Eating cake and feeling good

I COULD have written about all the Christmas goodies you can buy at the moment, and the fabulous festive food that so many of our local independent restaurants are serving, and the cosy pubs serving mulled cider and wine, but I want to tell you instead about a wonderful local baker, Pat Ring.

Pat is well-known in Harpenden, where she used to run collections on the High Street and made cakes for The Gingerbread Man Caf�. Pat now volunteers at Iain Rennie Grove House (IRGH) and makes cakes to help raise funds and to feed the volunteers. This year, Pat decided to put all her favourite cake recipes in a book and sell it to raise funds for the hospice.

Not only has Pat put together an attractive, well-written and useful cookery book, she has also managed to persuade our local councillors to pay for the printing! As a result, every penny of the �10 cover price goes directly to the hospice. Legendary baker Mary Berry has written the foreword, and local shops have stocked it, with Waterstones St Albans placing it on the main desk next to the till. Published in November, Pat has nearly sold the entire first print run of 1,000 copies, meaning IRGH will be due a Christmas present of �10,000. Pat – you are a true local gem.

Cake contains many interesting, original ideas, so even if you already have lots of cookery books, as I do, you can feel entirely justified buying this one! Pat’s personality and experience come off the page, making this an enjoyable book to read. You feel as if Pat is sitting near you with a coffee, telling you about why she likes a particular cake, or what tip you need to make sure it turns out well. We find out that Pat took her Apricot and Coconut No-Cook Squares to a demonstration day a while back, and which cakes were bestsellers in The Gingerbread Man Caf�.

Apple and Almond Cake is Pat’s “signature” cake that she makes more than any other for family get-togethers, church events, and school fairs, so if you have ever bought it, now you can find out how to make your own! Pat entered the first series of The Great British Bake-Off and this was the cake that got her through to the last stages.

Of course, not everyone can make it onto the live shows, but Mary Berry was so suitably impressed by the cake that she wrote the book’s foreword: “How wonderful to buy this book knowing that not only can you share in some of that magic and create delicious cakes yourself, but also that you’ll be making a difference to local families affected by life-limiting illness.”

I was tempted to include the recipe here in the paper, but I think really, you should buy the book to get it! You can buy it in Waterstones St Albans, The Courtyard Caf�, St Albans, Harpenden Village surgery, Healthy & Wise, Harpenden, and The Cutting Room. You can also contact Pat directly to buy a copy on

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Full of practical tips and pointers, this is a book that you know will work, whether you are an experienced or new baker. It explains what equipment you need to buy, and what really is an extravagance, and baking terms are explained clearly. The recipes are organised according to how easy or time-consuming they are to bake, which is very practical. There are plenty of ideas for gluten-free cakes, as well as some dairy-free ideas too. The Limoncello Drizzle Cake manages to be both. There are a lot of chocolate cakes in the book, which is just fine by me, and also seasonal ideas for using rhubarb, Bramley apples and pears. Classic recipes such as Victoria Sponge Sandwich and Billionaire’s Shortbread are explained in full detail so you know you can make them really well.

Mark Lister, former chief executive of IRGH writes in his foreword: “Getting together over a piece of cake is a recipe for friendliness and warmth. If you buy this book not only will you spread joy among family and friends but you will also be doing a great favour to those in need of hospice care. Pat’s cakes are some of the most exquisite I have tasted.” Yet more good reasons to buy the book!

Our local councillors don’t always get an easy ride in the Herts Ad, so let’s take a moment to say well done to the councillors who supported Pat in this fantastic idea: Maxine Crawley, Caroline Clapper, Martin Frearson, Teresa Heritage, Aislinn Lee, Rob Prowse, Ian Reay, Richard Roberts and Allan Witherick. Sales have been so good that Pat would be very interested in doing another print run so if there are any companies or groups out there who would like to sponsor the book, please contact Pat on That could be your good deed for the year ahead.

I hope our readers have a very happy and delicious Christmas!

To look back on the year’s foodie news visit


I chose this from Pat’s book as I fancied something light and delicious that might work as a pud too. A good hit of vitamin C too if you need another excuse! And it’s gluten-free. A lovely option for a Christmas dessert.

Serves 6-8

4 large eggs, separated

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

20g polenta

200g ricotta

110g unsalted butter, softened

110g ground almonds

110g caster sugar

100g frozen or fresh blueberries

20cm round springform tin

1. Preheat your oven to 180, gas mark 4. Butter and line your tin.

2. Beat together the ricotta, butter, almonds and caster sugar until the mixture is creamy. Fold in the polenta, lemon zest and juice.

3. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold in a large spoonful at a time into the mixture.

4. Fold in the frozen blueberries. The mixture will look a little grainy but don’t worry.

5. Spatula the cake mixture into the tin as carefully as possible to retain the air and bake for at least 35 minutes until it is tinged golden and firm on top.

6. Place on a cooling rack and run a knife around the inside of the tin. Release the tin after about 10 minutes cooling time, and leave to cool. You can dust with icing sugar if you like, and serve with a few extra defrosted blueberries and creme fraiche with lemon zest stirred in.