Shrek Afternoon Tea

To celebrate the arrival of Shrek The Musical at Bristol Hippodrome, Harvey Nichols have decided to open their doors to the swamp and create a gruesomely green afternoon tea for all of their customers, young and old.  At only £12.50 this is a treat that the whole family can enjoy, although I would suggest that the portions are definitely child-size!

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The fact that the plate itself features a giant ogre Shrek face definitely creates some excitement as your bite-size treats are placed in front of you.  I started with the savoury products and worked my way up to the sweet treats on the board.

I have to admit that my Shrek-themed afternoon tea got off to a very good start.  My donkey-shaped sandwich filled with a sardine paté was absolutely fabulous; the sardine flavour was strong, but not over-powering, and the paté was super smooth and creamy.  The Shrek-head avocado sandwich was also a beautifully creamy affair.  I thought that it was really great that they had really thought about what kind of colours, smells, and tastes would be associated with the swamp.  Next, I moved onto the giant pea and mint mound, which was the only disappointing part of the tea.  The flavours were very mild, and there was just far too much of it for such a bland flavour.  Neither me nor my best friend finished this particular piece, but that was fine, as we got to wash away the weird after-taste with the refreshingly zesty ‘swamp juice’.  In contrast to the pea and mint nothingness, the swamp juice was probably my favourite part of the whole experience.  The flavours were strong and distinctive, and really got us talking about what exactly was in it and what it reminded us of!  We both decided that it was definitely a non-alcoholic mojito, and much better than any we had ever ordered at a bar.

I also loved the detail of the gingerbread man, and the vanilla cupcake consisted of a beautifully fluffy sponge and a wonderful green frosting to accompany it.  However, I was glad I saved the ‘ogre’s booger’ until last, as it really was a gruesomely awesome treat.  The ‘bogey’ was a wonderfully fluffy marshmallow, covered in green sugar crystals, with a piercing lemon curd that oozed out of the middle.  Luckily, I had managed to save the best to last!

To top it all off, we concluded our session with some cocktails and prosecco.

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All in all, my best friend and I had a wonderful time enjoying something that we definitely considered a treat.  It was our first time dining at Harvey Nichols and we loved the whole experience and will definitely be going back at some point!  We may have left a little hungry due to the size of the portions, but considering many of the big hotels and fancy restaurants charge more than £12.50 for a standard afternoon tea in Bristol it is not something that we felt massively hard done by.  Next time, we’ll know to order a scone or two on the side!

The Graduationsaurus Rex

Unfortunately, I have been so busy this summer that I have only just got round to posting about the cakes that I made for my boyfriend’s graduation at the end of July.  I spent absolutely ages trawling through beautiful graduation cake ideas with absolutely nothing jumping out at me.  I wanted to create something special that he would never have had before to celebrate his amazing achievement that had taken three long, laborious years to complete!  And it was in the middle of the night when I came up with this:

The Graduationsaurus Rex

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I had recently purchased some dinosaur cake moulds from Lakeland because I am such a big kid and absolutely love experimenting with fun shapes and decorations.  I knew I didn’t want to leave them plain and decorate them with icing pens in the same way that Lakeland had advertised them on their website, especially as I was baking chocolate chip dinosaurs instead of the vanilla recipe that they offered with the moulds.  Therefore, I decided that candy melts were the perfect antidote to my decorating woes!  I could create a fun and colourful dinosaur simply by covering my cake in blue chocolate and decorating with icing.  This was much easier said than done. I ended up having to paint the blue chocolate on with a paint brush that I had to constantly dip in hot water so that the chocolate was still melting and runny enough to spread over all the curves smoothly.  It took absolutely ages, but I could see that the end result was going to be worth all of the hard work, and creating the icing decorations was so much fun at the end of it all!

It may have been a little bit rough around the edges, but I was so ridiculously pleased with the finished product.

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Unfortunately, the dinosaur did get a little battered travelling around 100 miles from Bristol to London when I got the train up for the graduation.  But it was still clearly a graduation dinosaur and I think it did well considering the distance and the fact that it was all by public transport!

It was super convenient that I had loads of extra cake-mix left over to make some cupcakes for my boyfriend’s family who were also travelling up to watch him graduate that day.  Luckily, we were all meeting at my student flat in London, so I had enough time to whip up a quick vegan chocolate frosting there, as his mum is lactose intolerant and I didn’t want her to miss out.  I also managed to find some pretty sprinkles in my little uni baking box that I could quickly pour on them too!

The cakes went down an absolute treat.  My boyfriend and his family loved them and really appreciated all the effort that I had gone to.  If you ever get stuck deciding on sentimental present ideas, especially for events like graduations, cakes are definitely the way forward.  I mean, let’s face it, who doesn’t like a good cake when celebrating something special?!

The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: August 2014

Banana & Chocolate vs.

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Every month the Hummingbird Bakery, which is one of my favourite cupcake shops EVER, creates two new, special edition cupcakes.  Every month, these cupcakes go head-to-head, battling it out for the number one spot.

August 2014 has seen the rivalry of two delicious cupcakes: Banana and Chocolate vs. Panettone.  One is a rich chocolate sponge topped with a decadent chocolate banana frosting; the other is a creamier affair with a wonderful Italian twist.  But which cupcake deserves the number one title this month?

Banana & Chocolate

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I knew from the second that I set eyes on this chocolatey feast of a cake that I was going to fall in love with it.  After all, anything that combines chocolate and banana is a complete winner with me.  Sometimes there are certain things that certain places or people just do fantastically every single time, and chocolate cake is one of those things for Hummingbird!  Their chocolate cake is always soft and springy, and their frosting is always thick, rich, and decadent.  But the addition of banana to the mixture took the standard chocolate cupcake experience to a whole new level.  This is one of those cakes that should not just be a monthly special, but a permanent feature on the Hummingbird bakery counter!

Panettone

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This wonderfully, fruity Italian loaf has been made into a delightful little cupcake by combining pieces of panettone in a light vanilla sponge, topped with creamy custard and more panettone.  I mean let’s face it, you can never have too many piece of panettone!  It truly was a wonderful surprise to find generous chunks of the fruity loaf surrounded by the fluffy vanilla sponge in every mouthful.  And to top the whole thing off, the custard brought a fantastic creamy contrast to the rich, fruity panettone, making this month’s Hummingbird bake-off decision the hardest one yet!

However, after a considerable amount of consideration, I am pleased to crown the Panettone Special Edition Cupcake this month’s bake-off winner, simply due to its innovative take on the classic Italian loaf.  The flavours of these cupcakes were simply beautiful, and neither could win on purely flavour alone!

Make My Magnum

This summer, until August 30th, Magnum have taken over the shopping space next to Rolex in Selfridges to celebrate their 25th birthday and allow members of the public to create their own Magnum ice creams.  I can guarantee that if you are in London this summer, this is something you do not want to miss out on, especially on a glorious, hot summer’s day in the capital.  However, it is advisable to get there early to avoid the queues, which I was informed can tail back right out of the door!

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The first part of the process (once you have paid your £4.50 to take part) is to choose your 3 toppings.  I went for popping candy, crushed meringue, and honeycomb, but the picture above shows a few of the other toppings that are also available.  It is not an understatement to say that you will be spoilt for choice!  A nice lady behind the counter then puts your chosen toppings in a mini cocktail shaker and mixes them all together.  You then move round the counter to choose your ice cream flavour.  I went for vanilla, but you can have chocolate caramel if you fancy going all out!  Then you choose whether it is dipped in white, milk, or dark chocolate.  As a major fan of rich, decadent, dark chocolate, it was a no brainer for me, and whilst the chocolate is setting your toppings are poured over so they stick in place.  It is all finished off with a drizzle of another chocolate and a signature ‘M’ coin, and your finished product will look a little bit like this:

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Without a doubt this was one of the best ice creams I have ever had.  The dark chocolate coating was luxuriously thick and of the highest quality, the popping candy added a little bit of popping fun to every mouthful, and the honeycomb and crushed meringue added a sweet crunch to each bite.  It is such an excellent idea to get everyone to choose their favourite toppings because it is simply the best way to guarantee high customer satisfaction.  And it is lovely seeing how proud everyone is of their creations at the end.  One man was telling me at the eating counter how wonderful it was to be able to have a chilli and chocolate ice cream.  I have to say, I completely agree with him.  Although I chose my favourite toppings this time round, if I get the chance to go back I will definitely go down the more experimental route!

Don’t forget to upload a picture of your creation to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the handle #magnumxselfridges to be in with the chance of winning some much-wanted Selfridges vouchers! Here was my entry:

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Happy Magnum Making!

The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: July 2014

Black Forest vs. Hummingbird

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Every month the Hummingbird Bakery, which is one of my favourite cupcake shops EVER, creates two new, special edition cupcakes.  Every month, these cupcakes go head-to-head, battling it out for the number one spot.

July 2014 has seen the rivalry of two delicious cupcakes: Black Forest vs. Hummingbird.  One is a rich chocolate sponge, filled with a beautiful black cherry jam, and topped with a creamy custard frosting; the other is a banana and pineapple explosion with a thick cream cheese frosting.  But which cupcake deserves the number one title this month?

Black Forest Cupcake

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This delicious black forest cupcake is absolutely delightful.  Its chocolate sponge is beautifully rich and moist, and is made even more luxurious by the sweet addition of the black cherry jam that oozes out of the middle.  The surprise centre is absolutely wonderful, although the black cherry flavour blends into the chocolate sponge so well that there is little noticeable contrast in flavour.  This decadent black forest cupcake is topped with a creamy custard frosting, another dollop of black cherry jam, and luxurious chocolate shavings.  The frosting was lovely, although the generous helping seemed to detract from the overall chocolate and black cherry taste, which personally was my favourite part.  Nevertheless, this is not a cupcake that I would readily turn down if someone was offering me a delicious cupcake twist on the classic Black Forest Gateux.

Hummingbird Cupcake

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The hummingbird cupcake is based on Southern hummingbird cake and is an absolutely sublime tropical treat.  Its beautifully moist sponge is packed with bananas, pineapple, and handfuls of crunchy pecans, giving it a slightly different texture to most cupcakes.  Its flavours are perfectly combined to provide the most delicious sponge I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.  I just could not get enough of this cake!  And a surprise chunk of banana in the middle was a great addition.  The cream cheese frosting, covered in cinnamon and crushed pecans, also complimented the sponge beautifully.  This cupcake could just not put a foot wrong.  Whichever Hummingbird book has this recipe in it, someone needs to get it for me, I cannot live without it!

My undying love for this incredible cupcake makes the delicious Hummingbird Special Edition Cupcake July’s Bake-Off winner without a doubt.  I just cannot wait to get my hands on this wonderful recipe and fill my house with these fabulous fruity treats!

Foodies Festival Highlights

This weekend Bristol Harbourside has been graced with the Foodies Festival, which is popping up in different locations all over the country this summer.  There are lots of different food tents hosting cooking, baking, and beer-tasting demonstrations – whatever takes your fancy, there will be something for you.  However, the highlight for me is the variety of stalls selling thousands of wonderfully different food and drink products, and the happy atmosphere with smiling crowds drinking, eating, and watching live music performances in the hot summer sunshine.  I had a wonderful time at the festival today, so I have decided to share with you some of my personal favourites from the event.

1. Custom Creams

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As you can see from the picture, Custom Creams offers their customers a bespoke ‘create your own’ ice cream/sorbet experience from a multitude of fresh and seasonal ingredients.  You can even choose to mix together two flavours that are not ‘tried and tested combos’, so you can really get your creative juices flowing!  Once you have chosen your flavours, you get to watch the very friendly men in charge of the magnificent machines freeze your chosen flavours ‘in a spectacular theatre of nitrogen mist’ right in front of your eyes!

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I chose to create a refreshing raspberry and mango sorbet and it was absolutely delicious!

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2. The Bourneville Waffle

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I had this wonderful waffle for brunch and I do not regret my choice in the slightest.  I opted for the Rocky Road waffle, although the Banoffe Pie waffle was extremely tempting!  However, I just could not resist marshmallows this time round!  My waffle was made with absolute precision.  After being made fresh in front of my own eyes, my hot waffle was delicately loaded with whipped cream, crushed cookies, chocolate buttons, mini marshmallows, and topped with a generous helping of luxuriously dark chocolate sauce. It was crisp on the outside, whilst being light and fluffy on the inside, and there was enough topping to make every mouthful a spectacular tasty treat.  It was rich and indulgent, and the perfect start to a fun and busy day!

3. American Kitchen

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Unfortunately, I was so focused on getting the last slice of ‘Fat Elvis’ pie that I completely forgot to take a photo of any of American Kitchen’s beautiful brownies or pies.  They had a wonderful variety, ranging from orange and raspberry brownies to the classic key lime pie.  However, I just could not miss out on this wonderfully strange sounding ‘Fat Elvis’ pie, and was more than enthusiastic when I was asked ‘would you like candied bacon with that?’  At no other point in my life have I ever thought that I would want candied bacon, and especially not on a pudding pie.  However, one spoonful of this wonderfully sweet and salty treat told me that I had made the right decision.  If you have the chance, buy a slice of this peculiar pie!  It looks magnificent, and it tastes magnificent!  It is completely unlike anything you will have ever had before.  And the portions are so big that I still have some left for pudding tonight.  Good old American food and portions for you there!

4. Dimkins Patisserie

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Today I had the pleasure of sampling Dimplin’s Blueberry and Liquorice flavoured macaroons, a flavour that I have never come across before.  Naturally, I was quite excited about this discovery, as I am a MASSIVE macaroon fan.  They were light and airy, yet crunchy on the outside, and beautifully creamy in the middle.  The flavours were very subtle, which gave a lovely contrast in flavours without the liquorice overpowering the delicate blueberry flavour.  With lots of different flavours to choose from, these will attract anyone who loves a little bite of everything!

5. The Fresh Lemonade

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Last but not least, The Fresh Lemonade Company is the perfect place to grab a refreshing cocktail to sit down with and listen to the live music that has been put on for your own enjoyment.  I had a wonderful Cherry Bakewell cocktail (left).  All of these cocktails are made with the company’s fresh lemonade and are absolutely beautiful.

If you are heading to the festival tomorrow you are guaranteed to have a fabulous time.  There is an amazing variety of foods and drinks for you to try and buy, and a multitude of entertainment acts to enjoy whilst you rest your feet and arms from all the bags full of fresh food (and the cheeky bottle of elderflower gin) you have purchased!  I hope the summer sun stays out for you and that you have as much fun as I did today.  Happy eating my fellow foodies!

Wallace & Gromit Cupcakes

Bristol is well known for its association with Aardman Animation’s much-loved characters, Wallace and Gromit.  So when I spotted these beautifully decorated Gromit and Shaun the Sheep cupcakes whilst enjoying a leisurely weekend stroll around Bristol Harbourside, I just couldn’t resist trying one!  Unfortunately, the Wallace and Gromit themed cupcakes did not come in a great choice of flavour. The Gromit cupcakes were all vanilla, and the Shaun the Sheep cupcakes were vanilla with strawberry jam.  Despite the cute little marshmallows creating a fluffy sheep coat on top of Shaun’s head, I just couldn’t say no to the cute Gromit faces staring up at me, as he was always my favourite character growing up!  But if there happened to be a greater variety of flavours next time I stumble across Lilymead Bakery’s stall, I doubt I’ll be able to resist these cute little Shaun the Sheep cupcakes!

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Despite my reservations over vanilla cupcakes, mainly their blandness in flavour, I decided that I would still give these gorgeous cupcakes a shot!  I have to admit that these were a bit more flavoursome than most vanilla cupcakes, given the strong buttercream topping that was swirled on top, and the thick icing that was used to create the Gromit decoration.  However, the thickness of both these toppings did make them rather sickly, and I’m not sure I could have managed a whole one!  (Staying with my dear mother, I have the pleasure of sharing every sweet treat with her, as she has even more of a sweet tooth than I do!)  Nevertheless, this cupcake was a lovely treat at the end of a lovely day.

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Aesthetically, these cupcakes are perfect for anyone who loves Wallace and Gromit as much as I do.  They stood out as being simple and unique, and were simply irresistible!  The flavours may not have been magnificent or adventurous, and the sponge may have been slightly stodgy, but the decoration and attention to detail was absolutely beautiful, and they definitely pull at the heart strings of a Bristolian who grew up with Wallace and Gromit as a central part of their childhood.  I love that Lilymead Bakery obviously put a lot of thought into what represents Bristol to Bristolians, and supplied us with these gorgeous cupcakes for the weekend.