Scrumptious Chocolate Cake

A few posts ago, I promised you my chocolate cake recipe (or “receipt,” as it was known in Great Britain in Jane Austen’s time).  I’ve had this recipe for years, as you can tell by the condition of the recipe I tore from a magazine umpteen years ago.  This cake is simply scrumptious, and I’ve made it dozens of times.

I hope my British friends won’t balk at the mention of “Hershey’s.”  It seems many Brits regard American Hershey bars as something less than true chocolate, and I have to say that I agree.  I love chocolate, but I don’t like Hershey bars.  They seemed better when I was a youngster, but nowadays I think the makers have cut too many corners.  No matter; the company’s cocoa remains first rate, and you can use it or any other for this recipe successfully.

I like this cake served with a nice, tall glass of cold milk.  Silk brand is my favorite (vanilla flavor–yum!), as I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years.  The cake is also great with tea.  Earl Grey is a spectacular pairing, with its hints of bergamot, or orange blending nicely with the chocolate.

Here’s the recipe.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

2 cups (473 ml) of plain, white, granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups (414 ml)  of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (177) of cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml)  of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) of baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt
2 eggs
1 cup (236 ml) of milk or soy milk (I like Silk brand.)
1/2 cup (118 ml) of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons (10 ml)of vanilla extract
1 cup  (236 ml) of boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C).
Grease and flour two 9″ (23 cm) baking pans.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract.
Beat the mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Do not over-beat.
Stir in boiling water.  Do not beat in.  Batter will be quite watery.  This is normal.
Pour batter into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Cool 10 minutes.
Remove cake from pans and cool completely.

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (118 ml) butter or margarine or 1/4 cup (59 ml) + 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil.
2/3 cup (157 ml) of cocoa powder
3 cups (709 ml) of powdered confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup (79 ml) of milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla extract

Melt the butter, margarine, or oil.
Stir in the cocoa powder.
Beat at medium speed, adding sugar and milk, alternating, as you go.
Add vanilla and beat in.
Add more milk and beat, if needed to bring frosting to spreading consistency.

 

Regencyisms

Regencyisms

Ah the things a Regency romance novelist’s children say!  

I was making a snack for them when it happened the first time.  Saltines with tuna salad and a sliver of cheese, which I’d popped into the microwave for a few seconds in order to render the cheese all melty and gooey–except that I’d not put them in for 20 seconds but for 200!  They were past gooey and closer to molten.

“Oh la!” my eldest child cried upon discovering my mistake.  She’d said it without thinking about it.  When I explained that oh la isn’t a contemporary interjection these days, we had a lovely chuckle over it, and the term “Regencyism” was born.

Later, I was baking.  “Oh la, mama!” she cried. “I believe you have burnt the cookies!”  She was wearing an impish grin, completely aware this time that “Oh la!” wasn’t something any modern lady would say, much less a seven-year-old.  She’d thrown down a gauntlet, and her little sister, just four, gleefully picked it up.  “Oh LA!” they both exclaimed through their giggles every few minutes for the rest of the day.

But other “Regencyisms,” as we’ve continued to call them, have crept into our family lexicon unnoticed–not surprising really, as I’ve been writing Regency romances since before my children were born, and they can quote much of the dialogue from both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.  These Regencyisms have become so normal a part of our lives that we usually don’t notice using them.  Every once in a while one will occur to me, and I’ll say something like, “You know, most people say, ‘engaged,’ not ‘betrothed.'” Or some such.  To which the reply is always a shocked, “Really!? That’s a Regencyism?”

Every one of the Regency-era words and phrases in the graphic above are words my children and I have used un-ironically over the years–a list that was surprisingly difficult to recall.  A few moments ago, I asked my child Julie Rain, “Can you think of any other Regencyisms we’ve adopted in our everyday speech?” 

She thought for a moment before answering, “I have not a clue,” then laughed and pointed out that “I have not a ____” is itself a Regency-esque construction.  

My children have had a lot of fun with Regency-speak over the years.  A couple of weeks ago, Julie Rain shared with me the following delight.  It’s a parodic translation (displayed in red, below) of a portion of a modern-day song, Hotline Bling, by Drake (displayed in black, below). The original has been simplified a little for clarity’s sake:

Hotline Bling

 … or …

The Post’s Arrival

You used to call me on my cell phone
Late night when you need my love.

You used to write me, pen and parchment
in the eve, when you mourn my affections.

And I know when that hotline bling,
That can only mean one thing

Post is what the servant brings.
It could only be one thing.

Ever since I left the city,
You got a reputation for yourself now
Everybody knows and I feel left out

After I departed London, you
Garnered quite the reputation I hear.
I find myself alone in hearing last, dear.

Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out.

I find myself dismayed, waiting just to hear.

‘Cause ever since I left the city,
you started wearing less and goin’ out more.

After I departed London
you started wearing frocks that do reveal more.

Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor.

Rumors of syllabub, that sound like lore.

Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before.

Your company, companions unacquainted with myself.

Fun, eh? 🙂

Julie wants to know what song would you like her to “translate” next!  Click on “Leave a comment,” below. 

Afternoon Tea and the Fib That Lived On

It isn’t often one catches a duchess telling a whopper. This one concerns the delightful custom of afternoon tea.

An Afternoon Tea Table
I particularly like the addition of the book at this tea. 🙂 Photo Credit: Per Mosseby, Mt. Lavinia: Governor's High Tea

Anna Maria Russell (1783–1857), the Duchess of Bedford, claimed to have originated the then-fashionable custom. But people were obviously taking afternoon tea long before Her Grace had any influence over the matter.  Take a look at this quote from The Diner’s Dictionary (2nd ed.), by John Ayto:

“As the usual time for dinner progressed during the eighteenth century, towards the evening a gap opened up for a late-afternoon refreshment, filled by what has since become the traditional English afternoon tea, a meal in its own right, with sandwiches and cake as well as cups of tea (amongst the earliest references to it are these by Fanny Burney in Evelina (1778): ‘I was relieved by a summons to tea,’ and by John Wesley in 1789: ‘At breakfast and at tea…I met all the Society”

One wonders if the Duchess would have felt satisfaction or chagrin if she’d known that almost two hundred years later her boast would still be perpetuated as truth, as in this excellent presentation offered by London’s venerable Fortnum’s department store (established 1707):

No matter where it came from, afternoon tea is still a favorite today. We associate a cup of tea with relaxation. Whether it’s taken alone or with friends, accompanied by scones or bread and jam or by nothing at all. Whether taken in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the dead of night, tea is a small way to have a big impact upon our sense of wellbeing. It’s a way of being good to oneself.

At my house, this morning, this calls for a batch of fresh blueberry scones and a cup of Earl Grey–piping hot and extra sweet (the way I love tea the best).  Or perhaps I’ll pair a couple of shortbread biscuits (“cookies,” to my American friends) with a nice cup of Tazo Zen tea.  It’s one of my favorites, a wildly fragrant tea with lemongrass, verbena, and spearmint. Or, perhaps I’ll cheat a little and have hot cocoa instead, with a sinfully delicious slice of homemade chocolate cake (I’ll share my recipe in my next post). What? A proper afternoon tea with no tea?

Why not?

There are those who would insist that “proper” tea isn’t very sweet. That it is served with milk, never cream (oh, the horror!). That it is served at certain times. That the pinkie is held aloft and milk is added last (or not; both of those rules are fiercely debated). That one holds the saucer only when standing and never when seated at a table. There is even a rule that says the savory tea sandwiches are eaten first, scones next, and sweets last.

Rubbish! Tea shouldn’t be about rules and fashion. It doesn’t matter whether you treat yourself to traditional, oh-so-proper black tea and cucumber sandwiches or to Kool-Aid and Oreos, if that’s what you enjoy. The important thing is to pause and relax, whether alone or with others. To take care of yourself, just for a moment. To count your blessings. To be happy.

Afternoon tea is all about slowing down and being good to oneself–something I hope the Duchess of Bedford understood, though I suspect the poor thing was more concerned with being thought fashionable than with taking time to relax and enjoy the moment. Life comes at us so fast these days that we don’t often take time to enjoy it.

So, won’t you join me now?

Take a break. Have some tea (or cocoa or juice or whatever pleases you most). Relax and be good to yourself, for just a moment. And then set a reminder to do this for yourself again very soon.

After you’re finished, I’d love for you to come back here and tell me about it. What did you have? What kind of tea? Did you relax and enjoy the moment? And did you set a reminder for next time? Will you make this a regular habit? Anne, the Duchess of Bedford and I hope so. 😉

You’re Invited!

Get Ready!  In just a few days, a few lucky readers will receive a ton of FREE books.  Read on for all the juicy details…

Want to have some fun? Join me as I open the doors to my new street team group on Facebook.

I’m planning lots of fun and surprises just for my wonderful street team members:

  • Online tea parties. 
  • Online live readings of Regency fan-favorites (in pajamas, with hot cocoa, of course!)
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Trivia contests
  • Prizes perfect for history buffs, like antique candlesticks, quills, Regency-style jewelry, and much more.
  • Plus many other great surprises

We’ll have such fun!

Plus, all street team members will receive advanced reading copies of ALL of my current titles AND all of my future releases!

All you have to do to join my street team is show me a review you’ve already written about one of my books. My street team is only for the fiercest lovers of historical romance–especially Regencies.  So you know you’ll be in great company.  🙂

Hurry; there are only 200 spots.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone!

I can’t wait to welcome you to the team!

NEW! Once Upon a Christmas

Just published this morning:

ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS is here, and its ending is my absolute favorite of all of my novels so far.  It’s the first of 3 Christmas novellas for 2017.  It’s available on Amazon in print and for Kindle, and it’s also available to read free as part of a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Get it here.  Enjoy!

Once Upon a Christmas by Melynda Beth Andrews, front cover

Here’s the book’s description from its Amazon page:

***********

ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS is a lighthearted Christmas tale set during the time of Jane Austen, about a widowed viscount with two mischievous little girls, one runaway heiress in disguise, an adorable baby elephant, and one outrageous old matchmaker who knows everyone’s business better than they do. It’s Regency romance at its best.

ONE CULTIVATES SCANDAL, WHILE THE OTHER AVOIDS IT …

When Miss Emily Winthrop, impulsive heiress and aspiring spinster, flees London and the glittering Society engagement her parents have planned for her, she is soon hungry and penniless. But when the servants at Stendmore Park take pity on her, she suddenly finds herself pressed into service as a makeshift governess. A scandalous masquerade under an assumed name and gainful employment are just the thing to assure that no tonnish man will ever want to wed her.

The notorious rakehell David Winter is up to his cravat in trouble. After his elder brother’s death, he’s returned to the family’s ancestral estate as the new Viscount, but everything is in a shambles. No staff, no supplies, and no money. For the sake of his two young daughters, he needs a hefty loan. And for that, he must convince Society that he had become responsible, predictable, and respectable. A formal house party is just the thing to show them all that he has reformed–if he can avoid the kissing boughs and his children’s maddeningly attractive temporary governess.

Unfortunately, the adorable baby elephant Emily liberated from the cruelty of a traveling menagerie two nights ago is about to complicate matters for both of them. If Emily can’t keep the playful, syllabub-slurping, flower-waving menace hidden, the Viscount will sack her, and she’ll be forced to return to London– and Lord Winter’s guests will have absolute proof that he hasn’t changed one bit.

REVIEWS

“Fun and delightful…Melynda Beth Andrews’ Once Upon a Christmas turns a chaotic house party into a warm romance. A keeper!”
— Robin Taylor, RT Book Club

“Delightful stuff.”
— Elizabeth Bennefeld, Patchwork Prose

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Heading Images?

I’m trying to solve a problem, and if you’re a reader, you can help.

When you open my ebooks on your device, is the heading image centered, or is it off-center?  The heading image looks like this:

I think it’s appearing centered on some devices and off-center on others, like this:


What does it look like on your device?  Feel free to comment below or write me.

Thanks!

What Do You Think of These Covers?

I’ve worked on and off as a freelance graphic artist and web designer since 1999, and I enjoy doing my own website and book covers.

Usually, I have pretty good judgement about my own work, but sometimes I run into blind spots. 

Just the other day, Kat informed me that the heroine’s face on the cover I’d created for our upcoming release, ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS looked “janky.”

Once Upon a Christmas Front Cover

The parts of her face seem to be pointing in different directions, she said.  What do you think?  Do you agree with her?

I’m also curious to know what you think about these covers for the REGENCY MATCHMAKER SERIES.  Which do you like best, and why?  Which do you like the least? 

Lord Logic and the Wedding Wish Front Cover
Front cover of The Blackguard's Bride

Finally, I’d love to have your opinion on these boxed set covers I made.  Which box set do you think is more attractive?

The Regency Matchmaker Series, Books I - IV, Box Set

Tell me what you think in the comments, below.  Thanks for your input!

Back on the Bestsellers Lists

My REGENCY MATCHMAKER SERIES spent 24 months on the bestseller lists at Amazon.com , but then life got crazy and I had to turn away from writing for a second time.  During that forced hiatus, the series dropped off the lists for several years.

So now I’m pleased to say that THE BLUE DEVIL is back on Amazon’s bestseller lists!

Right now, in the UK, it’s sitting at #15 on the Kindle Store>Books>Romance>Historical Romance>Regency list. It’s number #432 amongst the free books in the entire Kindle store, and it’s #391 on the Kindle Store>Books>Literature & Fiction list.

In Canada, it’s at #35 on the Kindle Store>Kindle Ebooks>Romance>Historical>Regency list. It’s #1,485 amongst the free books in the Kindle store.

I’ll be releasing ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS next week.  Here’s hoping it joins its sister on the lists soon!