Welcome to the third post in my Food In Fiction Series.
I have noticed more and more the tie-in between food and fiction. As foodies, I am sure you love when food takes center stage in a novel and when the author kindly includes some recipes, well that is just an added bonus.
Tesco gave me the idea for this edition. Tesco now have a Book Blog where they review books. They got in touch with me and asked if I would like to review one, but it was a different kind of review. They wanted to categorise books into moods and not genres. I had a wee look through their list and knew immediately which book I wanted to review.
Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan.
Recipe and author interview after review.
I love Jenny Colgan's books and the fact this one was about someone who loves to bake, well that was just an added bonus. TheTesco Book Blog listed this book as "handpicked to turn your heart in somersaults". I think that is a fair assessment.
Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan
Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe is the story of Issy Randall, a girl who has a dull life and a dull boyfriend, but she is about to break away from all that.
The highlight of Issy's day is baking for her friends and work-mates. So when she is made redundant, it is just the push she needs to open up her own cupcake shop, but only after a good long session of moping around at home, feeling sorry for herself and vegetating.
Armed with her Granpa Joe's recipes and years of experience baking with her grandpa in his bakery and creating all sorts of fabulous sweet treats, Issy set's up her shop. Not everyone is happy for her to do well in her business and she soon learns who her true friends are.
This novel, although chicklit does not have the least bit of fluff. It follows the struggle of a young business woman determined to succeed. There is the sadness of a dear family member growing old and frail, there is the struggles of a single mother and that of a single father.
There is a joy in the relationships in this book and I was left feeling slightly bereft when I closed the last page. I think I will be opening this book again and again. Oh and don't let me forget to tell you about all the wonderful descriptions of food and the enticing recipes scattered through the pages. You are going to love it!
You may expect me to be making cupcakes after reading this book, but I decided to use the ingredients I had to hand and make a simple cookie recipe from the book.
Not Going to Work Nutella Cookies
Issy makes these cookies after she is made redundant and is slopping around the house feeling sorry for herself, of course it never gets so bad that she doesn't want to bake.
I was a bit dubious after reading the recipe as I have never made a cookie dough using the technique for making scones, but I went for it anyway. They are not the prettiest cookies, but they have a lovely brown sugar flavour to them. I imagine they would be great with a cup of coffee, if you liked that sort of thing.
Also known as Not Going to Work Nutella Cookies from the novel 'Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe' by Jenny Colgan. They have a lovely brown sugar flavour to them, even though they don't contain any brown sugar.
- 225g self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 100g soft butter
- 100g caster sugar
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in a little hot water
- 2 tbsp warm golden syrup
- 2 tsp nutella
1 Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6.2. Sift the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Rub in the butter, add the sugar, bicarb, syrup and nutella.3. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on a greased baking tray, pressing down the centre of each ball with your thumb.4. Bake for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as you can see mine are a little brown at the edges.notes: Issy (the main character in the book) says that while these are baking you should eat 4 tsp of nutella, then eat the entire tray of cookies while reading a gossip magazine and wearing pyjamas.
DetailsTotal time: Yield: 16-18 cookies
Interview with Jenny Colgan
1. Issy Randall loves to bake, it seems only natural, as she spent so much of her childhood in her Grandpa Joe's bakery. Are you a bit of a baker yourself? Did you learn to bake or cook from someone in your own family?
My mother cooks and bakes, but I didn't really learn till I had children of my own then I got interested. The thing is, though, I'm really lucky and only work part time so it doesn't seem too much to ask that I cook!
2. Do you have a dish or cake that is a family favourite?
Everyone likes the usual ones- lasagne, fish pie. I like fish curry and I make a good pad thai. As for cakes, no the children aren't picky! But everyone loves peanut butter cookies and I have to lock fruit cake away from my husband.
3. Is there a cookbook you find yourself returning to again and again?
I keep my own cookbook, if I find something that works very well twice it goes in. Simon Hopkinson is very good, but the one I return to again and again is the BBC food site, their recipes tend to work brilliantly. And for the big things, like Christmas cake, only Delia will do. My mother cooked from Delia religiously, so if I want to do something like she did it, that's where I have to go. My friend who is a brilliant asian cook teases me and calls me the 70s chef because I like to try things like duchess potatoes and bouillabaisse.
4. Issy opens a cupcake cafe and indeed they seem to be popping up all over the place. Do your eyes light up when you see a cupcake or is this very much an Issy trait?
Oh yes, the first concession that opened in Selfridges I used to take a gigantic detour to get there. Gorgeous. It's the icing, isn't it?
5. I have read you spend much of your time in France. Has the cupcake phenomenon taken hold there?
I do live in France, and no they don't bake here- seriously. I need a new mixing bowl and I can't find one. They cook and take that very seriously but nobody bakes, because the patisseries are so good, so you would always buy sweet things. They have macarons, which you have to admit are also very very good.
6. The French are famous for their pâtisseries, do you have a favourite French sweet treat?
Our local patisserie does a melt-in-the-mouth pain au chocolat, it's just unbelievable. I'm also fond of croissant aux amandes, but they have about a jillion calories each so I try and limit myself!
7. I felt happy and sad when I turned the last page of Meet Me At The Cup Cake Cafe. I was really sad to say goodbye to the characters. I did think about Issy and her friends for a few days after I finished the book. Do you find it hard to say goodbye to your characters? Do they linger?
Oh, how kind, that's a really lovely thing for an author to hear. When I finished Olivia Manning's Fortunes of War sextet I was bereft that I'd never meet those people again. When you're writing though, all sorts of other things come into play- your next book, your deadline- so I don't feel sad as such and I'm very lucky with Cupcake as hurrah, we're doing a sequel! So I am currently writing about them all at Christmas time. I did enjoy seeing them all again. Austin and Darny are having some trouble with having a woman living in their house, and Helena has gone completely mad with her new baby, it's funny. And we're doing loads of lovely Christmas recipes.
8. Where do you write your novels? Do you have set routine?
Funnily enough I write them in the local patisserie. They are very nice there. It helps to be amongst the smell of baking! And yes I have a routine; I have three children under six and my husband is a sailor, so I have to be organised. The boys go to school and Delphine goes to creche and I work till 1.30 every day. It's such a luxury, I feel so lucky.
9. I noticed our good friend the Caked Crusader made an appearance at the end of your book with advice on making cupcakes. Do you follow food blogs? Do you have any you would like to recommend?
Isn't she absolutely brilliant! I love The Caked Crusader, and I love How Sweet at How Sweet Eats who shows you loads of gorgeous unhealthy things then tells you to take lots of exercise.
10. I was excited to hear that your next book also has a food theme. Can you give us a sneak preview and tell us a little about it?
Ooh yes, I love this one, we're so excited. It's called Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams and it's about a London nurse who has to go to the country and take care of her great aunt and sell her crumbling closed-down sweetshop to pay for her care. She thinks it's going to be the most boring job of all time but of course it turns out to be a lot more interesting that she was expecting. I talk lots about sweets, especially sweets you eat as a child, and there are recipes for fudge and marshmallows and coconut ice and flashbacks to the sweetshop in the second world war, and it's just generally, I hope, really good fun but quite touching too.
A big thanks to Jenny for the interview.
Disclosure Statement: I received this book free from Tesco to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.