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Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Photo used with permission from dimplesanddelights.blogspot.com

Karen Pullen owns a bed & breakfast in Pittsboro, a small historic North Carolina town. She’s won a Derringer for short story writing, and earned an MFA in Popular Fiction from Stonecoast, the University of Southern Maine. Cold Feet is her debut mystery novel.  Learn more about Karen at her website. -- AP

I never deliberately meant for my mystery novel Cold Feet to have so many food references.  But fourteen times in 292 pages, someone is eating. That’s once every eleven pages.  And not sandwiches or salads or anything generic. At a wedding reception people eat shrimp, crab claws, and oysters; spring rolls and beef medallions.  My main character Stella Lavender fixes lentil soup, scrambled eggs and grits for her grandmother.  Stella’s partner in her undercover drug operations is a gourmand, fond of grilled mahi mahi, mocha lattes, and cooking six course meals.  As Stella investigates a murder, she stops by a chocolate shop where she must taste Chocolate High cake, and when, on page 136, she visits Magnolia Manor, one of two B&Bs in Cold Feet, she’s offered a piece of blackberry jam cake.

Melting in my mouth, the cake was moist and tender with hints of cinnamon and chocolate. I had to hold myself back from inhaling it in three quick bites. “What is that flavor?”

“The secret ingredient is blackberry jam,” [Camilla] said.

Camilla’s Blackberry Jam Cake is a combination of spice and pound cake, with nuts and raisins. It’s not real sweet, so you could even serve it for breakfast.

For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter – important that the butter be almost room temperature.  Your thumb will make a slight indent.
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, beaten
3 cups plus 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS cocoa
¼ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup blackberry preserves (not jelly)

For the glaze: 
½  cup of blackberry preserves
½  tsp fresh lemon juice
1 ½  cups of powdered sugar.

Grease or spray a 12-cup bundt pan. Pre-heat the oven to 325.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat well.

In another bowl, combine 3 cups flour, spices, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Alternately add batches of the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the egg-sugar-butter mixture, beating well with each addition.

In a small bowl toss the raisins and walnuts together with the TBS of flour.  Stir into the batter.  Add the jam and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a rack and let it cool completely before glazing.

Heat the blackberry preserves in a small sauce pan (or the microwave) until it thins a bit, then whisk in the powdered sugar and lemon juice till thick and smooth. Pour over cake.

I often take Blackberry Jam Cake to my book readings and serve a piece to everyone. Including myself, naturally.

You can probably connect the dots to guess some of what Cold Feet is about: an undercover drug agent goes to a wedding on her day off.  But instead of a ceremony, there’s a murder, and Stella is pulled into the investigation.  Combine wedding and family drama with a drug dealer, a fake Scotsman, religious scammers, a stalkerish ex-girlfriend, a litigious couple, and Stella’s cheating fiancĂ© – and you have the ingredients for Cold Feet.


Kaye George said...

That recipe looks awfully, awfully good! I'm supposed to be cutting down on carbs, but they surely don't mean right now--do they? Thanks!

Unknown said...

Have to admit, Karen -- Cold Feet made me hungry! And yes, I do include food in my fiction, and some nonfiction. My characters have less sophisticated tastes than yours, though, I'm afraid - pizza, chicken-in-a-bucket, chips, whatever they can grab on their we to and from dog & cat events! :-)

Karen said...

Kaye, thanks for the comment! Remember, there are good carbs (blackberry jam cake) and bad carbs (deep fried Twinkies).

Karen said...

Sheila, since we eat 3+ times a day, it makes sense! Characters are human too. Uh ... you know what I mean.

Kaye George said...

Oh, of course! Thanks for pointing that out. I'll just skip the Twinkies.

Greta James said...

Karen, first I want to say that I enjoyed reading (and recommend) Cold Feet, but have to admit that the food parts didn't stick with me. No pun intended. You have inspired me to look at my novel in progress and see how many opportunities I've missed for including food! Since food is not a biggie in my personal life, I may have unwittingly left out parts where food could enrich the characters. I'll let you know how it goes.

Karen said...

Greta - whatever seems natural. Give them a favorite snack!

Caryquilter said...

Thank you for the recipe for blackberry jam cake. I enjoyed your book and the food references only added to it. As you pointed out, we do eat (at least) three times a day. Looking forward to the next book and even more cake.

Judith Copek said...

I love food in books and I think you can give lots of hints about a character by what he/she eats and drinks (or doesn't). Some readers are sort of put off by it. Dieters? Curmudgeons? Who knows. The cake sounds delicious. Not only do I lap up food in books, I also like recipes.

Michele Drier said...

Karen, I'm doing a series of presentations in county libraries this summer called Murder Most Fowl, how food and mysteries intersect. I'm adding Cold Feet to the pot. Like Kaye, carbs (even good ones) are a no-no, but I think I'll have to try this!

Karen said...

Carrie, thanks for the kind words. I'll have to think up a different cake for the next book;) Judith, I too love mysteries that include recipes-Cloris's blog points to them!

Karen said...

Murder Most Fowl - love it! Michele, where will you be?

Linda R said...

Looks like a fabulous recipe, Karen. COLD FEET was a dynamite read, and I loved the food references!

Karen said...

Hey Linda - thanks for the comment. I can't be the only writer who thinks about food A LOT.

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

The cake looks delicious. And of course, I enjoyed COLD FEET. Looking forward to reading your next one.