Cooking the Books: Dipped to Death by Kelly Lane

The third installment of the Olive Grove Mystery series delves really deep into our heroine Eva Knox’s romantic past, as one of her exes, Dudley Dexter Codman III (or Dex, for short), shows up unannounced at the Knox Plantation with a bevy of his cronies from Boston. Eva’s eldest sister, Daphne, is only too happy to accommodate paying guests at the inn that the sisters run, even if she’s completely in the dark about Eva’s relationship with Dex.

Eva hasn’t shared any of that portion of her past with the residents of her hometown of Abundance, Georgia, and thought she’d left that all behind when she left Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Dex seems far less interested in letting go than she is—even as he and his friends are ostensibly in town just for bird watching, an interest none of them have ever expressed before.

After a very public altercation on the night of Dex’s arrival, Eva downs a bunch of wine to help fight her chronic insomnia and, for once, is out like a light in her cottage a short distance from the inn’s main building. The next day, she does her best to avoid Dex and his buddies and decides to go on a picnic down by the pond with only her dog for company. Discovering Dex’s dead body in the water is a huge shock—especially after all the other bodies she’s only very recently stumbled upon—but it’s even worse when it becomes clear that she herself is the prime suspect in his murder.

Dipped to Death is a very densely packed book that looks not only at Eva’s hidden past but also at the many secrets hiding in Abundance’s present. We finally discover why Eva left Buck Tanner so long ago—and why the now-sheriff is still so interested in her, even as he seems to be informally engaged to the conniving Debi Dicer. We also find out why Eva left her most recent fiancé at the altar, with the introduction of a delightful new character from Daphne’s past, whom I’m hoping we see much more of in future.

Perhaps most intriguingly, we learn a bevy of new information about the Knox Plantation’s neighboring estate, Greatwoods, with its mysterious owner Ian Collier, his plans for Abundance, and his feelings for Eva. By this point in a series, it’s usually pretty easy for me to choose between the two romantic interests for our lead, but I admit to being completely stumped as to whether Buck or Ian would be better for Eva. I’m definitely a fan of her man moratorium though, as poorly observed as it’s been so far.

There were seven scrumptious-looking recipes included (though I did rather wish Kelly Lane had added the recipe for the “Strawberry Pizza” she so lovingly described), and I was very eager to try out these two:

Simply Scrumptious Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

½ cup hot water

½ cup cocoa powder

1 ½ cups cold water

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup quality extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Oil and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.

3. In small bowl, add ½ cup hot water to cocoa. Stir to mix well. Add cold water to cocoa mix.

4. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. Mix lightly before making a hole in the center.

5. Combine cocoa mix, oil, white vinegar, and vanilla. Pour into well in dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

6. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until done, about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.

7. Place on racks. Cool 20 minutes. Remove from pans. Coat with Yummy Mascarpone Frosting

Yummy Mascarpone Frosting

Ingredients

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons heavy cream

3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Beat mascarpone, cream, and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and continue mixing until soft peaks form.

This was such a yummy cake, and it was so easy to make too! The cake itself was moist and delicious, and I couldn’t believe I didn’t have to use eggs to make it. My mother-in-law was especially appreciative of this as she’s allergic to eggs, which makes most cakes verboten for her. It was really neat to have her be able to enjoy a slice with the rest of the family, so I’ll definitely be coming back to this recipe in future. Aside from being great for anyone with an egg allergy, it’s also a terrific vegan cake.

The frosting was exceptional, bordering on decadent (though, unlike the cake, it is certainly not vegan). It doesn’t necessarily make for the prettiest cake once done—or perhaps I’m just really bad at decorating cakes. More sugar would have made for a stiffer frosting, but I think it tasted perfect just the way it was, and I don’t mind sacrificing presentation for taste (and in this case, health)!

Next week, we travel north to try out a pasta recommended by an author whose palate is probably the finest of all the mystery writers I’ve covered in this column to date. Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Plum Tea Crazy by Laura Childs

 

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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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