I’m sure most of you will know Ruth Clemens as the highly accomplished finalist in the first series of The Great British Bake Off on BBC television three years ago. I expect most of you will be familiar with her engaging and informative blog The Pink Whisk. But did you know that she has published not one, but two print books as well as several e-books? The Busy Girl’s Guide to Cake Decorating which I have to confess I have not seen, came first. I was, however, recently sent a copy of her second book, The Pink Whisk Guide to Cake Making to review. Published by David & Charles it is priced at £12.99 and is available in most book shops as well as from The Pink Whisk’s very own online shop.
I have been following The Pink Whisk blog since its inception back in 2010 and have found it interesting, thorough and informative. I’ve tried a few of Ruth’s recipes in the past and they have worked really well every time; she is not a ‘fling it all together and hope for the best’ type of girl. She has her readers very much in mind when writing and delivers well researched, practised and reliable recipes. This approach carries through to her book. In the introduction Ruth explains how she made 25 versions of her golden syrup cake before she was satisfied enough to include this recipe in her book – see what I mean about thorough?
Aimed primarily at the novice or unconfident baker, this 127 page step-by-step guide leads the reader gently but smartly through the art of making cakes. There is a guide to equipment, a comprehensive guide to basic ingredients and a few pages of techniques such as how to tell when a cake is properly baked, how to line a tin and how to rescue your cake when it looks as though it’s gone wrong. The main part of the book contains the recipes and is divided between the three main methods of creation: creaming, whisking and melting. Top tips are given throughout and whilst the reader is given explicit technical instructions to follow, they are also encouraged to be adventurous and play with different flavours. Although there are only 28 recipes in total, they are by no means standard fare. Ruth has come up with a diversity of types and flavours and there are bakes here to interest the more experienced cook as well as the beginner. The rhubarb and custard bombe sounds particularly fun and quite a technical challenge as well – it’s rhubarb season at the moment …..
As you’d expect from the pink whisk, pink is the dominant colour of the book with either text or pages in pink with flourishes of pastel blue which gives a bit of contrast. There are plenty of pictures to give an idea of what the final bake should look like, something that is lacking in most cookbooks these days. Many of the recipes have photos to accompany the step-by-step instructions. These recipes are then followed by something similar, so the same method can be used – a nifty way of providing interest without having to photograph every step again. Once a Victoria sponge has been mastered, for example, a whole world of combinations is opened up.
The banana and cardamom chocolate brownie cake grabbed my attention and I fully intended to make it. But when I was ready to start baking, I realised I didn’t have any bananas. I did, however have some fudge made by my aunt and given to me at Christmas, so I rapidly changed track and turned my hand to Ruth’s choc chip and fudge Madeira cake. I made a few adjustments of course – I just can’t help myself (sorry Ruth!). For a start, I decided to make this as a traybake rather than a loaf cake.
This is how I made
Choc Chip and Fudge Madeira Squares
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 150g vanilla sugar (caster) until very light & fluffy.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs.
- Sifted in 180g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white) and 3/4 tsp baking powder.
- Added 60g dark chocolate buttons and 50g chopped fudge.
- Spooned into an 8″ (20 cm) sq cake mould and baked at 180C for 25 minutes, when it was risen, golden and an inserted skewer came out clean.
- Melted 25g dark chocolate and drizzled it very inelegantly over the top of the cake.
- Scattered 25g chopped fudge over the top.
- Allowed to cool then cut into 12 rectangles.
I had complete confidence in Ruth and knew this cake would turn out well and it did. It rose well, cut well, looked good and tasted good. It was not as sweet as I thought it might be, which I take to be a bonus. It’s a real crowd pleaser that I suspect would go down well at any cake sale. That banana and cardamom chocolate brownie cake is definitely on my radar.