Friday, July 13, 2007

Kate’s 25th party, guest blogger #19 – Michelle Styles

I’m so pleased to welcome Historicals author Michelle Styles to the party today. I first met Michelle on the e-Harlequin boards… and we have so much in common. Had it not been for the fact that she’s American and I’m English, and there’s a two- or three-year age difference, I would wonder if we were long-lost twins. (Mind you, she’s also taller and slimmer than I am! And yes, um, I have met her. And partying was involved. So was tea at Fortnum's.) As well as a love of history, we’ve bonded over gorgeous heroes, music, baking and (cough) chocolate. She also has unusual hobbies – such as keeping bees – and the honey from her hives is just gorgeous. She’s also very sensible and level-headed, shares my sense of humour (as well as being my shelfmate this month), and if we lived nearer to each other we’d probably end up having way too many lunches in a foodie pub… one with Very Nice Puddings…

So here’s Michelle:

This blog is to help a very special person celebrate her 25th book. 25 books! I can remember when her first book came out. I had just started to make my own tentative steps towards publication and had started frequenting e-harlequin. Kate Hardy in her usual friendly way metaphorically put her arms about my shoulders and directed me towards the medical thread for a chat about recipes. She is also one of the reasons why I kept going after I had my first rejection. I can remember thinking – But...but I have to keep writing because I like spending time here.

Eventually we got to meet in person and she is very bit as lovely and comforting in person as she is on the web. More so, because she has the most wonderful laugh.

Kate Hardy let me choose the topic and although my youngest suggested that Warhammer or Dr Who would be really well read [edit: so did Kate’s eldest], I thought I would give my Queen of Carrot Cake recipe to help celebrate one of medical romance’s Queens. Hopefully she will be ultra efficient and put this into grams. [edit: yup :o) and thanks for the compliment]

Queen of Carrot Cakes
10 oz (285ml) vegetable oil
20 oz (560g) sugar
4 eggs
8 oz (225g) flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
6 medium carrots (grated)
4 oz pecans (115g) (chopped) (optional)
4 oz (115g) raisins

Preheat over to 325 F (160C). If using an Aga, put cake baker into warm in top oven.

Butter and flour one 8” x 13” oblong pan. If using cake baker, use the largest pan of the three.

Combine oil and sugar, mix until blended and then add eggs, beating for about a minute.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices – shift. Add dry ingredients to oil-egg mix. Blend well.

Add carrots, raisins and nuts. Mix until just incorporated. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about an hour if using a normal oven. If using a cake baker, it will take about 2 hours, but is well worth the wait.

Allow to cool and frost with a cream cheese frosting (8 oz (225g) cream cheese, 40 oz (1125g) unsalted butter, softened, 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar (or thereabouts) 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla – mix together, check consistency – add more sugar if runny, more milk if too thick.)

Note: This cake mixture can be divided into cupcakes, or made into a layer cake by using two pans. Adjust the baking time accordingly. A two layer cake takes about 30 minutes to cook.

GIVEAWAY: The winner will get a signed copy of The Roman’s Virgin Mistress, my current release. It gets to be shelf mates with Kate’s Breakfast at Giovanni’s.

GIVEAWAY QUESTION: What sort of cake do you like to have at your celebrations?


Liz Fielding said...

Oh, Michelle, what a recipe! And what a question!

My favourite cake is pretty easy to make. It's in an ancient Robert Carrier cookbook that I bought in 1968 (when I was an infant, obviously), and it's a chocolate job. No flour, just ground almonds, breadcrumbs, eggs -- the whites are whipped and folded in -- and vanilla sugar, and the most delicious chocolate frosting.

Michelle Styles said...

Your cake sounds great Liz!

Kate H -- my youngest is still of the opinion that either Warhammer or Dr Who would havebeen far better topics...even if he does like carrot cake! Many thanks for doing the conversion.

Shirley said...

Michelle, I *must* try your Queen of Carrot Cakes recipe. I love carrot cake and always feel quite virtuous as I eat it for some reason. It's the same for me with banana cake. I don't feel in the least naughty.
For celebrations, it has to be any sort of chocolate cake. If I don't feel naughty and I can't feel the calories piling up around my waistline, it's not a celebration. I used to have a recipe for Spanish Chocolate Cake which included a banana, crème fraîche and *lots* of chocolate. Gorgeous!

lidia said...

For special occasions we have either a rum cake or a french napoleon cake (both made from scratch -- no boxed mixes).

CrystalG said...

My favorite is a marble cake with buttercream frosting from the bakery.

Jan Jones said...

Michelle, I'm so impressed - a recipe with Aga instructions included!

Your Queen of carrot cakes sounds delish, and I will just have to have a go at it.

For all our celebrations we have my chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream filling AND chocolate buttercream topping. And sometimes smarties. Or chocolate buttons. Or we pipe more buttercream swirls around the top. Oh, and Flakes are nice as decoration. Or Matchmakers. Or...

Sue A. said...

I like the fruit cream cakes that Chinese bakeries make for general parties, but for my birthday I like a Black Forrest Cake made with real cream.

Kate Hardy said...

I love cake, full stop.

I think my favourite would be ginger cake, but as I'm the only one in the house that likes it I never make it (I have no won't power so... I'd be Very Very Bad with it).

I tend to make lemon drizzle cake for school governor meetings and generally if we have family over on a Sunday. But the things I always have to make for family parties aren't cakes: they're cheese stars and choc-chip cookies. And even though I bake them for teatime, there are hardly ever any left before then because everyone sneaks into the kitchen and pinches 'just one'... several times! (Recipes on my website.)

Michelle Styles said...

So many lovely cakes.

Hopefully a few more people will put up their favourites.

Although I like making cakes, I also like store bought cakes. We used to get birthday cakes from the Rancho bakery when I was growing up -- they had the most marvellous soft iciing and then a sort of hard glaze dripped over and finally roses on top. The cakes generally had lemon filling...

And Jan, the problem with having an Aga is that one forgets how to cook any other way. I do like the Aga Cake Baker pan thing...

Kimberly L said...

I love anything coconut. My grandmother used to make me the best coconut cream pies and cakes. Since she has passed on I've tried many others, but nothing as good as hers.

Jan Jones said...

I know what you mean, Michelle. My daughter will be off to uni in Sept, and I'm having terrible problems teaching her recipes because I end up saying things like, "...and then you put in on the grid shelf at the bottom and leave it for 25 mins or so..."

robynl said...

I love carrot cake and this sounds delicious.
We usually have a chocolate bundt cake with whipped cream icing and toasted almonds scattered around.

Minna said...

Any kind of cake with chocolate in it is my favorite!

Becky said...

I might be a little late with this post, but I wanted to answer the question anyways. :)

My favorite cake is actually a torte. You take lade fingers and them down on the bottom and sides of a round cake pan with high sides. Then you heat up milk chocolate hershey bars and marshmallows together over a pot full of hot water until they melt. Then you pour them into the pan with the lady fingers and let them cool. It is so delicious. Every year for my birthday when I was younger my grandmother would make it for me for my birthday. She stil makes it for me for every single one of my birthdays.

Lis said...

My all time favorite is a chocolate ice cream cake. Very yummy! Usually though its just a plain chocolate cake recipe and lots of icing on top.

Donna Alward said...

I'm horribly late but Cake is a topic I can get on board with!

Last night I made a lemon blueberry coffeecake.

On my birthday, my dh and kids make a white cake, layer it with vanilla pudding and strawberries, and cover it with whipped cream and more berries. YUM!

But my most special cake is one I got from Oprah. LOL. It's 12 layers of the richest, most decadent white cake, all thin layers, and between each layer is this chocolate ganache-type topping and then you pour the rest over top. It all soaks in and is the most heavenly thing. And when you slice it, the white and chocolate ribbons look so pretty! Never mind it takes about 4 hours to make!