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

FullSizeRender

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

FullSizeRender

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.

Advertisements

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

FullSizeRender

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.

FullSizeRender

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?!

Mr Men and Little Miss Biscuits

It was my birthday this weekend and the parents came up for a very British day out of theatre-going and afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason.  However, like most Brits, it is often hard to start our day without a nice mug of coffee (albeit mine always comes in a plastic cup as I am addicted to Frappuccinos in the summer), and this is where my parents gave me my birthday presents.  I received lots of lovely gifts, such as a cute ladybird cupcake kit, but the one I was most excited about was my Little Miss Birthday biscuit made by Biscuiteers.  I have wanted to try their biscuits for a long time, especially after reading a blog about the launch of their Mr Men and Little Miss collection, and I have to say it was well worth the wait!

photo

Not only did this beautiful biscuit look perfect, it tasted perfect, and it is such a fun and novel idea for a small birthday present!  I don’t know anyone who didn’t love Mr Men and Little Miss as a kid, and so it is very apt for a nostalgic trip to your childhood on the day you are most aware of how far you have come since those innocent, playful days!

However, once you bring yourself to eat something this beautiful, you are presented with an absolute treat for your tastebuds!  It is soft and crumbly, with a slight crunch on the outside, and the vanilla flavour really comes through in every mouthful.  The icing is a lovely sweet accompaniment, but not overpoweringly so, and really completes the whole experience.

My parents bought me the Little Miss Birthday biscuit from Fortnum & Mason.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the display, but guessing from their Mr Men Biscuit Tin on their website and what my dad has told me, I’m assuming there is quite a lot of choice!  These are absolutely wonderful biscuits, to look at and to eat, and would make the perfect present or biscuit for a celebratory occasion.

Eat My Cake London

photoI LOOOOVE pugs!  As in, I am completely and utterly obsessed with them!  The reason why I cannot wait to finish my degree, leave university and get a job is so that I can FINALLY afford a pet pug!  I want a little black one, with a scrunched up face, which will greet me every evening when I come home from work, with his big beautiful eyes gazing up at me lovingly (basically, trying to look as cute as possible just so that I put some more food in his bowl I suspect)!  He has already been named Pugly Betty, and my boyfriend has had to hear all about my future pug probably since day one of our relationship.  So when he found this adorable Valentine’s addition of Eat My Cake London’s pug biscuit he knew that he was onto a winner!

Firstly, the presentation of the biscuit was perfect.  It came in a little white box, wrapped with a red bow, and a small personalised gift card, which my boyfriend had signed from Pugly Betty as a slight clue!  Upon opening, the pug biscuit nearly filled the whole box, and it was presented on a red and white polka dot background, which was all enclosed in packaging to keep the biscuit fresh so that you didn’t have to consume it straight away (I mean, who could eat it instantly?! I had to keep staring at it and taking snapchats with it for at least a week)!

However, when I finally did get round to eating the cutest biscuit I have ever had to put in my mouth, it was hands down the best biscuit I have ever tasted.  The biscuit was soft, but crunchy and crumbly, and very thick.  The icing, which was what made the biscuit so delicious and sweet, was also thick, which complemented the feeling, texture and flavour of the biscuit perfectly.  It really was the perfect biscuit, and with the variety of designs available on their website I genuinely think that everybody would be able to find the perfect biscuity treat that would make the perfect present, even for the fussiest of people!  I genuinely loved my present, and felt that a lot of thought had gone into getting something that reflected my personality and things that I adore, namely baked goods and pugs!  All in all it completed my perfect Valentine’s.

My Home Made Valentine’s Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea

This Valentine’s Day I decided to make my boyfriend afternoon tea.  He’d never had afternoon tea before, and I’ve never really wanted to suggest we go for afternoon tea because it is really expensive (especially as we are students) and I’ve always worried that he would be underwhelmed by sandwiches, a scone, and a few cakes considering the cost.  However, in creating my own version of afternoon tea, filling each layer with food he adores, I truly learnt exactly how much time and effort goes into creating something that seems so simple, and just how much potential there is for it all to go horribly wrong!

I have to admit that the bottom layer was the least of my worries.  Whilst most afternoon tea specialists provide cute little cucumber sandwiches, I had long decided that my boyfriend would much prefer mini bacon & cheese burgers, hot dogs, and fried halloumi bites.  This was also by far the easiest layer, as all I had to do was cut up a block of halloumi cheese and fry it; boil some frankfurters, which were then cut in half to fit into the mini buns; and make mini burgers by mixing beef mince, chopped parsley and garlic together.  Also, these only took 5 minutes to fry.  Unsurprisingly, this was my boyfriend’s favourite layer, and he has raved about our ‘fast food themed afternoon tea’ ever since!

IMG_1475

The second tier was also very much centred around my boyfriend, especially as I had no idea whether he liked scones or not and I was not prepared to do afternoon tea without them!  His favourite chocolate bar is Twix, and so I decided to make chocolate chip scones and serve them with chocolate ganache and caramel sauce in order to create a ‘Twix Scone’.  (The caramel sauce, as you can see in the picture, turned out rather dark because I had to use dark muscavado sugar rather than brown sugar, but it still tasted delicious.)  These were a big hit, even though he admitted that he didn’t think he would like them, so I was very happy!

IMG_1474

My favourite tier, obviously, was the top tier.  This tier took the longest to make.  In fact, the whole thing took me 7 or 8 hours!  The sweet tier consisted of gingerbread men decorated with regal icing to look like us, heart-shaped chocolate fudge cakes, banana splits, and orange meringues.  The banana splits were actually the hardest to make out of all the desserts, as they required hollowing, but keeping the outside intact, so that the filling, which was a blend of condensed milk and banana pulp, did not spill out.  I also found that it is easy to avoid the mess and time of making meringues by buying a carton of readily prepared egg whites (I ordered mine from Waitrose).  The hardest part of making everything was the sheer volume of food that I was making and the time constraint in making it.  I messed up the ingredients on nearly every single recipe (for example, I completely forgot about the buttermilk in the chocolate fudge cakes, I added twice the amount of orange I was supposed to in the meringues, and those bananas were my fourth or fifth attempt)!  Luckily, everything still managed to taste great though!  It can actually be quite stressful trying to get everything done in time, as well as to a good standard.  Restaurants may have teams of chefs working on different aspects of their afternoon teas, but I can honestly say that after making my own I can fully respect, and, in the future, will take the time to appreciate, the time and effort that goes into each and every little detail of every afternoon tea.

The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: February 2014

Chocolate Coconut ‘Bounty’ vs.

Strawberry Meringue ‘Eton

Mess’

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.

February 2014 sees the arrival of Bounty vs. Eton Mess.  One is a luxurious chocolate sponge with a swirl of coconut frosting; the other is a soft vanilla sponge, filled with a strawberry cream, and topped with fresh strawberries and crumbly meringue pieces.  But which cupcake deserves the number one title this month?

The Chocolate Coconut

‘Bounty’ Cupcake

1912488_745307085479474_1839556632_o

I am of the opinion that Hummingbird can never go wrong when it comes to their chocolate cupcakes, no matter what theme they opt for, and the Bounty cupcake is no exception.  I’ve always found Bounty to be quite a controversial chocolate bar, people always love it or hate it, and it is usually the one chocolate that is discarded by my friends when it comes to delving into the Celebrations.  However, I definitely sit on the love side of the fence, so this cupcake is perfect for me!  The ‘Bounty’ is simple and delicious with its plain chocolate sponge, but it is the coconut frosting that is the real show-stealer.  The coconut milk used in the icing allows for a soft coconut-filled taste with every mouthful, and I love the course texture of the coconut shavings in comparison to the soft, creamy icing.  And who can resist popping a tiny piece of heavenly bounty into their mouth halfway through a dreamy chocolate and coconut themed cupcake?!

The Strawberry Meringue

‘Eton Mess’ Cupcake

1655284_739743386035844_1699770119_o

This twist on the traditional English pudding is the perfect cupcake to wash away the winter blues in anticipation of fresh English strawberries this summer!  The vanilla sponge is soft and airy, and I always love a surprise in my cupcakes!  Although, if it wasn’t for the combination of the crumbly meringue pieces and soft fruity strawberries creating a tantalising textural experience on top of the cake, the ‘Eton Mess’ would have been rather bland apart from the two mouthfuls of strawberry cream hidden away in the middle of the sponge.  For this reason, I have crowned the Chocolate Coconut ‘Bounty’ Special Edition Cupcake February’s Great Hummingbird Bake-off winner.

(Photos taken from Hummingbird Bakery’s Facebook page.)

Love is Sweet: Konditor & Cook’s Valentine’s Collection

There is no denying that Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to share beautifully decorated cakes adorned with hearts, kisses and other romantic embellishments with your significant other, basking in your sweet, sweet happiness with sweet, sweet loved-up sugary treats.  (Although in my relationship cake is more part of our staple diet than a delicious treat that we enjoy on occasion!)  Whilst picking up get-well-soon cupcakes from the local bakery for my ill boyfriend this week, who was slogging away in the library and quite frankly in need of a quick pick-me-up, I stumbled across Konditor & Cook’s Valentine’s range.  I love their specialist ranges, particularly their Mulled Wine Cupcakes at Christmas, so I decided nothing could be better than cheering my boyfriend up with these love-themed cupcakes.

Mr. Mount Hazelnut

Cupcake

This was Konditor & Cook’s ‘manly’ cupcake, made especially for the man who does not want to be showered with hearts and kisses on a cupcake, with its macho moustache clearly oozing masculinity.  Funnily enough, this was my boyfriend’s favourite cupcake, so it obviously resonates well with the male species!  The hazelnut sponge was beautiful, soft, and spongy, and was no different in texture to the other sponges despite being wheat-free.  The flavouring was also impeccable, with a strong hazelnut sponge, topped with an extremely generous creamy hazelnut frosting.  Having pleased the boyfriend with ‘Oh, this is good!  This is my favourite!  This is the best cupcake I’ve ever had!’ it has gained the winning spot in Claire’s Konditor & Cook’s Valentine’s Cupcake Collection Competition (got to love a bit of alliteration)!

photo 3

Raspberry Chequer Cupcake

Second place goes to the Raspberry Chequer Cupcake.  This was my favourite in terms of flavour and decoration.  The icing was beautifully scented with a soft raspberry flavour, blended beautifully with white chocolate, which was delicately but thickly piped on top of a soft vanilla and raspberry-swirl sponge.  This gave the sponge a gorgeous marble effect, as well as adding to the subtle raspberry flavour that is typical of Konditor & Cook’s cupcakes; they are never over-powering on flavour.  However, the real treat was the raspberry surprise at the bottom, which gave a sharp but sweet kick to the cupcake, really setting it apart from the others.

photo 2

Lady Marmalade Cupcake

This orange-themed cupcake was much subtler in flavour than the others.  Whilst fun and flirty in its decoration, with lip-pouting seduction (although if you wanted to be more forward with that someone who makes your heart flutter, or possibly just you knickers drop, they had some rather bold biscuits to choose from with words such as ‘SHAG’ plastered across them in big capital letters)!  However, my love affair with this cupcake basically stopped there.  I love flavour, and the orange marmalade taste was just too faint for my liking.  I wanted it to be tangy and adventurous, like the decorative lips and ‘Lady Marmalade’ name suggested, but it just continued with the theme of soft and subtle flavours.  It would almost be like asking that innocent girl in your class/office, ‘voulez-vous cous chez avec moi?’  You know what you want, but it’s not going to happen!

IMG_0017

Curly Wurly Cupcake

Unfortunately, neither my boyfriend nor I were massive fans of this cupcake, which I was quite upset about because the Curly Wurly cake is Konditor & Cook’s bestseller and is used in their baking classes (something which I desperately want to do)!  Whilst the chocolate sponge was lovely (but, yet again, quite subtle in flavour, especially for a chocolate cake), it was the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting that neither of us were keen on.  The typically generous amount of icing was too overpowering for the subtlety of the sponge given the slightly tangy flavour of the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting on this cupcake.  I have to admit though, the frosting did go beautifully with the sponge after I scraped the majority of it off, and I can imagine it would be extremely complementary on their full-sized cakes that allows for more sponge and less frosting.

IMG_0017

Overall, the Konditor & Cook Valentine’s Collection was a heart stealer.  The decoration alone allowed these cupcakes to be the perfect gift for a loved one this February.  It is impossible to walk past the bakery window at any time of year without peering in to see the continuously changing flavours and always impeccably decorated cupcakes (so much so that my flatmate refuses to try their cupcakes because she’s adament that cakes that look THAT good always compromise on flavour, and I suppose that in some cases she is right).  However, I will always have a lot of love for the experimental flavours and decorative talents of this bakery and they always give you that special treat feeling when you walk out the door with a bag full of gorgeous looking cupcakes peering up at you as you walk along the street.