Cooking the Books: Spells and Scones by Bailey Cates

When I first heard the concept of this series—a modern-day witch solves cozy mysteries while serving up delightful recipes—I was extremely skeptical. I’m hardly a genre snob, but this seemed a bit kitchen sink to me. Imagine my delight when I read the book and found it to be satisfying on all fronts, but most importantly, as an entertaining read.

Spells and Scones is the sixth novel in the Magical Bakery Mystery series, and while not the ideal jumping-on point, still an accessible place to start. Our heroine, Katie Lightfoot, is catering a signing at the bookstore next door to her Honeybee Bakery. The featured author is a controversial radio show host whose advice on relationship issues has almost as many detractors as adherents. When the author is found dead at the back of the store, Katie is inclined to stay out of it. But, the prime suspect turns out to be the former witch of Katie’s familiar, Mungo, and the little terrier insists on Katie using her powers—both mystical and mundane—to clear his former witch’s name.

With the help of her Spellbook Club (the adorable name her coven goes by), Katie begins investigating, despite her own misgivings as to what this means for her relationship with Mungo. Her personal life is thrown into even further turmoil, as a former flame comes back to town just as her boyfriend wants to get more serious. Add in some life-threatening circumstances and magic—malevolent and munificent—and you have a really terrific, well-balanced paranormal mystery.

There were two recipes included in the back of the book, both for dishes that make an appearance in the course of the novel’s events, and I chose to try out the sweet treat instead of the savory scones.

Iris’s Pumpkin Spice Softies

*Makes 48-60 cookies, depending on size


2 cups butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons allspice

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

15-ounce can of pumpkin

4 cups of flour


4 ounces (one stick) butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted


Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat the batter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy—about 30-40 seconds on high speed. Add the granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon. Beat until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium until combined. Mix in the pumpkin. Slowly add the flour, beating it in on low until the mixture is smooth and even.

Using two spoons, drop dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet about two inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the tops are firm. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

For the frosting, combine softened butter and cream cheese with the vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium until glossy. Mix in the sifted confectioners’ sugar until uniform. Spread the frosting on cooled cookies with a knife for a rustic look, or use a pastry bag for a tidier appearance.

I got to use the immersion blender I purchased for the last installment of Cooking the Books to make this recipe, which was also the first time I’d ever used a hand mixer of any kind for baking (I’m so backward, I know!).

Having previously had the chance to bake with pumpkin for this column, I knew that these softies would live up to their names and be deliciously moist. What I didn’t expect was for them to be so tasty and unique that this would become my go-to cookie recipe, replacing the sea salt chocolate chip cookie recipe that was my prior default.

Purists may argue that these softies aren’t really “cookies,” and I’ll grant that in taste and texture they’re closer to the tops of muffins than to anything else, but those are the best part of the muffin, in my opinion. So, to be able to bake just that, especially with that delightful (and simple!) cream cheese frosting, is a revelation.

Overall, a book and recipe I cannot recommend enough for people looking for something a little out of the ordinary, yet still familiar enough to be a cozy treat.

See also: Cooking the Books: Death at the Day Lily Cafe by Wendy Sand Eckels


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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