Saved By Cake: over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy is the intriguing name of the cookbook, penned by bestselling fiction writer Marian Keyes, which inspired this recipe. Now, normally 99.9% of PR emails get filed ever-so-carefully in the Do Not Want bin; however, the motivation behind her baking caught my attention and resonated with me. Being avid bakers, maybe some of you will relate as well.
Marian Keyes opens with a very frank, honest account of her daily fight with depression. Trying to get through each day she eventually found that baking augmented therapy, with the right balance of distraction, relaxation and delicious reward of course. The book is a collection of fairly straight-forward recipes she used to “bake herself happy”, with chapters on the classics, cupcakes, cheesecakes, biscuits & cookies and pastry.
Keyes has a wicked, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour and writes like a cheeky Nigella, if Nigella stopped trying so hard and dropped the overwrought affectations. Recipe directions are not barked at you. Instead, you are gently and humourously walked through the steps as if she is in the kitchen with you sharing the experience, warts and all. Case in note:
“However! Yes, I’m afraid there is a however – for every credit there is a debit – and the downside of using glasses is that the mousse spills down the sides of the glasses, both inside and outside, and the mess has to be cleared up. Amigos, I spent hours, and the best part of an entire roll of kitchen paper, carefully wiping the glasses so that they would be fit to present to my expected guests. (Actually, I had no expected guests. I live in an imaginary world and I planned to eat all four mousses myself.)”
Even if you don’t bake a thing from the book (Gold Medal in Discipline for you, given all the glossy make-you-salivate photos included) just reading the recipes is a worthwhile exercise in hilarity.
If you’re a pedant the small section referring to Macaroons instead of Macarons might make your eye-twitch. And if you’re a purist the sight of the “bockety funny-shaped” shells, might make your head explode. I would look to other cookbooks such as Zumbo if you’re keen on getting into the world of Macaron making.
All the fabulous writing and sexy photos in the world are worth nothing if the recipes do not deliver. So I chose the Blondie Cupcakes, which are white chocolate and macadamia flavoured on page 59 to road-test, on the promise of “serve and watch the initially unimpressed faces of your guests transform into expressions of admiration and respect”.
The verdict on the White Chocolate and Macadamia Cupcakes is success! I would possibly categorise these as muffins over cupcakes, as the quantity of melted white chocolate makes the crumb quite dense and heavy rather than a fluffy sponge. The batter is a gorgeous caramel colour, and smells so heavenly when baking. Rather than use more cooking chocolate, I swapped 100g of white cooking chocolate for those ‘bits’ that do not melt, which meant lovely little pockets of white chocolate throughout the cupcakes.
My taste-tester was initially wary of their weight when she picked-up one to try, however, she was won over with the flavour so I guess Marian was right! Best eaten the same day, or within a day or two at most.
WHITE CHOCOLATE & MACADAMIA CUPCAKE RECIPE
Makes 12 – 16 cupcakes
You Will Need:
100g Unsalted Butter, roughly diced
180g White Chocolate, roughly chopped (cooking chocolate is fine)
100g White Chocolate Bits, the non-melting ones
100g Unsalted Macadamia Nuts, roughly chopped
3 Large Eggs
100g Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
180g Plain Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 pinch of Salt
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius (150 fan-forced; 325F). Line a 12-hole cupcake tray with patty cases.
In a medium saucepan slowly melt the butter and chopped white chocolate on LOW heat. Stir constantly and keep an eye on it so the chocolate doesn’t burn. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and brown sugar until thick, pale and fluffy. You can use a hand whisk or stand-mixer, depending on your muscles. When thickened, add the vanilla extract and the combined melted butter-chocolate mixture.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the batter, folding it through gently with a spatula until almost mixed together. Pour in the chopped macadamia nuts and white chocolate bits, mixing them through gently until evenly distributed through the batter.
Dollop a generously heaped tablespoon of batter into each patty case, maybe more depending on desired size. They don’t rise too much in the oven so you could almost fill the cases to the top without too much drama. Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes. They are done when the domes go golden brown in colour and the tops spring back when gently pressed. Let them cool briefly in the tray, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.