Franco-Russian celebration cake

A recipe for the festive season! (Cross-posted from my food blog, A la mode frangourou).

This is the beautiful recipe my husband David devised to recreate the ‘Gateau Russe’, or Russian Cake, my favourite cake ever, which as you’ll see was devised in Southwest France, adapting the recipes of Russian emigrés. Recently, a Russian friend told me that in fact this cake was very popular in Russia–but that the story went there that it was first devised in–Kiev! So it is called a Kievski there…or maybe not, these days 🙂


Celebration cake: David’s beautiful Gateau Russe
Whenever we went back to Biarritz, when I was a kid, and were taken on one of our favourite outings, to the wonderful Dodin patisserie, I would always ask for the same cake: a ‘Russe’, or ‘Russian’. This wonderful cake, made of hazelnut or almond meringue, layered with butter cream that was either flavoured with coffee or hazelnut, tasted like a slice of heaven to me, with its combination of breautiful crunchy meringue and lusciously smooth flavourful butter cream. It’s a cake you only ever find in patisseries in the South of France, and only in the south-west at that–you never see it in the patisseries of Paris, or anywhere else in France. So you could get it in Toulouse and Biarritz but not Marseille, for instance. I didn’t know why it was called a ‘Russe’. Though I’m not sure who first devised it, I’d hazard a guess its origin might be in Biarritz, which was full of Russian exiles after 1917. Dodin’s Patisserie has been going since the 19th century and though it lays claim to being the originator of the famous (and delicious)chocolate cake, the ‘Beret Basque'(so-called because its shape ressembles the famous Basque headgear) it does not claim to have birthed the Russe, though its examples were always wonderful. (By the way, if you want to drool over some of Dodin’s beauties, here is their website: )

Anyway to get back to my Russe, it’s something that I not only loved in childhood but now too. But I always thought I had to wait to get back to South-west France to indulge in it again. I thought it would be one of those sorts of cakes that would be too difficult to pull off for a home cook and so each birthday in Australia, I’d put in a request for my second-favourite cake, the Gateau Moka. This is also a gorgeous cake–a Genoise sponge layered with coffee butter cream, and David, my husband, has made it superlatively well for many years. But a Gateau Moka is not easy to make too far ahead of time and transport and as my birthday was going to be in Sydney this year, I knew I’d have to think again. I remembered seeing the ‘Swallow’s Nest’ cake in the Russian cookbook we bought in Moscow and thought, how about that, and then started thinking, that sounds a bit like a ‘Russe’–and then David said, well, meringue’s much easier to make ahead of time, why don’t I have a go at a Russe? He made me describe it and started looking up recipes–and then made his own version which turned out spectacularly well and which proved a huge hit at the birthday party!
Here’s his recipe for a beautiful ‘Davidov’ which I think I’ll dub his version of the ‘Russe’! And it shows that a home cook can indeed pull off a Russe as well as any patissier–all my siblings, who’d tasted the ‘real’ Russes, agreed that it reproduced exactly the look and texture and flavours we all loved at Dodin’s! Continue reading

Meet My Character–it’s a blog tour!

Wendy JamesMy friend and fellow author, the wonderful writer Wendy James, has invited me on the Meet My Character blog tour.

Wendy is the author of six books, including The Lost Girls (2013) The Mistake (2012) and Out of the Silence, which won the 2006 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime fiction and was shortlisted for the Nita May Dobbie Award for women’s writing. She currently lives in Newcastle, New South Wales with her husband and two of their four children.

I’ve known Wendy for many years, ever since our youngest and her eldest child bonded at school! We met each other first as our sons’ mothers but soon became good friends, and when we were living in the same town, used to meet once a week for a pub lunch, family and literary gossip and much book talk! (I miss those lunches, Wendy!) We also read each other’s first drafts on occasion, and I certainly felt greatly encouraged by Wendy’s wise and thoughtful advice, and her passion for our craft.

And I enjoyed reading about her character Beth Mahoney, aka Dizzy Lizzy, from her forthcoming novel, The Golden Child.

Now it’s my turn to tag about the next two authors on the blog tour, as well as to write about my own character here. So I’ve invited Felicity Pulman and Michael Pryor to take the blog baton after me.

felicity-pulman-2011Felicity Pulman writes fiction for adults, young adults, and children. Her love of history and legend infuses her books, such as I, Morgana, based on Arthurian legend, and the Janna Mysteries, set in the tumultuous Middle Ages at the time of the fierce dynastic struggles of Stephen and Matilda. Felicity, who has won several awards, also writes crime short stories, and her time-slip novel for children, Ghost Boy, is currently being made into a film.




michael-pryor-colour-portrait-150x225Michael Pryor is the author of over twenty novels and many short stories, or adults, young adults and children. His books have been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Aurealis Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Ditmar Awards, and several of his titles have also been CBC Notable Books. His love of speculative fiction, the steampunk genre and alternative history led to him creating the extraordinary world of his very popular series, The Laws of Magic, set in the Edwardian period.




Now to my book character!

What is the name of your character?

Maxim Serebrov. He’s one of the main characters in Trinity: The Koldun Code.  I’ve decided to write about him because I’ve already written about the other two main characters, Helen Clement and Alexey Makarov. Maxim is an important character and some of the action is seen from his point of view.

Is he/she fictional or a historic person?


When and where is the story set?

Today, in Russia.

What should we know about him/her?

Maxim is a homicide detective in the Moscow police. He is in his late thirties, has been married but now divorced, has no children. He’s a big, powerful-looking man–some people describe him as ‘bear-like’, he’s very intelligent but has something of a temper. He was brought up in a tough part of Moscow, saw military service in Chechnya, and lives in a rather crummy flat. Honest yet disillusioned, he battles daily to do his job honestly in the midst of danger and corruption.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his or her life?

Maxim’s life has been messed up by his job and the demands it places on him, but in the book, he’s also messed up by the fact his boss has taken him off the Trinity case, which he’s been struggling to try and solve. But Maxim is not a man to back down and so behind his boss’ back, he decides he’s going to try and crack it on his own.

What is the personal goal of the character?

To solve the mystery of the deaths of the three Trinity founders and later also to find out what lies behind the strange events that are happening.

Is there a working title for the novel, and can we read more about it?

It’s called Trinity: The Koldun Case, and it’s the first in the Trinity series. You can read more about it here. It’s available in print and ebook formats.

When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

It’s been published–in e book format on November 13, and print book format on December 4. And if you’re quick you might also be able to win a copy at the Goodreads giveaway, which lasts till December 17!

Below is a pic of book cover. And a pic of the actor I’d love to have playing Maxim in a film of the book–Alexander Iskakevich, who on screen has the same combination of strength, intelligence and stoicism.

Trinity Koldun Code coverMaxim serebrov alexander ivaskevich

Guest post: Donna Maree Hanson on writers and readers

Donna Hanson Print DragonwineToday’s fabulous guest post is from author Donna Maree Hanson, author of the Dragon Wine series. I’ve known Donna for quite a few years, and we’ve periodically caught up at speculative fiction events all over Australia–and as you’ll see, in my home town too!

Welcome to the blog, Donna!

Writers and readers

It is such a pleasure to be visiting Sophie’s blog. Hello everyone and hello Sophie!
Sophie is an author with an amazing publishing history and when we met years ago she was so accommodating and helpful to a new writer like me. I was very impressed by that. We even met for coffee in Armidale when I passed through on my way to Brisbane from Canberra once. How’s that for fab!

One of the great things about being a writer is meeting other writers and meeting readers as it builds a sense of community. They say writing is a lonely profession and when it comes down to putting words on page, it is. But connecting to other people is also important.
Writers for example know what it’s like–the struggles with writing, editing, polishing, submitting and rejections. Then when there are acceptances, it’s navigating the edits, the promotion, the signings. It’s all new and different and scary so having other writers be your mate and give you advice and support is very important. It’s also important to pay it forward. It’s important for writers to help those coming up behind them. It’s important for community.
I’ve been lucky with the speculative fiction community and even the broader genre community (romance, crime, horror, science fiction and fantasy) because it’s like being part of a tribe. I’m thinking Genrecon and other science fiction conventions where authors and readers mix.
Then there are the readers. A writer doesn’t exist without them. They are the important ones. We write to entertain, to enthral and to mesmerise. So we need willing participants. We need people who want to read. We need people who want to read our stuff. We need you!
Since Shatterwing and Skywatcher, part one and two of the Dragon Wine series, came out, I’ve had to great pleasure to have people Tweet, Facebook and email me to tell me how much the like the books. I’ve had texts telling me to give up my day job and write the next book. I’ve had people tell me at an author event how much they liked my work and other nice things. After years of not being published that’s like being given a chest of gold. It’s the most amazing feeling.
Nothing is more priceless than that to an author. It doesn’t matter how famous (I believe) authors don’t get tired of hearing that you liked their story, series etc. So if you like a book you’ve read don’t be afraid to tell the author or tweet or Facebook about it. I can assure you, it’s like grease to the wheel. Nothing makes me more productive and enthusiastic than praise.
There’s nothing wrong with critique either. Writers know that reading is subjective. Some people are going to love your work. Some are only going to like bits of it. Some will hate all of it. It’s nice if people were respectful with their views but you can’t have everything.
I believe Shatterwing is a kind of book that divides. Some love it and some are going to hate it. It’s dark, epic fantasy and it’s set on a nasty world. In places it’s not a comfortable read because it’s brutal in parts. But there is also a thread of light in there. I say to people when they buy Shatterwing-if you survive that you’ll love Skywatcher. Continue reading

Paperback release!

Trinity book cover print edition completeTime to pop the champagne again! This week will see the release of the gorgeous paperback edition of Trinity: The Koldun Code. (Full cover at right)You will be able to order it from Booktopia(Australia), Amazon(in all countries), Barnes and Noble, Books Depository, and many other online bookshops. As well, you can ask your local bookshop to order it through Lightning Source.

And to celebrate, for two weeks only there’s a Goodreads giveaway to win a copy of the book, with three copies to champagne_glassesbe won!

Guest Post: Sophie Masson’s Russian Inspiration

Fantastic to be on Louise Cusack’s blog!


Sophie portrait blue and redI’m really excited to welcome one of Australian’s best know fantasy authors Sophie Masson to my blog, so she can share details of her exciting travels in Russia and how they inspired her latest novel TRINITY: The Koldun Code (Book One). I’m always interested to see the link between an author’s lifelong fascination and the story it produces. But first a little about Sophie:

Born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of more than 50 novels for readers of all ages, published in Australia and many other countries. Her adult novels include the popular historical fantasy trilogy, Forest of Dreams (Random House Australia). Sophie has always had a great interest in Russian myth and history, an interest reflected in several of her books for younger readers.

Louise: Welcome to the blog Sophie. Please tell us…

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