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!

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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!

Some Egg-stra Special Easter Treats

Easter in the capital is a pretty wonderful place.  Everywhere you go there are egg-stravangant Easter eggs and Easter-themed treats in abundance!  Some of my favourite window shopping spots have been the golden chocolate rabbits in Paul.A.Young, as well as Fortnum & Mason’s beautiful bunny biscuits (I am addicted to bunny-themed anything so it’s hardly surprising that these treats in particular have caught my eye)!

However, my favourite local bakery in London is Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden, and having seen their special selection of Easter cupcakes advertised on Twitter whilst I was back at home visiting the family, I couldn’t resist taking the slightly longer route to the library on my first day back in the capital to pick up some of these egg-stra special treats to help me power through the essay writing that day!

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My favourite by far was the Hot Cross Bun Cupcake, simply because the warmth of the cinnamon, which was enhanced by the sweetness of the raisins, positively oozed with Easter vibes.  It literally tasted just like a hot cross bun, nostalgically returning me to those childhood days of eating warm, toasted hot cross buns, loaded with butter, in the garden with my mum.  Even as a massive fan of Primrose Bakery, I just wasn’t expecting such perfection!  And the smooth, creamy, all-spice cream cheese frosting, topped with crunchy hot cross bun croutons, really was the icing on the cake.  These cupcakes were an absolute dream, and quite frankly I’m a little bit disappointed that it isn’t Easter all year round now!

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Next up was the Creme Egg Cupcake.  I do find it hard to say no to a good chocolate cupcake, and this was certainly no egg-ception!  With its rich and indulgent dark chocolate brownie sponge, which contained an egg-cellent surprise of a mini creme egg in the centre, this cupcake was an absolute treat.  It was made even better with its sweet, fluffy yellow and white marshmallow icing, which always adds a beautiful thick and gooey texture to the whole experience.  And for the half a creme egg on top, no one can ever have too many creme eggs at Easter!

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And last but not least was the beautifully decorated Vanilla Cupcake.  With its soft sponge and flavouring, it makes for a delicate and delightful Easter treat, especially with its lovely, thick vanilla frosting.  I absolutely love the bright colours on the decorative eggs, which added a lovely crunch in comparison to the delicacy of the rest of the cake.

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I also discovered some beautiful bird truffles in Godiva’s Covent Garden shop, which I took home to make a lovely little Easter nest for the boyfriend.

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This was created very simply using a chocolate meringue from Carluccios, chocolate whipped cream, Mikado sticks for the nest, Marks & Spencer mini eggs, and the beautiful Godiva bird truffles.  Each one was satisfying with a beautiful and interesting filling.  The white chocolate bird was filled with a thick and nutty milk chocolate delight, the dark chocolate bird was filled with a runny banana-flavoured syrup, and the milk chocolate bird was a caramel-themed treat.

I am a massive fan of themed treats and all of the bakeries and the shops in London really showed off their talents this Easter with an array of delicious tasting and looking treats for us all to choose from!  I cannot wait for the next big event to come along in the capital because, let’s face it, it manages to create something special every time!

Luscious Ladurée

Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe; it has fashion, it has fascinating architecture, but most of all, it has macaroons.  So when I stumbled across the small Ladurée shop and café in the courtyard of Covent Garden, it took no time at all for me to become a regular customer!

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There is something a little bit special about macaroons, with their beautifully coloured delicate shells, which simply crumble into your mouth with every bite.  They are by far the cutest confectionary treat that you can just pop into your mouth when you’re craving something just a little bit sweet!  (Although, if you do this, you are not getting the full macaroon experience in my opinion; you’re missing out on that slight crunch, followed by a prolonged chewy softness that just oozes pure flavour into your mouth that you only considered possible in fairy tales until now!) The macaroon is an experience to be savoured!

As I was (supposed to be) sharing my macaroons with my boyfriend, I only picked out four flavours.  I thought it would be easier to resist eating them all if I’d already tried that specific macaroon; it wasn’t!  Unfortunately, the little leaflet that the waitress gave me detailing all of the flavours is wrong, so I won’t be able to refer to all of them by their official fancy French names, but after savouring each and every beautiful mouthful I can most definitely tell you what flavours they consisted of!

The first macaroon was salted caramel. This sweet little bundle of joy simply oozed its very generous helping of caramel filling into my very ready and welcoming mouth, and as I pulled the macaroon away from my lingering lips I felt the satisfying pull of the ‘gooey’ texture.  I know this sounds like a love story, but that’s because it is! I am officially in love with Ladurée!

Carrying on my sweet little journey, I encountered the rather special strawberry flavoured marshmallow macaroon.  This pink little ball of perfection epitomises exactly how I would imagine food in a Disney princess film to look, taste, and feel! Whilst it did taste a little bit like bubblegum (not that I’m complaining; it only furthered my nostalgic return to my childhood), I thoroughly enjoyed the change in texture with its marshmallow centre creating a slightly thicker and chewier experience than the rest of the macaroons.  Furthermore, the sprinkling of sugar encasing this miniature delight not only made it even sweeter, but also added a nice extra crunch to each bite.

The third macaroon was coffee and chocolate.  This was actually my boyfriend’s favourite.  The chocolate to coffee ratio was absolutely perfect; it had a very distinct, sweet coffee taste, which was followed up by an almost caramel-tasting chocolate flavour, which was reminiscent of the caramel Frappuccinos at Starbucks.  It was certainly a nice pick-me-up in the middle of a busy and stressful afternoon!

Last, but not least, was the chocolate and orange flavoured macaroon.  Far from tasting like normal chocolate orange flavoured confectionaries, which are predominantly chocolatey and simply complemented by a sweet orange flavour, this macaroon created a flavour sensation that was altogether extraordinary in comparison.  The orange macaroon was sharp and tangy, and stood out in contrast to the subtle sweetness of the chocolate filling.  With flavours that were both complimentary and distinctively different, this macaroon was special and confusing all at the same time; a definite unexpected adventure for your taste buds!

However, the pièce de résistance (my love of random French phrases being very appropriate for this post) was the Caramel Apple Macaroon.

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This giant macaroon was an absolute dream.  Even with a fresh, cooked-apple filling, which oozed a creamy surprise in the centre, and a sticky caramel filling sandwiching the whole dessert together, the macaroons retained their beautiful, crumbly crunch without the slightest hint of sogginess (my Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood judging hat came on here)!  And the whole thing was finished off with a ridiculously sweet and crunchy caramel drizzle and tiny apple pieces cooked to perfection to keep with the consistent softness of the whole pudding (apart from when you were ocassionally greeted with the satisfying crunch of the caramel drizzle)!

Whatever you choose as your Ladurée treat, I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed!  Everything is perfected right down to the last little detail on all of their confectionary delights, and I absolutely adore choosing from their massive collection of flavours and desserts every time I find the time and money to visit!  It won’t be a cheap trip, but every mouthful will be worth every penny!

 

Pretty in Pink at Primrose Bakery

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Primrose Bakery in Covent Garden is basically the history girls’ HQ (alongside Gourmet Burger Kitchen for those rare moments our tastebuds fancy something a little more savoury)!  One of my best friends, Emma, introduced me to this beautiful little bakery, and I can safely say I have never looked back!  Apart from a few customary regulars, such as vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, Primrose Bakery seem to have a large variety of different flavoured cupcakes, cookies and other sugary treats everyday!  They also offer a different cocktail-flavoured cupcake every Friday (which I will review sometime in the near future, as these are simply delicious and I am a mega, mega fan)!  Basically, my excessive use of exclamation marks so far in this blog post should be an indicator of just how highly I rate this place.

Another indicator should be the fact that my plate has two cupcakes on it instead of one.  Although everyone else somehow managed, I genuinely could not choose which cupcake to have (trust me, there were plenty of others I would have happily piled on my plate if they were calorie free!), and so I went for the two that I really felt I could not live without trying.  One was the marshmallow cupcake on the left; the other was the pink lemonade cupcake on the right.

The marshmallow cupcake was beautiful.  Aesthetically, it was completely and utterly adorable, with it’s faintly pink glittered frosting and giant pink marshmallow instantly drawing me in.  Underneath, it consisted of a delicate chocolate sponge, which actually complemented the sweet, gooey flavour of the marshmallow frosting perfectly.

However, there is no denying that the contrast of the sharp sweet and sour flavour of the lemon frosting on the pink lemonade cupcake made this one my favourite.  I am so passionate about strong flavours, and whilst I am not normally a massive fan of a vanilla sponge, the intense lemon flavour of the frosting was far more adventurous than anything I was expecting and I am now officially in love with Primrose Bakery (more so than I was before)!  This cupcake was pure perfection, and I adored the pink sugar decoration as well.

Unfortunately, I think their Pink Lemonade cupcake was their February monthly special, but you can check out their Facebook page, which is updated regularly with their daily specials available at each of their bakeries in Covent Garden and Primrose Hill.