Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

When heading into the kitchen in need of baking a comforting treat, the last thing you want is an unnecessary hunt through a heaving bookshelf of possibly dusty cookery books. You want to reach out for just one reliable recipe book full of trusty recipes. I think every cook would be wise to own a “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”, published by BBC Books, an imprint of Ebury Press, to fulfil this very purpose.

Mary Berry certainly knows how to bake a cake; her first book was published way back in 1966 and she has since written over 70 cookery books. The back cover of the Baking Bible states that the enclosed recipes are fool proof, and in my opinion this is really the only baking book you actually ‘need’; cakes, tray-bakes, biscuits, pastries, desserts and breads are all to be found within its 250 delectable recipes. Flicking through the pages you will discover such delights as scones, pavlova, biscuits, chocolate cakes and carrot cake.

The novice baker is well catered for; the introduction and techniques section at the front of the book is particularly useful. Mary explains how to line your tins, offers details about the ingredients you will need and even explains such matters as the rubbing in technique. There are, however, plenty of challenging bakes to keep the more adventurous cooks satisfied.

A simple page layout out seems in keeping with the simplicity of the cakes and bakes. The instructions are clear and concise, though the print may be a little on the small side for some.  A short head-note accompanies each recipe providing extra information about it; for instance on how best to store the cake. On occasion Mary offers a variation on a recipe or a handy tip to make your life easier.

The full page photographs of Mary’s cakes and bakes are stunning; everything looks very appetising.  My only complaint is that there are not more of them. Most of the recipes do not have an accompanying photograph. I personally like to have an idea of how a cake should turn out, especially for the more complicated recipes.

You won’t find trend setting recipes within the pages of this baking book; what you will find are straightforward recipes that bring back the joy of simple baking. You can feel safe and secure in the knowledge that, at the end of all your weighing and mixing, you will have a delicious cake of which you can be proud.

I have myself baked a fair number of recipes from Mary’s Baking Bible, including these firm family favourites; her intensely rich Banoffi Pie, the Double Chocolate Cookies, a chocoholics dream, and the Easter Simnel cake, which is utterly divine. I would have to choose the Victoria Sandwich as my ultimate Baking Bible cake. I have written an account on how I fared baking it.

Large  All-in-one Victoria Sandwich

Chances are if you have a Mary Berry book you have used her recipe for a Victoria sandwich.  When I was fairly small, I used to make this for every family birthday. Surprisingly no one seemed to tire of it.  As I haven’t made this for some time, it was a rather pleasant and nostalgic revisit of an old friend.

At first glance I presumed that this cake wasn’t too unhealthy. However, after re-reading the ingredients, I decided that, as it uses very nearly a whole packet of butter and the same amount of sugar, that actually it might be best to just have a small slice. Though, if you think like me, you might count the strawberry jam as one of your five a day.

This recipe uses Mary’s all-in-one method. This makes life so much easier. Normally you would be expected to cream the butter and sugar together, and then watch with horror as the mixture curdles with the addition of the eggs. Thankfully, we are spared this despair as all of the cake ingredients get measured into a bowl and beaten together at the same time. Once the beaten mixture is smooth you put it into the tins and bake for about 20 minutes.

I made the mistake of using fairly cheap cake tins. I didn’t think it would cause much harm, but I lost some of the cake as it stuck to the tin, so it looks a bit patchy around the sides. Apart from that minor defect, I can’t believe how well the cake rose in the oven, it is huge.

Once the cake had cooled, I could spread a generous amount of jam on one of the cakes and I carefully placed the other cake on top and sprinkled the surface with caster sugar.

I have the house to myself at the moment and have just indulged in a sneaky slice. I really can’t get over how light and moist it is. It really does taste as good as I remember. I would like to put forward the suggestion of eating it with a fork, as the cake rises so well, it is almost impossible to manage without one!

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