Tracy Tappan is the bestselling, award-winning author of gritty romance, her books spanning such diverse sub-genres as paranormal, military romantic suspense, and medieval historical. During nearly twenty-five years spent as a naval aviator’s wife, she lived all over the United States and in Europe, enjoying seven years overseas in the diplomatic community. Learn more about Tracy and her books at her website.
I clearly remember the chilling phone call—it was the nightmare phone call all military wives dread: someone had died in the squadron.
“There’s been a fatal helicopter crash.”
Those words made me instantly cold. I remember my knees going weak, and the only reason I didn’t end up on the floor was because my own husband was telling me the news, so he was obviously okay. But someone else wasn’t.
“Walt Hogan died, and Mark Eoff is in critical condition.”
|Mark “Clutch” Eoff, USN, Retired, crash survivor|
Mark! I didn’t know Walt too well, but Mark and his wife, Tricia, lived just down the street from me and my husband. They were good friends—good people. And now Mark was in critical condition. I’ve never been an easy crier, but I cried then.
Over the next few days, I tried to see Tricia—to tell her how much I was thinking of her—but she was understandably spending a lot of time at the hospital. I finally managed to visit her on one of her breaks home. We talked, cried, reminisced, hugged…and here is the awesome side of being a military wife: the sisterhood of support and commiseration we always create for each other. During the days of her husband’s miraculous recovery, Tricia never lacked for love and help. I think her fridge was always full with all of the meals we were constantly bringing her!
And, yes, Mark did survive! Walt Hogan’s death was a cruel loss to the world, and Mark’s would have been, too. He’s a 6’3” teddy bear of a fellow, good-natured, with a dry wit, and I’ve never heard an unkind word come out of his mouth. He is just the sort of generous soul who would openly share the memories of his crash with me—undoubtedly the worst experience of his life—so that I could make one of the more heart-wrenching scenes in my military romantic suspense, Allied Operations, as real as possible. Mark’s actual story, told in his own words, is included in the epilogue of the book.
Like Mark’s story, Allied Operations has a happy ending, with the hero and heroine both working through their emotional pasts to find a way to connect with each other…but after first surviving a horrific helicopter crash together! The story gives readers an unique, behind-the-scenes look at the triumphs and tragedies of the military life, and I’m hoping that it’s an especially immersive experience. I, like most readers, love to lose myself in a great story.
In honor of the men and women who serve our country, let’s go patriotic with today’s recipe!
American Flag Cake
(It’s less complicated than it looks!)
Chef Notes: This is a simple white cake with a patriotic surprise inside. First thing's first, you need five 9-inch cakes: two white, two red, and one blue. You can use the recipe here, or any favorite white cake recipe that you have. After making a large amount of cake, the rest is pie (or at least easy as pie).
Please note that the recipe makes one 9-inch cake, so to make the flag cake you'll need to make it 5 times. A standard KitchenAid mixer comfortably handles 1 batch of batter.
(Original source: Food52)
For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
In a large bowl, whisk the sifted flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt to combine. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just until incorporated. Follow with 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Repeat until all of the wet and dry ingredients are added, scrape well to ensure the batter is smooth.
For the white cakes: do nothing! The batter can be baked as is. For the red cakes: add about 25 drops of liquid food coloring (or more if it looks too pale). For the blue cake: add about 20 drops of liquid food coloring (or more if it looks too pale).
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.
To assemble the cake, you'll need the frosting (recipe below). Cut the white and red cakes into even layers, between 3/4- to 1-inch thick. Now you should have 6 layers. Use a 5-inch circle cookie cutter (or trace around a 5-inch plate) to cut one of the white layers and one of the red layers into a smaller circle.
Use the 5-inch cutter to remove the center of the thicker blue cake. This cake will remain in one thick layer.
To build the cake, start with a large red layer and spread a thin coating of buttercream on top. Top with a white layer, and spread buttercream thinly on top. (The recipe is below.) Repeat with another red and another white layer -- four layers total.
Top this white layer with the thick blue layer (center removed). Spread a thin amount of frosting on the 5-inch red layer, and top it with the 5-inch white layer. Now push and pat the 5-inch layers inside the hole of the blue layer. Now the cake has been assembled!
Frost the cake with the remaining frosting, using a small offset spatula to make it swirly. All that’s left to do is eat it!
For the frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5 to 6 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Add the cream gradually, mixing until a smooth, creamy texture.
Book 2 in the Wings of Gold series
Compelled to join an operation by an admiral with a personal agenda, Lieutenant Kyle “Mikey” Hammond finds himself thrust into the harsh desert terrain of northern Pakistan. Four American engineers have been kidnapped, and Kyle is tasked to work with Samantha, a civilian authority on Pakistan, whose expertise in terrorist negotiations is the hostages’ only hope. However, this is just one part of Kyle’s assignment. He’s also operating off a set of top-secret orders that could ruin his military career.
From the outset, Samantha’s negotiations with the terrorists walk the sharp edge between life and death. But she is an expert at such shrewd tactics…tactics that soon begin to mirror her personal dealings with the enigmatic Navy lieutenant. Determined to unearth the true Kyle, Samantha engages in a cat-and-mouse game with him that ends up peeling away some of her own carefully concealed layers. Once both their masks are lowered, love blossoms between them. But when the daring hostage rescue finally gets underway, a horrifying accident nearly shatters everything they’ve worked to attain. Their survival will hinge on the strength of their love…and if the man she’s certain can save the day will become the hero he’s convinced he’s not.