Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chocolate Friendship cake: perfect for six


Please welcome my very good friends, The Ladies Killing Circle, to Mystery Lovers Kitchen today. We are Joan Boswell, Vicki Cameron, Barbara Fradkin, Sue Pike, Linda Wiken (aka Erika Chase) and me, Mary Jane Maffini (aka Victoria Abbott)

The ladies go way back, oh yes.  In about 1990, they were a very effective critique group: five women and Fred. Fred wanted to take a hiatus, and I (MJ) was offered a temporary place in the group. I’d never experienced anything quite like this group. Every two weeks we exchanged three chapters (printed out) and  then, in rotation in someone’s home, we went around a nicely set table, clockwise, and made our  comments. Some were strong on story structure and plot, others logic and character. There was one comma queen and one who queried the internal geography of every story. Where was that desk?  Who was standing where? Someone else was strong on shapely chapters and appropriate cliff-hangers.

Meanwhile we enjoyed coffee, tea and goodies. Oh yes. Food always figured almost as much as murder in our critique sessions.  Shown here are Sue's oatmeal cookies.

It all worked to make us better writers. However, as time went on, I began to think that if Fred wanted to come back, I would have to kill him. Lucky for both of us, he went on to other things.
Back in the day it was very difficult for Canadian women mystery writers to get a foot through the door. Some of us were beginning to get attention for our short stories and we decided to change that situation. In 1994 the critique group launched its first anthology , The Ladies Killing Circle, which also launched its name and was the first publication for a number of Canadian writers who went on to do very well. The anthology was a success and before long another anthology came along and then another and …

In the years since, the Ladies Killing Circle produced seven anthologies. Each one had at least one nomination for a short story award, several had two nominations, and there were three wins.  Our founding member and wonderful friend, Audrey Jessup, died in 2003 and the Audrey Jessup award is named for her. Barbara Fradkin who was already a friend joined us later that year.
As it stands now, four of us are mystery novelists, one a short story writer and one a young adult and short story writer. That’s when we’re not doing other stuff. There are always it seems at least seven dogs as well as the spirits of dogs who came before and Linda’s cats. Dogs and cats are important to our group!

The Ladies have garnered many awards and nominations: Back to back Crime Writers of Canada awards for best novel (Barbara Fradkin) and four Ellis awards for short stories between (Sue Pike and MJ), After Joan Boswell won the Toronto Star award ($10,000), she took us all to a wonderful resort for dinner.When Vicki Cameron was nominated for an Edgar we all went to New York for the event. We were very proud when Erika Chase (Linda Wiken) was nominated of an Agatha for best first and also an Ellis for short story.  Later MJ won an Agatha for short story and an RT for best amateur sleuth. In 2012, the group received the Grant Allan Award for Canadian mystery writing, a fabulous excuse to wear fascinators on mysterious Wolfe Island.
Mary Jane Maffini

 I’m sure I’m leaving something out and may be reminded. But enough about all that: don’t you think it’s time to eat? 

This is a testament to the power of women working together and supporting each other’s creative efforts. Naturally, that calls for cake.

And this nifty little cake served six ladies after our lunch. Some of us have to watch our sugar and other carbs, but this tiny cake delivered a big flavor punch and left everyone thinking it was just the right size. You could serve it to men too, but maybe make two. Nudge nudge wink wink.

Friendship cake for six

¾ stick butter
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt
Whipping cream (1 tbsp sugar or 1 tablespoon  liqueur for flavoring) or French vanilla ice cream or … whatever else you’d like to garnish it with
Fresh raspberries or strawberries in season.
Toasted almonds if you like!

Preheat oven 350 

Grease a 6-inch round pan
Line with parchment paper 
Melt butter over medium heat in pan – until it bubbles and hisses – don’t let it brown – about three minutes

Remove from heat and stir in chocolate, stir until melted and smooth  - cool to lukewarm
Keep stirring to keep smooth

 Beat egg yolks and brown sugar and vanilla until thick.

Beat in choco/butter mixture

Wash and dry beaters – beat egg whites/salt until stiff peaks form

Stir in one third of egg whites to choco mix.  
Fold in remaining 2/3

Transfer to bakiing pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed.


Meanwhile, whip cream with two tsp of sugar and one tsp of vanilla or 1 tablespoon of brandy or some other liqueur.

Toast almonds at 350 for about 8 minutes if using

Do not panic if it deflates as it will – that’s what the whipping cream or ice cream is for.  The raspberries are just for yumminess, although they look pretty. Ditto the almonds.

There you go: perfect for 6 friends

Here are the titles of our anthologies: 


The four most recent are in print and available in various formats. Click the title below the image to check 'em out and we hope to meet some of you on  Facebook!

Find out more about the novelists at their websites: Just click on the name.

Happy Holidays and Riotous Reading from the LKC!!


  1. What a wonderful post about a great group. You remind us of how important having support and sympathy can be to a writer, especially from people who know what you're struggling with.

    Oh, and the cake sounds pretty good too.

    1. Thanks, Sheila. Nothing beats our women mystery writing friends!



  2. A fantastic cake for six fabulous friends. Thank you for sharing this delightful looking recipe and congratulations on your two-plus decades of shared.camaraderie.

    ~ Cleo

  3. Thanks, Cleo! I am lucky to be part of that group as well as Mystery Lovers Kitchen - another group of fabulous friends.


  4. Fantastic post MJ, now we all want to join! Poor Fred, I bet he didn't dare show his face again, once he heard you might have a contract out on him:). And congrats on all those awards and anthologies too--I'm in awe! xoxo

    1. Thanks, Lucy/Roberta! I should have mentioned Vicki Cameron's long service with SinC as newsletter editor too and also that this was the first group to have a SinC chapter. But the post was already longish.



  5. No one knows what happened to Fred... It's a great post, Mary Jane! And I can attest the cake is also fabulous. Food, wine and friendship are a killer combination.

    1. Ain't it the truth? Thanks, Barb, and thanks for asking what to do with the flour (that didn't belong in the recipe)



  6. Sounds like a very tasty group! We can only hope that Fred moved on to a good place!
    That sounds like a wonderful chocolate "cake" to suit a talented group.
    Well done all around, ladies.

  7. What a wonderful group! How very lucky you all are. This cake is something we would love around here. But we don't have six people to eat it. Hmm, that shouldn't stop us. Right?


    1. Thanks, Krista. Well, for six people, they are very small slices ... so I would say flexibility in all things, especially cake.


  8. Oh poor Fred, but never mind. Thanks for your comments, Libby. I am sure that some day we will share a chocolate cake.