Death by Dissertation (Cassandra Sato) by Kelly Brakenhoff

Death by Dissertation
(Cassandra Sato)
by Kelly Brakenhoff

About the Book

Death by Dissertation (Cassandra Sato)
Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Nebraska
Emerald Prairie Press (April 17, 2019)
Paperback: 355 pages
ISBN-10: 1733742409
ISBN-13: 978-1733742405
Digital ASIN: B07PKRD658

Amazon Countdown Deal that will run June 22 – 30th for $.99.

Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.

A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.

Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy.

Pineapple Upside Down Spam Cake

If you don’t live in Hawai’i where 6 million cans of Spam are eaten every year (that’s around 5 cans per person!), you might balk at trying this deliciously sweet and savory version of Pineapple Upside Down Cake. You’d be missing out on a treat once featured on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods.

Cassandra Sato, the main character in Death by Dissertation grew up in Hawai’i thinking everyone loved Spam as much as her family did. While we Midwesterners will put bacon in nearly anything, Spam is a culinary adventure foreign to most of us.

Prep Time 10 mins

Cook Time 35 mins

Total Time 45 mins

Course: Dessert

Keyword: Hawaii, Spam

Servings: 8 slices

Author: Kelly Brakenhoff


  • • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • • 1 cup brown sugar Stevia or use regular brown sugar
  • • 9 slices canned pineapple save the extra juice in the can
  • • 9 maraschino cherries from a jar
  • • 1 can Spam cut into 1/2″ slices
  • • 1 cup whole wheat flour or white flour
  • • 1 tsp baking powder
  • • 1/8 tsp salt
  • • 3 egg yolks
  • • 1 cup Sweetener like Stevia or use white sugar
  • • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • • 7 tbsp pineapple juice
  • • 3 egg whites keep separate from yolks


  • 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a 9″ round or square layer cake pan. Spread brown sugar evenly in pan and arrange pineapple slices on sugar, filling in spaces in pineapple centers with cherries.
  • 2. Optional, you can fry the Spam slices (like bacon) until lightly brown in a skillet before building your cake. It tastes great either way, but if texture is a consideration, try frying it first.

Arrange sliced Spam over pineapple slices.

  • 3. Beat egg yolks until light and fluffy, adding sugar gradually; add vanilla, pineapple juice, flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir until combined.

Pour egg whites into a separate metal bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into the cake mixture and stir carefully, trying to smooth out any lumps.

  • 4. Pour batter over the prepared Spam and pineapples, spreading evenly to edges of pan.
  • 5. Bake in a preheated oven 375°F for 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Turn baking pan upside down onto a serving plate. Serve warm. Store leftover cake loosely covered in the refrigerator.


My family agreed to be guinea pigs for this recipe, and although one child refused to taste it, those who did said it was sweeter and tastier than they expected. 

If your budget doesn’t afford you the luxury of visiting Hawai’i, you can get a taste of the islands by trying this recipe instead!

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About the Author

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. As an American Sign Language Interpreter with more than twenty years of experience, Kelly’s worked in college classrooms for fifteen different majors. From traipsing across muddy farm fields to stomach-churning medical procedures, and stage interpreting for famous figures, Kelly’s community interpreting interactions number in the thousands. Unfortunately, once she’s stepped away from the job, she usually forgets 90% of what happened. Which helps her keep confidential information safe, but also makes it really hard to grocery shop for more than 5 items without a written list.

Kelly wants to live in a world filled with peace, love, and joy, where people who can hear learn enough sign language to include deaf people in everyday conversations and work. Where every deaf child has early access to language and books with characters like them, and dark chocolate is cheap and plentiful.

When she’s not interpreting or writing, you can find Kelly cheering for her favorite Husker teams or training for half-marathons because she really likes dessert.

Her first mystery, Death by Dissertation, released April 22, 2019.

Author Links

Website –

Amazon – Https://

Instagram –  @kellybrak

Purchase Link – Amazon