Sunday, May 2, 2010

Review: The Icing on the Cupcake

Summary: In this delectable novel—complete with recipes—Jennifer Ross frosts a sweet story of a young woman fulfilling her dreams, one delicious cupcake at a time.

In Ansley Waller’s world of Southern belles and gentlemen, getting a diamond ring isn’t just important—it’s the ultimate goal. So when her fiancé, Parish, unceremoniously kicks her to the curb and cancels their upcoming wedding, Ansley is so ashamed that she decides to leave Dallas and make a fresh start. In a surprise move, she heads to New York City to live with her recently widowed grandmother, Vivian, whom she’s never met. In turn, Vivian gives Ansley a no-nonsense ultimatum: Rather than wallow in misery, either get a job or go home.

The Waller women have a tradition of baking their way out of sorrow. So Ansley mixes batch after batch of creative cupcakes—Black Bottom Heartache, Moving Blues Banana Caramel, Tres Leches Made Small. Before long, she’s opening up her own cupcake shop and even trying her hand at dating. But the ways of Manhattan’s eligible bachelors are altogether different from their Southern counterparts, and Ansley’s nearly fail-safe tactics fall flat. And worse, someone’s got a half-baked scheme to sabotage Ansley’s new life. It’ll take a cup of courage and a dash of Southern charm, plus a few secret ingredients, if Ansley hopes to pull off her recipe for success. -- Ballantine Books

You know by now that I do tend to judge a book by it's cover, and I absolutely love the cover of THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE by Jennifer Ross. Talk about cover appeal -- it's absolutely gorgeous! And then, when I started reading the book, I saw that there were recipes included. I immediately knew that I was going to have a good time with this book.

THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE was just the type of book I was in the mood for. It was a light, fun, chick lit type book that just allowed me to escape for a few hours. While I did thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I admit that I was craving cupcakes the entire time I read it. Just thought I'd warn you -- the book will make you want to bake and it will make you hungry too!

THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE is a cute story about a Southern bell named Ansley. She has everything a deb is supposed to want -- she's graduating from Baylor and getting married to "the perfect man." But when her fiance realizes that she isn't a very nice person (she's actually pretty mean), he dumps her. Ansley decides to head to New York City -- partly to escape and avoid embarrassement. She moves in with her wealthy grandmother whom she doesn't really know because her mother and her grandmother have been estranged -- but that's another story!

In quite a few ways, THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE is really a coming-of-age story for Ansley. And believe me, Ansley acted like a child and definitely needed to grow up. Once she hits rock bottom (or at least rock bottom in her world), she is forced to start over. She realizes that she can no longer depend on a man, and she starts evaluating herself and her skills. She ends up deciding to open her own cupcake bakery (thank goodness for the mini-trust fund!); and in the process, she turns into an independent woman who also happens to care about others. It's a very sweet story.

I really enjoyed Ansley's story and I grew to love her character, but I also liked the side story about Ansley's grandmother. Ansley's grandmother was recently widowed, and her husband left her with a mess of tax problems. She also had zero relationship with her daughter (Ansley's mom.) There is no doubt that she made quite a few mistakes in her past, but she was a very strong woman (and in many ways very similar to Ansley.) I really enjoyed seeing how she dealt with Ansley, and ultimately how she resolved her relationship problems with her daughter.

THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE was definitely a cute book, but it also had some substance. There were some twists and turns in the plot that caught me by surprise, and I thought the relationship aspects of the novel were interesting. There were definitely themes about mother/daughter relationships, romantic love relationships, as well as friendships. In fact, I think this book would make a good pick for book clubs, especially if your group wanted a lighter read for the summer. Plus, just imagine the yummy cupcakes you could make for the meeting -- you could even do a cupcake swap with all of the members!

Speaking of which, I absolutely adored all of the cupcake recipes in this book. The author is an avid baker and included cupcake recipes at the end of each chapter. I also really appreciated all of the little baking tips that appeared throughout this novel -- like preheating techniques and the benefit of potato starch! I thought it was so creative how the author tied each of recipes to the prior chapter. All of the recipes looked delicious (who am I kidding?), but one really stood out for me (plus it seems perfect for this time of year.)

Heartbreak with a Strawberry on Top

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
6 ounces vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons potato starch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine ground salt, either sea salt or iodized
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup diced fresh strawberries

To make the cupcakes:
1. Place baking stone in middle rack of oven. Place mixing bowl in freezer for 5 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
3. Cream the sugar and butter together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the egg and beat for 2 minutes.
5. Add the yogurt and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
6. Whisk the flour, potato starch, baking powder, salt and baking soda together.
7. Add the flour mixture to the batter. Mix until just blended.
8. Fold in the diced strawberries using a rubber spatula.
9. Pour the batter into the paper-lined cupcake holders. Fill three-quarters of the way to the top.
10. Turn heat down to 350. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean after it is placed in the middle of a cupcake.
11. Cool for 5 minutes. Place on baking racks.

Yield: 12 cupcakes


2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 fresh strawberries, about 2 tablespoons mashed

To Make the Frosting:
1. Cream the butter, powdered sugar, and mashed strawberries with an electric mixer until creamy and smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Chill frosting for 15 minutes or until thick.
3. Frost cooled cupcakes.

Ms. Ross also has a fabulous blog where she posts recipes and photos of creative cupcakes!

If you are a fan of chick lit or cupcakes (and who doesn't love a cupcake?), then I recommend checking out THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE!

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her book.

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Diana S said...

wonder review. I can't wait to read this. and your right, the cover is delish!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Ack! I want a cupcake! But my rear end doesn't! I don't know if I would have picked up this book or not, but the idea appeals to me. I love stories where someone turns themself around and reinvents their life. It makes me feel good! So many books leave me with a stomach ache.

bermudaonion said...

I'm with Sandy - I want a cupcake after reading your review! The book sounds good and Ansley is just the perfect name for a Southern belle.

Beth F said...

I love the sound of this book and great review. You cracked me up with this line: "thank goodness for the mini-trust fund!"

If I hadn't just made (and eaten!) Mr. BFR's birthday cake, I'd be thinking about baking today.

The recipe looks good too. I like the addition of yogurt in the batter.

Beth Hoffman said...

Delightful review, Julie! And I'm so glad to read it because I just bought this book last week.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Yes, you've made all of us want cupcakes now! But I think I better stick to books with broccoli on the cover...

Amused said...

This book sounds adorable! I'll have to get a copy!

Margot said...

I'll bet it's impossible to read this book without baking and/or eating a cupcake. The recipe looks very good. I also like the sound of these two main characters. I like stories where the characters aren't perfect but they are working on making changes.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I just got this in the mail last week -- I closed my eyes so I couldn't read your review!!

Janicu said...

Forget the book making me want to eat cupcakes - this REVIEW makes me want one!

Becky said...

This looks so good. I really love these kinds of "kick back" books. I'm going to have to check it out!

Karlie said...

LOVE the cover!

S. Krishna said...

I think the cover is great as well. I actually didn't love this book though, I got about 70 pages in and put it down. I know Ansley gets better - that's the point of the book - but I just couldn't get myself to care because she was so horrible!