Dummy Rum Cake & Just Small Potatoes with Maya Corrigan

Scam Chowder is the second in a new series set in the historic Chesapeake Bay!

Take a burned-out cookbook publicist. Stir in a crusty codger and a dash of romance. Toss with a large helping of murder, and you have the ingredients for a delicious mystery series set in a historic Chesapeake Bay town. Thirtyish Val Deniston, escapee from New York City’s celebrity chef scene, runs the Cool Down Cafe at a tourist town’s racket and fitness club. Under pressure to turn a profit and keep her crotchety grandfather out of trouble, she relaxes by tweaking recipes for her in-progress cookbook and by playing tennis. Granddad, who can’t boil water without scorching a pot, pulls off a culinary hoax, appropriating her five-ingredient recipes for his new Codger Cook newspaper column. Hiding his fraud is small potatoes compared with solving the town’s rash of murders. Abetted by the old man and her café regulars — a mix of diet faddists, chowhounds, and food snobs — Val investigates five suspects to unravel each mystery.


Any dummy can make this cake. You just throw five ingredients into a bowl and mix. You can make it into a fancier, sweeter, and more fattening dessert by frosting it or drizzling a glaze made of rum, butter, and sugar over it. Or you can eat the slimmer version and take a second helping.

1 yellow cake mix (15 to 16 ounces)
3 eggs
½ cup cold water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (not olive oil)
½ cup dark rum
[Optional cup of chopped pecans]

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cover the inside of a 10- to 12-inch tube or Bundt pan with cooking spray. If you’re using the chopped nuts, sprinkle them in the bottom of the pan.

Put the other ingredients in a big bowl and run the mixer for two minutes. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a wooden toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cake for ten minutes and turn it upside down.


Use plain ole spuds for this dish, not ones with fancy names like russets, creamers, or fingerlings. Parmesan cheese straight from the canister works great. If you have a hunk of Parmesan and want to grate it, knock yourself out, but I can’t guarantee the potatoes will taste as good.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

6 medium to large potatoes
¼ cup flour
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons melted butter

Pour the melted butter into a glass baking pan (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Combine the flour, cheese, and salt in a plastic bag. Peel the spuds and cut each into eight pieces. Dip ‘em in cold water, throw ‘em into the plastic bag a few at a time, and shake. When the pieces are coated, plunk those babies in the pan, flat side down, nestled in a single layer. Bake for an hour, turning them after half an hour to brown another side.

Serve them in the baking pan. If you want the pan to look pretty, you can add parsley sprigs.

Serves 6.

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