Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for October: 10/5 Carolina Crimes: Rock, Roll and Ruin 10/12 Alicia Beckman, Blind Faith 10/19 J. Woollcott, A Nice Place To Die 10/26 Carol J. Perry, High Spirits

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Cake to Die For: The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

If you are looking for a killer chocolate cake recipe, look no further.

Donna Andrews told me about the new cookbook from the Mystery Writers of America and I finally got my hands on a copy. “Wickedly Good Recipes” the cover promises – and delivers.

Literary luminaries like Harlan Coben, Diane Mott Davidson, Lisa Scottoline, and Nelson DeMille have contributed recipes for everything from Fa-La-La Fruitcake Cookies to Male Chauvinist Pigs in the Blanket. Being a mystery writers’ cookbook, it’s no surprise that the book includes a Drinks section with The Switchblade Cocktail (Gary Phillips), The “Smoking Gun” Margarita (Alison Gaylin), and Lee Child’s Coffee, Pot of One.

Last week, friends Martha, Paul, and Ally invited us to dinner and I offered to bring dessert. This was a perfect time to give the cookbook a spin. After scanning the Desserts section, two contenders stood out: Laurie R. King’s Mrs. Hudson’s Coffee Sheet Cookies and James Patterson’s Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake. A tough decision, but as usual, chocolate won.

Possessing zero cooking skills and wanting to give the recipe the best possible chance for success, I called in my Stunt Baker ™, my daughter, Charlotte, and let her work her culinary magic while I went to work. I know, I’m awful.

Lots of butter and chocolate.

Ready for frosting.

When I returned, the siren scent of chocolate, vanilla, and almond called me to the kitchen. The cake’s dark, ganache-like glaze glistened as Charlotte mixed it. A tiny taste of the unfrosted cake confirmed my hope. The flavor was divine. It was as if we’d had a visitation from St. Julia of the Never Empty Wine Glass. The flavor was so intoxicating that I forgot to get a picture of the finished and frosted cake.

I asked Charlotte for a report. Any lumps in this delectable dessert’s recipe?

Just one thing, she said. No surprise in a mystery writer’s cookbook that there was something a bit mysterious about the directions. The recipe calls for “1 and a half teaspoons of baking soda dissolved in two fifths of a cup hot water.” Now I am no baker (see: Stunt Baker) but I don’t recall seeing many 2/5’s in a recipe. No worries with Charlotte in the kitchen, however. The cake was sensational.

Now, we know a lot of things about James Patterson: his 300 million books sold, his generous support of literacy, his advocacy for bookstores. Who knew his grandmother had such a fantastic chocolate cake recipe? No wonder the man looks happy in all his publicity photos.

 At the dinner party, that contented silence that settles on a table that has been feasting and laughing signaled a dessert that surpasses expectations. We agreed that the touch of vanilla and almond extracts in the frosting was perfect. We also wondered about the name of the dessert. Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake? Or was it Grandma’s Killer’s Chocolate Cake? Maybe it was just the wine talking, but we all agreed that correct punctuation is important and that this is a cake to die for.

If you like chocolate, make this cake. Or get a Stunt Baker™ to do it for you.

The next recipe from MWA’s cookbook to try? Mary Ann Corrigan’s Take Your Pick Vegetable Salad? Alan Orloff’s Killer Tofu? Barbara Ross’ Lobster Pesto Risotto?

Gillian Flynn’s recipe for Beef Skillet Fiesta looks fantastic, but after reading Gone Girl, I am not sure I trust her.

Do you have a dessert recipe to die for?


E. B. Davis said...

Oh Shari, this sounds like a fun book to have in the kitchen. I used to collect cookbooks, but I'm trying to downsize--this one might tempt me. Patterson's recipe looks might good to me.

I like your "stunt baker" concept, but I have no problems in the kitchen with the exception of sugar/chocolate. I haven't mastered the art of tempering, which is essential in working with chocolate--not Patterson's recipe, but for molded chocolates. I've decided I'd rather let others do that and buy them.

I do make caramels at Christmas, the recipe for which a friend and I had to roll an old lady to get before she died. Of course, the instructions leave a lot to be desired and shows her reluctance to hand over the recipe. Such spite. We only roughed her up a little.

Warren Bull said...

I am more of a consumer than a creator in the kitchen.

Jim Jackson said...

I'm with Warren. If pressed, I can cook sufficiently well to stay alive -- but I honestly have no interest in cooking.

I think a 3-D download of samples would have been an excellent addition to this blog. Just saying....

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

Hi EB - I think your "I Rolled An Old Lady to Get This Recipe Caramels" would make a great addition to the next MWA cookbook. And now you'll have to share it with us!

Shari Randall said...

Me, too Warren!

And Jim, if we could figure out the technology to do online samples - we'd change the world!

E. B. Davis said...

Nope--not sharing the recipe--someone will have to commit a crime to get it out of me. I might be bribed though! ;>)

Kait said...

Sounds wonderful, but I am too hungry now to write more. I have to get a copy of this cookbook. Thanks for the heads up, and the taste test, Shari.

Gloria Alden said...

I'm with Jim and Warren on this. At one time while raising a family, I did a lot of baking. Living alone now except for assorted critters, it doesn't make sense to bake those decadent things and eat them all myself. I do enjoy eating desserts like those. I'm so glad I have a sister and a sister-in-law who do bake like that and have their siblings down often enough so I get to enjoy their culinary labors.

Kara Cerise said...

How fun! The recipe names are so creative. Any dessert with chocolate would have been my first choice too.

I've never seen 2/5s in a recipe either. Intriguing.

Shari Randall said...

Hmmm, how can I bribe EB….

Kait, the cookbook has some really nice looking recipes. I think I'm going to try the lobster risotto next.

Gloria, I am with you! That's why it's such a treat to have my daughter home - she likes to bake so I don't have to.

Kara, I am glad I'm not the only one who thinks 2/5 is kind of weird.

Sarah Henning said...

Oh, I'm soooo hungry now! Great post!

Polly Iyer said...

Looks delish, but where's the recipe? Not fair. :-)

KM Rockwood said...

One question--can we really trust recipes from people who write about killing all the time?

I don' do anywhere near as much baking as I used to, but maybe it's time to make a dark chocolate layer cake with almond buttercream frosting...

Shari Randall said...

Sarah, I wish I could manage those 3D samples

Polly, I thought about that and then I figured if I put in the recipe, I'd have James Patterson's lawyers after me. But you can check out a copy from the library for free ;)

Kathleen, it's always time for chocolate cake!