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!

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Foodies Festival Highlights

This weekend Bristol Harbourside has been graced with the Foodies Festival, which is popping up in different locations all over the country this summer.  There are lots of different food tents hosting cooking, baking, and beer-tasting demonstrations – whatever takes your fancy, there will be something for you.  However, the highlight for me is the variety of stalls selling thousands of wonderfully different food and drink products, and the happy atmosphere with smiling crowds drinking, eating, and watching live music performances in the hot summer sunshine.  I had a wonderful time at the festival today, so I have decided to share with you some of my personal favourites from the event.

1. Custom Creams

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As you can see from the picture, Custom Creams offers their customers a bespoke ‘create your own’ ice cream/sorbet experience from a multitude of fresh and seasonal ingredients.  You can even choose to mix together two flavours that are not ‘tried and tested combos’, so you can really get your creative juices flowing!  Once you have chosen your flavours, you get to watch the very friendly men in charge of the magnificent machines freeze your chosen flavours ‘in a spectacular theatre of nitrogen mist’ right in front of your eyes!

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I chose to create a refreshing raspberry and mango sorbet and it was absolutely delicious!

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2. The Bourneville Waffle

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I had this wonderful waffle for brunch and I do not regret my choice in the slightest.  I opted for the Rocky Road waffle, although the Banoffe Pie waffle was extremely tempting!  However, I just could not resist marshmallows this time round!  My waffle was made with absolute precision.  After being made fresh in front of my own eyes, my hot waffle was delicately loaded with whipped cream, crushed cookies, chocolate buttons, mini marshmallows, and topped with a generous helping of luxuriously dark chocolate sauce. It was crisp on the outside, whilst being light and fluffy on the inside, and there was enough topping to make every mouthful a spectacular tasty treat.  It was rich and indulgent, and the perfect start to a fun and busy day!

3. American Kitchen

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Unfortunately, I was so focused on getting the last slice of ‘Fat Elvis’ pie that I completely forgot to take a photo of any of American Kitchen’s beautiful brownies or pies.  They had a wonderful variety, ranging from orange and raspberry brownies to the classic key lime pie.  However, I just could not miss out on this wonderfully strange sounding ‘Fat Elvis’ pie, and was more than enthusiastic when I was asked ‘would you like candied bacon with that?’  At no other point in my life have I ever thought that I would want candied bacon, and especially not on a pudding pie.  However, one spoonful of this wonderfully sweet and salty treat told me that I had made the right decision.  If you have the chance, buy a slice of this peculiar pie!  It looks magnificent, and it tastes magnificent!  It is completely unlike anything you will have ever had before.  And the portions are so big that I still have some left for pudding tonight.  Good old American food and portions for you there!

4. Dimkins Patisserie

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Today I had the pleasure of sampling Dimplin’s Blueberry and Liquorice flavoured macaroons, a flavour that I have never come across before.  Naturally, I was quite excited about this discovery, as I am a MASSIVE macaroon fan.  They were light and airy, yet crunchy on the outside, and beautifully creamy in the middle.  The flavours were very subtle, which gave a lovely contrast in flavours without the liquorice overpowering the delicate blueberry flavour.  With lots of different flavours to choose from, these will attract anyone who loves a little bite of everything!

5. The Fresh Lemonade

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Last but not least, The Fresh Lemonade Company is the perfect place to grab a refreshing cocktail to sit down with and listen to the live music that has been put on for your own enjoyment.  I had a wonderful Cherry Bakewell cocktail (left).  All of these cocktails are made with the company’s fresh lemonade and are absolutely beautiful.

If you are heading to the festival tomorrow you are guaranteed to have a fabulous time.  There is an amazing variety of foods and drinks for you to try and buy, and a multitude of entertainment acts to enjoy whilst you rest your feet and arms from all the bags full of fresh food (and the cheeky bottle of elderflower gin) you have purchased!  I hope the summer sun stays out for you and that you have as much fun as I did today.  Happy eating my fellow foodies!

Wallace & Gromit Cupcakes

Bristol is well known for its association with Aardman Animation’s much-loved characters, Wallace and Gromit.  So when I spotted these beautifully decorated Gromit and Shaun the Sheep cupcakes whilst enjoying a leisurely weekend stroll around Bristol Harbourside, I just couldn’t resist trying one!  Unfortunately, the Wallace and Gromit themed cupcakes did not come in a great choice of flavour. The Gromit cupcakes were all vanilla, and the Shaun the Sheep cupcakes were vanilla with strawberry jam.  Despite the cute little marshmallows creating a fluffy sheep coat on top of Shaun’s head, I just couldn’t say no to the cute Gromit faces staring up at me, as he was always my favourite character growing up!  But if there happened to be a greater variety of flavours next time I stumble across Lilymead Bakery’s stall, I doubt I’ll be able to resist these cute little Shaun the Sheep cupcakes!

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Despite my reservations over vanilla cupcakes, mainly their blandness in flavour, I decided that I would still give these gorgeous cupcakes a shot!  I have to admit that these were a bit more flavoursome than most vanilla cupcakes, given the strong buttercream topping that was swirled on top, and the thick icing that was used to create the Gromit decoration.  However, the thickness of both these toppings did make them rather sickly, and I’m not sure I could have managed a whole one!  (Staying with my dear mother, I have the pleasure of sharing every sweet treat with her, as she has even more of a sweet tooth than I do!)  Nevertheless, this cupcake was a lovely treat at the end of a lovely day.

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Aesthetically, these cupcakes are perfect for anyone who loves Wallace and Gromit as much as I do.  They stood out as being simple and unique, and were simply irresistible!  The flavours may not have been magnificent or adventurous, and the sponge may have been slightly stodgy, but the decoration and attention to detail was absolutely beautiful, and they definitely pull at the heart strings of a Bristolian who grew up with Wallace and Gromit as a central part of their childhood.  I love that Lilymead Bakery obviously put a lot of thought into what represents Bristol to Bristolians, and supplied us with these gorgeous cupcakes for the weekend.

Bea’s Teas – A Tasty Guarantee

Afternoon Tea at Bea’s of

Bloomsbury, St Paul’s

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I love Bea’s of Bloomsbury.  I was introduced to Bea’s small, but wondrous collection of cafés by my flatmate, Lizzie. It was almost like a flatmate bonding session; as soon as she found out that I love cake (love possibly being a complete understatement) she excitedly exclaimed, “Ooooh, have you been to Bea’s of Bloomsbury?!  They do THE best cupcakes!  And Duffins!”  And after a slice of Guinness Chocolate cake on my first visit I was pretty much sold.

So last weekend Lizzie and I decided that there was no better way to start our Saturday evening of wining and dining (a.k.a. cake followed by glorious cocktails in the Radio rooftop bar on the Strand) than indulging in a delectable afternoon tea at the St Paul’s venue.  As we walked past the giant floor-to-ceiling glass windows that lead to the entrance, adorned with celebratory hearts in preparation for Valentine’s Day, we got rather excited, discussing our double-date plans for the following weekend!  The excitement continued as we were led straight to our table where our afternoon tea was ready and waiting for us and we were handed a generous menu of teas to choose from.  Our waitress possibly underestimated just how hungry we were when we arrived (and my impatience to order as I had eyed up the last few Duffins sitting behind the counter as we had walked through the door), as we had nearly finished our sandwiches by the time she came back to take our order and we could not move onto the scones without ordering our tea, as the clotted cream and jam are delivered at the same time as the tea.  However, I cannot fault the service for the rest of the evening, as they did give me my Duffin for free as an apology for taking so long and forgetting it the first time round, and they were very attentive as to whether we needed our tea topping up for the rest of our stay.

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The afternoon tea itself was completely faultless.  To start with, the mini baguettes were super fresh, simple, and tasty, with a lovely Mediterranean feel to them, with a choice of mozzarella, tomato and pesto or salami and rocket.  The scones were equally gorgeous, although I do prefer scones served warm, but I cannot fault the beautifully crumbly texture and the buttery contrast to the sweet strawberry jam.

However, the true pièce de résistance was the top tier of the cake stand.  Each mouthful brought with it a new taste and each new taste brought with it a little slice of heaven.  There were tasters of three different types of brownies: the rich and sweet Valrhona Chocolate Brownie, the nutty Killer Brownie, and the Belgian Blondie white chocolate brownie.  Whilst the Killer Brownie and Belgian Blondie scored top marks on the taste bud challenge, the absolute winner, hands down, was the Valrhona Chocolate Brownie.  The taste of the dark chocolate was powerful yet deliciously sweet, and each mouthful literally melted in your mouth.  I’m actually glad I don’t pass Bea’s of Bloomsbury on a daily basis, as I’m not sure I could allow myself to walk past without getting one!

The sweet chocolate treat continued in the form of cocoa-dusted meringues that were crunchy and simply delicious.

Quite possibly my favourite part of the afternoon tea was the homemade marshmallows.  Marshmallows like this are extremely rare and the flavours are like nothing you have ever experienced in this soft, gooey form before.  I have only found homemade marshmallows like this once before, in a sweet shop in Bristol, which has unfortunately shut down now, and so this little pink fluffy square took me back to my college days, sitting in class eating passionfruit-flavoured marshmallows and telling everyone that they had to try them!  And I will give exactly the same advice again: you have to try these!  Bea’s of Bloomsbury served us raspberry flavoured marshmallows and the flavour was soft, but distinct.  Their elasticity also made them extremely satisfying to pull apart before placing each piece in your mouth!

The flavour of the marshmallows was very similar to the flavour of the raspberry icing on the vanilla and raspberry cupcake.  Bea’s of Bloomsbury never over-power the flavours, they are always very delicate and subtle and completely and utterly delightful.  The sponge is always perfectly soft and bouncy, and the icing is always piped on exquisitely.  The cupcakes always look like a miniature piece of art, and I have to say the passionfruit and vanilla cupcake tasted like one!  The tiny hearts dusted over the top of the cakes added a lovely crunch in contrast to the soft sponge.  I always find that it is the attention to detail that make a big difference at Bea’s of Bloomsbury and put them slightly ahead of many of their competitors.  This and their baker, Bea, is extremely inventive with her creations!

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Meet the Duffin – a hybrid dessert consisting of a muffin and a doughnut.  My only regret over this incredible invention is that I was already full when I started eating it.  Luckily, however, I have an extremely sweet tooth, and the thick sugar coating only made me crave the sugar more and more.  With each mouthful I was astounded at how the outside was just like a doughnut, especially when you got to the jam centre, and the inside was as soft and fluffy as any muffin you could ever find.  Bea has also invented the Townie – the cross between a tartlet and a brownie, which unfortunately I have not tried yet.  Even if you don’t fancy afternoon tea at Bea’s, which is one of the best-valued in London at only £19 each, you have to go just to enjoy one of these creative, one-of-a-kind treats!  I can assure you now that you will not regret your visit!