Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scary Stories and Dark Cherry Frangipane Cake



Last month I accomplished something phenomenal: I became a published author. No, it isn't my own novel (yet) but nearly 5000 words from my own head received an acceptance letter and a publishing contract and edits from a real editor and a brief author bio all about me in a published book with an ISBN number and a Facebook page and a table of contents that has my name in it! This is where I have to remind myself to breathe. Okay, better now.

Stacey Graham ("The Zombie Tarot", "The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide") was looking for ghost stories centered around a haunted object to publish in her anthology, "No Rest For The Wicked". I hadn't written a short story in who knows how long and I'm too chicken to write horror but I thought I'd give it a shot.

My haunted object just came out of nowhere. It's atypical for a ghost story, seemingly innocuous, and found all around us. I loved it. From there, everything just fell into place. A little Googling led me to the perfect antagonist, which came with the perfect back story and the perfect plot. It was the smoothest, easiest writing I'd done in a very long time. I wrote in the dark and scared the daylights out of myself to make sure my readers would feel real fear in the narration. It was downright magical.

The day before the deadline for submissions, I was still finishing up some last minute editing and polishing when a storm rolled in. The sky went black and violet in a matter of minutes, just before the tornado warnings began. I gathered up the kids and my laptop and we ran for shelter. In the safety of a stairwell, I kept plugging away at my manuscript while the storm raged outside. The power flickered and died and the house trembled in the wind. It was exactly as you've heard it described a million times before; it sounded like a freight train.

Eventually, the clouds passed over and the late afternoon sun gave us a good look at the damage. The kids' trampoline was vertical, wrapped around a tree in the neighbor's yard, and shingles from the roof were scattered across my lawn. Many other homes in the area had roof damage and trees ripped out of the ground, roots and all. Some of those giant trees took down power lines and blocked the entrance to the subdivision.

Night fell and we still had no power. I edited by candlelight until the battery in my laptop died. The house lit up in waves as construction crews with spotlights moved through to clear the roads. My kids gathered their laser tag equipment and the living room flashed red, blue, and green like fireworks in the cathedral ceiling.

It was late when the power was restored, but I managed to finish up my story and submit it somewhere in those early hours before dawn.

I checked my email a thousand times that day, waiting to hear back from the editor. I checked it twice as often the next day, and the day after that. When the email showed up in my inbox, I was completely calm and rational. I barely even cracked a smile. There was no change in my heart rate and I didn't feel the need to call anyone or climb up on the table and beat my chest like Tarzan while crowing at the top of my lungs. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a dirty stinking liar.

My story, "The Fruits of Labor", will be available next month in "No Rest For The Wicked" from Rainstorm Press and edited by Stacey Graham. I'll try to be calm and rational when it happens but I'm not promising anything.

There are so many spoilers I want to write here, but I don't want to ruin it for you. I'll just leave you with this;
And also this;
And, of course, the recipe;

Death Becomes Her (a.k.a Dark Cherry Frangipane Cake)

1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour or almond meal (or 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 cup pitted dark sweet cherries (well drained if canned or frozen)
1 cup frangipane (recipe follows) or crumbled almond paste
2 cups streusel (recipe follows)
glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" tube pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined, scraping bowl as needed.

Spoon about half the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the cherries in a single layer on top of the batter, taking care not to let the cherries touch the sides of the pan to prevent sticking and burning. Spread frangipane (or crumbled almond paste) over the cherries, keeping it away from the sides of the pan. Top with the remaining batter, making sure it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched. Let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack then reinvert (so streusel side is up), and let cool completely. Drizzle glaze over cake, letting it drip down the sides. Cake can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to four days (if it lasts that long, which it won't).

Frangipane:

2/3 cup sliced blanched almonds or almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 t salt
3 T cold butter, cut in small pieces
1 large egg

If using blanched almonds, toast at 375 degrees until fragrant and golden. Set aside to cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse nuts, sugar, and salt until finely ground (pulse to combine, if using almond flour). With the machine running, add butter and egg; processing until mixture is smooth.

Streusel:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt; cut in the butter using a pastry blender or fork until large, moist clumps form. Extra streusel can be stored in the freezer for future use.

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 T heavy cream or milk
1/8 t vanilla

Whisk powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla until completely smooth. Immediately drizzle glaze over cake.