Recipe | Rainbow sponge layer cake with white buttercream icing

This rainbow sponge layer cake looks good before you slice it, but wait til you see inside!

I’ve wanted to make a rainbow layer sponge cake for ages. My birthday gave me a reason to make the effort, and it was a trial run for the one I want to make my son later in the year. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

The recipe is just basic sponge cake mix. The difficulty is in all the dividing out, colouring, etc. This certainly isn’t low on the washing up: you’ll probably use most of your bowls. But I think the finished product is worth the effort.

Ingredients (serves 10 – 12 or more or less, depending on how big you cut your slices!)

Continue reading for the rest of the recipe and more pics!

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Review | The Girl Who Used To Be Me by Lynn Forth

Another dose of literary sunshine. 4/5 stars.

The Girl Who Used to Be Me by Lynn Forth book cover

Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-copy of her book.

The blurb:

After a passionate fun-filled affair, Kate is abandoned by Rob, her first love.

Six years later, she is stuck in a dead-end job and trapped in a toxic relationship.

She escapes to the Costa del Sol where she meets flamboyant Reen with her bright clothes, her sparkling eyes and a penchant for pink plastic flamingos.

Kate falls for Troy, Reen’s sexy son, and embarks upon a new phase of self-discovery. Is she finally becoming the girl she longs to be?

But when Rob comes back into her life unexpectedly, what will she do?

My take:

I enjoyed Lynn Forth’s first two novels – Love in La La Land and Love, Lies and Café au Lait – very much and so was delighted to be asked to read and review her latest book: The Girl Who Used to Be Me.

Her first two books whisked us away to Los Angeles and Nice, and this time we’re given more sunshine as the main character, Kate, escapes to the south coast of Spain. In fact, this is a great example of the cover of a book setting the tone perfectly for what you will find inside, and who doesn’t want to be with that girl overlooking a beautiful beach, arms outstretched to the sun?

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Review | The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

An entertaining thriller if you let it take you along for the ride. 3/5 stars.

Thank you to Quercus for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

My take:

This is a page-turning thriller which would be an ideal book to take with you on holiday. If you read it quickly, focussing on the plot and seeking to know what will happen next, I’m sure you’ll find it an entertaining mystery with sci-fi elements and a great way to pass a few hours. Each short chapter attempts to set up a cliffhanger to carry you across to the next and most of the time these are entirely successful.

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Review | Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

A well-constructed thriller/mystery with a relevant message. 3/5 stars.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker book cover

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita have worked in the same legal office for years. The sudden death of the firm’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.

But the world has changed, and the women are watching this latest promotion for Ames differently.

This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand set in motion something catastrophic and unstoppable: lies will be uncovered, secrets will be exposed and not everyone will survive. All their lives – as women, colleagues, mothers, adversaries – will be changed for ever.

My take:

Whisper Network is a well-constructed mystery/thriller which feels very ‘now’ in that the plot revolves around issues of sexual harrassment in the workplace most recently brought to greater public attention by the #metoo and #timesup movements.

In this vein I thought the profession of the characters was a particularly canny choice: you’d think that if anyone would know how to deal with workplace harrassment it would be a group of highly-qualified lawyers. That these women face much the same barriers and ‘crap’ (conscious decision to use a fairly polite word there) upon entering and then once established in their profession makes you realise just how much the system is rigged against women no matter how high they manage to climb within it.

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Review | The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr

The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr book cover

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Arty has always lived in the Clearing, a small settlement in the forests of south India.

But their happy life, hidden from the rest of the world, is shattered by a terrible accident. For the first time in her sixteen years, Arty must leave the only place she’s ever known, into the outside world she’s been taught to fear.

Her only goal is to get help from a woman called Tania, who used to live in the forest, and the Uncle she knows is out there, somewhere. As she embarks on the terrifying journey, pursued by an enemy she can’t fathom, Arty soon realises that not everyone is to be trusted.

She’s looking for answers, but what she’ll learn from Tania and Uncle Matthew is a shocking truth about her past.

Everything is changing too fast for this girl who came out of the woods, and is she running into a trap…?

My take:

Following The One Memory of Flora Banks and The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Emily Barr is back with The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods and another tale about a girl on the cusp of womanhood who finds herself out on her own in an extraordionary situation.

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Recipe | Caramel cupcakes with caramel buttercream

Delicious caramel cupcakes with a swirl of caramel buttercream. A perfect sweet treat!

Sorry that all my recipes lately seem to start with, “So I made X and had Y ingredient left over so I made Z,” but I’m afraid this week it’s more of the same!

I made peanut butter and caramel fudge recently and had most of a tin of caramel left over. I searched for a cupcake recipe which included caramel in the mixture ingredients and found this one at Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen. It worked brilliantly and I was delighted with the delicious results!

Ingredients (makes 12-15 cupcakes)

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Recipe | Easy cream sponge cake

A beautiful sponge made with single cream. Bundt shape optional!

Picture of simple single cream sponge cake recipe

I recently made peanut butter fudge. One of the ingredients for that recipe was a small amount of single cream, which left me with the rest of the tub to use up. Some searching for cake recipes which need single cream as a key ingredient turned up this simple cream cake recipe In Jennie’s Kitchen.

It must have been fate as I happened to have a small bundt tin I hadn’t had a chance to use yet. That said, I’m sure you could use a tin of any shape with this recipe.

This is also a great recipe if you don’t have an electric mixer as it’s easy to combine the ingredients by hand.

The texture of the cake is lovely and it is particularly delicious if you can eat it just after baking.

Ingredients (makes 1 small bundt cake)

Continue reading for the rest of the recipe and more pics!

Recipe | Easy peanut butter and caramel fudge

A quick recipe for peanut butter and caramel fudge. Easy to make and incredibly moreish.

Picture of slices of peanut butter and caramel fudge

This recipe is from a recent edition of The Times Magazine. It’s been a while since I made fudge and had peanut butter to use up from another bake, so decided to give it a go.

If you love peanut butter, this is an easy recipe for a sweet treat which stores well, making it straightforward to share and/or space out the calories!

Ingredients (makes 20 to 48 pieces depending on how small you cut the fudge slab)

Continue reading for the rest of the recipe and more pics!

Review | The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

One for anyone in need of an uplifting story. 4/5 stars.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Thank you to Quercus Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window.

My take:

This book serves up everything you’d expect from the blurb and cover, and sometimes it’s great to get exactly what you were hoping for.

Bibliotherapy is actually a thing, and this is the sort of story I would prescribe to anyone who needed cheering up. The Flatshare is a fabulous happy hug of a book in which dragons are slain and everything gets wrapped up nicely. If that sounds like the sort of uplifting read you need right now, I wouldn’t hesitate in seeking this book out.

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Review | Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

A deftly-handled tale about stories and storytellers. 4/5 stars.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science?

My take:

As the title gives away, Once Upon a River is a story about stories. I think the main reason it’s so successful as a good yarn is the effort that has gone into creating atmosphere. The author is particularly successful in conjouring up the damp, sometimes murky conditions of the riverside, which makes an evocative setting for scurrilous and possibly supernatural events. The use of the third person narrator also works very well as it’s in keeping with an oral narrative tradition which includes fairytales and myths.

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