Wild Cherry Cake

Wild Cherry Cake 1

When it came to creating a cake to accompany Where the Wild Cherries Grow, I knew I wanted it to contain three things. Cherries – as might be found on Emeline and Aaro’s secret tree – were a must. Almonds too; the medieval Catalan recipe collection The Book of Sent Sovi is full of recipes featuring fragrant almonds, in broths, sauces, creams and puddings…

Last of all, I wanted it to contain a hint of sweet, heady wine, the kind I drank during my visit to French Catalonia. Banyuls is vin doux naturel, a strong dessert wine made in only four places along the Côte Vermeille: Banyuls-sur-Mer, Port-Vendres, Collioure and Cerbère. It’s almost a metaphor for the spirit of the place; the vines have to be hardy to grow in the rocky, arid soil, but they’re helped along by the bright sunlight that ripens the grapes and la Tramontana, the wind from the mountains, that sweeps any pests out to sea. In my memory, Banyuls tastes honeyed and deep, like peaches and apricots baked slowly in a clay pot over embers.

Sadly, Banyuls is notoriously tricky to find outside of France, so I’d suggest using whatever good quality, rich dessert wine you can lay your hands on. Of course, if you do happen to find a bottle, you know who to call if you want to share…

Wild Cherry Cake 2

Wild Cherry Cake

For the cherries in syrup:

  • 150g morello cherries, fresh or frozen (and defrosted)
  • 3 tbsp good quality sweet dessert wine
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

For the cake:

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
  • Large handful dried cherries
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Handful flaked almonds
  • Icing sugar, to decorate

Allons-y!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm, 9 inch deep cake tin.
  2. Place the cherries, wine, cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl and toss gently until combined. Set aside to infuse.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg to the butter mix, along with a tablespoon of the flour (to stop the mixture from splitting) and beat well. Repeat with the rest of the eggs, beating well in between.
  5. Add the rest of the flour in thirds, folding in gently until it is just combined and no streaks are showing.
  6. Gently stir in the ground almonds, vanilla and dried cherries.
  7. Spoon two-thirds of the infusing cherries onto a plate and toss in the remaining 1 tbsp of flour. (This’ll stop them all sinking to the bottom) Put the syrup and remaining cherries to one side.
  8. Carefully stir the flour-coated cherries into the mixture, making sure they’re evenly distributed. Add a splash of milk if the mixture needs loosening.
  9. Dollop into the tin, smooth over the top and bake for around 30-35 minutes, or until golden and risen, and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in its tin on a wire rack.

To decorate:

  1. While the cake is still warm, prick holes all over the surface with a skewer.
  2. Spoon the cherry-wine-cinnamon syrup over the top so that it soaks in.
  3. Lightly toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes. Keep your eye on them, because they’ll catch quickly.
  4. Decorate the cake with the remaining infused cherries, almonds, and a dusting of icing sugar. Eat with a glass of brandy or sweet wine and dream yourself away to a warm summer’s night, outside a seafront café, at the very end of France…

Where the Wild Cherries Grow: Book Launch

I’m so excited; Where the Wild Cherries Grow is finally being released into the wild THIS WEEK.

WTWCG1

It feels like it’s forever since I sat in front of a fire, in a cottage in west Wales, writing the first few chapters of what would eventually become this book. But now it’s finally going to be available in the shops, and I can’t wait to wave it on its way!

Which I’ll be doing this week with a launch event at Waterstones Exeter Roman Gate on Thursday 15th June.

Living and working in the South West as I do, Devon holds a special place in my heart, especially as my family home is only a half an hour drive away, by the sea. And Exeter Roman Gate Waterstones is doubly important, since my sister – fantasy novelist Lucy Hounsom – also works there! So the launch will be something of a family affair.

Come and join us from 6.30pm on Thursday 15th June for a short talk and a reading by me (and free wine!) to help us launch Where the Wild Cherries Grow into the swirling currents of the bookselling world.

WTWCG close

Also keep your eyes peeled for a special recipe to accompany this book, which I’ll be posting on Thursday…

 

 

Five Hundred Years of The Kitchen Cat — Katzenworld

Minette, Julia Child’s first kitchen cat “Cats gravitate to kitchens like rocks gravitate to gravity.” – Terry Pratchett For as long as there have been kitchens, there have been kitchen cats: rodent hunters, defenders of the pantry, guardians of the warmest spot by the hearth, always on the look out for a stray piece of…

via Five Hundred Years of The Kitchen Cat — Katzenworld

Above is a piece I wrote about art, pop culture, food, chefs, kitchens and cats for the lovely folk at Katzenworld. Enjoy!

La ragazza delle ciliegie

It’s always an apprehensive moment, seeing cover designs for the first time. Do the designers share the same ideas about the book as me? What visual cues have they taken? Which colours have they focused on? Something that always surprises people is how little an author is usually involved when it comes to design; I tend to send mood boards and visual references to the publisher, but really, it’s down to them and their design team to come up with something that will both represent the content and catch a reader’s attention on a shelf. Not an easy task.

Nevertheless, it’s exciting too, and slightly unbelievable, when someone creates an book cover for a thing that started life as a word document on your computer.

I find it particularly interesting to see how different countries respond to cover design for the same book. The cover for the French version of The Confectioner’s Tale, (Le Portrait de l’oubli) is a case in point! Compared to the UK version, it’s definitely different, and not what I expected, but I love it.

So, I’m excited to reveal the cover for the Italian translation of Where the Wild Cherries Grow, published as La ragazza delle ciliegie by Piemme in June 2017. I think they’ve done a brilliant job on the design, both with the cherry blossom, and a hint of wild, windswept shore beyond. Bravo, Piemme!

la ragazze delle ciliegie

For contrast, here’s the cover for the German translation, titled Der Duft von Meer und Thymian, published in July 2017 by Bastei Lübbe, which is different again, somehow less moody, but also lovely.

der duft von meer und thymian

But of course, it’s the UK version that I’m going to focusing on over the next few weeks, seeing as it is released on the 15th June. I’m so excited that the book will finally be available in the shops, and can’t wait to hear from future readers.

In the meantime, watch this space for articles, recipes and book launch event info!

L x

Where the Wild Cherries Grow: a playlist

To celebrate the e-book release of Where the Wild Cherries Grow on the 23rd March, I thought I’d put together something special: a playlist of songs that inspired my writing, remind me of the characters, or just seem to fit the tone of the novel. This is a very mixed bag, from classical nocturnes to Hendrix, but hey, that’s the joy of playlists, right? Without further ado, here we are, a Where the Wild Cherries Grow playlist. I hope you enjoy it.

Laura x

  1. Gotta Get Up, Harry Nilsson (1972)

Yes, so I know that WTWCG is set in 1969, but 1972 is close enough, ok?? This is a great song, makes me think of Bill squeezing through the crowds of 1960s London, but it also captures the general mood of a generation, living fast, exhausting themselves. It’s a sort of Sergeant Pepper the morning after the night before…

2. Train Song, Vashti Bunyan (1966)

Anyone who’s read The Confectioner’s Tale will know that I’m a more than a little bit obsessed with trains, and WTWCG is no exception: train journeys are a fairly major feature of the text. So I couldn’t leave out this Vashti Bunyan classic.

3. Spiegel im Spiegel, Arvo Pärt (1978)

“Somewhere past the end of the cliff he stopped rowing, put the oars up and let us drift, tiny as a leaf on the dark water. The moonlight caught upon the ripples and scattered, until it seemed we were floating through stars.” (p.95, WTWCG)

4. Nocturne pour violin et piano, Lili Boulanger, 1911

This is an intriguing piece, written by Boulanger when she was only eighteen… It’s quite Emeline, simultaneously old and new world, impressionistic in places, with early jazz tinges in others. Boulanger sadly died at the age of 24, from pneumonia and Crohn’s disease, but we’re lucky some of her beautiful work survived.

5. Cosmic American, Anaïs Mitchell (2004)

Totally anachronistic, but who cares: this is one for Emeline and Puce, riding the freight trains in the dead of night.

6. Every Day’s a Lovely Day, Gulliver (1970).

I’m pretty certain Jem’s old, battered, green Citroen 2CV wouldn’t have had a tape deck in 1969, but if it did, this is probably what she’d be listening to, bombing around the dusty lanes of Norfolk with Bill in the passenger seat. (And yes, that is Daryl Hall, pre-Hall and Oates fame!)

7. Foxey Lady, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, (1968)

Come on, I had to. So long William Perch Esq, hello Bill. This one goes out to Matti, Javi and Luci.

8. Wonderful World, Sam Cooke, (1960)

This song is Bill, through and through. I always think of it at the end of the novel when… well, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

Where the Wild Cherries Grow: ebook release

I’m going to jump on the bandwagon with the sentence that everybody is saying today: I can’t believe it’s March already!

We’ve officially left February behind, with its long, grey days of neverending winter. Now, the daffodils and irises are out in my garden, the blossom is starting to froth on the trees and spring is on the way.

And I have some exciting news for readers with kindles and other e-readers, which is that my latest novel Where the Wild Cherries Grow is scheduled to be released in e-book version early, on 23rd March!

where-the-wild-cherries-grow-cover

It’s currently available to pre-order on Amazon, in ebook (£4.99) and paperback.

I’m afraid that paperback readers will have to wait until the official release date of 15th June 2017 – sorry! – although eagle-eyed shoppers may be able to find early editions in WH Smith Travel shops from April. I can promise too that there’ll be all sorts of exciting content, interviews, articles and recipes appearing between now and then.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my readers for their patience regarding the publication of this book; as you may know, it was originally intended to be published last year, but for various reasons (ah, the mystical world of publishing) has been delayed. I’m so excited that it will finally be making its way onto shelves, it feels like I’ve been waiting a long time. I can’t wait to pass it on to new readers.

Thanks again, and more from me soon!

Laura x

New Book Klaxon! Where the Wild Cherries Grow

Last week I received some gorgeous-looking proofs, and as a result am exceedingly excited to finally be able to reveal news about my new book… Although some of you may remember that it was originally scheduled for publication in August 2016, after a few delays (plus a re-titling, and a re-design) I’m thrilled to say that this is it! The official version.

It’s called Where the Wild Cherries Grow, and is due to be published by Transworld on 20th April 2017.

where-wild-cherries-grow

Here’s a brief synopsis:

I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was love and it could not be hidden.

It is 1919 and the end of the war has not brought peace for Emeline Vane. Lost in grief, she is suddenly alone at the heart of a depleted family. She can no longer cope. And just as everything seems to be slipping beyond her control, in a moment of desperation, she boards a train and runs away.

Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case discovers Emeline’s diary. Bill Perch is eager to prove himself but what he finds in the tattered pages of neat script goes against everything he has been told. He begins to trace a story of love and betrayal that will send him on a journey to discover the truth. What really happened to Emeline all those years ago?

As the cover hints, this book swaps Paris for the wild foothills and coast of French Catalonia; the refinement of French patisserie in The Confectioner’s Tale for earthy, sun-drenched, vivid, passionate flavours that are hopefully just as transporting. Readers of The Confectioner’s Tale might even spot the odd familiar face… And of course, it includes a special recipe.

I’m so excited to finally be able to share this book with readers. I just hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I loved researching and writing it.

image3

Where the Wild Cherries Grow is available for pre-order. If you’re a blogger or reviewer, and would like a proof, please contact Transworld.

 

Domestic Sluttery Back in Town

So I’m very excited to announce that the brilliant team behind Domestic Sluttery are BACK with DS 2.0, this time in the form of a daily newsletter.

If you like stories about remarkable women, stylish homeware, ridiculous objects, fancy jewellery, sales bargains, gift ideas, easy, tasty recipes and swishy skirts then Domestic Sluttery is the newsletter for you.

© Laura Madeleine 2016

St Clement’s Polenta Cake

I’m back on occasional cake duty for them, too! So far, recipes have included St Clement’s Polenta Cake and Caramapple Pudding. Future ones? You’ll just have to sign up… https://www.domesticsluttery.com/

P.s. they’re also looking for brilliant food writers for paid, month-long residencies. Sound like your thing? Get on board!

 

The Confectioner’s Tale: US Edition

So today marks publication day for the US edition of The Confectioner’s Tale! I’m thrilled that this little book – which I feel like I started so many years ago – will now be available across the pond; not only in paperback, but in gorgeous, petite-sized hardback as well!

I’m beyond delighted to be published by St Martin’s Press; the team there have been fantastic and supportive, and I can’t wait to work with them on future books.

To celebrate the launch, I’m running a giveaway of TWO signed (and personalized, if you like) hardback copies of The Confectioner’s Tale. If you’d like to enter, just leave me a comment below before 1st October 2016 at 23:59 (GMT), and I’ll pick the winners at random.

image1image2

In case you missed it the first time (and because, of course, a celebration means cake) here’s a link to the St Germain Cake I created to mark the book’s original release.

St Germain Cake

A bientot!

L x

Cake Time: Hazelnut Cake with a Blackberry Sloe Gin Glaze

It’s officially September! Although I’m always sad to see the evenings get darker and cooler, to see the high, summer grass start to wilt and the leaves to brown, there’s so much I love about autumn. I love the scent of woodsmoke that starts to creep through the chill air in the evenings. I love the high, blue skies and brisk clouds. I love the old-gold colour of the sun, the saffron-yellow leaves, jumpers and boots and long walks that end in pubs with open fires…

And of course, then there’s the food. After weeks of salads and tarts and “light” summer dishes (in my book “light” still means immoral quantities of cheese), it’s exciting to be able to indulge in some heartier, cosier meals. And for me, autumn means one unmissable thing.

BLACKBERRIES.

I love blackberries. In crumbles, in cakes, eaten straight from the hedgerows… Not the flavourless, seedless plump shop-bought ones. You can keep them. I love tramping through meadows and straddling ditches, half-falling into hedgerows to pick small, deep, purple-black berries, so ripe they burst on your hands until you’re covered in juice. Wild blackberries have a flavour that’s impossible to replicate: sweet but mellow, perfumed and somehow darker than other berries. I like to think it’s because blackberries ripen as the nights grow shorter: they come along hand-in-hand with these plummeting late-summer twilights.

So without further ado, here’s one of my favourite recipes for them, which I hope captures the flavours of coming autumn. I’ll be posting more blackberry recipes over the next few weeks, so get out there and get berrying!

Hazelnut Cake with a Blackberry Sloe Gin Glaze

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 175g butter, very soft
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • Handful of hazelnuts, chopped
For the glaze
  • 100g fresh blackberries
  • 7 tbsp sloe gin
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean extract or 1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped out (if you can afford it, this stuff is so much better than standard vanilla extract)

Allons-y!
The cake:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 450g / 1lb loaf tin.
  2. Place the chopped hazelnuts in a dry pan and toast over a low heat for around 2 minutes. (Watch out, they catch and burn very easily). Tip onto a plate to cool.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Stir together the flour and almonds in a bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs, then add a third of them to the butter mixture, along with a third of the flour and almonds and stir gently to combine. Repeat with the remaining thirds, being careful not to over-mix.
  6. Stir in the cooled hazelnuts.
  7. Tip into your prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  8. Bake for around 40-45 minutes or until risen and golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. (A few crumbs are fine).
The glaze:
  1. Place 100g blackberries into a saucepan, along with 4 tbsp sloe gin, the sugar and the vanilla extract. (Save a few whole berries for decoration and surreptitious eating).
  2. Stir together and cook over a low heat until the blackberries can be crushed with the back of a spoon and the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place a mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the liquid, smooshing the berry-pulp with a spoon to get all the gorgeous, purple juice out.
  4. Return the liquid to the pan and reduce over a low heat again until thickened, another 4-5 minutes or so.
  5. Set aside and stir regularly: you’ll need to use this quite quickly before it sets, so have that cake ready.
  6. Prick holes in the top of the cake whilst still warm and drizzle over the remaining 2 tbsps of sloe gin.
  7. Remove from the paper and place on a wire rack. (You might want something underneath – this bit gets messy).
  8. Spoon the glaze over the cake whilst still warm, pushing to the edges with the back of a spoon. Decorate with the remaining blackberries and bask in the ruby, sticky deliciousness that has now stained your entire kitchen.

This recipe first appeared on the much-loved, much-missed Domestic Sluttery.