Ree Drummond's second cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier is our June Cookbook of the Month! Aren't we glad the accidental country girl "traded her black heels for tractor wheels and found love, family and fame"? Save this one for the 4th of July next week!
A dish with "cake" repeated twice in its title probably belongs on my plate immediately.
I made this cake a few years ago on a whim . . . and what a delightful whim it turned out to be. It’s a spin on strawberry shortcake, but the cake is, well, cake—not the biscuit-like disc in the classic strawberry shortcake recipe. I added cream cheese frosting instead of whipped cream, just for kicks, and it turned out to be just what the whole mess of deliciousness needed.
This is one of my father-in-law’s three favorite desserts. He likes to eat it for breakfast.
I do too, now that I think about it!
2. To make the cake batter, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add the sour cream and vanilla, then mix until just combined.
4. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda and add it to the bowl.
5. Mix it together until just combined.
6. Spread it in the pan or pans and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is no longer jiggly like my bottom.
7. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and allow it to cool completely.
8. Next, mash the strawberries with a potato masher or a fork (reserve a few for garnish if you like).
9. Sprinkle the strawberries with the sugar. Toss them around and allow them to sit for a little while.
10. They’ll give off this beautiful liquid after several minutes. Try not to drink it with a straw.
11. To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt in a mixing bowl.
12. Mix until very light and fluffy. Warning: You’ll feel like eating this bowl of icing before you even get it on the cake.
13. To assemble the cake, use a sharp knife to cut it in half through the middle. It’s easier if you go all around the perimeter of the cake, slicing only halfway through the circle the whole way.
14. Lay the two halves cut side up.
15. And cover both halves with an equal amount of strawberries. Then—this is an important step!—place the cake halves in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. This’ll firm up the surface of the strawberries just a bit so that it’s easier to spread on the icing.
16. Remove the cakes from the freezer and place one layer on a cake stand or platter. Cover with a little less than a third of the icing.
17. Place the second layer on top, then spread the top with icing.
18. Carefully ice the outside of the cake with the remaining icing.
But I’m hungry and want to eat, so I’ll skip that part.
Store leftovers in the fridge. The cake can be made up to 24 hours in advance.
A month ago, we highlighted 15 superstar story collections. Now, it's time to move in the opposite direction. Here are 15 doorstop novels we love, in a variety of genres. We're defining "doorstop" loosely as a long book that will keep you occupied for a long time (without losing your attention!)—maybe even the duration of your entire vacation.
What are your favorite hefty novels? Let us know in the comments!
11/23/63 by Stephen King (849 pages)
The buzz on Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is that it’s about a man who goes back in time to save JFK. It’s true; that is the mission undertaken by King’s hero, 35-year-old high school teacher Jake Epping. But to a careful reader, it quickly becomes clear that this is actually a novel about falling in love: first with a time period, and then with an awkward, tall librarian named Sadie. Read more>>
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (528 pages)
You don’t have to like baseball to savor Chad Harbach’s sumptuous debut novel, a wise and tender story of love and friendship, ambition and the cruelty of dashed dreams, featuring an appealing cast of characters.
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (439 pages)
Leo Demidov's personal hell has truly been paved with the best of intentions. The Soviet war hero and rising star within Stalin's State Security force has ordered the execution of thousands of his countrymen, or worse, dispatched them to the infamous gulags, all in service to the greater good of communism. Read more>>
The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt (688 pages)
The heft of A.S. Byatt’s latest work, The Children’s Book, promises a detailed, sprawling story. But the actual scope of this ambitious novel has to be experienced to be believed. The story of an age more than anything else, it encompasses 25 years (1895-1919) and has at least that many main characters, which leaves the reader wondering how they can all come to such vivid life in just 700 pages. Read more>>
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (985 pages)
To complete his hugely ambitious trilogy of historical novels about the 20th century, Ken Follett has set himself a punishing writing schedule. Lucky for us. Because readers who compulsively turn all 985 pages of Fall of Giants, the gripping first book in the Century Trilogy, will not want to wait long for its sequel. Read more>>
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (944 pages)
A scan through reviews of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s work repeatedly yields such words as “surreal” and “alienation”—and these are certainly apt markers for his much-anticipated new novel, 1Q84. Originally published as a trilogy in Japan, where the first volume sold more than a million copies in just two months, this dystopian epic weighs in at more than 900 pages and required the services of two translators to speed the process of getting it into the hands of his many English-speaking fans. Read more>>
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (782 pages)
What kind of magic can make a nearly 800-page novel seem too short? Whatever it is, debut author Susanna Clarke is possessed by it, and her astonished readers will surely hope she never recovers. Her epic history of an alternative, magical England is so beautifully realized that not one of the many enchantments Clarke chronicles in the book could ever be as potent or as quickening as her own magnificent narrative. Read more>>
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
Golden Richards is in a bad way. He has four wives but is flirting with another woman. He has 28 children but can’t stop thinking about the accidental death of his handicapped daughter, Glory. His floundering construction company has taken a job remodeling a brothel, though he tells everyone at church he’s working on a senior center. And he is trying desperately to remove chewing gum from a place where no gum should ever get stuck. Read more>>
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (640 pages)
First-time author Karl Marlantes tackles some tough subjects—racism among the troops, for one—in his Vietnam novel, Matterhorn.What makes this novel so irresistible is Marlantes’ skill at peeling away the many layers of truth in combat. Read more>>
The Passage by Justin Cronin (784 pages)
The vampire craze sweeping literature is not unlike the virus that decimates the world in Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Sure, there are isolated enclaves of holdouts, defending literature as they know it from the onslaught of supernatural beings, but most of the reading public seems to have developed an insatiable thirst for stories featuring the undead, from writers like Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer. A note to those who thought they were immune: I dare you to crack open The Passage and read page one. Read more>>
Roses by Leila Meacham (640 pages)
Roses traces nearly 70 years in the history of the Toliver family, owners of a cotton plantation in a fictional Texas town. When patriarch Vernon Toliver dies, he entrusts the land to his daughter, Mary, because he knows she will love and care for it. His wife and son are outraged. That decision and the stubborn love that motivated it determine the course of Mary Toliver’s life. Read more>>
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (672 pages)
Does anyone really ever get over adolescence? Maybe some, but even if you're one of the lucky ones, reading Paul Murray's new novel will bring all the roiling, churning madness of being a teenager right back into focus. The book claws into you right away, and its vividness never fades—impressive, considering it's nearly 700 pages long. Read more>>
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (528 pages)
Pat Conroy’s lush, remarkable South of Broad is set in Charleston, South Carolina, and spans some 20 years from the late 1960s to the 1980s. Following a memoir (My Losing Season) and a homespun recipe collection (The Pat Conroy Cookbook), South of Broad is Conroy’s first novel in 14 years. And lucky for us, it’s another big, sprawling, heartbreaking novel, sure to please seasoned Conroy fans and new readers alike. Read more>>
West of Here by Jonathan Evison (496 pages)
Set in fictional Port Bonita, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, West of Here is no less than epic. The narrative covers a timeline that is split between the late 1800s and the early 2000s, two periods that are united by the sublime power of the wilderness that surrounds the novel’s characters. Read more>>
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (560 pages)
Hilary Mantel sets a new standard for historical fiction with Wolf Hall, a riveting portrait of Thomas Cromwell, chief advisor to King Henry VIII and a significant political figure in Tudor England. Mantel’s crystalline style, piercing eye and interest in, shall we say, the darker side of human nature, together with a real respect for historical accuracy, make this novel an engrossing, enveloping read. Read more>>
Do you have any books to add to the list? We'd love to hear about them!
Our June Cookbook of the Month is really no surprise: Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier is one of the biggest cookbooks this year! Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt loves how the "breezy, easy style informs these simple-but-scrumptious dishes."
How much are you wishing this was your lunch today?
2. Melt the butter and canola oil in a heavy pot over high heat. Sear both sides of the chuck roast until very browned, about 5 minutes in all.
3. Pour in the beef broth and 1 cup water.
4. Add the rosemary . . .
5. Then pour in the peperoncinis with their juice. Now cover the pot and simmer for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling apart.
6. Remove the roast from the pot.
7. Using 2 forks, shred the meat completely . . .
8. Then return the meat to the cooking liquid. Keep warm.
9. To serve, slice wedges out of the top of the deli rolls. Heap a generous portion of meat on the roll, then spoon some of the cooking liquid over the meat.
10. Top with a few peppers from the pot . . . And plenty of caramelized onions.
12. Top the sandwiches with the wedges of roll and serve to a roomful of ravenous guests. You’ll win friends and influence people.
• Serve dishes of the cooking liquid on the side for dipping.
Our April Top Pick in Nonfiction is Wild, the magnificent memoir by Cheryl Strayed. After the death of her mother, Strayed decided to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. She starts her journey alone, grieving and misguided (her pack weighs more than 70 pounds) but discovers "a visionary state of solitude" while battling blisters and the elements. Writes our reviewer:
Wild is never simply a survival memoir. . . It is also a guidebook for living in the world, introducing a vibrant new American voice with a deceptively simple message: Go outside and take a hike.
Is this a memoir you will check out?
Without further ado . . . here are our 30 most anticipated books of 2012, as selected by the BookPage editorial staff. Visit BookPage.com to find our most anticipated books from this time in 2011. What is YOUR most anticipated book of the year? Let us know in this survey. To keep up-to-date on the latest releases, subscribe to our most anticipated books calendar using the button below.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey (Harper)
This modernization of Jane Eyre re-imagines the classic governess/master love story in the 1960s. Our heroine, Gemma, is from Iceland, which makes for fascinating reading.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff (Voice)
Groff's playful debut, The Monsters of Templeton, marked her as an author to watch, and we've been waiting to see what she'll do next. Answer: write a coming-of-age story set in a 1960s commune. It might sound trite, but Groff is one of the most imaginative young writers working these days, and her spin on this idea is something special (look for an interview in our March issue).
Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott (Riverhead)
Anne Lamott is just as beloved (if not more so) for her nonfiction as her novels. Some Assembly Required is the much-anticipated follow-up to Operating Instructions: A Journal Of My Son’s First Year, where Lamott chronicled life as a single parent to her son, Sam. Here, she writes about what happens when Sam becomes a father at 19.
The New Republic by Lionel Shriver (Harper)
Shriver says The New Republic deals with terrorism "on a peninsula in Portugal which doesn’t exist—I drew it onto the map. I wrote it in 1998 and at that time I had trouble getting American publishers interested in the manuscript. . . . Now in some ways the U.S. cares too much about terrorism and for a long time I felt it would be wrong to publish something that has a sense of humour about the issue. Enough time has gone by for a droll novel to be well received."
By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair (Scribner)
This memoir of "love and disaster" was written by a pipefitter who lives in Coralville, Iowa. It's a beautifully written story about marriage, responsibility and caring for an autistic child.
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Holt)
McCleen's debut is about a 10-year-old girl with a powerful faith; she has created a model of the Promised Land in her bedroom. When life goes awry, she becomes convinced that she has the ability to use her model to change reality's path.
The Cove by Ron Rash (Ecco)
Ecco's lead title for spring "captures the wondrous beauty of nature and love and the darkness of superstition and fear in this atmospheric and exquisitely rendered novel set in Appalachia during World War I." The catalog also promises that it is "as mesmerizing as the brilliant Serena."
Farther Away: Essays by Jonathan Franzen (FSG)
This is a collection of Franzen's essays and speeches over the past five years, exploring themes of literary rivalry, environmental concern and more.
Home by Toni Morrison (Knopf)
The works of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison go beyond thought-provoking to what could better be called thought-demanding, with their lush prose, deep themes and occasional touches of magic or mysticism. But that's just what readers and critics appreciate about Morrison, who is one of America's most treasured writers. Her next novel is the story of a Korean War veteran who returns to small-town Georgia, disappointed in its racist culture and trying to help his emotionally unstable sister while still recovering from the physical and emotional aftereffects of war.
The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (Knopf)
No, it's not based on the show starring Nick & Jessica. Literary luminary Freudenberger (she was one of the New Yorker's best 20 under 40) follows her impressive debut novel The Dissident with a story of a couple who meet online, marry and then uncover each other's secrets. A modern take on star-crossed romance.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Holt)
This is the eagerly anticipated sequel to Wolf Hall, the Booker-winning story about Thomas Cromwell's life in Tudor England. Thanks to a gruesome title, our love of Wolf Hall and a plotline that will include the downfall of Anne Boleyn—we are especially excited for this one.
In One Person by John Irving (Simon & Schuster)
This new novel explores the life of a 60-year-old bisexual man and is told in the first person—Irving’s first novel from that point of view since A Prayer for Owen Meany. It's also his first with Simon & Schuster after leaving longtime publisher Random House.
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (HMH)
This second graphic memoir from Bechdel—whose Fun Home was a bestseller that made it onto countless best books lists upon its release in 2006—focuses on her brilliant but distant mother, whose life was both an inspiration and a cautionary tale to her equally talented daughter.
Canada by Richard Ford (Harper)
The first novel in more than five years from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford is narrated by 15-year-old Dell Parsons, who flees his Montana home after his parents are arrested for robbing a bank. He ends up on the plains of southern Saskatchewan, taken in by a “charismatic” American who is more sinister than he appears.
The Passage of Power by Robert A. Caro (Knopf)
The fourth volume in Caro's epic Lyndon Johnson biography will “focus on the years 1958 to 1964, from the time Johnson began seeking the presidency, through his years as vice president under John F. Kennedy, to becoming president after JFK’s assassination.”
The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray (Penguin Press)
New Yorker contributor, memoirist, novelist and historian Francine du Plessix Gray has taken on the ultimate challenge. The Queen’s Lover will tell the story of Marie Antoinette as framed by her relationship with Swedish nobleman Count Axel von Fersen, a man she first befriends early in her reign
Broken Harbour by Tana French (Viking)
Tana French's particular brand of psychological suspense really strikes a chord with readers. Her fourth novel in the loosely connected Dublin Murder Squad Series is narrated by Scorcher Kennedy as he investigates what seems to be an open-and-shut domestic murder-suicide.
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (Viking)
This sequel to A Discovery of Witches returns to the saga of Diana the historian-witch and Matthew the geneticist-vampire. In Shadow of Night, the couple investigate the mystery of a magical manuscript in Elizabethan England. A Discovery of Witches was a smart and sexy story with romance, paranormal elements—and lots of good library scenes.
The Son by Philipp Meyer (Random House)
Philipp Meyer’s debut, American Rust, was one of the most acclaimed novels of 2009. His second novel, The Son, focuses on three generations of a Texas family: Eli, his son Pete and Pete’s daughter Jeanne. Each face their own challenges—Comanche raiders, border wars and a changing civilization, respectively.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Harper)
Telegraph Avenue is a real street that runs from Oakland, CA, to Berkeley. Chabon's new novel is about the distinct character of each place, as well as the borderline between them (where the author lives in real life). It's Chabon, so you know it's going to be good.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper)
Barbara Kingsolver is a perennial reader favorite. Her newest novel takes place in a small-town Tennessee. It's about a woman who must confront "her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large."
September's fiction top pick might seem an odd choice in a month that will see the publication of much-buzzed debuts like The Night Circus and The Art of Fielding and new novels from literary darlings like Ali Smith. But while Blueprints for Building Better Girls may not have the media talking (yet), its quietly powerful coming-of-age stories make for the sort of book that becomes a word-of-mouth hit. Maybe it's unnecessary to say this about a co-founder of the literary magazine Tin House, but Elissa Schappell is a writer to watch.
—Managing Editor Trisha Ping
Our top pick for September nonfiction is a riveting tale of adventure and empire. Holy War by Nigel Cliff tells the story of Vasco da Gama's many sea journeys in the service of Portugal's rulers, who wanted not only to spread Christianity across the globe but to take over the spice trade from India to Europe, previously dominated by Muslim Arabs. If sweeping epics, the clash of cultures or the thrill of new discoveries float your boat, you won't want to miss this book!
—Associate Editor Kate Pritchard
I chose Snapped as my Romance top pick in September because of the grabber of an opening. Heroine Sophie Barrett is using her lunch hour to register for classes at a local college. As a reader I related to her search for a parking spot, the noon heat, and the uncomfortable walk in pretty high heels. I feel for Sophie, and even more so when suddenly gunfire erupts on the campus. I couldn't put it down after that!
—Romance columnist and author Christie Ridgway
September's mystery top pick is A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. More than most authors nowadays, Louise Penny makes me read slowly, savoring her sentences and dog-earing pages where she has written something so catchy or profound that I will want to revisit them later to re-read those parts. I often give away my advance review copies of books to friends, on the stipulation that they don't return them to me, as my library is full to overflowing. Penny's books, on the other hand, I want back, as I will surely read them again (and again).
—Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney
What's your favorite book coming out this month? Share in the comments!