FRIDAY FEAST with Sarah Mayberry

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Whoop! It’s Friiiiiday. And an especially good one for me because I’m on the cusp of handing in the first round of my Rocking Horse Hill edits. Plus I have a super-cool new guest for you. But first, the moment you’ve been waiting for, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf Weekly.

I had an airy. Yup, I took a swing and missed the ball completely. And this was after I’d taken a penalty drop as punishment for hitting my ball into a water hazard. About sums things up, really. Ahh, well. At least it wasn’t Sarah Mayberry author photoon the first tee in front of everyone. One must be thankful for small mercies.

Now to my guest. Please excuse me while I have a major fan-girl moment, cos Sarah Mayberry is all kinds of awesome. Not only is she a most splendiferous super-selling romance author, she writes for Australia’s longest surviving serial drama, Neighbours! Sarah has also co-created her own TV drama called Karaoke High (sounds like my kind of school), occasionally helps out on other shows, and consults on movie projects. See? Told you she was cool.

Sarah’s latest release is Her Favourite Rival, a book I just loved. The zing between the hero and heroine, both beautifully drawn characters, is perfect. If you want a feel good book, the sort you’ll want to cuddle afterward because you had such a good time, then this is it.




Cover of Her Favourite Rival by Sarah MayberryA new meaning for office politics!

Audrey Mathews has worked hard to get here. Now she’s up for a promotion and nothing will stand in her way – including Zach Black. He’s hot, smart and the competition. When they’re assigned to the same project, she’s shocked at how much she actually likes about him….and how much she misjudged him.

Before long Audrey is seriously falling for Zach – and indulging in an affair that’s against company policy. And the stakes rise when it’s clear only one of them can get ahead. So where do they draw the line between competition and love? Especially when she doesn’t want to lose either the promotion or the guy…


Trust me, this is a cracking romance. And there’s a related book, too – Her Favourite Temptation – which is equally as good.

You can purchase Her Favourite Rival right now direct from the publisher, Harlequin, or try your local book or chain store, or that most excellent of booksellers, Booktopia. For the ebook, try Kobo, Amazon (for Kindle), JB Hi-Fi, Google Play, iTunes, BigW ebooks or your favourite retailer.

Now that you’re all loaded up, go have some foodie fun with Sarah.


Contraband Cake

First up, a big thanks to Cathryn for inviting me to talk about one of my favourite things today – food! It took me ages to decide what recipe I wanted to share with everyone, and I finally fell back on a cake that has been living in my subconscious for the past few months – a sure sign that it’s time for me to bust out the bundt tin and make it again!

Like any self-respecting romance writer, I have been having a love affair with cake in all its forms all my life. Pretty much anything goes for me, except that horrible thick marzipan icing – blurg. Otherwise, if its made from sugar, fats and flour, the sky is the limit. When we were kids, I can remember my mum making brandy alexander cakes, and piping cream into sponges and chocolate cakes. Because my mother was nothing if not modern, she was an early adaptor of the packet cake mix, and more power to her. Us kids definitely didn’t know the difference! Helping her cook and then fighting with my siblings for first go at the bowl and the beaters are some of my fondest and yummiest memories. In fact, there was a time there where I was convinced that cake actually tasted better as a batter than it did cooked. Crazy times, indeed.

I should probably confess up front that today’s recipe was stolen from a magazine when we were living in New Zealand. It was a very old, tatty magazine, the type that kicks around a cafe until it is actually a biological hazard it’s so old. Nevertheless, I employed the usual covert stratagems in order to liberate the recipe page from the clutches of the magazine’s binding – my husband was appointed lookout and instructed to cough loudly as I tore out the page as discreetly as possible. This was – obviously! – in the days before iphones and whatnot. Nowadays I just boldly take a picture of the recipe on the page.

The thing was, once I saw the picture of this finished cake and read the instructions, I knew this cake was for me. It’s moist, it’s got dates in it, and there is chocolate. Oh, and there’s alcohol. It’s hard to argue with all of the above, don’t you think? It’s not a cake you want to inflict on a family gathering – the kids will be very sulky because they can’t have any because of the alcohol – but it’s fantastic as a dessert cake. I am actually drooling a little while typing this.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my recipe, I hope you get a chance to make it and enjoy:


Coffee Drizzle Cake with Dates

Photo of coffee drizzle cake with dates

Serves 8


225g/8oz butter, softened and chopped

2 cups caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 eggs

150g/5.5oz ground almonds

1 1/3 cups self raising flour

1 teaspoon bicarb of soda

30g/1oz of cocoa

1 1/4 cups espresso coffee, cooled

1/2 cup buttermilk


200g/7oz fresh dates, pitted, cut into slivers (if fresh dates aren’t available, dried are fine – pit them and cut them into slivers, then soak them in boiling water to soften them before soaking them in the brandy/cognac)

3 tablespoons of brandy/cognac

3/4 cup of caster sugar

1/4 cup espresso coffee

Pour the brandy over the slivered dates and set aside to soak for an hour. Turn the mixture over every now and then to distribute the brandy/cognac.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/375 F/Gas mark 5. In a mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla essence until fluffy. Add eggs one by one, beating after each.

Sift the flours, bicarb of soda, cocoa and a pinch of sea salt over the egg mixture. Add the buttermilk and cooled espresso and whisk until smooth. Spoon into a well-greased 24cm non-stick fluted (bundt) cake tin. (You can use a standard round or square tin, too, just adjust the cooking time to suit). Bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. ( I cooked this recently in my new fan-forced oven and it took only 35 minutes, so perhaps check on the cake a few times the first time you make it.) Let it stand in the tin for 10 minutes before easing the sides and then turning the cake onto a wire rack.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then simmer without stirring until a golden caramel. Remove from heat, add the 1/3 cup of espresso – being very careful, as the sugar will spit. Stir until smooth.

Top the cake with the slivered dates, then use a spoon to drizzle the syrup evenly over the cake. Serve with ice cream or double cream.

I promise that this cake is delicious, grown up and irresistible in the extreme. And now I have to make it, because I need to taste it again. Num num num.

Thanks for having me, Cathryn, and I hope you all enjoy.


I most definitely shall enjoy, Sarah. That cake is right up my…er…cakehole! Anything with dates in it is a winner I always think. And cognac. Plus it looks so pretty!

Hmm, which has me thinking… What’s your favourite adults-only food? I luuuurve tiramisu, and make a rather delish version with Tia Maria added the sponge biscuit soaking mix. 

What about you? Do you have a favourite dish full of contraband? Like to share? You never know, your idea could make it onto someone’s next home alone menu…

If you’d like to learn more about Sarah and her books (read them, they’re fab!), please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.


12 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Sarah Mayberry

  1. Avatarchristinestinson

    Yum is right – that cake sounds delicious. A slice of that while reading ‘Her favourite rival’ sounds like a great combination!. I’m a sucker for tiramisu, too, but with Frangelico as the alcohol additive. Thanks for another enjoyable post, Cathryn and Sarah.

    1. Avatarsarah mayberry (@MayberrySarah)

      Hi Christine. I love Frangelico, too. I have made a Tiramisu with it in the past, and you’re right, it’s fantastic. You could probably soak the dates in Frangelico, too, for this one. I am not a big fan of brandy or cognac, but I still like it in this cake. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

  2. AvatarBec Brown

    my favourite dish which only gets made on special occasions (usually anniversaries) is my Auntie’s Pavlova (which I now make) its the kind that is crunchy on the outside and just the right mix of meringue and chewy on the inside but what makes it really naughty is the cream – you make it the night before, whip up the cream, then grate good chocolate (I like using Cadbury’s) and fold it into the cream along with 2 tablespoons of Bundy rum (no more than 2 or it will curdle the cream – so if your not a big drinker just buy the little bottle) leave it in the fridge overnight – then just before serving top the pav with the cream, cut up strawberries and maybe some more grated chocolate (the trick is freeze the chocolate so it doesn’t melt) or crushed up peppermint crisp bar – soooo good!

    1. Avatarsarah mayberry (@MayberrySarah)

      Hi Bec. That pavlova sounds fantastic. Drool drool drool. I have become a late-in-the-day appreciator of pavlova, especially the kind you’re talking about. I think I need to go rattle around in the fridge to see what sweet things we have to eat!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Drooling here too, Bec! That pav sounds peeeeeerfect. So important to have that touch of chewiness. Can’t stand the all meringue ones. You need something to get your teeth into!

        Such a fab blast from the past. Crushed up Peppermint Crisps on top were a childhood favourite!!!

  3. AvatarAnne Gracie

    Oh dear, that looks so yummy, Sarah and Cathryn — and here I am trying to be “good” and not indulging in cake. I might have to make this one and then take it to someone’s place, where I can taste, but not have any more on hand to tempt me.

    Looking forward to reading “Rival”, Sarah — love your books.

    A temptation I like to make at this time of year is something called “Christmas Crack” — it’s a salt-sweet toffee, smothered in chocolate and toasted nuts, and broken into shards. I make it to give away, mostly, but, well, someone has to clear up the crumbs of splintered gorgeousness, don’t they? 🙂

    1. Avatarsarah mayberry (@MayberrySarah)

      Hi Anne *waves* So sorry I missed you at Christmas lunch! If Christmas Crack is the stuff you’ve made me before DROOL. If not, it sounds just as amazing as the delicious bag of deliciousness you gifted me at Queenscliff. I have been thinking about this cake all weekend and am probably just going to make it and eat it all. What the hell.

  4. AvatarLouise Reynolds

    Love the sound of this cake, Sarah. Re contraband, well I generally pass right over the flour and baking bizzo and head straight to slopping booze…er alcohol…onto grilled fruit. My fave is chargrilled peaches, popped in the oven for 10mins with a little vanilla sugar and splashes of Amaretto. When it’s out I normally crumble some amaretto biscuit over the top and give it another splash with Amaretto. And then it’s time for cream 🙂 Love your books, Sarah, and so looking forward to Her Favourite Rival.

    1. Avatarsarah mayberry (@MayberrySarah)

      Hi Louise. Alcohol in, near, around cooking is always a good thing! I have to confess I made this cake on Saturday night. I just couldn’t resist after blogging about it. I had forgotten how amazingly coffee/choclatey it is. The drizzle of coffee/toffee syrup at the end turns it into such a moist little devil… Was fantastic. And now there is a leftover piece calling to me from the fridge….Sigh. Thanks for popping by and your kind words.

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