Sunday, May 24, 2015

Welcome guest author Hannah Dennison+ book #giveaway!

Carolyn Hart says of Hannah's work: "The mistress of hilarious British Mysteries. Fabulous fun."

British born, Hannah originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Now living in Portland, Oregon, Hannah continues to teach mystery writing at UCLA Extension and still works for a west coast advertising agency. Hannah writes the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Minotaur) and the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable Crime) both set in the wilds of the English countryside.

Hannah is offering a lovely giveaway - see below!

Take it away, Hannah!


Since afternoon tea features quite a lot in my Honeychurch Hall series, I thought it would be a good idea to bake a British classic—the Victoria Sponge.

As the name suggests, this simple cake was named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901) who adopted the new craze for tea parties. However it was Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, who is credited as the creator of “teatime.” Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from a “sinking feeling” at about four o’clock in the afternoon. At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs into her dressing room, but soon she was inviting friends to join her. The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.

So here we go!

Hannah's niece Isla in the background!!

Victoria Sponge

4 oz butter
4 oz castor sugar/superfine sugar, not the granulated kind otherwise it will be gritty
2 eggs
Vanilla extract (if you want it)
4 oz flour
1 tsp baking powder (to make it rise unless you can get hold of self-raising flour)
A pinch salt
A tablespoonful of milk

Strawberry jam is most common but you can add freshly whipped cream

Icing sugar/powdered sugar

Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge so they will be at room temperature.
Turn oven on to 180 C or 350 F.
Lightly grease two circular 7” pans with either butter paper (i.e. the wrapping from a stick of butter) – or if you don’t have that, a dollop of butter on a piece of Scott towel will do just as well OR, if you are feeling particularly creative, line the pans with parchment/greaseproof paper. This makes it easy to turn the sponge out after cooking.

Beat the eggs separately in a basin and set aside.
Cube the butter and then mix with the sugar until creamy.
Beat in the eggs (but don’t let them curdle).

Sieve the flour and baking powder together and then fold into the ingredients … do not beat or stir because you’re essentially folding in “air.”
Add the milk and vanilla extract and stir gently. The mixture should have a “dropping” consistency.

Pour into the pre-greased pans and smooth level with a palette knife.
Pop the pans into the middle of the oven (not on the top shelf) for about 18 – 20 minutes.
Note: Do not open the oven door before the 18/20 minutes are up because this will make your sponge sink in the middle.
To test when a cake is done, thrust a skewer into it – if it comes out all sticky, it is not cooked! Put it back into the oven for a further five minutes.
When the cakes are done turn them out onto a wire tray to cool.

Layer on jam and cream and sprinkle with icing/confectioner’s sugar.

Always use good quality butter.
Always beat the butter to a cream unless the recipe states to the contrary.
The cake must be placed into the oven as soon as possible after the eggs have been added. If it’s allowed to remain too long, the cake will become heavy.

A little known fact:
In Isabella Beeton's 1874 cookbook, Mrs. Beeton's Cookery and Household Management a recipe is included for Victoria Sandwiches. The original method called for the mixture to be made in a rectangular roasting tin and halved horizontally, filled with jam and sliced into finger-shaped pieces.

For the Giveaway:

I'm offering a lovely raffle bag with English goodies - e.g. two books (one Vicky Hill and one Honeychurch Hall) - English candy etc. Leave a comment here {hint - see the word COMMENTS below -click it} and tell me what your favorite English treat is. Remember to leave your email or a cryptic version of it so I can figure out how to contact you!  Good luck!

You can reach Hannah online:


  1. Shepherds pie yummy .

    1. Hi Rhonda - I love Shepherd's Pie too - apparently Shepherd's Pie should be made with minced lamb and Cottage Pie with minced beef but I always make mine with beef. It's a childhood favorite.

  2. English muffins. I don't really have an idea what English treats would be. Scones maybe. I love all baked goods. Thanks for the chance!

    1. I love muffins - both varieties - American muffins vs English muffins - you can toast an English one but not an American one!

  3. Replies
    1. OMG Now you're talking! I absolutely love Sticky toffee pudding and you can buy it in the USA now in the frozen section of Whole Foods ...

  4. Tea & crumpets or scones! Have always wanted to try plum pudding and I'm sure there are many more I'm not familiar with that are fabulous!

    1. Crumpets toasted on a fork over an open fire are a winter favorite of mine. I've never tried plum pudding either. I'll put it on my bucket list!

  5. Scones, jam, and Devonshire cream make my tummy very happy. I have a feeling I'll be trying out this sponge recipe soon. Thank you for the giveaway. dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

    1. I hope you like it - I prefer strawberry jam but apricot is also yummy too.

  6. Love the recipe, cake history; and the book sounds fabulous! Wow!

  7. My favorite English treat is a raspberry scone with Deveonshire cream....ooooh, lots of cream!

  8. Anything with cream, or any of the biscuits I first had while on business trips to England.

    1. Did you know that Agatha Christie used to drink half a pint of cream as refreshment? Seriously.

    2. Whoa. As much as I love cream, that's even a bit much for me.

      You mentioned Harrogate. Of course anything from Betty's. Welsh Rarebit I could never duplicate.

    3. Gosh. I haven't had Welsh Rarebit for ages. I'd forgotten all about that.

  9. English toffee. Thank you for the books.

    1. I like Farrah's of Harrogate toffee - oh - and Marks & Spencer makes some excellent toffee, too.

  10. I love English toffee and guess this is more Scottish shortbread yum! Thanks for the chance to win.

    1. Now I'm dreaming English toffee ... I also love Quality Street's toffees that come in a tin at Christmas. I always have a box of Scottish shortbread in the house too!

  11. Full English breakfast with several cups of tea. Thanks!

    1. Transport cafes are the best places in England to find a good English breakfast ... but of course, you smell like fried bacon for the rest of the day.

  12. Good morning! For a treat I really love scones (with tea, or maybe cocoa), and if I'm being really honest my favorite chocolate is a milk chocolate Cadbury bar. Happy Sunday! :-) Nicole

    1. I LOVE Cadbury's chocolate. I'm happy to see it on the shelves here in the USA now too. I also like Galaxy milk chocolate. If you see it, give that a try!