Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Lemon Mini-Cakes with Lemon Glaze & Baked Eggs with Shallots for #TheJaneAustenSocietyParty

Today is the publishing day or book birthday for the wonderful The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner and I am very happy to be joining in on the #TheJaneAustenSocietyParty -- a virtual gathering of some of my favorite bloggers and hosted by The Book Club Cookbook. (Here's all of the party details!)

We bloggers received an Advanced Readers Copy of the book and were tasked with reading the novel and coming up with a dish inspired by it. Because I couldn't decide between a sweet or savory dish, I made two, Lemon Mini-Cakes with Lemon Glaze and Baked Eggs with Shallots.

Let's start with the book. Here's the Publisher's Blurb:

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England's finest novelists. Now it's home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen's legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen's home and her legacy. These people―a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others―could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

St. Martin's Press (May 26, 2020)
320 pages

If I had to pick one word to describe The Jane Austen Society, it would be charming. It's sweet, engaging and a loving tribute to my favorite author. Being a big historical fiction fan already, the setting in Chawton, Hampshire from 1932 to 1947 was a draw as well. Although the book starts in 1932 before WWII begins, most of it takes place in the aftermath of the war in 1945 and 1946. The war has left its impact on the small town and the five main characters of the novel. There is Adam, a farm laborer who gave up schooling when both brothers were killed in The Great War, Mimi, an American film star, Dr. Benjamin Gray,  the widowed town physician, Adeline, former teacher and young war widow who also lost her unborn child, Evie, a promising young student who must become a house servant when her father is injured in an accident, and Francis, wealthy descendant of the Austin family and a spinster shut off from much of society. What draws this group of dissimilar people together is a love of Jane Austen and they decide to form The Jane Austen Society to protect the final home of the author in Chawton.

I think if you are an Austen fan at any level, you can't help but like this book, and if you are not a fan or familiar with Austen's work, this book will make you want to be. You can feel the passion the author has for Austen radiate from every page and I love how each character describes how they came to love Jane Austen over the course of the book. And having read and reread (and in the case of Pride and Prejudice reread at least once a year) Austen's books I love how accurately Jenner describes why so many of us do:

"Part of the comfort they derived from rereading was the satisfaction of knowing there would be closure--of feeling, each time, an inexplicable anxiety over whether the main characters would find love and happiness, while all the while knowing, on some different parallel interior track, that it was all going to work out in the end. Of being one step ahead of the characters and one step behind Austen on every single reading."

I am currently rereading all of Austen's books for an online buddy read starting with Sense and Sensibility and covering a chapter a day, and I love the discussions we are having and hearing people's' impressions whether they have read a book twenty times or are reading it for the first time. Along with the books, we are reading adaptations and other Austen-related books and I am recommending this book to all of them. Lest I scare you away with my Janeite fanaticism, I feel like it's an enjoyable book regardless. There's romance and friendship, small town doings, history, and a general feeling of hope in the pages. It's a delight! My only complaint is that it ended too soon--much like I feel when I read Jane Austen's books, I wanted much more time with these characters.


Let's talk food now... I actually thought there might be more food in the book than there was but there was food mentioned including crops of wheat and barley, toast and tea, champagne, a garden of courgettes, wax beans and beets to be pickled and preserved for winter, tea and sugar buns, apples and squash, oranges, a party with silver platters piled high with sugar plums and rum balls and warm mince pies, coffee and walnut cake and Victoria sponge filled with preserves, glazed lemon cake, tiny glasses of sherry and and a wedding breakfast. Enough food ideas to inspire me to make two different dishes.

Life is short so let's start with dessert first. I had a plethora of lemons at my house, was really craving lemon dessert and there was mention of glazed lemon cake in the book when some of the characters are discussing how they came to Jane Austen's work, and so I decided that Lemon Mini-Cakes with Lemon Glaze (doesn't that sound fancier than cupcakes?) would be a fairly easy endeavor even for a mostly non-baker. I found a few of easy lemon cupcake recipes online and went with the basics of them, making  few small modifications based on what I had on hand. 

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Glaze 
Cobbled together from a few recipes
(Makes about 15 Cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter (I used salted & omitted any additional salt)
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 1 1/2 lemons)
about 1 Tbsp lemon zest (from two lemons)
1/4 cup almond milk or milk of choice (what I had on hand) 
lemon glaze (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tin with liners and set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, add the melted butter and mix in sugar with a hand mixer for about 30 seconds, until mixture becomes thick and yellow. Add the eggs one at at time, beating after each addition and then beat in the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture and milk to the bowl, alternating between them--starting and ending with the flour. Be careful not too mix too long and overmix. 

Divide the batter among liners, filling each about 2/3 full (I used a scant standard ice cream scoop (disher) of batter). Bake for 12-16 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. (Mine took about 13 minutes.) Make sure to cool cakes completely before glazing them. 


Lemon Glaze Icing 
Adapted Slightly from TheSpruceEats.com
(Makes About 1/2 Cup of Icing)

1 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) + more as needed
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsps freshly grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp milk (I used almond milk) + more if needed

In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and milk and stir until smooth. If glaze seems too thick, thin with additional milk, if it seems too thin, add more powdered sugar until it is the consistency you like. Spoon generously over completely cooled cupcakes.

Notes/Results: I think lemon is my favorite cake flavor and these are such tasty little cakes. Nothing fancy but tender and moist and a good match of sweet and tart, just like I like. I took a mini-cake out of the liner and plated it with some fresh blueberries to fancy it up a little bit for the photo. I could just eat the glaze out of the bowl with a spoon (OK, maybe I actually did!)  ;-) 

Part of the reason for me also making a savory dish was that Judy at The Book Club Cookbook sent a little surprise a few weeks ago in the form of two of their fabulous Book, Song & TV Seasoning Blends and I wanted to incorporate at least one of them into a dish. The two I received this time were Shallot's Web (Air-Dried Shallots) and Satay'in Alive (an Indonesian seasoning blend). I decided to use my shallots and make use of my previously gifted (you can see what else Austen-ish that I did with it here) bottle of Dried and Prejudice Seasoned Salt (a mix of sea salt, demerara sugar, paprika, garlic, onion, mustard, Mexican oregano, celery seed, black pepper and cinnamon) in an egg dish. Although there's not a mention of eggs in the book, there is a wedding breakfast and I thought some tasty baked eggs with toast (cut into thin "soldiers") for dipping would be great for a breakfast. So here we have Baked Eggs with Shallots that incorporated my blends.

Baked Eggs with Shallots
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 1)

1/2 Tbsp air-dried shallots (I used and recommend Shallot's Web), reconstituted
butter for greasing ramekin
1/2 tsp sprig fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp white cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1 sprinkle Dried and Prejudice Seasoned Salt or other favorite seasoning blend
freshly ground black pepper
To Serve: toasted bread cut into thin strips (soldiers)

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees F. Put the dried shallots into a small bowl and pouring to-the-boil water over them and let sit about 3 minutes, until softened, then drain. 

Rub the inside of a ramekin with butter and sprinkle in rehydrated shallots, thyme leaves. and white cheddar cheese. Carefully crack eggs into the ramekin and sprinkle Dried and Prejudice Seasoning Blend and freshly ground black pepper on top of the eggs.

Carefully place ramekin in oven (using a small pan is helpful) and bake until the yolk is set to your liking (if you like runny yolks like me--about 12-14 minutes up to about 19-20 minutes for hard-cooked yolks.) Remove ramekin from the oven and serve immediately with toast soldiers. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: Whenever I make baked eggs I think "why don't I make baked eggs more often? " These were really good. I was surprised at how much flavor the shallots added and the Dried and Prejudice Seasoned Salt adds a touch of sweet and savory to the mix that worked well with the other ingredients. I'm not sure it needed the fresh thyme but I wanted a bit of color in there and I liked the flavors all together. Dipping the strips of buttered sourdough toast in, I was perfectly happy and content with my light breakfast for dinner. I will definitely make these eggs again. 

A big THANK YOU to St. Martin's Press (Instagram @stmartinspress), Natalie Jenner (Instagram @authornataliejenner / Twitter @nataliemjenner) and The Book Club Cookbook (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest)

Don't forget to check out the party page here to see what my fellow bloggers came up with and how they liked the book!

I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event that was held at Beth Fish Reads, but is now being hosted with Marg at The Adventures of An Intrepid Reader. It's a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. You can see this week's post here.

Note: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of author Natalie Jenner, publisher St. Martin's Press and The Book Club Cookbook. I received a complimentary book and two seasoning blends for the purpose of a fair review, but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. No additional compensation for this post was provided.


  1. Love the "mini-cakes" (and those baked eggs). I really enjoyed this book a great deal. My biggest criticism was that the language didn't sound "British enough" to me at times (and that is kind of being picky). Great recipes, Deb!

  2. This is a fantastic post, Deb. And I LOVE the recipes you shared, especially the savory. Can't wait to try it! Cheers.

  3. Both the mini-cakes and the eggs sound really delicious!

    be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  4. I made lemon and blueberry cake today. Just about to have a slice and I am expecting it to be delicious! Yours look great.

  5. Deb,
    Your recipes this week look wonderful, especially those lemon mini cakes! I enjoyed your post too.

  6. Lemon anything works for me. I'm see5so many bloggers with great food offerings and good reviews for this book.


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