Victorian England, in fact, saw the rise of the woman poisoner as a cultural archetype. After all, poisons such as arsenic were easy to come by and forensic science was not yet adept at detecting such causes of death. To be fair, married women had little or no rights then, and poison often presented the only means out of an abusive marriage. I admit I have a something of a soft spot for women who poisoned out of self-preservation.
Anna Marie Hahn, however, a German immigrant who poisoned and killed at least five men in America in the 1930s, did not act out of necessity or desperation. Her motives were simple: She wanted her victim's money. Posing as a nurse, Hahn befriended (and likely seduced) elderly German-American men, under the pretense of caring for them. She beguiled them into giving her money, and once she bled them dry - or was put in their will - she poisoned their food, often with arsenic or croton oil, and left them to die painful deaths.
After her arrest for the murder of George Opendorfer, she became a favorite of the press and was dubbed, variously, "Arsenic Anna," or the "Blonde Borgia." It took a Cinncinnati jury of mostly women a very short time to find her guilty, whereupon she was sentenced to death. On December 7, 1938 she became the first woman in Ohio to die by electrocution.
But before her execution, she invited the press to her cell for interviews, and according to some accounts, she served them cake and punch.
For the cake:
1 cup pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup brewed coffee
1/3 cup softened unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh vanilla bean
1/4 cup cherry liqueur
For the ganache:
Equal weight milk chocolate chips and heavy cream
dash corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon rose water
Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and lightly dust with flour. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the dry cake ingredients. Add the other, wet, ingredients, except for the egg, and mix on low for 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix for another minute, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in cake pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, remove from pan, and allow to cool thoroughly.
For the ganache, melt the chips in a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water. Whisk in the cream, add the corn syrup and rose water. Pour over the cooled cake and allow to set.
Lazaro Cooks and Joan of Foodalogue. Visit Lazaro later this month for a full round up.
The Good-Bye Door by Diana Britt Franklin.