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!

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!