Thursday, June 16, 2011

Geraldene Holt’s Cakes

Today has been a despondent sort of occasion – no reason for the mood, it should on the whole have been a happy sort of a day, but there’s been far too much procrastinating and not enough action until it’s got unexpectedly late and I still haven’t done many of the things I meant to do. If I can shift myself off the chair in front of the computer (with a nice view of the television and with a handy shelf for a drink / plate of sandwiches / piles of books) my answer to these sorts of moods is to bake and cook my way out of it. That’s finally what I did tonight, so now I do at least feel like I’ve done something.

And indeed I have, I’ve baked a really very satisfactory chocolate cake (actually its bloody brilliant for which I wish I could take more credit) and done something useful but dull (compared to cake) with elderly peppers and a bit of pork rescued from the back of the freezer. Mind you the kitchen looks like a bomb site again which was part of the reason for earlier dejection.

I’ve been playing reading with Geraldene Holt’s ‘Cakes ever since I got back from holiday and found it waiting for me courtesy of lovely Prospect Books. (And where has the last month gone exactly?) I meant to write about this properly a bit ago, it’s a brilliant book that deserves some serious attention but I fear that it’ll be passed over. I don’t often see Prospect’s titles in bookshops and amazon don’t seem to recommend them to me which means unless you know about them they can be easy to miss which is a crying shame.

Cakes’ is a reprint of a classic (at least a classic to those in the know) and is the fruit of Geraldene Holt’s baking for her local WI stall. I like this edition for the no nonsense approach, by which I mean clear and precise instructions rather than a reliance on styling. I’m getting sick of food books which are more picture than recipe (Nigel Slater’s fruit book is beautiful I don’t deny it, but since I got it for Christmas all I’ve done with it is admire the moody pictures of blackberries which feels like a fail). Not having pictures is unexpectedly liberating – if my cake doesn’t look perfect (but ahem, they always do...) at least I don’t have to compare it to an unfeasibly beautiful piece of baked perfection.

Clear instructions that I can rely on however are another story. The pedant in me craves foolproof instructions which is exactly what Holt gives me. If I do what I’m told I’ll get what I want, and once I know what I’m doing I can think about improvising. This is the best kind of cookbook. It’s also taken me back to an appreciation of the basics; it had been a long time for example since I made a Victoria sponge (I’ve been to easily seduced by other flashier cakes) but after a prompt from the book I made a cracker filled with passion fruit and cream. It was very nice. I can also recommend the chocolate velvet cake, and really have to finish with a list of some of the cakes I mean to make... Angel  cake with St Clemant’s cream, Russian cake, Dutch apple cake, Pineapple fruit cake, Chocolate honey fudge slices, Hazelnut cake with Port wine cream, French coffee walnut cake, Pine nut honey and lemon cake, Congress tarts (because they sound just a little bit wrong), Palmiers, Gold vanilla and Silver almond cakes, I could go on and on, but I need to go to bed, and want to reassure myself that the chocolate velvet cake is still as good as it was an hour ago as I go on my way happy.


  1. This brought back wonderful memories, thank you! I cooked for years from her Cake Stall cookbook and there was never a bad cake. When you don't have a big food budget I remember her honey cake was a great cake tin standby - short list of ingredients, great taste!

  2. 'Congress tarts (because they sound just a little bit wrong'

    With that remark you've made my morning - thank you!

  3. Helen - I just can't help myself sometimes.

    Rambling Fancy - your house must have been fun to grow up in! My mother is a brilliant cook but she was quite experimental when we were children and all I really remember is avocado ice cream that we all hated.

    I think this book is magic and am very pleased it's back in print. By far the best cake book I've ever found, or that's ever found me:)