Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Spiced Treacle Cake

I could go on and on about why I chose to do another Beauty-related goodie, but this one is actually inspired by something that McKinley wrote in the pages. I couldn’t really find the passage again, but I’m telling you, the book mentioned spiced treacle cake, and I totally hopped up on the idea!

Beauty by Robin McKinley is a straightforward retelling of an iconic fairy tale. One of the things that I remembered from the book was a scene where Beauty wakes up in the morning thinking of hot chocolate and toast. And later on, she ruminates on the types of foods she’d been having while in Beast’s castle, and Beauty eventually decides that one of her favorites is a spiced treacle cake. Often she would ask for it, and there was an adorable scene where she even feeds the Beast a piece because she wanted him to try it!

So I went on a search for a spiced treacle cake.

Ginger Spiced Treacle Traybake

I actually gleaned this recipe from Fold in the Flour, though the original recipe is very much thanks to Mary Berry. I mention this because I had become addicted to The Great British Bake Off and after seeing that this was a recipe she had, I wanted to try it!

I will say that Mary Berry knows her shit, and honestly, even with the changes I made, it was still delicious and spiced and utterly gingery!

I’ve converted the ingredients into American measurements the best way I can. Also, these are the ingredients of changes I made as well, so if you want to follow the recipe to its totality, there’s plenty of places where this recipe can be found (including the Fold in the Flour link).



  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup muscovado sugar (I used dark brown)
  • 2/3 cup molasses (I substituted with maple syrup, but you can use honey or some other syrup that has a thicker consistency)
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 3 bulbs stem ginger (I used 1 Tbsp ginger powder because I couldn’t find stem ginger in the groceries)


  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tsp ginger powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • water (as needed)
  • chopped candy ginger (as needed)

Making the Cake

Mix the sugar and butter until smooth and creamy, add eggs one by one. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

Bake cake in 9 x 13 inch tray for 35 minutes at 350 F. Set aside to cool and make the glaze.

Prepare glaze. Mix the dry ingredients and add water as needed, up until the consistency is what you want to pour onto the cake.

Sprinkle chopped ginger candy on top for decoration.

Verdict: Not everyone is a big fan of ginger or spiced cake, so this was not exactly the household favorite. The changes I made also made the cake not so treacly, but eh, I’m not a big fan of molasses, so that definitely cut down on the stickiness and the density. of the cake itself.

However, as a ginger-lover, I didn’t mind this so much, and it was like eating a super delicious sponge with candied ginger!


Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Rose Apple Tarts

Oh baking. How I’ve missed thee! The idea actually came to mind because in under two weeks, my friend Meg and I will be releasing our first ever episode of Fableulous Retellings Podcast. Our first theme, surprise surprise, is the tale of Beauty and the Beast!

I had a few options regarding this story, and likely I will do a couple more between podcast episodes. To start it off, though, I was a bit inspired by the whole rose concept. In the original story–and most of the retellings afterward–Beauty often asks for a rose for her father to bring back from his trip. For the most part, he does, and for some reason, the Beast is none too happy with this poor old man pilfering from his rosebushes. I guess beasts don’t suffer thieves, either!

In any case, the rose is important, as is the garden, and even Disney got up on that in their version of BatB.

SO. Onto my baked good.

I thought about trying a rose-flavored macaron but I would have been at a loss, because I haven’t actually learned to make macarons! (All in good time…). So I browsed and I realized, oooh, an apple tart sounds yum!

Rose Apple Tarts

The original recipe I got from Preppy Kitchen, though I will admit that other than the apple seasoning, I didn’t really follow the rest of the ingredients. I couldn’t remember where I got the pastry shell recipe, however, but I do recall using powdered/confectionery sugar instead of regular sugar, just for a sweeter taste. And with tarts, you want something on the sweet side to balance out the sour that’ll be coming from the baked fruit.

The other thing I would say about making and shaping this tart shell is that it would be a good idea to have kidney beans or beads to keep the tart’s shell in place. I had neither, so it was much harder to stuff the apples in and shape them as roses afterward. The other suggestion is not to blind bake the shell and put the apples in immediately. Blind baking wasn’t really necessary for me, especially since I wasn’t making a huge tart shell, but little itty bitty ones.

I used my mini cupcake pan for such an occasion.

I also don’t have a tart pan, so this was definitely me improvising by using one of my cookie cutters to cut out pieces of dough and placing it in my cupcake pan. They shaped up rather well!

Probably the hardest part, however, was slicing the apples in very, very thin layers. In retrospect, I should have used the potato peeler, because slicing things very thinly with a knife took way too long. And most of the slices were still not thin enough! Maybe I just need a bit more practice.

Not that anyone’s complaining. Most of these tarts disappeared the moment they came out of the oven.

The Curse of the Fairy Gift || Spindle’s End Review


Initial Thoughts:

Katriona for MVP! Though the entire book is a reminder that it takes a whole village to raise a princess. No joke. Great on the characters, I’m still a little iffy about the magic.


by Robin McKinley
Putnam Publishing, May 2000
Fairy tale retelling
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

spindlesendAll the creatures of the forest and field and riverbank knew the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But the curse was cast: Rosie was fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep-a slumber from which no one would be able to rouse her.

What I Loved

Bad fairies are a bitch to deal with. But clearly there’s a reason not to invite them, especially when they’re plotting hundred-year vengeance. Particularly when this centuries-old curse is powerful and targeted to the newly-born non-magical being, and not even twenty-something fairies can do anything about it. Such is Pernicia, Evil Fairy Extraordinaire. As villainous as she is in the story, I have to respect her patience and planning. If only for a little bit.

Katriona nearly fell over. Golden hair! Golden hair? What an utterly idiotic gift! Aunt had always taught her that you were respectful of your magic! And here, the very first–Golden hair! from a fairy godmother, who could give you anything–well, almost anything. They would only have invited the best to be the princess’ godmothers. But here was the second godmother. Surely she would do better.


The sass that occasionally comes out of Katriona. I’m pretty sure Kat is where Rosie gets her sass from. Among other places, I’m sure, but it was totally mostly Kat. I tended to agree with her during the princess’ celebration when the gifts came rolling in, and pretty much laughed at her reaction after every fairy lauded Rosie with a beautiful singing voice and golden hair and porcelain doll skin. Her sass is maintained later on in the books, but I often found the beginning bits my favorite part.

All the animal friends! The number of different animals helping Kat and Rosie throughout the story is astounding and pretty awesome.

The badass boy and girl fairies. While most of the magic-users who are women are designated fairies and the men–who apparently have a sort of “magic”–are wizards, there is such a thing as male fairies. A few of them even show up to help in hiding Rosie from Pernicia.

Love/Hate Relationships

The wishy-washy magic system. I’m not one to complain about old magic, especially when it’s ethereally described as McKinley often does with her books, but there was too much overflowing magic that made little sense to me in this book. What is baby magic and how does it differ from the other magics in the story? How are wizards and fairies different really? Can’t they both do magic? I felt like there weren’t any set rules to using magic, and it felt vague to me.

Slightly predictable getaway plan. Alright, so it may have backfired anyway, but I kind of saw that coming the moment Peony came into the picture. I would have been severely disappointed had the plan with Peony and Rosie tricked Pernicia. Thankfully, the story continued further from there.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! It wasn’t my favorite McKinley by a mile, but it was still pretty good.

The Benefits and Curses of the Fairy Gift

After some time chortling about the number of kind of pointless gifts the fairies gave to Rosie, I started thinking about whether it would be better to get useless gifts over ones that could potentially–and permanently–harm a child while growing up. I mostly remember Ella in Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and how the “gift” of obedience she got stuck with pretty much screwed her over for the most part.

Some of the gifts Rosie got–like having a bell-like voice–may not go down well especially when Rosie can’t carry a tune, but a few of them–like embroidery–would save up time having to learn a new trick. (Though arguably, the learning is half the fun of the thing, IMO.)

Now, my thinking is gifts shouldn’t be given so haphazardly like what fairies were doing in this book. I’m not too keen on changes to my natural hair unless I’ve got a say in it, and while I would love to have bright blue hair right about now (and would totally wish for it on a tooth or something, like Karou did in Laini Taylor’s The Daughter of Smoke and Bone), I wouldn’t want to be stuck with it my entire life. Rosie hated her hair for good reason. It wasn’t something she particularly wanted, and having her hair consistently blond and kiddy-curly would drive any self-respecting woman mad. It’s definitely why the girl took shears to those beautiful golden locks.

That’s just me, though.


How about YOU? Are you willing to let fairies grant you a gift? What kind of gift would you like?

FOF Book Club: Damar Series

I’m actually a little excited to be joining the lovely ladies at Alexa Loves Books and Hello Chelly on the Flights of Fantasy challenge. They also have a little book club going on a bi-monthly basis, and this month, the books up for discussion are Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. This is me joining in with my two cents (because I fear I get wordy and posting a comment on their blogs might get a little crazy, haha.)


From Alexa Loves Books:

The first month of our Flights of Fantasy Book Club is officially over! In January, we invited you to read The Hero and the Crown & The Blue Sword along with us. Today, both Rachel of Hello Chelly and I will be sharing our thoughts on each book, as well as answering three questions – and we’re asking those who read the books to share their own answers, whether in the comments or in a post of their own.



Aerin could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.

It was the story of her mother, the witchwoman who enspelled the king into marrying her, to get an heir that would rule Damar; and it was told that she turned her face to the wall and died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son.

Aerin was that daughter.

But there was more of the story yet to be told; Aerin’s destiny was greater than even she had dreamed–for she was to be the true hero who would wield the power of the Blue Sword…


Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

General Comments

Growing up, there weren’t very many female heroes to look up to. For some reason, however, I stumbled upon three whose stories forever stayed with me. Two of them happen to be Aerin and Harry. Their personalities are rather similar, in that they are both independent, strong women looking to find a place in a usually man-infested world. Turns out they can both wield Gonturan, which is pretty much a big deal, and they both kick ass. The adventure stories in The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword were epic in proportions, and I highly recommend them.

The Questions

1. Who is your favorite character? Aerin Aerin Aerin! Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read The Blue Sword so it’s hard to remember the traits that separated Harry from Aerin, but I do remember liking Aerin much more because I loved her, faults and strengths both.

2. Which is your favorite book? The Hero and the Crown! I mean, come on. It has a rambunctious princess who slays dragons, becomes a demi-goddess (of sorts), and winds up turning into a legend for the ages. And it has Tor. Tor is pretty awesome, too.

(I’ve also re-read The Hero and the Crown quite a number of times now, which kind of tells you how much I prefer it over The Blue Sword…)

3. Would you read more books by this author? Oh, I adore McKinley. I’ve read–and own–a number of her books at this rate, and personal favorites include Beauty and Deerskin. Beauty is an adorable retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Deerskin is one of the rare books that made me cry, because it was intensity and heartbreak and loveliness all wrapped up into one. It’s also a retelling of Donkeyskin, one of my favorite fairy tales of all time. I’ve been meaning to pick up Spindle’s End, which is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, so here’s hoping I love that book too.

Retro-Review: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

It’s weird reviewing a book you fell in love with when you were around 11 or 12. Even weirder that when I re-read this book a couple years back, I didn’t write much of a review. I still loved the book, though, but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop gushing over how great Aeryn is and how fabulous this book was, not only as a near-perfect representation of badass women, but hot damn, this story.


by Robin McKinley
HarperCollins, 1984
High fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies

herocrownAerin could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.

It was the story of her mother, the witchwoman who enspelled the king into marrying her, to get an heir that would rule Damar; and it was told that she turned her face to the wall and died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son.

Aerin was that daughter.

But there was more of the story yet to be told; Aerin’s destiny was greater than even she had dreamed–for she was to be the true hero who would wield the power of the Blue Sword…

Gifly Thoughts

The Hero and the Crown was a gem of a book I’d encountered in elementary school, wedged into a corner of the library, right beside a story of another fabulous fiery-haired female (Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce). Honestly, I couldn’t tell you which book I’d read first, but I do know that I’d borrowed them both at the same time.

Then I read them and I was just all:


Well, something like that.

What I really did was along the lines of taking out more books and hoping that there would be more females in the stories that could hold a candle to Alanna and Aeryn. That there’d be more females that could slay dragons and have adventures and come home to a fella who’d treat them the way they should be treated: like a goddamn equal.

All the same, The Hero and the Crown rocked it. It had a protagonist who pushed the boundaries during a time period that saw her as a supposedly dainty female who’s not even considered the next ruler of her father’s kingdom. That right seemed to be reserved to her male friend; though I have no complaints against Tor (none at all, I actually adore him!) as a person.

The book had an excellent adventure story. It had a romance for the ages, though to be honest I never got ’round to liking the magical male lover, since I shipped Aeryn/Tor even as I laughed at how oblivious Aeryn was to love and such nonsense. There was a scene in the first part of the book where Tor gives her a smooch, and she pretty much hurries off to play chemist with her dragon ointment. Super oblivious–and admittedly–kind of lovable, that Aeryn.

All in all, there’s not much else to be said. I’ve since loved McKinley’s books, and with The Hero and the Crown being my first McKinley, it certainly garners a special place in my list of favorites.