I’m always very happy when I hear that author H.Y. Hanna is coming out with a new release in her Oxford Tearoom Mystery series! I can always count on a great read and a tearoom worthy recipe that can be made at home. TILL DEATH DO US TART is the fourth book and every bit as enjoyable as the earlier releases!
Gemma Rose owns The Little Stables Tearoom in Meadow-on-Smythe, near Oxford. Her relationship with CID Devlin O’Connor is progressing nicely but she’s chafing with the need for independence, instead of living under her parents’ roof. Her mother, in particular, is driving her crazy…she’s against Gemma dating Devlin; she’s entered Gemma’s adorable tabby, Meuseli, in a purebred cat show, even though Meuseli is a “moggie”; and then her mother has taken up with the four Old Biddies who fancy themselves to be private investigators.
While attending the cat show with her mother, one of the other contestants, Dame Clare Eccleston, drops dead after eating her daughter’s Victoria Sponge Cake. Her ancient doctor rules it a heart attack and the police accept the diagnosis. The Old Biddies and Gemma’s mother are certain Dame Eccleston was poisoned, but Gemma is sure the cake was okay since she ate a piece as well. Undeterred, the Old Biddies start investigating and before Gemma knows it, she’s asking questions and finding some of the answers don’t add up. Can she convince Devlin to take the accusations seriously or will her suspicions drive a wedge between them? Can she find justice for the victim, even though she finds out Dame Eccleston was an obnoxious tyrant?
TILL DEATH DO US TART is a charming book on so many levels! I adore the cover with the cute kitty, Meuseli, and the story itself takes you into the quaintness of a small English village. I felt like this book gave you a more personal glimpse of who Gemma Rose is and how she’s developed and changed by her interaction with friends, family, and customers as well by the murders she keeps getting pulled in to. Gemma’s strong sense of justice is forefront in this book, despite the fact that the murdered woman was an unlovely woman who terrorized so many people around her. This satisfying mystery had plenty of suspects to keep me guessing until the end and the conclusion came as surprise.
The author also provides an insider’s look at a traditional English
A very special thank you to H.Y. Hanna for providing the winner’s choice of a print copy or an e-book copy of TILL DEATH DO US TART. Please use the Rafflecopter box located below the recipe to enter. Contest ends Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm PST. Winners will be announced on this page and on Cinnamon & Sugar’s Facebook page, as well as notified by email (so check your spam folder!)
Victoria Sponge Cake
The most important thing to remember about the ingredients is to have the same weight of butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour as the eggs. So it would be best to weigh the eggs first (in their shells) and then to measure out the butter, sugar and flour accordingly. In the recipe below, I have assumed the eggs to be around 50g each but please check your own eggs and adjust accordingly.
Since the U.S. generally does not bake by weighing the ingredients, the U.S. measurements are listed below with the grams included in brackets. Be aware that results may vary since the recipe will not be as accurate as weighing the ingredients.
The other key is to have all ingredients at room temperature, especially the eggs—this will help to prevent the mixture from splitting / curdling.
4 large eggs of approximately 50g each, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (plus some extra for greasing the cake tins)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (200g caster) superfine sugar
1-3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (200g) self-rising flour (use the spoon and level method to measure)
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk (to loosen batter if necessary)
1 cup (250ml) heavy whipping cream
1 jar of good quality strawberry jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). (180C / 160 C fan / gas mark 4)
Add the butter and superfine sugar to a bowl (or mixer) and combine thoroughly taking your time. Keep mixing until the mixture is smooth and creamy and you cannot feel any of the sugar granules.
Do not rush this step—even if it takes five minutes—as it is the key to making your sponge cake light and fluffy. The longer you can mix the butter and sugar, the better your cake will be.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl and then add it to your butter and sugar mixture a little bit at a time, making sure to mix thoroughly after each addition before adding more.
Again, take the time to cream the mixture as much as possible—the smoother it is, the better the texture of the cake will be.
Finally add in the vanilla extract and mix well.
Sift the flour, along with the baking powder and salt, into the mixture, then fold very gently to combine, using a figure of 8 motion. This keeps as much air in the mixture as possible. (If using a mixer, keep it on the lowest, gentlest setting.) You must not overwork the batter otherwise the cake will come out tough and dense.
Keep mixing gently until the batter is smooth and passes the “dollop test”, i.e. when you lift some of it up with the spatula, it falls easily off in a dollop.
If it sticks to the spatula and is too dry, add a bit of milk to loosen it and mix gently again. Be careful not to add too much milk as you don’t want the batter to be runny.
Get two 8-inch round cake tins and lightly grease the insides, then lay a circle of parchment paper on the bottom.
Divide the batter evenly between the two tins, using the spatula to smooth the tops until they are flat. (Don’t worry if they are not perfectly even—they will melt and even out in the oven.)
Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the cakes are golden and have risen nicely. To check that they’re done, slide a sharp knife or skewer into the center and it should come out clean. The cake will also spring back when gently pressed and the edges should be shrinking slightly away from the sides of the tin.
Take the cakes out and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove from the tins. Peel off the parchment paper and cool on a wire rack, flat side down.
* It is important to allow the cakes to cool completely otherwise it will cause the cream in the filling to melt and will ruin the cake.
While the cakes are cooling, prepare the filling by whipping the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Take the “uglier” cake and use that as your base. Spread the top with a generous portion of strawberry jam.
Follow with a layer of fresh whipped cream, using a spatula to carefully spread it over the jam.
Finally, place the second cake gently on top to form the “sandwich”.
* Variation: some people may also like to include fresh sliced strawberries in the filling, between the jam and the cream.
Garnish the top of the cake with the fresh strawberries and then dust everything with icing sugar.
Weigh the batter as you divide between the cake tins to have equally even cakes.
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FREE DOWNLOAD FROM H.Y. HANNA!
Be sure to check out H.Y. Hanna’s just released prequel to the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries, ALL-BUTTER SHORTDEAD! Free for a limited time on Amazon! You can download at:
Amazon UK: http://www.hyhanna.com/butter-amazonuk
Gemma ditches her high-flying job and returns to Oxford to follow her dream: opening a traditional English tearoom serving warm buttery scones with jam and clotted cream… Only problem is–murder is the first thing on the menu and Gemma is the key suspect! And the only people Gemma can turn to for help are four nosy old ladies from her local Cotswolds village – not to mention a cheeky little tabby cat named Muesli. Who was the mysterious woman Gemma met on the flight back from Australia and why was she murdered? Now Gemma must find the killer, solve the mystery and clear her name if she’s to have her cake–and serve it too.
This PREQUEL to the OXFORD TEAROOM MYSTERIES includes BONUS CHAPTERS FROM “A SCONE TO DIE FOR” (BOOK 1). It is slightly shorter than the rest of the series – which are all full length novels – and can be read as a standalone, before or after any other book in the series.
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