L’Eto Caffé

L’Eto Caffé is a beautiful little café situated next door to Hummingbird Bakery on Wardour Street in Soho with the most fabulous window display of cakes and desserts that you can feast yours eyes on.  I discovered it during my months as an intern at a busy PR office in Soho where I indulged in their Honey Cake on a regular basis when cake felt like the only option for survival!  However, I had a meeting with my personal tutor from university, having recently finished, to discuss the future, and I decided that one of L’Eto Caffé’s fabulous-looking cakes would be the perfect present to say thank you for all the help I had received throughout my time at university.  Therefore, I chose a decadent Chocolate Cinnamon Cake that stood tall in the café window.  After all, who doesn’t love a good chocolate cake, and one with a cinnamon twist at that?!

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Unfortunately, it did turn into the leaning tower of cake after fighting my way through the bustling crowds of Oxford Street, but it most certainly did not affect the taste.  The sponge was rich and moist, and the chocolate was deliciously decadent.  Each mouthful was a chocolate, heavenly dream.  This was made even better by the chocolate and cinnamon cream that sandwiched the chocolate layers together.  I would honestly class this as the best chocolate cake I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my very welcoming mouth!  It looks the part and tastes the part, and you can not ask for much more than that!

If you happen to be in the area, or fancy a coffee date with a special twist, I would thoroughly recommend L’Eto Caffé to fulfil your sweet cake cravings any day.  Their cakes are wonderful and the service is warm and friendly.  A visit to L’Eto Caffé could never leave you disappointed.

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!

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.

Sweet Couture Cake Boutique

Today I had a lovely day off from the dissertation and went on a wonderful 10 mile mystery tour round London with one of my best friends, Henna.  We got our nails done, became ladies who lunch, dressed up as knights in the National Gallery, wandered round Harrods, got attacked by a squirrel in Hyde Park and, to top it all off, indulged in a luxurious cupcake whilst soaking up the sun in St. James’s Park.

Fortunately, this meant that I got a lovely scenic photo of my cupcake on a park bench for this post!

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I found this beautiful carrot cupcake in a tiny little shop called the Sweet Couture Cupcake Boutique in Covent Garden.  I’d never actually been down this road in Covent Garden before and I have to say I was absolutely delighted to find so many wonderful independent small businesses, particularly the foodie ones!  However, with its giant glass windows, which allow for optimal spying on the delicious range of cakes in the display cabinet inside, all topped with an extremely large, perfectly-swirled mound of icing, I couldn’t resist purchasing one of these cakey works of art.  With all of their regular signature cupcakes on display it was a hard choice to make, but I decided on the carrot cake, as I have just started my graduation diet and I’d convinced myself that it was the healthiest option!  I do also LOVE a good carrot cake!  It was carefully placed into an adorable little takeaway box with its very own handle, and £2.50 later I was on my way with this delightfully tempting treat teasing me blissfully the whole way to the park.

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As much as I loved the cute little box, I couldn’t wait to tuck in!  This cupcake was absolutely gorgeous.  With beautifully subtle hints of cinnamon and ginger firing through the soft, sweet sponge, which was baked to absolute crumbly perfection, this really was a treat that was worth indulging and sacrificing the diet for!  I have to admit, I was slightly worried that the mountain of cream cheese frosting would ruin everything, but in actual fact it was perfectly complimentary; it was not overwhelmingly tangy like some cream cheese icings can be, especially when there is so much of them, but instead it was a delightful and welcoming accompaniment that added a soft, smooth, and delicate sweetness to the whole experience.  And to top it off, the crumbled walnuts sprinkled over the top not only added to the beauty of the whole cupcake, but they truly complimented the slightly grainy carrot cake texture, adding a beautiful nutty crunch to finish off this baking masterpiece.

Even the pigeons enjoyed the crumbs!

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I will definitely be back to try one of their deluxe cupcakes, which change every couple of months so that seasonal ingredients can be used!  Furthermore, I think this bakery has to be commended on its dedication to using British ingredients; all their eggs and milk are sourced from British farms, so by purchasing a cupcake from this beautiful bakery, you are also supporting our hard-working British farmers!  You can never go wrong by eating cake AND completing your good deed for the day at the same time!

And as a special treat for reading to the end of my post, you may be rewarded with a picture of me dressed as a knight at the National Gallery!

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Brilliant Bill’s

Everybody I know has been raving about Bill’s, a small chain that has grown over recent years to become a foodie favourite.  I first heard about it from my best friend, who enjoyed her first experience at the new Bristol branch about 6 months ago.  Then one of my friends in London mentioned that she really wanted to try their afternoon tea, as she’d been told about their delectable homemade jam.  Having heard great reviews, I was hardly going to turn her down!

Unfortunately, my first experience at Bill’s did not quite meet my expectations, as the staff at the Covent Garden (St Martin’s Courtyard) restaurant were rather rude and abrupt when dealing with our complaint that our afternoon teas had been apportioned unequally across the two stands that six of us were told to share from.  Aside from the unpleasant service, the food was rather good, with an excellent variety of sandwiches; warm scones, clotted cream, and fresh jam; chocolate cake, strawberry and cream tarts, lemon meringue pies, and flapjacks, especially when you consider the bargain price of £9.95.  If there is one thing that Bill’s cannot be praised enough for, it is their dedication to providing good food at excellent prices.

Luckily, Bill’s in Bristol saved the day with their impeccable and friendly customer service, whilst still managing to serve great food, exactly as expected from all the wonderful things I had heard about this restaurant.  Whilst my best friend tucked into her burger, I started on dish one of five: hot cross buns with a whipped cinnamon butter.

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As it is coming up to Easter, I decided to treat myself to a traditional holiday indulgence.  I was automatically drawn to this dish on Bill’s menu, as I have always loved hot cross buns, but have never seen them served with a cinnamon butter.  I have to admit the flavours in this butter were a great addition to these warm, toasted, fruity hot cross buns; it was almost like a sweet, melted peanut butter.  These would make the perfect Easter treat in between shopping for Easter eggs!  (Plus, Bill’s have some extremely colourful chicken shaped ‘eggs’ for you to pick up on your way out if you’re much more interested in the easy life like me!)

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Next up were these beautifully fresh mini cinnamon doughnuts, with sweet strawberries and a pot of hot melted chocolate sauce, all served on a cute, rustic wooden board, with an elegantly designed greaseproof paper.  These were literally bite-size pieces of heaven.  Soft, warm, and sugary, there was no mistaking how fresh and wonderful these mini doughnuts were, and the chocolate sauce just completed the whole package.

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My favourite dish was the pecan pie accompanied by banana ice cream.  I find that pecan pie is one of those desserts that feature so infrequently on restaurant menus that I get insanely excited when they do eventually pop up!  Pecan pie was my favourite dessert growing up, until Marks & Spencer discontinued my one true love and created a pecan pudding shaped hole in my life, and I have spent those long, empty years trying to find the perfect pecan pie to fill that void.  Tonight, I may have finally found a winner! This pecan pie was everything that it should be: soft, sweet, gooey, with so much pecan goodness you could weep with joy.  I literally couldn’t be happier right now!

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I followed up the pecan pie with what I assumed was going to be my favourite pudding of the evening (as normally the pecan pie is a complete disappointment and everyone knows I am a MASSIVE fan of jaffa cakes)!  However, I was shocked that I was quite happy to leave half of this pudding due to the fact that I did not fall head-over-heels in love with it.  It certainly had all of the right components to make a jaffa cake: an indulgent chocolatey coating and a soft cake bottom, which sandwiched an orange jelly elegantly in between them.  However, something just wasn’t quite right, and I believe it was the cake:chocolate:orange ratio.  Essentially, the orange was wonderfully strong in flavour (this is certainly not a criticism; I am never one to complain about too much flavour!), but the chocolate was overwhelmingly thick on the edges and the cake was disappointingly thin in contrast.  It also wasn’t as fun to eat as a traditional jaffa cake, as I’m one of those people who love to tear the cake off from the delicate jaffa centre, leaving the best bit for last.  However, if you have a real craving for something chocolate orange after your main, this is definitely the dessert to go for!

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My last pudding was the crème brûlée with raspberries and shortcake biscuits.  This was truly a beautiful crème brûlée: it was smooth and creamy, with a beautifully crunchy caramelised topping.  Unfortunately, there was only one raspberry in my dessert, but the raspberry certainly added a lovely contrast in flavour to the delicious vanilla custard.  I loved the fact that the vanilla seeds were visible in every spoonful, confirming that the freshest ingredients are used for every dessert.

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All of this was washed down with my favourite drink of all time: a pink lemonade and vanilla ice cream float (a drink that I discovered on my first trip to Bill’s).  Attention to detail is as prominent as ever, with a delicate strawberry propped onto the side of the glass.

This was a truly wonderful evening – great company, great food, and great service.  I am glad that I finally got to experience the side of Bill’s that everyone has been raving about for so long, and I can’t wait for my next visit, where I might try something a little more savoury from the menu (finished off with a large slice of pecan pie, obviously)!