Monday, April 3, 2017

Caramel Crush

INGRID THOFT
It is such a treat to celebrate the publication of our own Jenn McKinlay's new book, Caramel Crush: The 9th installment in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series.  Jenn is the New York Times best selling author of five series and is releasing a stand alone at the end of May.  How does she write so much while dodging the dirty socks of her teenage hooligans and hanging out with her hubby's band?  She's either a wonder of time management or a whirling dervish, not to mention great fun with a terrific sense of humor.

Without further ado, here's Jenn to tell you all about Caramel Crush!


You’d think after nine books, I’d run out of ideas for having killings tied to baked goods. Yeah, no. Unfortunately, there are just enough crazy (read homicidal) people inhabiting this blue marble to keep me from running out of plots, motives, or incentives for my characters to do harm via cupcake or by baking related implement.

This latest installment was initiated by a simple online search for pictures of cupcakes. No, looking at their yummy frosted perfection never gets old and, yes, it frequently inspires. In this case, while doing my random search, I saw a picture of a batch of break up cupcakes with my favorite being the one that reads -- "It's not me, it's you" -- and the plot of Caramel Crush was fully formed in my head before I even saved the picture for reference.

Of course, I had to expand my search to see if the break up cupcake is a thing. It hasn’t taken over the world – yet – but I did note there is new baking craze afoot called the divorce cake. Now that we are firmly in middle-age, Hub and I have been watching a lot of relationships unravel around us. It’s not that hard to find a motive for murder in the suburbs – cheating, drinking, gambling, people freaking out because they feel old -- really, we’ve seen it all and now it appears to come with cake on the side. That is some consolation, I suppose.

Of course, from there I had to mosey along and see what other reasons there are for celebratory or conciliatory baked goods. I found several surprises such as being the fastest sperm, an apology cake for vomiting all over someone’s apartment and cat, and a celebration cake for losing one’s virginity. Sometimes the Interweb scares me!

In case you haven’t made a hobby of cake recon like me, here’s a link to one of my most favorite cake blogs to get you started. This particular post features mean but funny cakes because, apparently, you really can say anything with cake:


For Caramel Crush, I stayed with break up cupcakes as my vehicle for murder and mayhem. Because while I wouldn’t enjoy being dumped, I might be more forgiving if there is cake involved, you know, until the cake is gone.

When a breakup via cupcake threatens to crumble their friend's life for good, Mel and Angie race to solve the murder as this New York Times bestselling series continues...

Love is in the air at Fairy Tale Cupcakes as Angie prepares for her wedding, but co-owner, Mel, is preparing for a breakup. Her old friend, Diane Earnest, is dumping her fiancĂ© after discovering he’s only marrying her for her money. She wants Mel to personally deliver a batch of caramel breakup cupcakes to the louse and give her a play-by-play of his reaction.

When Mel finally tracks the man down, the look on his face isn’t the reaction she was expecting: he’s dead. After the police arrive and see the incriminating cupcakes, Diane becomes their prime suspect. If she hopes to taste freedom again, Mel and Angie must make sure the real killer gets their just desserts...


So, what about you Reds? Are you more forgiving with cake on the side? What’s the weirdest reason for cake you’ve ever seen?

69 comments:

  1. I don't know. I think cake used to deliver bad news would ruin that cake for me. Of course, ice cream, on the other hand. I'm much more of an ice cream man than cake. Or pie. Give me pie, and I might forget it all. Until the pie is gone, of course.

    I've gotten to read this book already, and it is fabulous. Fans of the series will be very pleased with it.

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    1. Any particular kind of pie, Mark?

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    2. Thanks, Mark! I LOVED your review! Pie and ice cream can give me temporary amnesia, too. Cherry or apple for me - and you?

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    3. Any particular kind of pie? The round kind. :)

      Seriously, I'm allergic to nuts, but other than that anything goes.

      Jenn, I'm glad you liked the review. I figured you would since I loved the book. :)

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  2. Congratulations, Jenn . . . this sounds like a great book . . .
    I'm not at all sure about cake making me more forgiving, though. Maybe if it's chocolate . . . and big . . . and chocolate . . . .

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    1. . . . With lots of rich, gooey frosting . . . Yeah, I'm with you, Joan.

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    2. Chocolate cake and I can forgive almost anything.

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  3. No murder involved, but I once ordered a cake to celebrate a new musical instrument. My husband played the mountain dulcimer, and one year I ordered him a custom-built koa dulcimer for his birthday. Only it wasn't ready by his birthday. So I got him something else for b-day, and when the dulcimer finally arrived (I had it shipped to my office) I conspired with the guys at the music store where he worked to create a presentation party. Of course I ordered cake, and had to take a photo of the instrument to the baker so she'd know what it looked like when she did the frosting.

    When the big day came, I took the afternoon off work, picked up the cake, and set the whole thing up at the music store. The owner called Warren to come in for the afternoon, saying one of the other workers was sick. This made Warren very grumpy, but he came in, and then got even grumpier when he saw that the 'sick' guy was still there. He told me later that he also wondered what the heck I was doing there.

    Then he spied the very recognizable box with the bow on it, realized there was a dulcimer inside, had the instrument out in a heartbeat, and before the rest of us could even say, "Oh, wow!" he was back in a practice room, tuning it up and playing. He never even noticed the cake. That was okay. He loved his new dulcimer, and that left more cake for the rest of us.

    And yes, he did remember his manners and come out of the practice room eventually to join the celebration. The dulcimer became his favorite, and the completely overlooked cake became part of our family lore.

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    1. Gigi - you clearly hit a homerun with the dulcimer. I can't imagine missing a cake but I am sugar fixated...er...motivated.

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  4. What a lovely story Gigi! And Jenn, congratulations! Now of course I'm wondering what was in those cupcakes...

    I can't think of a bad cake, but John made me a birthday cake before we were married. It was shaped like a tennis racket (that's how we met) and had all the strings painted on. The other men at the party were annoyed at how high he'd raised the bar:). I was swept away of course!

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    1. John has cake decorating skills? I love that! I don't think Hub has ever baked a cake but he makes a crazy good key lime pie.

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  5. Interesting thoughts Ingrid. I don't remember the last time someone made me a cake, but then I'm the baker in the house. Mark, I get it about the pie.

    I hope you are happy Ingrid, because I just decided to make a cake today. A Tuesday cake, a cake to celebrate the rain and my jeans that are feeling a little tight, maybe cupcakes or maybe a layer cake or a sheet cake. But definitely a chocolate cake. I use the recipe on the back of the King Arthur Cake Flour box, definitely full of sugar and gluten.

    http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/simple-and-rich-chocolate-cake-recipe



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    1. Yum! Once again, I wish I lived in your neighborhood!

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    2. Let us know how it turns out!

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  6. Me, too, on pie, I'm very picky about my cupcakes. Too often the icing is beautiful but the taste, not so much. Lucy, did you take a picture of that cake? Was it good? he MADE it for you????

    I love a good cake. And cupcakes have always seemed to have the perfect icing to cake ratio, as I said earlier, a good thing when the icing is butter cream or cream cheese or... dairy/real.

    Birthday cakes have always been a big deal in this house. The birthday girl gets to pick flavor and toppings (usually includes little nonpareils) and decorate.

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  7. AND Jenn! Congratulations on the book (love the title...love caramel) Does caramel figure in the story?

    AND PS we have the most lovely bakery near us Baby Cakes - they make really good versions of Hostess cupcakes (chocolate chocolate with white squiggle and creamy filling) and they do to-order squiggles. So I've ordered them for engagement parties with the initials of the prospective bride and groom squiggled across the tops.

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    1. To order squiggles????!!!!! Hallie, you may have given me my next plot! LOL! The research is the best part of this series. Honestly.

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  8. I'm trying to cut way back on my sweets, but at least I don't have to worry about Caramel Crush--or do I? The cover looks good enough to eat.... Best cupcake I ever had was a couple of years ago in Dallas, at Smallcakes in Mockingbird Station. Icing that was both beautiful AND delicious. A cupcake worthy of being called cake. Chocolate, natch. I once made a cake shaped like a Pokeman ball for littlest nephew and one that was supposed to be a piano for his brother. Little boys can be very forgiving when it comes to cake!

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    1. Flora - I hear you. I once made cat cupcakes that looked like mice...boys are forgiving. Bless their hearts.

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  9. So, this is a thing -- gender reveal cakes at baby showers. When you cut into the cake, you find that it is pink or blue, or filled with the appropriate colored m&m-s. (Plural of M&M?). Anyway, my daughter decided she was not revealing gender, but she and the friend who gave her a shower cooked up a plot. There was the cake, with a little sign on top "Girl or Boy? Which will it be? Slice into the cake and you will see."

    It was a rainbow cake!

    I am a recovering chocoholic now in love with caramel.

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    1. I love that! I already told my husband that if we have children, we're not doing a "Gender reveal" party, or if so, the cake we cut into would be purple (my favorite color).

      Why do people care about the gender so much, anyway? It's a baby. Buy gifts that a baby (or parents of said baby) would need. Sorry, bit of a hot button issue for me. I hate how things are so heavily gendered for children.

      On a happier note, I'm obsessed with salted caramel. I was skeptical until my friend gave me a homemade batch and OMG. Regular caramel just doesn't cut it for me anymore.

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    2. I haven't been to a baby shower in ages. This was not a thing back in my hooligan bearing days. We went with the good old bundt (always think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding when I say bundt) cake. And now I want one. Mini bundts are a thing. And now I want one of those, too.

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    3. Oh, and Denise, I love the rainbow cake idea! Brilliant.

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    4. Glad to know someone else has that same association about bundt cakes!!

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    5. There was a JRW post by Rhys about her special pound cakes -- look for it.

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  10. I had to google "an apology cake for vomiting all over someone’s apartment and cat." OMG RTFL. I could spend all day looking at cakes on the Internet, Jenn.

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    1. Me, too, Cathy! But then I want a cake - a whole cake - to eat while I browse.

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  11. Congratulations, Jenn on the release of Caramel Crush! Although when I first saw the title, I thought of the Candy Crush Saga game even though I don't play it anymore! I hope you never run out of cupcake ideas and antics for Mel and Angie!!

    Apology cakes and some of the reasons you listed above are hilarious. Me, I hated birthday cakes with frosting as a kid...sorry. I was the one who scraped all the frosting off the cake, and left the frosted pieces for others to enjoy. But any cake made with chocolate multiple ways is fine with me.

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    1. On of my hooligans is that kid while the other one is the kid who eats the frosting and leaves the cake - they have a system worked out. I used to be a frosting only girl now I am a stickler for a good cake-frosting ratio.

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  12. Our family birthdays also involved to-order cakes per request. Still do, actually. I like German Sweet Chocolate, and my sister always requested Carrot Cake, both homemade. My mother was never much of a cook but she could bake a mean cake, by golly. My own kids used to ask for rainbow box cakes, with rainbow sprinkles, which were cute but box cakes can't hold a candle to homemade, in my opinion. Last week I made a homemade chocolate cake for a friend's 60th birthday, which was a big hit.

    My youngest daughter--who just got engaged!, is the scratch baker in our family. She figured out a way to send premade Irish Car Bomb and other cakes to Afghanistan, baked in half-pint canning jars. The recipient also received an icing kit, to be made on the spot and added to the jar. Because it's so hot and humid there cake is just about the last thing they get, so they were a huge hit.

    CakeWrecks is hysterically funny, especially the comments of John and Jen, the bloggers. They are so clever.

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    1. Karen, congrats on the engagement of youngest!!! Also, big wow to her for sending cake to the troops - that is wonderful. I'm not much of a cook but I do love to bake. When it comes to sweet or savory I will pick sweet EVERY time.

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  13. I never think about cake--bear with me here--but then, when for some reason I have a bite of really good cake, it is SO amazing. Lemony white cake, and even that cheap grocery store sheet cake. Why is that? I'd rather have the cake than the icing. (Yes, Grace, I'm with you.) But often I scrape off the icing, and put it on the side, then have a little bit with each bite.

    My agent sent me Baked by Melissa cupcakes for a congratulations present and they were adorable! Tiny tiny multi-flavored. And so pretty!

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    1. Hank, I love Baked by Melissa. When I was in the Citizens Police Academy, one of my fellow cadets (?) brought some all the way back from NYC for me. It's like an amuse-bouche of cupcake!

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  14. And I'm seeing a lot of photos of multi-colored insides of cakes. How do they do that?

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    1. There are several different ways, all of them fiddly.

      When we were clearing out my in-laws' home I found a set of checkerboard cake pans. There are four or five of them, in graduated sizes. The idea is you bake the cake with different colors of batter in two different pans that are nested. When you cut the cake, if you do it right, it ends up looking like a checkerboard.

      I've not tried it, because it just sounds daunting!

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    2. I have the checkerboard pans and have made a few of those cakes. One Christmas I dropped one of the layers on the floor - but that's another post.

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    3. Oh, Jenn, that was a tragedy! All that work.

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  15. And oh, congratulations, Jenn!! Hurray! There must be book cupcakes, right?

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  16. I have to admit that I love supermarket cakes. I love homemade, too, but there's something about the ones in the bakery section that are delicious.

    My husband's family has a traditional birthday cake that I try to make for him each year. It's an angel food cake that's cut into two layers. The "frosting" is whipped cream and chocolate pudding mixed together, and then you crumble up Heath bars and basically throw them at the frosting so they stick to the surface. It's not pretty, but it's delicious!

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    1. This sounds divine to me, Ingrid. How did this become tradition?

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  17. Congratulations, Jenn!

    I'm a big fan of white almond cake, but I am apparently the only one in my family. I like red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I've cut way back on my cake-eating and I can walk by cupcakes/cake/pie - unless I'm in a bad mood. Then, watch out! But I love looking at the artistry of really fancy decorated cakes/cupcakes. Too pretty to eat.

    Hank, I think they color the batter, pour it in the pan, then swirl a knife through it to get the marbled look (either rainbow or chocolate/vanilla). I think. I saw something like it on Food Network once.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Mary, I have to master the walk on by. I admire your strength of character.

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  18. I have to chime in and say that I'm another person who doesn't like frosting, unless it's cream cheese frosting. As a kid, I would always eat the inner cake part and leave a wall of frosting behind. My husband thinks I'm so weird because the frosting is his favorite part, so I give him my icing and I eat his cake. Win-Win ^^

    As much as I love chocolate, my favorite cakes are more on the unconventional side: tres leches (three milks cake), carrot cake, sweet potato cake, lemon cake, and Thai tea cake with condensed milk frosting (the only non-cream cheese frosting I like).

    Also, I'm Filipino, so growing up my birthday cake would be a sheet cake in the traditional flavor of ube macapuno (purple yam and young coconut) and my friends thought I was sooo weird for having a purple cake. Pretty layer cake example of what my childhood cakes looked like: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/73/3b/c1/733bc12c2e4d0e044d6d15c5f5726142.jpg

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    1. P.S. Congratulations on your new book! I was so into all this cake talk, I forgot to send my congrats ^^

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    2. Mia - Thank you! And, wow, that is four layers of violet perfection! I was just in Hawaii and had the purple yam with my dinner - yummy - and I am a coconut freak so this is right up my alley. You may have inspired a new cupcake for the series. So - double thank you!!!

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    3. OMG, if you include an ube macapuno cupcake in your series that would be so cool! Not gonna lie, I would totally use it for bragging rights. "Oh, that pretty purple cupcake? Yeah, totally inspired by me. No big." ^_~

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  19. I looovvvve cake. But I rarely eat it. I am so looking forward to wedding cake at the end of this month. The most memorable birthday cake was a pound cake I baked for my now husband when he was in the army in Vietnam. The first one weighed a ton; it didn't rise for some reason. I quickly made a second one, hoping to get it baked and cooled and packed in time to get it to the post office before it closed on Saturday. This one worked. I packed it in popped corn and included a can of frosting and some packets of pre-sweetened Kool-Aid. I shipped it off on time. A couple of weeks later future hubby wrote to tell me it had arrived and was waiting when they returned from the field for a little stand down. The cake was good and they even ate the popcorn. As for breakup cakes I've certainly heard of them but haven't seen one. I'd be afraid to eat one, just in case there is a bit of malice in the breakup.

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    1. Oh, Pat, how lovely to send cake and smart to send edible packing material! Yeah, it was very tempting to have the breakup cupcake contain poison but it seemed too easy. Knowing myself, I would eat the breakup cupcake because I have zero will power!

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  20. Oh, I love cake and baking cakes. For the sake of true love I have been trying to master pie.

    The title of your new book reminds me of this delicious frosting from Our Best Bites:
    http://ourbestbites.com/2016/09/brown-sugar-caramel-frosting/

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    1. Mercy! Trisha, that brown sugar caramel frosting looks A-mazing. Seriously, there was drool involved here.

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  21. Congratulations on Caramel Crush, Jenn! I have to admit I am not a cake person. I don't think I've ever made a birthday cake... how embarrassing is that? But I do like anything with cream cheese in it, and I used to have a recipe for Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes that was divine. That's long since lost, but I suspect I could find one on the Internet:-)

    My daughter and s-in-law did a baby reveal cake. Or, rather, my daughter's best friend had the cake made, because she was the only one who knew the baby's gender. When they cut the cake, pink jellybeans spilled out of the middle. And I, embarrassingly, burst into tears. I have no memory at all of how the cake tasted.

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    1. Aw, that is lovely, Debs. I'd cry, too, and then eat all the jelly beans :)

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  22. I love the idea of break-up cupcakes, not to mention divorce cakes. A cake for any occasion, I say. Like right now, I've love to order a "here comes the sun" cake for spring (living in Portland, OR). :-)

    Congratulations on your book birthday, Jenn.

    Ingrid mentioned the time factor--as in how you actually get it all done. I'd love a practical blog post about that sometime. I can barely write a book a year. And then the promo aspect!

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    1. Lisa, what perfect timing. I'm at the helm of Jungle Red next week so I'll see if I can do a post about my time management. I'm afraid, it can be summed up in three words -- I'm a spaz. But I'll see what shakes out.

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  23. Break up cakes, divorce cakes. Book birthday cakes - hum.... I think I'll go with congratulations on your book birthday, Jenn! It sounds like a tasty treat.

    Thinking back to my single days, well, Mary Poppins did sing that song about a spoonful of honey, why not a slice of cake too! Break-up cakes sound like the perfect vehicle to say it all with a sweetened tongue-who knows, it could take the edge off enough to well...who knows. And yes, it's NOT me, it was THEM! Could I get mine with fudge frosting, please?

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    1. Kait, you had me at fudge. Yes, absolutely fudge frosting!

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  24. Agree, Lisa!

    And this reminds me--my mother used to make a lamb cake, in a cast iron mold, and then cover it with white frosting, then and pave' with coconout. Very lamb-y.

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    1. At first glance, Hank, I thought you meant a cake made of lamb! Eew. Or ewe.

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    2. Oh,right, disgusting. And how funny of you. Ewe. (and right, eew.)

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    3. I thought the same thing--yucko. :-)

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    4. I read it that way, too. Not gonna lie - I blanched. Coincidentally, I do have a post about a bunny cake coming up on Easter...stay tuned.

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    5. Not me! I remember seeing pictures of Easter lamb cakes in women's magazines way back when. Lots of coconut and jelly bean eyes.

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  25. HAPPY PUB DAY, SWEETIE!!!!!

    Cake is my happy place. And pie. And ice cream . . .

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    1. Thanks, love! Mine, too. And candy. And donuts. And macarons. And cookies. And...well, you get it.

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  26. I am so happy to be back with the Reds. After a two week vacation to Hawaii, which was fantastic and a nineteen-hour unexpected stay at the Atlanta airport, which was a nightmare, I slept in my own bed last night and delighted in the home sweet home phase. Does anyone else say hello to their house when they return from a trip? It's like I'm coming back to an old friend to me.

    Jen, I had no idea about break-up cupcakes/cakes and divorce cakes. Your research takes you some interesting places. I do hope you do sampling as a part of your research. I love the idea of your new book, with those break-up cupcakes starting it off. I am in such awe of the amount of writing you do, Jen. You must have great mastery of time efficiency. Before I left on vacation, I bought the first book in your Library Lover's Mysteries, Books Can Be Deceiving, and I plan to start there on your vast mountain of series and books. However, I do keep thinking about those cupcakes.

    Hank, my sister-in-law used to make a lamb cake for her family's Easter, and it was a big hit. That might be something to consider for me this year, as the grands will be here for Easter.

    So, Happy Book Birthday, Jen, and I'm so happy to be back!

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  27. Hi, Kathy,

    I do sample and sample and sample while I do research! Thanks for picking up the library mystery. My stuff is an I Love Lucy/Agatha Christie mashup - just so you're prepared.

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  28. Jenn, I love these mini cupcakes - easier for me to nibble :-) I heart caramel. Sometimes I like chocolate.

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