Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cakes – Pam Corbin

This is the latest river cottage handbook and today it’s had a proper outing from the shelf. I’ve been stuck indoors waiting for a courier to deliver my new passport (photo marginally less hideous than the last one which is quite exciting) and to make being housebound on that British rarity, a sunny day off, I thought baking might be in order. (I should have done housework and could have read but baking and looking for stuff on the internet has been more appealing.)

I wasn’t sure how much I needed this book but wanted it (so was very pleased when Bloomsbury let me have a copy rendering it entirely guilt free). I already have enough baking related material to see me through any conceivable situation or occasion but I do like these handbooks and for the past few months ‘River Cottage Everyday’ has been the source for a fair bit of excellent cake, more of the same sort of thing can’t be a bad idea.

A couple of weeks ago I really wanted rock cakes only to find that I didn’t have a recipe in any of the many books to hand which shocked me a bit, perhaps the assumption is that people just know how to make them and judging by the tweeted and facebooked instructions I got the moment I started complaining about this lack in my life most people I know do know. Anyway ‘Cakes’ has a rock cake recipe in it so that’s a mark in its favour already. In fact it’s an excellent book for the basics and something that I find interesting is that everything actually looks homemade with all the minor imperfections that implies, after Fiona Cairns and Annie Rigg this is actually quite a relief. Don’t get me wrong, Corbin’s cakes look brilliant it’s just that she makes it look easy and uncomplicated (although this is slightly deceptive.)

The cake I’ve wanted to make since I first saw it is the toffee apple cake which I tried today, (The caramel topping refered to is one tin of boiled condensed milk, but you can buy it pre made now which saves hours and electricity) I won’t show you a picture because it transpires that flipping a delicate cake covered in squidgy caramelised apples onto a toffee topped equally apple-y base is really flipping difficult to do without sending toffee spread everywhere and cracking the top of the cake. No prizes for guessing what happened to me, my cake tins were also possibly a bit shallow so the cake developed a muffin top. It’s a delicious cake but the way I made it, it isn’t a pretty cake. (The apples for the base are coated in brown sugar and are amazing but the dulce de leche filling was too much for me. I’m making this again but as a plain apple cake, or possibly the marmalade variation that Corbin gives.)

I’m not sure how many more River Cottage handbooks are in the pipeline, I know one on fruit is coming later this year and I’m hopeful for a Game related one in the future, cheese making would be fun too (I have no idea how practical home cheese making is but I’d love to give it a go). The more I see of them the more I like them and the more indispensable they seem, several titles have gone away with me as holiday reading before, and ‘Cakes’ will be just the thing to take with me the next time I head to the Borders (or any other self catering destination). It would also have been a brilliant book to have had at university when I finally got a flat with more than a toaster in the kitchen. Big glossy cookbooks are fine but it’s nice to have something you can throw in a pocket or bag to browse through at odd moments (It can’t just be me who likes to read cook books like this.) it’s also good to have a book that really looks like it’s meant to be used and won’t object to getting a bit dirty, ‘Cakes’ is also a worthy stable mate for ‘Preserves’ (where my River Cottage handbook obsession began) and I can’t think of any higher praise for it.


  1. No, your not the only person to read cook books, and I have to admit to being quite jealous of you getting a copy of this for nothing. If you are into reading cook books as well making and enjoying the produce. Then the Sophie Dahl book is worth a look, apparently she was quite annoying on the telly but I picked up my copy before the telly and avoided it.

  2. Yum - that cake sounds good. My only disappointment is that because it is a back to basics book it felt a little pedestrian and I have books which already tell me how to make a lot of the recipes - Mary Berry's baking bible for example. But it is beautifully put together and my first encounter with River Cottage.

  3. Clover - I can't abide Sophie Dahl on television and so never looked at her books. The river cottage ones are excellent (though heavy on the wholemeal)although as Verity says this one probably has more for beginer bakers because it's a lot of basics.

  4. Verity, I love the river cottage books - I bet you'd like the edible sea shore, perfect for cornish holidays... It is a back to basics book I thought the same when I first looked in it, but I keep finding things to use and I'm a big fan of books I can take away with me:)

  5. I saw an episode of River Cottage bites today (Cakes) and my wife fell in love with the Savoury Muffins. She would love to make them but doesn't really want to buy the whole book as we don't eat sweet things. Is there any chance of putting the recipe up so I can surprise her? I'd be very grateful. Thanks.