Happy memories…

Guest blog from Julia Wherrell

We have all been feeling immensely sad for the past couple of weeks after the loss of both Joanna’s Mother, Diana, and step-father, John, in such quick succession.

I was fortunate enough to know both Diana and John for about 45 years and have shared many Christmasses and birthday celebrations with them after we all ended up living near each other in Devon. They were very kind and inclusive, there was always a wonderful sense of warmth and the comfortable feeling of things being done ‘just so’.

As a child, I was always awe-struck by Diana as I thought she looked like a film star – always elegantly dressed and coiffured. John had the most beautiful speaking voice and what people call ‘a military bearing’, and they made a fine couple.

I always associate Diana with two things –­ flower arranging and baking. She excelled at both and always had flowers in her house and delicious smells coming from the oven. Up until a couple of years ago, she was still entering flower arrangements in the local flower show and I can remember helping to carry them to the car in readiness for John to deliver them to the judging tent in good time. She invariably won!

About three years ago, when my own Father was visiting me, we were invited to tea with Diana and John. I had assumed with would be a cup of tea and a biscuit… but no! Diana wheeled in a tea trolley laden with freshly-baked scones, home made jam, fresh strawberries and clotted cream! It was a magnificent feast and my Father, well known for his healthy appetite, tucked in very happily.

Diana’s favourite flowers were violets and I know these were foremost in Joanna’s mind when we wrote our second novel ‘A Violet Death’. I was hunting round for violets to photograph for the front cover when I received a call from Diana telling me that she had plenty in bloom in her garden if I wanted to drive over and snap them… so I did.

They will be hugely missed by their family and friends.




Malted Chocolate Cake

We decided we needed to celebrate the ongoing success of our latest Swaddlecombe Mystery novel ‘ A Fowl Murder’… and what better way to celebrate than with a cup of tea and homemade chocolate cake!

The recipe is by Mary Berry from her ‘Absolute Favourites’ cook book ­ – an excellent buy by the way!

Cake Ingredients

  • 30g (1oz) malted chocolate drink powder
  • 30g (1oz) cocoa powder
  • 225g (8oz) butter softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g (8oz) caster sugar
  • 225g (8oz) self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs

Icing Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp malted chocolate drink powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons hot milk
  • 125g (4 ½ oz) butter, softened
  • 250g (9oz) icing sugar
  • 50g (2oz) dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 20+ Maltesers to decorate


You will need 2 20cm (8 inch) round sandwich tins. Preheat oven to 180c/160 fan/Gas 4 and grease the tins with butter and line the bases with baking paper.

Measure the malted chocolate drink powder and cocoa powder into a large bowl, pour over 2 tablespoons of water and mix to a paste. Add the remaining cake ingredients and beat until smooth.

Divide evenly between the prepared tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Set aside in the tins to cool for 5 mins then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, measure the malted chocolate drink powder into a bow, add the hot milk and mix until smooth. Add the butter, icing sugar and melted chocolate and mix again until smooth, then add the boiling water to  give a gloss to the icing.

Place one cake on a plate and spread over half the icing. Sandwich with the other cake and spread (or pipe) the remaining icing on top using the tip of a rounded palette knife to create a swirled effect from the centre to the edge of the cake. Arrange the Maltesers over the top.


Terrific truffles!

Truffles are a fun gift that so many people like over Christmas – I thought it was worth adding a new recipe for them – it’s relatively quick and easy and very, very rich!


  • 300ml double cream
  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • Good splash of alcohol – Baileys, Amaretto, Tia Maria, Whisky, brandy – whatever your personal favourite

Heat the cream and butter gently and then pour over some broken chocolate and mix slowly. Add the alcohol and combine again. Put in the fridge to harden.

Then remove from the fridge and roll into small balls – I rather like using disposable gloves as otherwise the chocolate gets everywhere, but of course you don’t have to.

Now decide what the covering for your truffles will be. Shown in the picture are various different choices, chopped nuts (my favourite), sugar crystals, sprinkles or anything else you fancy.

Now find a nice little box, line it with some tissue and place the truffles in individual sweet cases and package as a gift! How fab is that?

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Banana chocolate chip muffins

Muffins, or little fairy cakes, call them what you will, are a good tea time standby for visitors, as well as much loved family fare.

These are pretty straight forward.


  • 225g self raising flour
  • 125g butter
  • 125g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 200ml milk
  • 75g chocolate chips
  • 2 chopped bananas

Preheat your oven to 180ºc or Gas 4. Then either grease a muffin tin or line with little cake cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg. Add the flour, baking powder and milk. Then gently stir until all the ingredients are combined – don’t over do it. Gently add in the banana pieces.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 15-20 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Easy peasy!


Perfect ‘Tea Time’ cup cakes

When I spotted these gorgeous ‘tea time cupcakes’ on Facebook and re-posted it a few weeks ago – it got a very enthusiastic response from you all! So, I thought I’d follow up on the original post and share the full details with you.

These beautiful tea party toppers are not actually that difficult to make, but you do need to source everything before you start… I have been through it and all the items they mention can be bought online in the UK. You might want to change things a little as some of the items they use (like the fondant impressions mat) are a bit expensive, but there might be cheaper alternatives if you have a look around.

The original project featured vanilla pumpkin spiced cupcakes… but obviously you can choose whatever flavour cup cakes you want. It’s the decoration that we are obviously all mad for!

I take no credit for this gorgeous creation – we have Sweetopia.net to thank for that.

Here is the link to their blog which explains very clearly how you make these stunning tea party toppers.

If you want a challenge – I say, have a go! This will definitely be a labour of love… if you do have a go, please share your thoughts and photos – I would love to see how you get on!

Smiles Joanna