Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe - is Jenny Coglan's eleventh book and is dedicated to "anyone who has licked a spoon". This dedication alerts the reader to the author's gentle humour and sharp observation of human nature.
The Cupcake Cafe, decorated in fairy lights and candy stripes, is situated at 4 Pear Tree Court, Stoke Newington, in the cobblestone streets of old London which gives it a "Mary Poppins" feel.
"The evening was wonderfully warm and the soft lighting of The Cupcake Cafe blended with the fairy lights of the tree ...and some candles... put a magical glow on the whole of Pear Tree Court"
Three young women - Issy, Pearl and Caroline - each different in their own way, work together at the cafe, and sort through the problems many of us face in real life. The Cafe serves as the characters' sanctuary and the readers' fantasy.
Issy (Izabel), the owner of The Cupcake Cafe is recovering from a broken romance with her narcissistic boss who made her redundant from her office job. Jobless and jilted she uses her sizeable payout to fund the cafe and capitalize on her cooking skills taught to her by her much loved grandpa.
Pearl, who works as Issy's assistant at the Cafe, is trying to make ends meet as a single mother. Pearl and her son have been abandoned by a partner who cannot commit. Caroline is the new recruit recently divorced from her cheating husband.
Food in this book is used as a reminder, a manipulator, comfort food and a tribute. Chapter One starts with the recipe for Drop Scones and depicts a strong childhood memory of a loving grandfather (and baker) from whom Issy learned her cooking skills.
In Chapter Four, jobless Issy comforts herself with "Not Going To Work" Nutella Cookies. Ingredients include one pair of pyjamas!
In Chapter Six, Lemon "getting what you want" Cake is used by Issy to sweeten her landlord and secure the lease to the cafe.
By Chapter 19 Issy bakes her grandfather's favourite cake - the aromatic Simnel Cake - as a tribute to his life.
This is a pleasing story, light and buttery, that reads smoothly with no loose ends. However, the smattering of swear words are distracting to me as they clash with the sugar plum image of the story. Swearing is part of real life you say? Agreed. But the novel is escapist isn't it?
Having said that, each character resolves their problems to a satisfactory conclusion. Moreover, the author boldly declares she has tested every recipe and guarantees their success.
"Your cake will look like an ugly disaster. When people see your lemon cake they will feel sorry for you...and take a piece...then they will taste it...their eyes will pop open with delight. And then they will do anything you want." p88
Lemon "getting what you want" Cake
4oz S.R flour (1 cup)
1 tspn baking powder
4oz butter (I use 1 tablespoon only and it works)
4oz caster sugar (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
2 large eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
2oz icing sugar (1/2 cup)
2 tspns water
1 tspn lemon juice
Preheat oven 375F. Grease loaf tin. Sift flour and baking powder. Add remaining ingredients. Beat well. Pour in to tin and bake for 20 minutes. Cake should look yellow and under done (not brown) and be just cooked through. Pour icing over warm cake to infuse. And then decide on what you want!
I have made this cake three times over the weekend for my family and they still want more. This cake would be great at a picnic with a flask of tea. I had planned on drenching the cake in Lemoncello and creme fraiche or yogurt or whipped cream and berries for dessert but as you can see... they only left the crumbs...AGAIN.
©2011 My Novel Idea Ann Etcell-Ly/All Rights Reserved