable for vegetarians, seeing as it's made from cow's hoof or something equally unthinkable. So something else will have to be used. Agar-agar is a word I hear bandied about, but I'm afraid I don't know much about it.

Serves 10

For the base
200g home-made honey-comb (which I'll get to)
50g milk chocolate
75g butter
5 Crunchie bars
75g butter
For the honeycomb
4 tablespoons golden syrup
170g caster sugar
3 teaspoons bicarbonate bof soda
For the filling
200g mascarpone cheese
200g Philadelphia cheese
50g golden caster sugar
150ml condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150ml whipping cream
2 sachets of powdered gelatine
To decorate
edible gold glitter (optional)

To make the honeycomb, grease a 20cm square tin. Put the golden syrup, 1 tablespoon water and the sugar into a saucepan. Start on a low heat, until the sugar dissolves, then increase. Stir hard. It will really put up a fight at the beginning. Eventually, as it heats up, it will soften.

Bring it to the boil, but watch it like a hawk because sugar is notorious for burning. Bring it down to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, then, add the bicarbonate of soda and the honeycomb will start foaming like a rabid dog. Stir, for the love of God, stir! The setting process has already started and you're fighting against time to get all the bicarb through before it goes hard. Mix thoroughly, or as thoroughly as you can, and don't get even an atom of it on your skin because this stuffis like napalm.

Pour into your tin, striving for a fairly even height and shape, but it won't be easy. Never mind, you will get to thump it with a mallet later for its misbehaviour. It should set in around half an hour, but if it stays sticky and tacky, rather than brittle, put it in the fridge. Block out the rest of your evening in order to wash your saucepan.

To make the base, grease a 23cm springform tin. If you're using your home-made honeycomb, put it in a plastic bag and shatter it with a mallet (reserve a little for decorating). Melt the chocolate and butter, mix with the honeycomb, then pack into the bottom of the tin and refrigerate for about an hour. Or, if you're using shop-bought Crunchies, put them in a plastic bag and bash them to smithereens.

Keep approximately one-fifth aside for decorating at the end. Melt the butter, mix with four-fifths of the Crunchies, then pack them into the prepared tin and refrigerate for about an hour. To make the filling, beat the mascarpone, Philadelphia, sugar, condensed milk and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, beat the cream until it's stiff. Fold the cream into the cheese and sugar mix.

Prepare the gelatine by pouring 240ml hot (but not boiling) water into a bowl, then sprinkling the powder on top of the water - the powder always goes into the water, not the other way round. Whisk briskly and for ages - you'll be good and bored - until it's dissolved.

Then add it very slowly to the cream/cheese mix. Pour it on top of the set honeycomb base and put in the fridge overnight. Serve with the reserved broken honeycomb and golden glitter sprinkled over the top.

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