Cooking the Books: Devil’s Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Oh no! This was a terrible installment for me to put this series on pause! Joanne Fluke delivers another emotional-cliffhanger ending that makes up in emotional punch what it may perhaps lack in plausibility (but that’s also why I want to read the next book immediately, to find out whyyyyyyy.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this 14th book of the bestselling Hannah Swensen series, Reverend Bob Knudson and his newlywed wife, Claire, are finally going on their honeymoon! His ministry will be taken over by an old friend and former Lake Eden resident, Reverend Matt Walters, who is happy to spend time in the parish he grew up in and get reacquainted with the locals. Or is he? When Reverend Bob’s grandmother approaches Hannah with her concerns about Reverend Matt’s identity, Hannah does her best to allay Grandma Knudson’s fears. But things take a decided turn for the worse when Reverend Matt is found shot to death in church shortly thereafter.

I really enjoyed how Ms. Fluke put the emphasis firmly back on murder and mystery-solving with this tangled tale of assumed identities, even as the state of Hannah’s personal life went downhill fast. I was actually pretty surprised at how much I sympathized with Hannah over her jealousy regarding Dr. Bev. While I’ve been #TeamNorman for pretty much ever (and I kinda think this is her just desserts for stringing along that wonderful man all this time), I can certainly understand the primal impulse of possessiveness, and I thought it laudable that Hannah attempted to rise above that. I was just as dismayed as she was at the ending, and I can’t wait to get back to this series to see how this plays out.

Anyway, this book included 25 recipes, and after the success of last week’s cookie-candy confection, I decided to try out this cookie bar recipe:

Butterscotch Bonanza Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.


½ cup salted butter (1 stick, 4 ounces, ¼ pound)

2 cups light brown sugar (pack it down in the cup when you measure it)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 beaten eggs (just whip them up in a glass with a fork)

1 and ½ cups flour (scoop it up and level it off with a table knife)

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

2 cups butterscotch chips (optional)


Grease and flour a 9-inch by 13-inch cake pan, or spray it with nonstick baking spray, the kind with flour added. Set it aside while you mix up the batter.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat on the stovetop, or put it in the bottom of a microwave-safe, medium-sized mixing bowl and heat it for 1 minute in the microwave on HIGH.

Add the light brown sugar to the mixing bowl with the melted butter and stir it in well.

Mix in the baking powder and the salt. Make sure they’re thoroughly incorporated.

Stir in the vanilla extract.

Mix in the beaten eggs.

Add the flour by half-cup increments, stirring in each increment before adding the next.

Stir in the nuts, if you decided to use them.

Mix in the butterscotch chips if you decided to use them, or any other chips you’ve chosen.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake the Butterscotch Bonanza Bars at 350 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes. (Mine took 25 minutes.)

When the bars are done, take them out of the oven and cool them completely in the pan on a cold stove burner or a wire rack.

When the bars are cool, use a sharp knife to cut them into brownie-sized pieces.

Yield: Approximately 40 bars, but that all depends on how large you cut the squares.

So this was delicious, but the end result was definitely more “Black Forest Brownie” than “Chocolate Crack” for me. It felt like the bars took forever to set, and I definitely wound up baking them in the oven for far longer than the recommended 25 minutes.

I did not use nuts (surprise!) but did use butterscotch chips, resulting in a dessert that was definitely on the upper end of my sugar tolerance. I was skeptical at first about the claim that this recipe would yield forty bars, but I can absolutely see how this would require smaller servings due to said sweetness. It was still very tasty, and the flavors were all there, but the texture left a lot to be desired.

Next week, we bid farewell to Lake Eden and travel south for tea time and, um, diet food. Delicious diet food, though, I promise! Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.


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    I got too much interesting stuff on your blog. I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work.

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