And today I'm very excited to welcome the lovely Zara Stoneley – who has popped in from Tippermere, to share her cake story...
Zara was born in a small village in Staffordshire, educated in Cheshire, and went on to study at Liverpool University. After a successful career as an IT consultant, she decided to follow her heart and ran a dog grooming business for several years before becoming a full-time writer.
Her fun, romantic, romps draw on her experiences of village life, and her various love affairs with dogs, cats and horses. These days if she’s not at her laptop, you can usually find her trudging across fields on foot, or sat on the back of a horse.
Zara divides her time between a country cottage in Cheshire and an apartment in Barcelona. Her most recent novels include the popular Stable Mates, Country Affairs and Country Rivals.
And her latest release is...
'A great treat for readers…jam-packed with sexy men and horses.' Bestselling author Fiona Walker
Dashing eventer Rory is ready to button up his breeches and settle down. His gorgeous wife, Lottie, wants a bank balance in the black so she can protect the beautiful family estate for future generations.
But with the wedding business at Tipping House going up in flames, and rumours that it was arson not accident, Lottie begins to wonder who she can trust with her future.
Tranquil Tippermere is under siege as movies moguls and insurance investigators invade the countryside, and as events gather pace rescue plans start to look too good to be true, and intentions may not be as honourable as they seem.
As a moody, but definitely marvellous, polo player enters the fray and squares up to the eventing hero of Tippermere, does Lottie stand to lose her husband as well as her home?
You can buy ‘Country Rivals’ from Amazon or visit Zara’s website to see all buy links.
And you can grab the other Tippermere books (all the books can be read independently) here –
‘Stable Mates’ - ‘Country Affairs’ - ‘A Very Country Christmas’ (FREE!)
And now here's Zara's Bake Off...
My son’s now at university, and my husband works away a lot, so I don’t bake as often as I used to. It’s too dangerous - I’ve got a sweet tooth and would just polish the lot off on my own. But when the family are home carrot cake is the out-and-out favourite.
One of the great things about writing my Tippermere books has been able to include all those important village events. In ‘Country Affairs’ there was the charity cricket match and auction, and ‘A Very Country Christmas’ had the Boxing Day meet. And when I was writing ‘Country Rivals’ I knew there just had to be a village show. And no village show is complete without cake…
Lottie’s contribution to the country themed bake-off style show-stopper competition was a carrot cake – shaped like a carrot. Which is just about the level of my baking these days. I can’t believe I used to spend hours making Thomas Tank and Thunderbird cakes!
So here’s one of the best recipes I’ve found (carrot flavoured, but not carrot shaped). It’s gooey on the top, and soft and light in the middle – and I’m just wondering if I’ll get away with packing some of it in my rucksack when I head back to Barcelona.
Paul Hollywood’s Ultimate Carrot Cake
I love this recipe because it’s simple, is very light (which a lot of carrot cakes aren’t) – and always works!
155ml sunflower oil
230g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
230g light brown muscovado sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 satsuma or mandarin, plus strips to decorate
100g pecans, halved
260g carrots, coarsely grated
3 medium free-range eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease an 18cm loose-bottomed round cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Add the sugar, zest, pecans and grated carrots, then stir until well combined. Stir in the beaten eggs and oil, then mix well.
Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack, leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool completely before icing.
While it’s cooling you can make the topping.
Beat 50g of butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer until really soft. Add 200g cream cheese and beat again until well mixed. Sift over 150g icing sugar.
In Paul’s recipe he then adds 2 tsp orange juice, but I replace this with lemon juice which I used to use in another recipe. Beat until smooth.
Spread the topping onto the cake... And enjoy...