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Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Author Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending the colorful history of her native Kentucky with her love for mystery fiction. Her stories have appeared in anthologies, at online short fiction sites, and in micro-fiction collections. She co-writes The Three Snowbirds Mysteries with fellow author Sarah E. Glenn. (Interesting side note: Gwen was a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987.) Learn more about Gwen and her books at her website.  

At the time of our story, refrigerator cakes were all the rage and almost any top restaurant had at least one on the dessert menu. Charlotte russes were among the most popular in the 1920s and contained a variety of fruits and berries. Thanks to the television series Downton Abbey, they have made a resurgence in this decade. Of course, the Strawberry Charlotte on Downton Abbey was made of soft lady fingers and filled with strawberry ice cream.

Anyone who has read the Three Snowbirds series knows that I am a stickler for historical accuracy. In the Roaring Twenties in America, almost every recipe for a Charlotte russe starts with the traditional sponge cake. For Murder at the Million Dollar Pier, we are at the height of strawberry season, and I am sure the Professor, Teddy and Cornelia would have delighted in devouring this Strawberry Charlotte Russe. My family and friends certainly did.

Sponge Cake
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup cake flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10-inch cake pan. Then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. 

While the oven is heating, beat the eggs and sugar until thick, fluffy, and pale yellow in color. When beaten to the right consistency, the mix should flow off the beater into the bowl in a smooth ribbon. 

Add the vanilla and stir until blended. 

In a small bowl, mix the flour and salt, then slowly fold the blend into the batter about one third at a time. 

Bake until slightly golden, about 12 minutes. The cake should spring back when touched. 

Turn the cake out on a wire rack to cool. Remove and discard the parchment paper. When cooled, place in spring form pan to assemble the rest of the Charlotte.

Strawberry Layer
1/3 cup of strawberry sauce (below)
1 quart of strawberries 

Spread 1/3 cup of strawberry sauce on top of the sponge cake. Halve about 10 evenly sized strawberries, enough to go around the edge of the cake, and turn cut side out in the cake mold. Slice the remaining berries and layer them into the center of the strawberry ring. 

Strawberry Sauce
12 ounces of strawberries, about 30 medium sized berries
1/3 cup of sugar

Puree or crush the berries. Add sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill until ready to use.

Strawberry Cream
3/4 cup strawberry sauce (recipe above)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream 
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Chill your mixing bowl and whisk at least 15 minutes. Dissolve gelatin in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Stir the gelatin into the pureed strawberry sauce. Set aside while you whip the cream. 

Beat the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Add the strawberry sauce mixture and beat until thoroughly blended. Taste and fold in a little more sugar, if needed.

Spread the strawberry whipped cream over the cake, garnish with a fresh berry or two. Cover loosely and chill overnight to allow the cream to set. 

Remove the spring form pan and refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. 

Murder at the Million Dollar Pier
A Three Snowbirds Mystery, Book 2

"Never waste good rum on a bad night." - Teddy Lawless, February 1926.

There are many bad nights ahead for Teddy. Shortly after she arrives at the newly opened Vinoy Hotel in Saint Petersburg, she comes face to face with her ex-fiancé, Ansel Stevens, in the dining room. Cue the slap that was thirty years in the making.
Unfortunately, her ex-fiancé dies during a yacht race shortly thereafter. Conclusion of the authorities: poison.

His family closes ranks, leaving Teddy as the prime suspect. Worse, Teddy's hair comb is found on the deck of Ansel's boat, leading to her swift arrest. Can Cornelia Pettijohn and Uncle Percival save fun-loving Teddy before she goes from the grand hotel to the big house?

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Gwen Mayo said...

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today. I hope your followers enjoy the recipe.


Happy to have you, Gwen!