12 July 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

The first cake I've made from the lovely Sky High book and it more than lived up to expectations. The book is packed with mouthwatering looking recipes and I have a long list of recipes I want to try and am trying to invent occasions that warrant the time and money investment!

I made this cake for a church lunch and it went down very well and despite being a huge cake, all of the Sky High cakes are by definition as its a triple layer cake book, it vanished. The cake was super moist and almost sticky in texture; to an English mind making the cake felt a little weird as it has large amounts of vegetable oil and white vinegar in which aren't very common and coupled with the sour cream and water it made the batter very liquid. I had a bit of a disaster when I first tried to bake the cakes as the recipe calls for only the bottom of the tins to be lined and my loose bottomed tins meant that the batter started leaking out the bottom in the oven and burning on the bottom. I ended up hurriedly lining the whole tin but didn't have time to do it properly so the cakes turned out slightly odd shapes from where the greaseproof paper wasn't smooth. Once it was trimmed and frosted it was fine though.

4 July 2011

Review 34: The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

This modern fairytale of family, superstition and death won the Orange Prize for fiction in June. The Orange prize, which celebrates outstanding and original work by female authors, gave the award to what had been seen as the underdog of the shortlist. Obreht is only 26 and this is her first novel and she was up against well established favourites such as Nicole Krauss. You can find the rest of the shortlist and more information about the prize here: http://www.orangeprize.co.uk/.

The Tiger's Wife is the quirky story of Natalia and her grandfather. Whilst it is set in Yugoslavia, there is no mention of real people or names and Belgrade is always referred to as simply 'the city'. The war has left boundaries changed and loyalties questioned. Natalia is a young doctor who is taking medication to a remote rural orphanage across the border into unnamed Bosnia. The novel opens with Natalia relating one of the many times that her grandfather took her to the city zoo to see the tigers and is swiftly followed by her finding out on the way to the orphanage that her grandfather has died. From then on Natalia's story of the orphanage is interspersed with tales of her childhood and her grandfathers story of his childhood in Galina, a tiny mountain village.

Review 33: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

There has been a fair amount of buzz about Annabel Pitchers debut novel but after reading it, I have to say I think it lives up to it. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is the story of 10 year old Jamie and his family. His sister, Rose, was killed by a terrorist bomb in London 5 years ago and it has broken his family apart. His Mum has had an affair and left and his Dad is an alcoholic who is obsessed with Rose's ashes that sit on the eponymous mantelpiece. Rose's twin sister, Jasmine, has stopped eating and dyed her hair pink.

At the start of the novel Jamie, Jasmine and their Dad leave London for a fresh start in the Lake District. At his new school, Jamie struggles to fit in but makes a friend in Sunya despite his Dads warnings that all Muslims are terrorists. The novel is the story of Jamie trying to work out how to live his life with his family. It is both lovely and upsetting as a story. Jamie is a heartbreaking hero as he desperately wants his family to get back to normal and struggles with the fact that he can hardly remember Rose, let alone miss her. Despite this melancholic concept, the novel has some lovely moments and Jamie's realisation that his Dad is wrong and that Sunya is a true friend and a person beyond her religion is a strong message for young adult readers.