Sunday, December 6, 2009

Featured Guest - Joanna Campbell Slan

Mystery Lovers' "Christmas Cookie Week" resumes Monday.
For our Sunday Guest Blogger, let's welcome Joanna Campbell Slan. She is the author of a mystery series featuring spunky scrapbooker Kiki Lowenstein. The first book in the series—Paper, Scissors, Death—was nominated for an Agatha Award. Photo, Snap, Shot, the third book in the series, will be released May 2010.
For today's special blog, Joanna wants to share: Christmas at Mount Vernon.

Take it away, Joanna!!

Hi, folks. Have you recovered from your Thanksgiving guests? Our house is still a bit topsy-turvey. As I write this, my washer hums merrily along, cleaning the sheets and towels. The refrigerator is as stuffed as I am. My Weight Watcher Points and I won’t catch up with each other until Spring 2010.

But I don’t want you to misunderstand! I love having company. I love readying the guest room. When we moved house in September, we tossed most of our old, well-worn bed clothes. That gave me the perfect excuse for buying new quilts, linens, blankets, and towels for our guest room. While I’d never lay claim to Martha Stewart’s crown, I certainly enjoyed my mini-decorating spree.

Of course, two overnight guests and a son home from college count for very little when you compare my entertaining efforts to those of our nation’s first Martha, Martha Washington. On a candlelight tour of Mount Vernon last week, I learned that the Washingtons often had as many as 650-plus houseguests per year! (That’s a photo of me peeking at the music being sung by carolers at the site.) Since the Washington home was rather isolated, we aren’t talking about people dropping by for pizza. Oh, no. These were folks who settled in for a long visit. In fact, I wonder if Ben Franklin and Martha were commiserating when Ben penned his famous line, “Fish and visitors both stink after three days!”

The docent portraying Mrs. George Washington assured us otherwise. “Mr. Washington and I do so enjoy having visitors,” she said, as she clapped her tiny hands together and smiled. “I wish I had known so many of you are coming because I would have baked another cake!”

Martha Washington’s Great Cake was traditionally served at Mount Vernon on Twelfth Night, January 6, which was also Martha and George’s wedding anniversary. The original recipe called for 40 eggs, 4 pounds of butter, 4 pounds of sugar and 5 pounds of “flower” (sic). This recipe has been reduced to more modest proportions.

Martha Washington’s Great Cake (Adapted)

10 eggs (separated)
1 lb. sugar
20 oz. flour
1 lb. butter
20 oz. assorted fruit & nuts*
2 ½ tsp. ground mace
2 ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 oz. French brandy
2 oz. wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat egg whites to a soft peak. Cream the butter. Slowly add the beaten egg whites, one spoonful at a time, to the butter. Slowly add the sugar, one spoonful at a time to the egg white/butter mixture. Add egg yolks. Add flour, slowly. Add fruit.

* 5 oz. pear (peeled, cored, diced)
9 1/2 oz. apple (peeled, cored, diced)
3 1/2 oz. raisins
2 oz. sliced almonds

Add ground mace and nutmeg, wine, and brandy. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch spring-form cake pan. Pour batter into pan and bake about 75 minutes. Allow cake to cool after baking.

Modern Adaptation of 18th Century Icing

Beat 3 egg whites and 2 T. powdered sugar. Repeat additions of sugar until you have used 1 ½ cups in total. Add 1 tsp. grated lemon peel and 2 T. orange-flower water. Beat until icing is stiff enough to remain parted after a knife cuts through it. Smooth it onto the cake. Let it dry and harden in a 200 degree oven for one hour.
thank you, Joanna!! What a ton of fun. To learn more about Joanna, the series, and about scrapbooking go to Joanna blogs every Monday at

And don't forget about our latest Mystery Lover's Kitchen Contest! This is our last week for suggestions for our January Iron Chef competition. If you enter, you could win a Junior's Cheesecake. Get those suggestions in soon. Click on the cheesecake on the right for more details!


  1. Hi Joanna! Thanks so much for joining us today. Love that they baked the icing in a 200 degree oven. I love egg whites and that would make for a real meringue icing. I'm definitely going to try that!

    ~ Krista

  2. It's nice to have a bit of history to share with a recipe. Sounds yummy.

  3. Krista and Avery, thanks so much for having me! When I lived in the UK, their icings were usually hard marzipan. I guess styles change and tastes differ.

    Mason, I love the history behind stuff. Often it's more interesting than the end project.

  4. My kids are really interested in history. This would be perfect to do with them! It goes to show that great recipes stand the test of time.

  5. Hi Joanna! Thank you so much for hangin' with us mystery cooks today, and thank you especially for sharing that historic recipe in reasonable propotions. The idea of cracking 40 eggs alone sent a chill through me, LOL! Cheers and congrats on your upcoming third Scrap-N-Craft mystery!


  6. Hey, Joanna!
    So great to have you here on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen! Thanks so much for the history lesson! And thanks for the great recipe. Joanna is so much fun in person, and I can't wait until PHOTO, SNAP, SHOOT comes out. More Kiki adventures!


  7. That's so interesting to know! Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen today to visit with us and share the recipe. I'm looking forward to "Photo, Snap, Shoot!"

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  8. Oh, come on, Cleo. You don't have 40 eggs in your 'frig? I counted, and I have 4.

    Janel, I think this recipe shows several things. 1.) That Martha loved to entertain lavishly. 2.) That recipes are a repository for memories. 3.) Why George Washington lost most of his teeth. I guess he loved his sweets!

  9. Julie, you're a gem! Can't wait to show you around my new hometown of DC.

    Elizabeth, I'm excited about Book #3 (Photo, Snap, Shot) as well. I'm knee-deep in writing Book #4, so I'm curious to hear what my fans think. I hope to incorporate their good ideas into Book #4. (Scrapbookers are soooo creative.)

    Okay, I'll toss out a challenge: Say Scrap-N-Craft three times fast. I can't do it either!

    Thanks for having me, ladies.

  10. LOL, I can't say scrap-n-craft once!
    Lovely post, Joanna, thanks so much for joining us.