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!

Make My Magnum

This summer, until August 30th, Magnum have taken over the shopping space next to Rolex in Selfridges to celebrate their 25th birthday and allow members of the public to create their own Magnum ice creams.  I can guarantee that if you are in London this summer, this is something you do not want to miss out on, especially on a glorious, hot summer’s day in the capital.  However, it is advisable to get there early to avoid the queues, which I was informed can tail back right out of the door!

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The first part of the process (once you have paid your £4.50 to take part) is to choose your 3 toppings.  I went for popping candy, crushed meringue, and honeycomb, but the picture above shows a few of the other toppings that are also available.  It is not an understatement to say that you will be spoilt for choice!  A nice lady behind the counter then puts your chosen toppings in a mini cocktail shaker and mixes them all together.  You then move round the counter to choose your ice cream flavour.  I went for vanilla, but you can have chocolate caramel if you fancy going all out!  Then you choose whether it is dipped in white, milk, or dark chocolate.  As a major fan of rich, decadent, dark chocolate, it was a no brainer for me, and whilst the chocolate is setting your toppings are poured over so they stick in place.  It is all finished off with a drizzle of another chocolate and a signature ‘M’ coin, and your finished product will look a little bit like this:

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Without a doubt this was one of the best ice creams I have ever had.  The dark chocolate coating was luxuriously thick and of the highest quality, the popping candy added a little bit of popping fun to every mouthful, and the honeycomb and crushed meringue added a sweet crunch to each bite.  It is such an excellent idea to get everyone to choose their favourite toppings because it is simply the best way to guarantee high customer satisfaction.  And it is lovely seeing how proud everyone is of their creations at the end.  One man was telling me at the eating counter how wonderful it was to be able to have a chilli and chocolate ice cream.  I have to say, I completely agree with him.  Although I chose my favourite toppings this time round, if I get the chance to go back I will definitely go down the more experimental route!

Don’t forget to upload a picture of your creation to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the handle #magnumxselfridges to be in with the chance of winning some much-wanted Selfridges vouchers! Here was my entry:

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Happy Magnum Making!

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!

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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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.)