The Hungry Writer Makes Marzipan Muffins

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Marzipan, I recently discovered, is like Marmite−either you love it, or you hate it. There is nothing in between. I’m one of those people who love it. As far as I’m concerned you can leave the Christmas cake un-iced so long as there is a layer of marzipan on the top, I’m happy.

Luckily Mike feels the same. It’s traditional in our house that he has a box of marzipan fruits in his stocking and he will eat them before getting up. I’m allowed one piece, which is more than enough for me at that time of day.

Yesterday was his birthday so I baked a dozen marzipan muffins, only two of which are in the photo because the others got eaten, before I got round to taking pictures. Muffins never last long in our house. Some we eat and some we share and for me this is one of the best things about baking.

sconesCake is for sharing. It’s about going round to the neighbours with a plate of scones straight out of the oven, or having friends round for coffee and cake. It’s making a large cake to take to a party, or dozens of cupcakes for a book launch.

 

 

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For me cake and writing have a lot in common. Writing a book, whether for children or adults, is about sharing a story you want to tell.

PS If marzipan muffins make your mouth water the recipe is simple: basic muffin mix plus tsp of almond extract and 175g marzipan, divided into 12 pieces. Put half the mix in the muffin cases then a layer of marzipan to be followed by the rest of mix.

 

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A Family Affair

Birthday cake

Multi-Coloured Cake. Delicious!

Yesterday was my daughter Lucy’s birthday lunch. It was held at her brother’s house, because David and Tasha have lots of room and it’s easy for us all to meet there. Being with kids and grand-kids, ex-husband and his wife, plus Mike it was a real family affair.

Which led to me think about writer and their families.

Do writers expect their nearest and dearest to read their books? From dedications by best-selling authors you get the impression that their partners do just that, which when those books provide you with a great life style is what you should do. But what about the rest of us?

It’s always great to be told that someone has enjoyed your novel, but there was something very special about my sister telling me that “Picking up the Pieces” was so absorbing that it got her through a bad bout of illness, or my mum saying that that she stayed up until the early hours of the morning to finish it.

Being as I write primarily for women, I wouldn’t expect to get the same reaction from my son, or even from my husband. So, for me I suppose it depends on genre. What I do get from the men in my life is support for my writing, David on twitter, Mike on his blog and when he talks to other people.

And my wider family buys my books. So all in all, I’m lucky.

As for anything I write that I wouldn’t want them to read…that is where writing under another name comes in.

 

How to sell ten books in an afternoon.

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“Picking up the Pieces” is a novel about friendship, cake and the mutual support that only lifelong friends can provide. What could be better than to launch it with a tea party inviting friends old and new to celebrate my new book.

For those friends that lived some distance away, I sent emails, for those close by I printed out invitations which I attached to promotional postcards I’d had printed.

Handing these to old friends was easy, what was more difficult was knocking on my neighbours, doors to ask them if they’d like to come to the launch. To my delight they all accepted. The offer of coffee, cake and wine may have had something to do with it, but I did make it clear that books would be on sale. Buying one, however, was not compulsory.

As it turned out, everyone did go home with a copy.

So ten books were sold and I had a great time doing it.It was good to see friends I’d not been in touch with for a while, but what was even better was the way they all got on together. I even managed to introduce people who had lived in the same street for years but had never met each other!

What did I learn?

First, target your readers. “Picking up the Pieces” is about three women of a certain age and more likely to appeal to a female readership, so all my guests were women friends, though I did allow cakes to be taken home for the men in their lives.

Secondly, bake. Cake is always good, but if you can’t bake then buy.

Thirdly, wine. Helps to break the ice and is good for the toast.

Fourthly, treat the launch as a social occasion, rather than a selling opportunity.

And last of all, enjoy. If you have a good time, your guests will too.

 

 

Cake on the verge of cracking up.

Cake on the verge of cracking up

I love baking and trying out new recipes, so when I knew I was hosting a meeting of Penkhull Press I flicked through my cookery files and found a recipe for a chocolate and ale cake. It was one on Delia’s and with a Delia Smith recipe you can’t go wrong. Or can you?

It all began well. Making the cake was easy. Just put all the ingredients in together and whisk. In the meantime melt the chocolate with the Guinness, beat in the butter and chopped pecans and use to stick the two cakes together. The remaining, pecan less icing, went on top. Simple!

Not so. :-((

Icing has never been my strong point. I’m a throw it together cook and hope it tastes good. On Master Chef I’d be thrown out for my total lack of presentation skills. My attempt at decorating this cake however, wasn’t bad.

I was so impressed with myself I called to Mike to come and look at what I’d done! By the time he arrived in the kitchen, disaster had struck. A huge fault line appeared right across the top of the cake, then another smaller one running off from the first. Not even the icing, full of booze though it was, was holding it together.

I went to bed full of dire forebodings. All the next day I kept checking in case the cake completely cracked up. Nerves taut I finally served it up.

And no one noticed the cracks!

Cake all gone2