Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Wedding anniversary at Peggy Porschen's Parlour

Halloween was our 11th wedding anniversary and of course we needed cake and where better than my favourite cake parlour in London - Peggy Porschen. If people ask where to go for tea and cake in London I always suggest Peggy's - who can fail to fall in love with such a beautiful pink parlour? This is the colour everything in my house would be if Manny would allow it! 

We opted for a cupcake each - Manny going for Chocolate Heaven and I opted for Sticky Toffee - one of their range I've wanted to try for some time. 

Manny's Chocolate Heaven cake was delicious. I'm sometimes put off chocolate cake by bad frosting - this one was as light as a feather. As was the cake.

My Sticky Toffee one was fabulous. The addition of walnuts was a little strange at first but I think it added some good texture to the cake. Again the frosting was divine.

When we finished Manny went and got the Halloween special - a pumpkin and cream cheese cupcake which we shared while finishing our coffees. I'm not that fond of pumpkin - sometimes I find it makes me gag - but this one was lovely. And the cream cheese frosting was again lovely. The cake itself was heavily spiced which I really liked. 

We left clutching two take away cupcakes (I know we're fatties but we just couldn't resist), for our trip around Brompton Cemetery where we snuggled, fed squirrels and crows, and had a lovely day. There are no photos of the second lot of cupcakes alas as when we were taking some photographs in the Cemetery I put the cakes down and the box blew over. We still ate them obviously! Manny had a Black Forest and I had a Banoffee - Manny loved his (I tried a bit and it was really flavoursome), however my Banoffee wasn't my favourite cupcake ever I have to admit - the banana flavour wasn't that strong but it was moist and fresh so better than a lot of cupcakes I've had previously. 

The perfect anniversary day out in London. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

Review of the Cake and Bake show and Cake International ticket giveaway

Manny's beautifully decorated cupcake

Snappy title - huh?

A couple of weeks have now passed since the first Cake and Bake show in London's Earl's Court. Before the event social media was awash with excitement about it, after the event a little less so with more moaning about crowds, lack of loos etc. 

We went along on the Saturday afternoon, already bored with the amount of Tweets proclaiming 'I'm in the press office' from bloggers keen to let us know they were, well in the press office. Yawn. I lost a few Twitter followers for pointing out that covering an event by constantly tweeting 'I'm in the press office' was a little boring. Oh dear. 

Also being tweeted were horrendous pics of queues and lots of issues about crowds.  Yes, the venue was too small and very shoddy looking (I believe it's going to be demolished soon?) and yes there were too many people trying to look at too few stalls BUT the main problem wasn't any fault of the organisers but the fault of the people attending - lack of manners mainly. The organisers didn't make the lady next to us during Mich Turners excellent demo talk loudly and hit several people with her giant fake Cath Kidston bag while insisting loudly 'take my pic with this baking woman'. They didn't make people push in on queues, or nearly knock others of their feet while they were paying/looking at stalls. I'm a big girl and I was nearly knocked off my feet by some rude woman while I was paying for some purchases as she just HAD to get to the front of the stall. Seriously what happened to having some manners? The same thing happened at Cake International - rudeness appears to be an epidemic amongst those who like baking. They should eat some cake and chill out a bit. I was also appalled to read on Twitter on Sunday that people were stealing unattended goodies bags which were being sold to raise money for charity. For the love of god -what kind of people are these? Possibly the kind who looked horrified at tattooed people being at the Cake and Bake show - who knows. 

My main gripe re the organisers were a complete lack of anywhere to actually eat cakes or bakes. Surely this kind of event was calling out for an afternoon tea area or similar. The cupcakes/cakes on offer were not the enticing - some looked like small children had decorated them so we gave them a miss. Manny did however eat a couple of brownies and loved them and I took a pandan cupcake home which was lovely. 

The other main problem in my opinion was the cake decorating area. We went there so Manny could decorate a cupcake. I was APPALLED at the state of the cupcakes they were selling for £2 to decorate - more so when I found out a professional baker had made them. Seriously Cake and Bake next year get in touch - I could churn out better looking vanilla cupcakes in my sleep. Manny at least had fun decorating - and he's in his 40s so it wasn't an issue telling him the cake wasn't fit for human consumption, but good luck trying to tell kids they couldn't eat the cake that felt like it was weeks old as the mothers next to us had to do. 

I did manage to brave the pushing crowds to buy a few good things including a lovely Kozial cake stand that I've been after for ages for the bargain price of £15 from a company called Baker and Maker. I also got some lovely straws from them.  Other purchases included some chocolate moulds, chocolate transfer sheets and some other little bits to play around with. The scrum around areas like Peggy Porschen's stall was too much to bear so if I want anything I'll just go to her store and enjoy a civilised cup of tea and cake at the same time. 

If you fancy attending a similar event, hopefully without hoards of elbowing women I have two tickets to Cake International in Birmingham from the 9-11 November to give away. The tickets can be used for any of the days. To enter please leave a comment below saying what you would like to see at the Cake and Bake show, or Cake International. Giveaway closes on the 15th October and is for show tickets only - does not include travel. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Holy Fuckcakes

If you're reading this from  London and are a fan of street food then I'm sure you'll need no introduction to Holy Fuck hot sauce, the infamous hot sauce made by the Ribman.

What you may not know is that this sauce is now available baked into a cake.

Two weeks ago Kaelie from Sweet Tooth Factory made some Holy Fuckcakes to celebrate the Ribman's birthday and sold some at Street Feast. After reading about them on Twitter how could I resist?

We bought three cupcakes from the lovely Kaelie - Manny nearly exploded with excitement when he saw the triple chocolate ganache cupcake so obviously we had to get one of those, and I opted for a salted caramel cupcake. If it'd been up to Manny we'd have bought all the flavours. And cheesecake.

We sat down with a Brown Betty of tea and got to scoffing. I didn't have much time to take pics, and it was dark so please accept my apologies for the pics - they don't do the cakes justice.

First up was the chocolate ganache. Oh. My. God. I'm not usually a fan of very chocolate'y cupcakes but this was really tasty. Well the bit I got to try was - Manny wolfed it down superfast. And the ganache frosting was amazing. I may have to kidnap Kaelie till she tells me her secret!

The salted caramel cupcake was really nice. I never used to like salted caramel but since working in the bakery and making salted caramel goodies I now love it, and this one was good, with really lovely salted caramel sauce oozing out from under the delicious frosting.

And finally, the Holy Fuck cupcake - aka the Holy Fuckcake.

On first bite, I thought 'oh it's not that spicy' and then ....oh my....the heat HIT. Wow these cakes were hot! And tasty. Very very tasty. A total hit!

They were such a success at Street Feast Kaelie has now added them to her cupcake menu so if you want to try them make sure you follow her on Twitter to find out where she's selling them. Next time I visit I shall be buying all her cheesecakes!

On a non cake point we tried The Ribman's Holy Mother of God sauce - bejesus that stuff is EAR BURNING.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Brighton

The third and final part of my recent travels takes us to the lovely coastal town of Brighton. I know not quite as glamorous as Paris but I love Brighton.

Alas I did not love their cakes - this final part is the 'downright ugly' of the trilogy.

I had wanted to visit Choccywoccydoodah for years. Every time we went to Brighton we seemed to get swayed by other things - usually the pub - however we finally made it on Valentines day this year. I really wished I hadn't bothered.

First we visited the chocolate store.

The cakes in the window were amazing and the shop has some lovely things in it but I'm afraid I find myself unable to justify paying £20 for a chocolate kitten or a tenner for a pair of chocolate lips. I actually toyed with buying a small cake but decided to go to the Bar du Chocolat first. Thank f**k I did.

I'd read online about the intimate boudoir where sumptuous hot chocolate is served - however when walking in we were faced with a modern looking cafe which smelt a lot of cheese and oil. We were shown to the back room, aka the boudoir, which was very cramped and rather shabby.

We ordered their luxury (sumptuous?) hot chocolate and some cakes; a chocolate coconut cupcake for me and for Manny lemon cake as strangely they had no chocolate cake available. Not a great start for a chocolate cafe.

Our hot chocolate was ok - nothing luxury or sumptuous about it though. It tasted less chocolate'y than a Starbucks hot chocolate, was covered in masses of cream and contained a LOT of really cheap tasting marshmallows which added nothing to it at all and made it all gloopy. If I was to guess I'd say no real chocolate was involved in the making of this hot chocolate. It tasted like it was from a packet. My home made hot chocolate is nicer than this and, even using expensive chocolate, cheaper.

Manny liked his cake with ice cream. I tried some and it was quite nice, nothing spectacular.

My cupcake was in fact a cake covered in melted chocolate with some dessicated coconut on top. The cake itself was rock hard and tasted of nothing. The chocolate was hard and rather unpleasant. But nothing was unpleasant as taking a bite and finding....a hair. A longish curly hair that did not belong to me.


Now normally I would've pointed this out to staff, however we had a charming couple and their children squashed into the area next to us - he was threatening to beat the crap out of her for not eating any of their, frankly disgusting looking Rocky Road, and being incredibly unpleasant to the staff who were young and I felt had enough on their plate. However I did email Choccywoccydodah afterwards and tell them I was disappointed to find hair in their cakes and mention how old/stale the cakes were but received no response.

Next time I'm in Brighton I'll stick to the pub.

Monday, 9 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Athens

 This is part two of my three part series about my recent travels - aka 'the bad'.

A few days before we boarded the Eurostar to Paris for my 40th birthday we flew to Athens for Up the Hammers festival as Manny was playing there and as I'd never been to Greece I decided to tag along.

I was not a fan of Athens on arrival, mainly because we were staying in an area labelled the 'Greek Camden' which I can only say looked more like the Greek version of downtown Basra after a raid by lots of junkie prostitutes. Our hotel was lovely but the area outside it was not.

However the rest of Athens was lovely. The people on the whole were amazingly friendly, the food was good when we found it (our area was very much in the recession hit part - everything was closed apart from several toilet seat stores - Greeks must go through a LOT of loo seats) and the sights were amazing. Standing on top of Lycavittos Hill or the Acropolis just takes your breath away. The stunning beauty of it is awe inspiring. And how can I not love somewhere where trees with juicy ripe citrus fruit are everywhere!

It was near Lycavittos Hill we chanced upon Cake.

Their selection of cake was quite disappointing if I'm honest. Chocolate, vanilla and red velvet ALL with incredibly bright frosting - all vanilla frosting as far as we could ascertain.

 Tasting them helped in no way decipher what flavour the frosting was. We are still trying to decide what the fuck it was made out of. I'm pretty certain it was NOT butter based that's for sure, and if it was,  butter in Greece is not something I'd ever wish to try again. In trying to decide what it was I had to eat a few bites and the only thing I've ever put in my mouth of a similar taste and texture was play-doh. I am about 90% sure it's made of some kind of edible modelling clay. Oh and dear god the cake was dry and tasted of absolutely nothing. Just air and dryness, oh and a sweaty stickyness that was not pleasant. Even Manny couldn't eat more than a bite of his 'chocolate' one. It was one of those instances when we had to immediately brush our teeth after tasting these. Vile is the only way I can describe it. And wrong. Ok that's two ways.

I kinda smooshed about with the 'frosting' to try and show the texture but I'm not sure it comes across in the photo - it was totally mouldable - just like play-doh. I honestly think I ate play-doh.

I said to Manny we should move to Athens and open a cupcake shop immediately in Athens as this place has several locations - imagine how nice tasty cupcakes with actual flavour and buttercream would be received!!

To make up for the vile cupcakes I had to share the best food we ate while there - pork chops and Greek salad from Telis in an area that was described by our cab driver along the lines of 'very dangerous, you may die'. It was a little run down, with police everywhere but the chops and wonderfully fresh Greek salad made up for it. And the staff were lovely and friendly and no-one tried to kill us so..bonus.

And some amazing Gelato pre the walk up the Acropolis on a hot Saturday afternoon!

Finally, we had some lovely macarons in Costa  - I know, I know another chain but we needed a sit down and some coffee!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Paris

This is part one of a series of three blog posts about my recent travels - the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Paris has the pleasure of being 'the good'

I went to Paris early in March for my 40th birthday. And fell in love. Not just with the cakes but with everything. I LOVED it there. I think it could be because you can buy anything flavoured with Speculoos. 

 Whilst there the best thing I ate wasn't actually a cupcake but a Speculoos cake from ...Starbucks. I know, we went to Paris and the best thing we ate was from Starbucks...but this cake was AMAZING. So good we went twice and ate it. We'd originally just popped in to use the loo and fell in love with the cake!

We also shared some Cookies and Cream cake - Starbucks in Paris have much better baked goods than here.

We didn't make it to half the places we meant to go to eat in in Paris - mainly because we spent the two days walking round enjoying the city. Oh and buying lots of gore DVDs (Manny found the shop of his dreams just near our hotel). Oh and buying chocolate. And beer.

We did make it to Berko however - Paris's main cupcake store. We went to the branch just up the hill from Moulin Rouge, a few minutes walk from our hotel, Le Chat Noir, which I highly recommend.

We took the cupcakes back on Eurostar and unfortunately they got a little squished but we managed to salvage them so it wasn't a total cupcake disaster.

Our choices included Speculoos and the Hi Hats you can see above. We also got banofee, cookies and cream and chocolate. Although the Speculoos was rather bland and uninspiring, with some odd tasting frosting, the rest were rather good, if a little dry. I think if we'd eaten them there they'd have been much fresher. I would definitely go back to try some other flavours if I went back to Paris. I was especially taken with the fact they use little pipettes to inject coulis into the fresh fruit cakes - as I've done with alcohol into my cupcakes previously.

We also ate some macarons at Dalloyau - the Champagne one being very nice.

The same cannot be said for Eric Keyser's pink praline brioche - dry, tasteless and I really didn't like pink pralines. Thankfully I'd resisted buying a giant bag I saw earlier in the day in G. Detou.

Finally for my 40th birthday we chose not to eat anywhere fancy but instead went to Quick, the local burger chain to have Star Wars burgers - I had the Jedi burger while Manny opted for the Darth Vader one. We are totally classy non?

Oh yeah And I brought back quite a bit of Speculoos.

Oh, another finally - we didn't make it to Ladurée in Paris but we did go to Harrods yesterday and have coffee/hot chocolate and a cake - my first Religieuse - a chocolate one which was amazing. I also bought a box of six macarons in their new limited edition Hello Kitty boxes.

Too cute. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Secret Ingredient St Patrick's day cupcakes

I was thinking about what to bake for St Patrick's day for a long time - I've done all the stout/Bailey's combo's already and while they're very tasty I wanted to do something different. So what's Irish, can go in a cupcake and I'd not done before?.....the clue is in the video below.


I'd been thinking about making these since they appeared in Sainsbury's magazine when Delia had her How to Cheat show on tv and everyone was getting excited about tinned mince and Aunt Bessie's frozen mash.

God the frozen mash. I went to Asda to buy it and felt shame in doing so. Surely life isn't that hectic that you cannot make mash? Well maybe it is if you have kids etc so maybe I shouldn't judge. What I can judge is the use of frozen mash in cake. And I say NO. I repeat frozen mash has NO PLACE in cake.

The recipe itself was pretty easy to make - melt chocolate and condensed milk together - which seized the first time and the second time wasn't too great either so if you make the recipe be warned. If I was to make it again (which I won't unless someone asks me to) then I'd melt the chocolate separately. Then you mix everything, including the defrosted mash discs and bung it in the oven. The only thing I changed in the recipe was that I halved it, left out the Chinese five spice and added a splosh of vanilla in it's place.

Usually cakes leave a lovely smell throughout the house when they're baking - these did not which immediately set off warning bells with me.

I left them to cool and set about making the frosting. I really didn't like the sound of Delia's 'frosting' - condensed milk, melted chocolate and butter (boak), so I made some of my favourite Bailey's frosting which kept in with the Irish theme and I hoped would help me forget that within these cakes lay potato.

Alas even with a lot of Baileys in the frosting it did not detract from the potato. They were quite chocolate'y but I could still sense potato in there - there was a smell like Smash about them and I just couldn't eat a whole one as each bite left a bit of a taste. I ate the frosting though - why let booze go to waste? Manny ate two cakes and said he quite enjoyed them. He couldn't taste potato but thought they tasted 'peppery'. Numpty.

So if you're feeling adventurous for St Patrick's on Saturday you could make these, or you could instead get some good Irish Stout (there are so many better ones than Guinness) and make Nigella's Guinness and chocolate cake instead - they can easily be made into cupcakes.

I couldn't resist a final photo with the little leprechaun card my (hot dog obsessed) friend from Chicago sent me today as it seemed kinda appropriate. I reckon hot dog cupcakes would taste better than potato.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig for Saturday.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Birthday rum and coconut cupcakes

I baked these cakes in memory of my Auntie Kate whose birthday is tomorrow.

My auntie Kate was my second mum and I miss her every day, more so around times like birthdays and holidays. She was one of the people who taught me how to bake - I used to stay with her in the holidays and we'd get out some cook books and decide what delicious cake we were going to make. One of my favourite memories is making a steamed apple pudding in the microwave with her - we'd never baked in a microwave before and we were so happy it turned out perfectly. 

Although she struggled with eating disorders she was a born feeder - I still remember Manny's face the first time we popped to hers for a 'snack' when visiting and she'd laid on a banquet of home made baked treats. 

She loved to party and dance and I always remember her and my mum showing Manny how to dance properly to Status Quo. 

As you can imagine drink was often involved in our lives (once I was old enough obviously!), so I decided to make a nice boozy cupcake to toast the wonderful life she led that was taken from us far too soon. 

The cake recipe is adapted from a Screwdriver cupcake recipe in Booze Cakes

3 eggs
174g unsalted butter softened
1.5 cups caster sugar
2 tsp orange zest
2.5 cups plain flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup bacardi (or any rum)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. 

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Beat eggs and then add to the mixture with the orange zest. 

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl or jug mix the orange juice and vodka. I used freshly squeezed orange juice and added some of the pulp as well. 

Add flour and vodka mixtures alternately to the butter/egg mixture. Fold in the coconut and bake for 21 or so minutes. 

Let cool before frosting. 

The frosting recipe in the book made a soup consistency of frosting, so my recipe is a little vague. 

85g unsalted butter, softened
1/5 tsp vanilla
3 tbs orange juice
1/2 cup double cream
3 tablespoons rum (I may have added extra)
icing sugar

The book states 2 cups of icing sugar but I used way more than that but didn't measure how much I used. Start with two then add until you have a good piping consistency. 

To make the frosting you cream the butter and sugar for about 5 mins. Then add the vanilla, orange juice and cream. Mix again. Add more sugar if necessary and then add the rum. 

Top with some orange zest and more shredded coconut if you wish. 

These cakes were delicious - light and moist with a nice hit of boozy'ness. The shredded coconut kept the cakes moist for days. I'm starting a campaign to have it available here - why isn't it? 

Happy Birthday Auntie Kate - I raise a cupcake to you x