The Pudding Bar

When I heard about The Pudding Bar I thought that I must be dreaming.  A whole place dedicated to puddings?!  It was like Christmas and all my birthdays had come at once!  So last time I was in London, I refused to leave without visiting this heavenly little café that made all my senses tingle the second I opened the door.

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After The Great British Bake-Off’s Baked Alaska ‘bingate’ tragedy, I could not resist the temptation to sample the mouth-wateringly tempting Spiced Apple Baked Alaska with Maple Syrup Ice Cream.  Luckily, no one had left the ice cream out of the freezer this time and my Baked Alaska was served as a visual masterpiece.  No one could ever regret making this choice.  My mouth and taste buds have never been blessed with such an explosion of fantastic flavours.  I am not even sure that there are words to describe my experience at The Pudding Bar.  I am completely and utterly enamoured with the place.

Cutting my fork into my pudding, it slid through the soft, gooey, marshmallow-like Italian meringue that coated the wonderful frozen surprise of thick and creamy maple syrup ice cream and warm, spiced apple cake.  It was like heaven on a fork and I just could not comprehend how perfect the flavour combination that entered my mouth was.  The fact that this was all accompanied by a warm maple syrup sauce truly was just the icing on the cake.  It was phenomenal.  And the crunchy caramelised apples on the side were a lovely addition that just added an extra textural dimension to the whole dish.

The deep tones of the spiced apple cake were the perfect balance to the smokey maple syrup icing and the sweetest most beautiful meringue I have ever tasted.  The Pudding Bar certainly knows what it is doing when it comes to pudding!  This is not a place to miss out on, and considering it is only a pop-up bar, you need to get your skates on or you may be too late!  What are you waiting for?  Go!

Yumchaa

This week, I had the pleasure of being introduced to a gorgeous little tea room in central London called Yumchaa.  Hidden just around the corner from Goodge Street station, it specialises in loose tea leaves and has a counter decorated with all sorts of wonderful foods, from paninis and scones to cakes and brownies.  And the best thing about this beautiful café is that they are so adventurous with their flavours!  Their teas range from Jasmine and Enchanted Forest (a vibrant blend of blueberry, rhubarb, raspberry and blackberry), to Chilli Chilli Bang Bang and Lemon Sherbet.  I sampled a pot of Caramel Sweetheart and a deep romance was formed with just the first sip!

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As a lover of all things edible, however, it was the food that really stole my heart.  I fell head over heels for their warm feta and olive scone, which was so moist and perfectly baked that it simply crumbled straight into my mouth.  It was a great warm and filling meditteranean-inspired treat that was the perfect accompaniment to the light, smooth caramel tones of my choice of tea.  However, one can never have too much sweetness in their life and I could not resist trying a slice of one of their fabulous looking cakes!

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I went for a generous slice of their banana and nutella cake.  I can think of nothing better than a combination of bananas and nutella in a cake and I was not disappointed by my choice!  The banana cake was deliciously thick and tasty, whilst the swirls of nutella added a soft, smooth, chocolatey moistness to the whole cake.

I honestly cannot wait for my next tea date with friends to try some of their Christmas offerings, such as their Red Christmas tea with its chocolate and gingerbread flavours!  I’m sure there will be lots of festive food available as well!  With its comfy sofas and ample wooden table and chair seating, this place is the perfect spot to meet with friends or chill with a cup of hard-earned tea after some hardcore London christmas shopping.  You will not regret a visit to this fabulous London tea room, where tea is at the heart of everything they do.

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.

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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.

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?!