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 fête and village. She paints such a beautiful picture using words that I felt like I could be one of the many tourists wondering around, taking in the scenes, scents, and tastes offered. And Gemma’s tearoom provides all sorts of delectable, mouthwatering treats that make me want to visit and linger over a pot of tea. H.Y. Hanna shares her traditional Victoria Sponge Cake recipe in her book and I was thrilled when she asked me to give it a try! Victoria Sponge Cake is a delicately flavored and textured cake layered with strawberry jam bursting with the flavor of summer and rich whipped cream. Instead of the usual sweet, sticky frosting, the top is dusted with confectioners’ sugar and garnished with fresh strawberries. A light, perfect dessert for an afternoon tea! Disclaimer: Most Victoria Sponge Cakes do not have so much jam oozing from the sides… my granddaughter helped me with this cake and got carried away by the jar of strawberry jam… however, the cake was absolutely delicious! Thank you, H.Y. Hanna, for allowing me to share your recipe!
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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Beautifully done. I like the dripping jam!
Your tea set is a perfect match.
I have not attended a cat show before but I think it would be fun. There are so many different breeds now, that I can’t keep up with them. I prefer print
Never been to a cat show. I prefer print but will read whatever I can get.
I went to a cat show years ago with my Mom, love the teapots and recipe thanks, this sounds good.
i’d like to go to a cat show competition! we have 5 cats! i prefer print
I went a cat show once when my daughter was small. She loves cats and had lots of fun looking at all of the different breeds.
I love to own physical books that I can hold and read but I do own a kindle.
What a delicious looking recipe. I can’t wait to try and make it.
I have never been to a cat show though I have always wanted to go and I prefer a print book.
looks so good
i have never attended a cat show. i prefer print. Thanks
Thanks for the chance to win! These books are next on my to-read list and after reading this synopsis I can’t wait to dive it. These sound great!
I have seen a lot of cat shows. But never in person. Per se. Would a dozen kitties presented at the county fair by kids count? They were cute. Kids and kitty’s. The kids were from the local elementary school’s second grade class. They were so proud of their kitties. But I’m not sure all the kitties appreciated the show. The kids did a great job of keeping control of their little charges.
For me? I’d prefer hardcopy. E-readers are too hard on the eyes. And not nearly as satisfying. Turning the page and the smell of paper and ink is so much more relaxing.
I’d like to see how Gemma convinces Devlin to take a poisoning seriously
I have never attended a cat show. Not really a lover of cats. I prefer a signed book because they are my treasures. If I win one I then go and buy the eBook so I can read the book. A little crazy I know but I do treasure the autographed books and have them up on a shelf so people can look at them. If they want to read the book I offer to loan them my eBook.
I’ve never attended a cat show. I prefer print books. Thanks for another great recipe to try.
I have never been to a cat show before, though I did once have a show cat – a black persian named Jasper. I think he was content to avoid the shows. The Victoria cake looks scrumptious! I would love to have a print copy of ‘Till Death Do Us Part to give to my sister-in-law who has also gotten hooked on the Oxford Tea Room Mysteries!
I have never been to a cat show although I have always been owned by cats! Unfortunately, my husband has become alergic, so 2 of our 3 daughters have rescue cats. One daughter has Prince Henry and Brian Boitano the other has Wicca and Jeter. The middle daughter has 2 rescue dogs. I would love a print copy of the book! Merry
I have never attended a cat show, although I would love to. Having two cats of my own I can’t even
imagine entering them in a cat show. The only thing they are interested in is food, food, and more
food. lol! Thanks for the opportunity to enter this giveaway. I love this series and have a hard time
waiting between books. firstname.lastname@example.org
I have never attended a cat show. I have been to a ‘pet rally’ where kids brought all sorts of pets to show off. Prizes were given in various fun categories…scariest, smallest, one most like their owner. I love the recipe. It was used in the Great British Bake-Off Show. This book series is delightful. Thanks for hosting a great giveaway opportunity.
P.S. I love print books. My iPad is filled with over 600 eBook versions, but If I’m reading all day, if gets kinda warm. The print version stays coooool!
I have never attended a cat show before and I prefer a print book, thanks for the giveaway!
No never a cat show, a horse show yes I have.
I prefer print any day. The cake sounds delicious!!
I’ve never attended a cat show, but I watch the dog show every year. Also, I prefer e-books (easier on the eyes!!!), but do read print books as well. Thanks so much for the absolutely delicious looking recipe, and also for the review. This series caught my eye a little while ago, I really need to check it out (I did download the freebie – thanks!). Have a great day! Nicole 🙂
I’ve been watching The Great British Baking Show and they have done the Victoria Sponge several times, I’ve been looking for a recipe!!! I have this book on my tbr list!!!
No I have never attended a cat competition. But I have seen them on TV. I prefer a book in print.
I have never been to a cat show of any kind. I love both print and eBook. Print if it is autographed if not then eBook. And ty for the chance to win TILL DEATH DO US TART .
I have never been to a cat show. I’ve seen bits on TV. I prefer print books but read both.
I think Victoria Sponge is way to hard to make. But I love when Mary Berry talks about it on The British Baking Show. I love that show.
Thank you for this opportunity to win a book. I can’t wait to try the spongecake recipe. It looks so yummy!
I helped a Maine Coon cat breeder at a cat show in New York. I carried the cat where the judge was going to look at it. Then I carried the cat cat back to its cage.
I have never attended a Cat Show competition. I prefer e-books.
What a good looking cake.
Never been to a cat show
I have never gone to a cat show. Would love a print copy of this book. Thank you!
Great post. I love the cover of the book and I haven’t read the series yet, but looking forward to reading soon. Great recipe, looks amazing.
I have attended a small local show, but have never been to a big cat show. But I love cats. Thanks for a chance to win a copy of your book.
We entered our cat in the show and it was so much fun. It was put on by fancy feast and it was just like the big cat contest the judges arrived in limos and this was a small scale contest. We made the biggest mistake you can make we forgot to take her collar off we were going to just before we were to take her to the judge and my son and I were so taken in we forgot. We got a nice prize package and also a nice bag for entering so we had cat food wet and dry for about a month. Our kitty not so liked it as she had to be caged most of the time but it was an experience for my son and I.
I have never been to a cat show although I have watched one before on tv. I would love to win a print copy of this title. thank you for the chance
I have never been to a cat show. We have three cats but I’m more of a dog person! If I win I would like a print copy please.
The book looks like great fun. Thanks for the prequel!
Hi Kim! No, I’ve never had a cat that would sit still long enough during a cat show competition. LOL I prefer print if I should win. Thanks for the chance!
I’ve never attended a cat show but I think it would be fun. Print copy, please, if I should win.
Oh my that sponge cake looks delicious. No I have never been to a cat show. Print
I haven’t been to a cat show. I prefer a print book. Thank you!
I haven’t read any books by this authr-I need to change that. Thanks for your post.
I haven’t been to a cat show before. I’ve seen them on TV. I have been to a horse show but that’s not exactly the same thing. LOL I prefer print books. Someday I will have a kindle (wish list item!) and maybe I’ll change my mind but I can’t see it happening. I love books and having them around me.
Never been to a cat show. I prefer ebooks since I am space challenged for books.
Love the tea set and the look of that yummy cake! I have never been to a cat or dog show – I’m more of a dog person – I prefer ebooks myself because that way I have plenty of room for my books without taking up actual physical space at home…lol…I have too much other stuff! This sounds like a really cute series and I’m going to be picking up the first book today (I have to read things in order…lol)
Love stories set in these little English village’s! Thanks for a chance to win it.Recipe sounds yummy!
um.. that looks yummy! i love to go to cat shows, but haven’t in YEARS. i like print a lot better.
I’d love to attend a cat show! The recipe and the book both sound yummy!
Well I love the subject and I love mysteries so please enter me in this. Tearooms are just the best… thank you so much.
Hi Kim – a very belated thank you for featuring my latest book on your blog and for trying out the Victoria Sponge cake recipe! I am just drooling (as usual!) over your gorgeous photos…
Thank you for the lovely review – I’m so happy that you enjoyed it!
As always, it is my pleasure! I so enjoy your books and every recipe I’ve made from your books are absolutely delectable!
I enjoy the colours!