The Prinsesstårta

This week was half term and one of my best friend’s birthdays, so we decided that there was no better way to celebrate than with a wonderful Autumn dinner party!  I had been particularly inspired by the November issue of the Good Food magazine, as well as the recent Great British Bake-Off that I watched religiously every single week, so decided to go all out and create a 3-course masterpiece and really put my baking skills to the test!  Most normal people would create a menu that involved three relatively straight forward dishes.  However, anyone who knows me will know that I am not a normal person.  I wanted to bake my own bread, fill a whole pumpkin full of cheese fondue, create a vegetarian main dish that everyone would enjoy, and finish with a bang by presenting the hardest technical challenge ever appointed on The Great British Bake-Off: the Prinsesstårta.  Nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?!

The Starter

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Homemade Bread with Pumpkin Fondue

The starter was probably the one course that looked like everything was going to be a complete disaster, but in actual fact turned out to be everyone’s favourite!  Firstly, I was well aware before putting it in the oven that I had over-proved my bread.  Secondly, I had baked the pumpkin for an hour and a half and it had filled with tons of water that the recipe in the Good Food magazine made no mention of.  The bottom of the pumpkin then split slightly when emptying it of the water, and the whole thing had to be held up with a bottomless baking tin whilst baking the cheese fondue in it for the last half an hour.  I also had far too much cheese and filling to fit inside of the pumpkin, so had to create the rest of the fondue on the hob.  However, as you can see from the finished result, the starter was a complete success!  The bread, which was a Fabulous Baking Brother’s recipe, was absolutely amazing, especially for my first ever attempt at baking bread.  It was absolutely beautiful in flavour and the fact that the bread was quite thick and heavy worked quite well with the thick cheese fondue.  Everyone also used their spoons to delve into the pumpkin and take chunks of roast pumpkin with the melted cheese instead of putting it onto the bread.  What could be better than an edible bowl?!  The only downside to the whole thing was that it was extremely filling so we were all dreading the main course that had already been put in the oven!

The Main

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Roast Vegetables with Halloumi Cheese and Pesto Couscous

One of my best friends is a vegetarian, so the main course had to be suitable for him, especially as it was his birthday!  Sometimes, it can be hard to cater for people who like meat with their main meal when it has to be vegetarian, but I seemed to have catered for everybody with my main dish, as everyone was really happy with it, even if we were all too full to finish it!  Roast vegetables are one of my favourite year-round dishes, and adding halloumi makes a wonderful contrast in flavour and texture.  The halloumi is also a really quick addition, as it only takes a couple of minutes to fry before adding it to the roasted vegetables that have already been dished up.  The couscous also takes less than 5 minutes of adding boiled water until it is soft and fluffy, and lots of pesto to make it super delicious!

Obviously, after all that food, we required quite a long break before embarking on the mountain that was pudding…

The Dessert

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Prinsesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake)

Serving my Prinsesstårta cake felt like such a massive achievement.  No one thought that I would be able to produce the cake, let alone as part of a three-course meal that I prepared and cooked entirely on my own!  I think I realised that the biggest part to achieving it all was time management and knowing exactly what I needed to do and when I needed to do it!  Everyone was really impressed with the final product and it really was the perfect cake for a celebration.  The only bit that really went wrong was that I had forgotten to buy the caster sugar to make the marzipan in the morning, so I had to use golden caster sugar instead, which meant that the green food colouring did not take to it as easily.  However, I was extremely happy with it, and the addition of mulled berry jam instead of raspberry jam added a wonderful festive twist to it.

The kitchen may have looked like a bomb had hit it and I may have broken my mum’s new expensive digital weighing scales, but judging from how much we all enjoyed the food, I think it was worth it!  I, personally, cannot wait to host my next dinner party, but I think my parents can!

BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show

This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show absolutely free, thanks to winning tickets in a Lakeland competition!  I had an absolutely wonderful time stuffing my face with samples of chocolate, and buying so many exciting edible goodies that I could not face dinner on Sunday evening due to having eyes bigger than my stomach!  For anyone who thinks they may be interested in attending in the future, I would thoroughly encourage you to go.  It is a fabulous day out for people of any age, with cake decorating masterclasses for children and adults alike.  You are also guaranteed to pick up all your baking needs at an incredible discount.  I got some wonderful new tins that I will be using when I host my dinner party this week.  Actually, I was laden down with bags when leaving Islington’s Business Design Centre, and that was after I’d eaten half the treats I’d purchased at the event!  Oops!

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After purchasing my tins from the Lakeland concession at the entrance of the Business Design Centre, the first stalls that grabbed my attention were Dimkin’s macaroons and The Marshmallowists’ fabulous flavours of Passionfruit & Ginger, Blackcurrant & Mint, Strawberry & Basil, and Blueberry & Gin.  The macaroons were crisp and light, with smooth, creamy centres, and the flavour combinations were absolutely wonderful.  I had Banana & Strawberry, Blueberry & Liquorice, Rhubarb & Strawberry, and Rose & Raspberry, but my absolute favourite was the Mint Chocolate.  The flavours were strong and fresh, and took me back to my childhood days of eating Mint Chocolate Cornettos at the park.

Dimkins

As well as getting to eat and buy lots of wonderful tasty treats, we also had the chance to watch Paul Hollywood demonstrate how to make a perfect Devonshire Split and a super sweet sugary Eccles Cake for just £5 extra.  This was a wonderful treat for any Bake-Off fan, and Louis from this year’s final was in the audience!

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(Obviously, this is not Paul Hollywood in the picture, but someone setting everything up for his demonstration!)

After Paul’s hunger-inducing demonstration, we were back on the shopping floor and I seemed to want everything, despite being extremely full from stuffing 4 rather large marshmallows in my face before Paul Hollywood made his way to the stage!  The positive side to this was that my beautiful box of meringues that I purchased from the Meringue Girls actually made it home and I could share them with my parents!

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They tasted just as beautiful as they looked and were a personal favourite of mine from the show.  The Rhubarb & Custard and Gin & Tonic flavours were particularly wonderful, but my absolute favourite was the Watermelon meringue – it was decorated beautifully with the black seeds really adding a special aesthetic touch, and its flavour was just perfect.

All in all this was an extremely good day out, and I have already put next year’s dates in my diary!  The show will run from the 24th to the 26th October 2015, so you have lots of time to plan a showstopper of a bake and get everything you need for it at the show!

The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: October 2014

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.

October 2014 has seen the rivalry of two delicious cupcakes: S’moreanne vs. Popcorn.  One is a rich chocolate sponge topped with a mound of toasted marshmallow, biscuit crumbs, and chocolate chunk; the other is a velvety vanilla sponge, crammed with popcorn, and topped with a dream of caramel frosting and popcorn.  But which cupcake deserves the number one title this month?

S’moreanne Cupcake

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The S’moreanne cupcake is based on the traditional American camp fire treat, S’mores, which consists of biscuits, melted chocolate, and marshmallows.  It is hardly surprising that this delicious delicacy is a celebrated part of American life, with a whole day dedicated to it each and every year; it makes my mouth water just thinking about it!  This cupcake is no exception.  All of the traditional components are combined together to create something quite magical.  The S’moreanne consists of a thick, velvety chocolate sponge, topped with a toasted marshmallow mound that quite frankly I could eat by the bucket, a generous helping of biscuit crumbs, and a massive chunk of Cadbury’s chocolate.  I genuinely do not know what could make this cupcake any better.

Popcorn Cupcake

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This popcorn cupcake may have been battered from my adventures along the bustling Oxford Street, but this did not detract from the beautiful caramel cream that caressed every mouthful.  The sweet, thick caramel frosting is the perfect accompaniment to the fluffy vanilla sponge, which is packed full of popcorn chunks.  I probably would have preferred a plain vanilla sponge, as you always get those certain bits of chewy popcorn pieces no matter how great the quality of it is!  But the whole popcorn pieces that carefully crowned this caramel creation were the piece de resistance – they were drowned in the most fantastically sweet and sticky caramel sauce.  All in all this cupcake was delightful.

However, nothing can top the wonderful mound of marshmallow on the special edition S’morreanne cupcake.  And so it goes without saying that this traditional American treat, which was so delightfully reformed into a cupcake, is without a doubt this month’s Great Hummingbird Bake-Off winner.

The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: September 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding vs.

Chocolate Orange

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.

September 2014 has seen the rivalry of two delicious cupcakes: Sticky Toffee Pudding vs. Chocolate Orange.  One is a rich chocolate sponge topped with a decadent chocolate orange frosting; the other is a fruity and toffee delight.  But which cupcake deserves the number one title this month?

Sticky Toffee Pudding

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I have to be honest and say that I have never really been a fan of sticky toffee pudding.  However, this cupcake transformed all of my negative feelings towards sticky toffee pudding into thoughts of pure joy.  The date and toffee sponge was rich, fruity, and moist, and was perfectly complimented by the sweet, toffee frosting with a caramel drizzle.  I honestly could have eaten this cake all day long quite happily.  This was the perfect accompaniment for my Caramel Frappucino that I had picked up from Starbucks on my way to the Hummingbird Bakery!

Chocolate Orange

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Hummingbird have transformed their standard chocolate sponge into a festively orange delight to bring in the autumn and winter months with a bang.  The chocolate sponge has a fantastic zesty zing that totally tantalises your tastebuds, and the sweet sugar-coated orange peel is a delicious addition on top of the thick, luxurious chocolate orange frosting.

Nevertheless, whilst chocolate and orange are usually one of my favourite flavour combinations, I could not get over how absolutely fabulous the Sticky Toffee Pudding cupcake was, especially in comparison to my preconceived ideas of what it would taste like.  Therefore, the Sticky Toffee Pudding Special Edition Cupcake is September’s star bake in my Great Hummingbird Bake-Off competition.

The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: August 2014

Banana & Chocolate vs.

Panettone

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!

Cocktail Cupcakes

This weekend marked the end of a wonderful era; it was my graduation ball and we had all been told to don our tuxes and sparkliest dresses so that we would look like kings and queens on the dance floor!  It was an absolutely beautiful event, set in Middle Temple Garden.  It seemed only apt, then, that such a grand event would be preceded by a classy cocktail party with some of my nearest and dearest to mark the end of our time at King’s College London.  Luckily, I live in student halls in the centre of London, which has a lovely roof garden, perfect for these type of events!  The sun was shining, and the bright pink lemonade cocktails were flowing.  And what better way to soak up the alcohol than by indulging in some luxurious cocktail cupcakes?!

I was so excited when I realised what day of the week the event fell on, as I was well aware that Primrose Bakery serve one or two of their delightful cocktail cupcakes every Friday.  They are the perfect treat to kick off the weekend in style!  This Friday they served Peach Bellini and Mojito Cupcakes, and they went down a storm!

Peach Bellini Cupcake

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Just like a Peach Bellini, this cupcake was very delicate in flavour.  The sponge was soft and moist, with a beautifully subtle hint of peach, and it was topped with a wonderful champagne buttercream icing.  However, it was the sharp contrast in flavours between the delicate cupcake and the sour peach sweet that was perfectly placed on top that truly made this cupcake.  It also helped bridge the gap between the sophistication of a Bellini and the fun nature of cupcakes, particularly when they’re based on cocktails!

Mojito Cupcake

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Oddly, I am not a fan of mojitos and would never willingly order one at a bar.  However, this is by far my favourite cocktail cupcake (so far!), and it tasted absolutely incredible!  It truly was a minty and zesty wonderland of flavour!  The sponge was perfectly moist, and the unmistakable taste of lime shot through your tastebuds with every mouthful.  This was only made all the better by the intense addition of the lime and rum buttercream icing!  And then there was the gloriously refreshing crystallised mint leaf that gave the cupcake the mojito kick it was looking for.  I have to say that starting and finishing my night with this complete cocktail cupcake perfection, truly was the icing on the cake!

Cocktail Party Photo

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The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: May 2014

Apple Crumble vs. Salted

Caramel

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.

May 2014 has seen the rivalry of two dessert-themed cupcakes: Apple Crumble vs. Salted Caramel.  One is a light vanilla sponge, filled with tangy apple, and smothered in a custard frosting with a delicious cinnamon oat crumble; the other is a rich chocolate sponge, topped with a salted caramel frosting and a large dollop of smooth caramel, which runs right through the centre.  But which cupcake deserves the number one title this month?

Apple Crumble

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This cupcake exceeded all expectations.  I don’t quite know what I expected, but I didn’t expect to find one of my favourite puddings made so successfully into a tasty, spongey treat.  This cupcake was absolutely fabulous.  The bottom of the cupcake was layered with a gloriously generous sweet filling of apples, which ejected a wonderful burst of cinnamon with every mouthful.  The light vanilla sponge was lusciously moist, and beautifully complimented the apple filling.  The flavours just blended together perfectly.  However, no apple crumble is complete without custard, and Hummingbird did well to take this into account!  The whole experience was topped off with a wonderful, thick swirl of sweet and creamy custard frosting, covered in a crunchy cinnamon oat crumble.  Despite its relatively underwhelming façade, this cake makes up for its simple aesthetics by throwing simplicity out of the window when it comes to flavour!  It is a shame that this cupcake was only a monthly special, as I could quite easily have become hooked on the apple crumble cupcake if they were constantly available!

Salted Caramel

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As a major fan of Starbuck’s caramel frappuccino, this was the cupcake I was looking forward to the most, and that dollop of sticky caramel, surrounded by a salted caramel frosting, just looked SO good!  However, even with my first mouthful I was shocked at just how salty the whole experience was, to such an extent that I couldn’t even enjoy the rich chocolate sponge on its own, because all I could taste was salt.  There was definitely too much salt mixed into the caramel frosting, and to top it off, it was sprinkled in salt crystals!  The smooth caramel in the centre was the best part, as it was really nice and sweet, and did help to detract away from the saltiness of the rest of the cupcake.  But I was very sad that I had left this cake to last, as I would much rather have had the sweet, cinnamon taste of the apple crumble cupcake lingering on my lips, than the excessive saltiness of the salted caramel cupcake.

Therefore, it goes without saying that the delicious Apple Crumble Special Edition Cupcake is May’s Great Hummingbird Bake-off winner.

Check back in June for news on the Hummingbird Bakery’s latest special editions.