Cooking the Books: A Midsummer Night’s Fudge by Nancy Coco
Tourist season is well underway on beautiful, historic Mackinac Island. Hotel and fudge shop owner Allie McMurphy is reveling in business prosperity and the romantic bliss of her steadily growing relationship with local police officer Rex Manning. The only thing she really needs to work on now, in her opinion, is improving her civic ties with the local community, as she’s still a relative newcomer to the area.
Attending some of the local festivals is one of the easiest ways to get involved, as she’s happy to do with the annual Midsummer Night’s festivities. But when her bichon-poo, Mal, responds poorly to all the fireworks, she decides to take her sweet dog home before returning to enjoy the rest of the night with her friends. Alas, all thoughts of merriment quickly disappear when she discovers a body floating in the lake while on her way back.
Earlier that night, festival organizer Winona Higer had been very publicly upbraided for her decision to disqualify one of the front-runners of the Midsummer Queen beauty pageant. Now, Winona has been shot and left for dead in Lake Michigan. The family of disqualified contestant Natasha Alpine quickly lawyers up, but since Winona hadn’t been the most popular person on the island, there’s no shortage of other suspects in her slaying.
Rex asks Allie to stay out of this murder investigation, and at first, she willingly agrees. Besides, she’s just been asked to fill the vacancy left by Winona’s demise. Helping out with the rest of the festival while also overseeing her hotel and fudge shop will leave her no time for sleuthing. But after another woman is shot dead and members of the festival’s organizing committee start getting death threats, Allie knows that there’s no way she can just sit back and let a serial murderer terrorize the town she now calls home. What will she do, however, when trying to protect her friends lands both her and Mal in mortal peril?
I figured out pretty early on who the killer was but still very much enjoyed following along as the whys and hows of the murders were revealed. Allie is an intrepid sleuth who’s fortunate to be surrounded by so many loved ones as she tries to stop a killer from doing more harm. Her genuine concern for the people around her, from dear friends to new acquaintances, is only one of her many admirable qualities, even if I did think she was a little more blasé about being under the threat of an active shooter than she ought to have been.
Included with this volume were nine recipes for sweet treats, and I decided to continue my baking streak with this one:
Easy Chocolate Cake
1 cup sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon of baking powder
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt
½ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one 8×8-inch pan.
Stir dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center. Add egg, milk, oil, and vanilla and mix for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. Batter will be runny.
Pour into pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool completely. Frost with your favorite frosting or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
Makes 1 cake.
This truly was a very easy recipe to put together, with delicious, if not extraordinary, results. It’s an excellent choice for beginning bakers looking to make a fool-proof dessert that’s a step up from box mix. For the frosting, I decided to splurge and add some store-bought vanilla on top, which made for a yummy contrast with the rich chocolate of the cake itself.
Next week, we head all the way out to the West Coast to bake another easy, winning cake while investigating the untimely death of a celebrity. Do join me!