DEATH ON THE MENU, the long-anticipated eighth book in the Key West Food Critic Mystery series by Lucy Burdette, lived up to my expectations and even surpassed them! I am a huge fan of history and different cultures, so when I found out that Ms. Burdette combined a cozy mystery with an influence of the relations between the U.S. and Cuba, I knew I needed to read it. Never heavy-handed or dreary, the author brings the Cuban culture and food to life in her setting. I appreciated the way she explored the land-mined affairs between two countries, who are barely 90 miles apart, by creating social situations for the dignitaries and politicians to interact with. She effectively interjects the protagonist, Hayley Snow, into the mix by having her mother cater the events. When things go oh so wrong, Hayley is there to step up and help her mother and friends out. I could see the scenes, smell and taste the food, and feel the danger through the descriptive language used.
I also greatly enjoyed the bits and pieces of history woven in on the life and legend of Ernest Hemingway, which adds to the flavor of the Key West tropical setting. Ms. Burdette uses Hemingway’s Nobel Prize gold medal for The Old Man and the Sea, which is discovered stolen from its case. This is the catalyst that starts the plot off and from there, murder and intriguing subplots are woven in and my interest was captured from the beginning to the very last page. Hayley is a marvelous protagonist. Her personality and self-esteem has grown tremendously from the beginning of this series and I feel like she’s finally come into her own. Her relationship with her feisty octogenarian roommate is adorable and the interaction between these two strong females lights up the pages. I am so excited that this series is continuing and can’t wait to read the next installment!
With all the delectable Cuban foods mentioned on the pages, you’ll be drooling by the time you get to the end of the story. Fortunately, the author includes several recipes at the back of the book and I want to try them all. In the end I decided to try the Mojito Cake recipe first, since I was visiting family to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday and wanted to take a special dessert. The combination of lime and mint is amazing and will definitely have you thinking of mojitos on a hot summer day! A note: if you’re not a fan of mint at all (like a couple of my family members), leave it out. The lime-laden cake will still be delicious. I loved the lightness of the whipped cream frosting instead of the typical heavy, sugary frosting generally used. The whipped cream really allowed the refreshing flavors to shine through while being super easy to make. Garnished with fresh limes and mint, the elegance of this cake belies the ease of making it!
When a killer strikes just before flan time, beloved food critic Hayley Snow is forced to sniff out the killer before someone else bites the dust.
Hayley Snow, fiery food critic for Key Zest magazine, has just landed a ticket to one of the most prestigious events in Key West: a high-brow three-day conference at the Harry Truman Little White House. Even though she’ll be working the event helping her mother’s fledgling catering business, there’s plenty of spicy gossip to go around. But just before her mother’s decadent flan is put to the test, Key West’s most prized possession, Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal for The Old Man and the Sea, is discovered stolen from its case.
Unsavory suspicions point to Gabriel, a family friend and one of the new busboys working the event, who mysteriously goes missing moments later. Anxious to clear his name, Gabriel’s family enlists Hayley to help find him, but right as they begin their search, his body is found stabbed to death in the storeroom.
Hayley has no shortage of suspects to interrogate and very little time before the killer adds another victim to the menu in national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s delectable eighth Key West Food Critic mystery, Death on the Menu.
A special thanks to Lucy Burdette for providing a winner with a hardcover copy of DEATH ON THE MENU. Contest ends Monday, August 13, 2018 at 11:59 pm PST and is limited to U.S. residents only. Please use the Rafflecopter box located below to enter. The winner will be announced on this page and on Cinnamon & Sugar’s Facebook page, as well as notified by email (so check your spam folder!)
In this eighth Key West mystery, Hayley and her mother, Janet, are catering a Key West/Havana conference at the Truman Little White House. This is the dessert they serve for the final dinner. The basis of this recipe came from a cookbook called Cuba! - Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen. I love lime cake and yellow cake and whipped cream, so you can imagine that this recipe was irresistible. I know Mojitos require rum, and yet I am not a big fan of alcohol-flavored desserts. So I chose to leave the rum extract out of the cake, and instead, add a teaspoon of rum. This gives it a little soupçon of flavor without overwhelming the cake. I also reduced the salt in the batter and the rum in the frosting. You can adjust the rum upward to a tablespoon if you choose.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder (low-sodium works fine)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lime zest
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon rum
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, tightly packed
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream*
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon dark rum
- Thin slices of lime, or lime zest, or mint leaves, for decorations
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
Prepare two 8- or 9-inch cake pans by buttering them and lining with parchment paper. Butter the paper too.
Mix the dry ingredients for the cake together and set this aside.
In your KitchenAid stand mixer, food processor, or with an electric beater, beat the butter well with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla extract, the lime zest, and the rum. Fold in the dry ingredients. Don't overmix. Stir in the milk.
Divide the batter into the two prepared pans and bake about 30 minutes for the 9-inch pans or about 40 minutes for the 8-inch pans, until the cakes spring back when touches. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove them from the pans and cool completely.
Heat the sugar and water in a small pan until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in the mint leaves. Let them steep for 10 minutes, then strain them out and stir in the lime juice. Paint this glaze onto each layer of cake with a pastry brush.
Whip the cream and sugar until stiff, and stir in the rum. Dollop half of the whipped cream onto the first layer. Place the second layer on top and spread the remainder of the cream over that. Decorate with thin slices of lime or mint leaves as desired.
If desired, split each cake round in half for four layers. To fill the layers with whipped cream and completely cover the cake, increase heavy cream to 3 cups and powdered sugar to 1/4 cup. If you prefer a sweeter frosting, increase the powdered sugar up to 1/2 cup.
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I was provided an advance copy with the hopes I would review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.