The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake Ever (GF)

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This is a great flourless chocolate cake that is decadent, moist and with a hint of darkness to make it interesting. This dish is inspired by my character, Olivia Kent, who makes her flourless chocolate cake in her shop, Rambling Rose, one grey and misty morning in the Cotswolds.

If you’re gluten free, this recipe is perfect for you, so long a you ensure your chocolate is gluten free too.

The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake Ever

Ingredients

  • 200g gluten free chocolate (at least 75% cacao/cocoa)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1Tb instant coffee granules (optional, if you’re not a coffee drinker)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2Tb vanilla essence
  • 60g chocolate chips of choice (milk, dark or even white for an added difference)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (160C fan forced).
  2. Grease a 20cm springform pan with butter and line with baking paper. (Pro tip: Trace around the outside of your pan on the baking paper and cut it to size. Measure the depth of the pan (mine is 6cm), then cut strips to lay around the circumference. This will leave the outside of your cakes with a smooth finish.)
  3. Break your chocolate into pieces and place in a porcelain bowl along with the oil. Nest the bowl over a small saucepan of water and heat the water to simmer. Stir the chocolate and oil mix until melted and combined, then turn off the heat. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set it aside to cool slightly.
  4. In another bowl, combine the rest of your ingredients except for the chocolate chips and egg whites. Whisk if you can but a fork will do the trick if you don’t have a whisk. Add your slightly cooled melted chocolate and whisk again.
  5. In yet another bowl, use electric beaters to whip the egg whites into stiff white peaks. (Beginner’s tip: make sure your bowl and beaters are perfectly dry or the eggs won’t form peaks.)
  6. Fold in the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture in several additions. Try not to ‘beat’ the mixture as you want to preserve as much air in the egg whites as you go. Continue gently until the mixture is fully combined, then stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Pour the batter into your springform pan. Bake for approximately 25 minutes then check how it is going. (My oven is a bit slow so it takes a bit over 30 minutes in mine.) The cake is cooked when the surface has begun to crack and it springs back when lightly pressed.
  8. Take it out of the oven and set it on the stovetop to cool in the pan. It will fall from the top and shrink in from the sides. Once it’s done this, you can carefully release the springform pan from the sides and leave it to fully cool.
  9. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar, berries of choice, whipped cream or ice cream. It goes well with an espresso coffee or even a liquor coffee! Enjoy!

 

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This teacup set belonged to my great grandmother! It’s at least one hundred years old and it only comes out for special occasions 🙂

 

Order The Cake Maker’s Wish here.

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Josephine Moon’s Rustic Apple Crumble Recipe (with Gluten Free Option)

I don’t know about you but I’m a total sucker for anything with baked apples in it. This recipe is a winner because it can be made gluten free and with a few tweaks it can even slide into the realm of being healthy. (Yep, I’ve eaten it for breakfast.)

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What I love about this recipe is that it is so flexible. In fact because I wanted to share this recipe so much, I had to force myself to write it down as I went because I usually make it up on the spot.

One of the opening scenes in The Cake Maker’s Wish involves an illicit apple crumble (you’ll have to read it to find out why that one is illicit!) and was inspired by my own trip to the Cotswolds in 2015.

This is a generous dish because you really do have the flexibility to make it all your own and I’ll leave you some notes on some suggested variations. Ready to get baking? Here we go.

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Josephine Moon’s Rustic Apple Crumble (gluten free optional)

Ingredients

  • 6-8 apples (a mixture of varieties is perfectly fine, and leaving the skin on adds nutritional value and the ‘rustic’ vibe… also, it saves time!)
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 100g butter
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (make sure they’re certified gluten free if you want it to be GF)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup plain flour (or GF all purpose flour blend)
  • 1/4 cup sultanas (or cranberries, or other dried fruit)
  • 1/4 cup nuts, chopped roughly (walnuts are traditional but equally I have used pecans or almonds)
  • sprinkle of cinnamon (or nutmeg, or both) to taste
  • drizzle of maple syrup (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C (170C fan forced). Locate your cooking pot. I use a 25cm round cast iron pot with lid.
  2. Cut your apples into quarters to remove the core, then slice into approximately even slices (maybe 1-2mm wide). Layer them roughly into your pot, sprinkle with cinnamon, and add the tablespoon of water, which will give them a bit of steam to begin with.
  3. Combine your butter, sugar, oats, almond meal and flour into a bowl and work with your fingers to create sticky crumbles.
  4. Spread your sultanas and nuts over the top.
  5. Distribute your crumble topping evenly over the top and drizzle with maple syrup, if using.
  6. Place the lid on the pot and slide it into your pre-warmed oven for 15 minutes. Then remove the lid and leave to cook for another 25 to 30 minutes (depending on your oven) or until golden brown and apples are tender.
  7. Serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt. Enjoy!

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Tips for healthier versions

  • Add chia seeds and/or coconut shreds to the crumble topping–this makes it worthy of being a breakfast food in my opinion 🙂
  • Reduce or even eliminate the sugar. I have made this with no sugar and you’d be amazed how much sweetness is in the apples already.
  • Choose plain, unsweetened yoghurt as your topping of choice.

 

Happy baking!

Jo x

Pre-order The Cake Maker’s Wish now. 

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How 1 Euro Italian houses and The Cake Maker’s Wish are Related

Since I started writing The Cake Maker’s Wish (all the way back in 2015), my imaginary idea of reviving a dying little village by importing people from around the globe has gone a little more global (and viral).

Today, you can buy an Italian house for only 1 Euro, in the same country that previously gave away castles, monasteries and towers. Ireland has called for residents of Australia and USA to emigrate to the tiny island of Arranmore. Spain has had a problem of abandoned villages across the country, so the officials from Galicia set about giving away one of these villages. In all of these examples, the goal has been to give the properties to someone who has detailed plans to renovate, restore and add capital back into the local area, to save a dying population and/or economy, and restore economic trade to the local business owners. This is exactly the premise that I used for the setting of The Cake Maker’s Wish, though at the time, I didn’t know it was really ‘a thing’.

Where it all began…

In 2015 I travelled to the UK on a writing trip to meet with my UK publisher and agent, to delivery an author talk in Abergavenny in Wales and to do research to look for a new story. I travelled with my dad, my sister and my sister’s baby (who was 14 months old). As part of that trip, we rented a stone cottage in the Cotswolds where we based ourselves for ten days and travelled the area from there.

I was lucky enough to get to know some of the locals. Two of them—men who’d grown up in the village in the fifties—made me a cup of tea to tell me about what life was like when they were young. In that conversation, they lamented the fact that the village had changed so much from when it was owned by the Lord of the Manor, which had created a unified, collaborated feel through the workers, with a thriving community spirit. Over time, as the village was sold off, wealthy investors from the city would buy up cottages as holiday homes, but that meant that most of the properties were sitting empty for most of the year. The village couldn’t function as it used to, no longer community-sufficient, with people having to travel further and further away to find work and services and the house prices forcing workers out of the market.

I was really touched by their sadness and went back to my rented cottage and sat down with a notebook and pen and thought, well, I’m a writer, surely I can bring this village back to life on the page. And that’s how it started.

And now…

I confess to being truly delighted that my imagination has conjured something that isn’t completely out of the box at all, that its themes and efforts of small communities trying to survive and hold onto their connections is very real, and that equally real efforts are happening around the world right now to save them. In my heart, I am a girl from the village. I may have been born in Brisbane but I have now spent almost fifteen years living in small country towns. I know the huge beating hearts that live in them and how important it is to support them and celebrate them. This is exactly what my new novel does.

The Cake Maker’s Wish is out 2 June but you can pre-order it now from all good bookstores and online retailers. I look forward to sharing the imaginary village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds with you very soon!

 

Coming Soon! The Cake Maker’s Wish

I am thrilled to share the cover for my new book, The Cake Maker’s Wish, coming to you on 2 June 2020. I adore it!

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Life in the village isn’t always sweet and simple . . .

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options she didn’t even know she was craving.

An uplifting and heartwarming story about the moments that change your life forever, human kindness and being true to yourself.
Praise for Josephine Moon:

‘A mountain of heart, an abundance of soul and a banquet of mouth-watering food.’ Good Reading

‘You can’t go wrong with a book by Josephine Moon.’ Vanessa Carnevale

‘A delightful page-turner and a truly moving tale.’ Better Reading

Movie Review: Dolittle

I have read some dreadful reviews of Dolittle–all of them written by critics. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find reviews from your everyday mum/dad/viewer and you’ll find a kinder story. I have to agree with the latter group of people. This is one of those films where ‘the critics’ (whoever they are) have taken to the film with a ‘slash-and-burn’ pile-on mentality, throwing enough weight into their words to make them sound superior. (It is reminiscent of many book reviews I’ve read with the same lofty attitude.) Another time I’ve had to disagree with the critics is with the film The Holiday (starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet). To this day, The Holiday remains one of my favourite films of all time and from my perspective is a fantastic piece of romantic comedy that does exactly what it sets out to do and leaves us all feeling happy at the end. The critics smashed it; audiences felt differently.

Back to Dolittle… This film is not brilliant (though Robert Downey Jnr is), but it doesn’t deserve the backlash it’s received. Apparently, it had a fraught production, with multiple shootings, heavy rewriting, severe editing, delayed schedule, and ‘new talent’ brought into the production team to try to save it. Despite this, there are many things working in its favour.

The storyline begins with Dr Dolittle having hidden himself away from the world as a hermit living solely with his eccentric bunch of talking animals. Never having recovered from the loss of his wife and having grown a long beard and acting much like an animal himself, he is like a castaway who has been stranded on an island for many years, which, metaphorically speaking, he is. This all changes with two adolescents arrive onto his property on the same day and he is called back out into the world to save the dying queen of England or lose his estate he shares with his beloved animals. This leads him to open his world and ultimately his heart, all while sailing the seas to mystical islands, essentially in a bit of a pirate race with the bad guys. Downy Jnr is a master actor and there is real depth in the grief he portrays while barely saying a word about it. Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 10.53.20 am

As an animal lover, I adored the many wonderful animals in this film and general notions of living closely with them and being able to communicate with them as equals and I know many other animals lovers will feel the same. As a human, I appreciate the journey Dolittle must take to re-enter the world after such a crushing loss.

I agree with the critics in that a lot of the humour falls flat. There were several times in the theatre when the entire audience was dead silent when I’m sure they were supposed to be laughing. But it was entertaining enough to keep my seven-year-old engaged (and he has a ruthless attention span) and it’s a good piece of harmless, enjoyable fun.

Verdict: take it for what it is and enjoy

Movie review: Frozen II

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School holidays have been and gone and movies were consumed!

Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf are back to continue the journey of life in Arendelle in Frozen II (or Frozen 2). I took my seven-year-old son to see it and here’s what we thought.

Firstly, my son was not even a year old when the first Frozen came onto the screens and I somehow managed to miss the whole event until he was four years old, at which point he saw it, loved it, loved the song, and dressed up and sang along just like every other kindergarten kid. Now a big seven-year-old, he said he didn’t want to see Frozen II because he didn’t like it. I asked him what he even remembered about the first one, to which he paused and said, ‘I remember the song.’ Okay, yes, we all remember the song. Fair point. (And the film even takes a moment to make fun of it too.) Still, I made him go because it was stinking hot, I was exhausted and needed a sit-down activity, I wanted to see it, and there was nothing else on at my local cinema that was suitable. His final objections to seeing it were doused at the promise of an ice cream.

Generally speaking, sequels are rarely as good at the originals and this movie had to meet a bar set so high from the from first one it’s amazing it ever got off the ground.

The story continues following the lives of sisters Elsa and Anna in their kingdom of Arendelle who, at the end of the previous film, had been a rightful queen who had faced her fears and embraced her own uniqueness and was accepted by the people (Elsa) and had been a much wiser and more grounded woman, who’d learned hard lessons about trust and love and had proved to her sister that she was worthy of standing by her side (Anna). In Frozen II, Elsa is visited by a song only she can hear, calling her out of the kingdom and to an enchanted (but magically locked) forest, where she has to heal a great injury of the past.

The film is once again visually luxe and enchanting. Elsa is still conflicted, but not in a way I was expecting, and to be honest I’m not sure it was particularly clear why she was so conflicted and why the end result was as it was. (Please excuse my vagueness, I’m trying not to give away spoilers.) The greatest loss in this film, for me, was Kristoff, who was so funny, warm and active in the previous film but who has been relegated to the background, his one and only big scene seeing him singing a lovesick eighties-style power ballad in forest. That would have been okay (nothing wrong with an eighties power ballad) but it was pretty much all we saw of him and I missed him. His role in this film is to spend the entire time trying to propose to Anna. For me, this was unnecessary. I would be quite happy for them to be ‘living in sin’ together 🙂 But it seems that while Disney has made some great advances in breaking female stereotypes with this film, they couldn’t resist falling back on this particular princess trope.

There was some BIG messages in his film and if you are in any way prone to looking to nature for spiritual wisdom then this movie has some big things to say. ‘Water has a memory’ is the first big one we encounter and if you are at all familiar with Dr Emoto’s work studying water crystals this one will strike a cord. But there is a lot in here about making peace with the past and, specifically, about redressing the injuries caused to indigenous populations from colonial conquests. It hammers the idea of the interconnectedness of all from beginning to end, which some viewers will read as magic and into which others will find much deeper meaning.

The water horse. Amazing! Enough said.

There is a bit of a bushfire scene early on in the piece, which is quite tense, and if you have been affected by the recent Australian bushfires (which, in this country, aren’t we all in one way or another?) then be warned that could be a bit of trigger.

In terms of the plot, there is simply so much going on that it is convoluted and I did find myself more than once thinking, why are they doing this, exactly? It was a masterclass in writing–too many subplots can destroy the power of the main plot.

Did I love it? Yes, I did. Did my son? Yes, he did 🙂 He laughed, he was on the edge of his seat, he might have even cried at one point (I know I did!), and as soon as it was finished he said, ‘I enjoyed that a lot more than I thought I would.’

Is it as good as the first? They’re different beasts. Each is great in its own way. I don’t need something to be perfect for it to be enjoyable. A critical eye is one that looks to devalue and break down. I’d rather look at the whole thing and ask, Am I glad I saw it? Yes, most definitely.

Verdict: Absolutely worth seeing, on the big screen if possible.

Introducing The Writers Emporium

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I have news!

I have teamed up with best-selling author Rachel Bailey to create The Writers Emporium, a collaboration focused on bringing high-quality professional writing development workshops, retreats and training here to the beautiful Sunshine Coast.

We will be kicking off 2020 with a two-day event from 8-9th February called the Sunshine Writing Lab. We’ve called it a ‘lab’ because we want you to get your fingers into your work! Our point of difference is that we are so committed to bringing you value in our programs that we are running two streams of training alongside each other across both days. This gives us the flexibility to provide quality opportunities to writers of all stages, from beginners through to those more advanced. You can choose from formal workshops, one-on-on session with either Rachel or myself, or small group sessions (three people maximum). The power is in your hands.

If you’re interstate, no worries! Our location at The Sebel hotel in Maroochydore is just minutes from the Sunshine Coast airport so you can fly in and fly out again and stay at the hotel with the discounted room rate.

Rachel and I both love teaching and we’re so excited to join forces to help you reach your writing dreams.

Check out our website for full details of course content and more and while you’re there be sure to sign up to The Writers Emporium mailing list to keep up to date with upcoming events in the future.