With the final of the Great British Bake Off achieving the dizzy heights of most watched TV programme to date in 2015 it seems apt that Grub Street should release a revised and updated edition of this book in paperback. It was originally published in 2003 and was short listed for the 2004 Glenfiddich Book of the Year.
What is the essence of the book?
The book covers British cakes in all their delectable glory from small and large regional cakes like Northumberland Singing Hinnies to Dorset Apple Cake to Country cakes of all sizes and gingerbreads. This is not a book filled with flouncy “show stopper” creations. As Duff notes in her introduction, Cakes charts the story of ‘wholesome honest food’. It contains many familiar recipes like butterfly cakes and rediscovers other recipes which perhaps are not as popular as they once were, such as wiggs.
About the author
Julie Duff runs an award-winning cake business, Church Farmhouse Cakes, in Lincolnshire which supplies fruit cakes to some of the country’s premier shops.
Who will like it?
Anyone who loves to bake will naturally like it, even if they already have a lot of books on cakes. Plus it would be a great book for baking novices young and old.
Who won’t like it?
Cake haters, coeliacs or anyone following a low sugar diet. Equally if you have a fascination for sugar craft and making cakes look pretty this isn’t going to tick your boxes.
What do I like about the book?
I love the fact that she prefaces each recipe with a bit of the history (or myth) behind it. It gives you a real feel for how our love of cake is ingrained in our social history from simple griddle cakes through to more elaborate creations such as the Lawn Tennis Cake (a variety of which made an appearance on this years Great British Bake Off).
What do I dislike about the book?
To be honest I had my doubts as to how interesting/useful a book dedicated to British cakes could be but I really do think this book is fab. What you have here is a book on how to make simple and delicious cakes without the pretentious garnishes or decoration. For that alone, I applaud it and can find no fault in it. To quote the author herself:
“The most important aspect of cakes is that they give pleasure in every way, pleasure to the cook, pleasure whilst cooking…and pleasure whilst eating. What more can you ask for from a cake?”
Would I cook from it?
Luckily for me Cakes arrived just as I was researching gingerbread recipes to help promote my new historically themed supper club, Repast. I tried several recipes from this chapter and can safely say they are well written, easy to follow and extremely delicious. It was a tough decision to make but in the end I went for the classic sticky gingerbread loaf although I made it in the form of cupcakes.
Cakes: Regional & Traditional is available from Grub Street priced £15