It’s a feel-good cookbook in every regard. It’s in support of The Ben Kinsella Trust, which was set up to raise awareness of knife crime after the death of young Ben. It has the comforting feel of a good old-fashioned cookbook with attractive and slightly retro graphics and simple recipes for things that one would really want to eat. And then there is Mary Berry.
We have many celebrated cooks and chefs in the UK. Some are famed for raucous behaviour and their colourful language, and there are others who have endured because they know what they are doing, we can relate to them and they are charming. Mary Berry is indeed the leader of that second worthy group. She has written the foreword for Celebrity Bake Book and contributed several recipes to ensure its success. Food Network are the sponsors of the book, and their chefs and cooks have contributed to the recipes.
Baking is enjoying a revival. Afternoon tea is popular and we crave those comforting cakes that would have been familiar to Victorians. Perhaps it’s a British thing – when times are tough we reach for the kettle and you gotta have a cake to help that tea down. There is certainly plenty here to tempt, and many of the recipes are offered by non-food celebrities and are their treasured family cakes and bakes. Chefs are also here in abundance to add flair but there is nothing too cheffy, nothing too daunting even for a novice.
Jane Asher has long been associated with cake baking and decorating but for Celebrity Bake Book she has chosen traditional Eccles Cakes. She evidently has her finger on the culinary pulse as she suggests commercial flaky pastry instead of making it from scratch. Keep some in the freezer and you will be ready to bake a batch of Eccles Cakes at short notice as the filling ingredients consist only of butter, currants, mixed peel and nutmeg, and you will likely have those in the larder.
Lotte Duncan is a TV cook, author and owner of a beautiful pastel-coloured café for which she bakes cakes. Squidgy Pear and Ginger Cake is Lotte’s contribution and it’s moist and tangy with both ground ginger and preserved ginger. A lovely cut-and-come-again cake and it uses pears to great advantage. Cooking seems to improve their mild flavour.
Lorraine Kelly is not only a TV presenter but a proud Scot so it’s no surprise that she would want to offer a cake from her homeland. Dundee Cake would have been found on Queen Victoria’s Balmoral tea stand along with the cucumber sandwiches. It’s a hearty fruit cake which has a signature decoration of whole almonds. An ideal cake to make for guests as it can be baked a few days in advance.
Twiggy offers the recipe for her mum’s Coconut Cake. This is a simple recipe and can be made as a whole cake as suggested here or as individual cakes as my own mother would do. They don’t need any extravagant decorating but they are addictive. A delicious and economic family cake.
Actress Linda Lusardi has one of my favourite recipes from this book. It’s for Cherry and Almond Loaf. The cherries are glacé, sweet and jewel-like, the almonds are both ground and in the form of marzipan. It’s like Marmite, you either love it or hate it but I love marzipan’s nutty texture and the rich flavour, and this recipe offers a tasty vehicle for using up leftovers after baking the Christmas cake.
Celebrity Bake Book is supporting a worthy charity, it’s great value for money, but equally importantly, it’s a delightful cookbook that will spend more time in the kitchen than on the bookshelf and that’s its practical and delicious appeal.
Celebrity Bake Book
Published by: Accent Press
Sponsored by: The Food Network
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018