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.

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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!

 

Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Cupcakes!

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Yesterday, one of my best friends and I finished our day at university and the library with a well-deserved trip to the Häagen-Dazs café in Leicester Square.  Whilst I found the concept of an ice cream café quite odd when I first moved to London, especially due to the lack of sea in the capital, I have happily accepted its offering of ice cream-themed desserts with open arms, no matter what the season!  From ice cream sundaes, to pancakes, waffles, and chocolate fondue (all involving ice cream, of course!) the menu has an incredible collection of puddings to choose from.  I know this is a very common theme of my blog posts, but I really couldn’t decide what to have!  However, my decision was made slightly easier by the presence of a particular pudding that seemed pretty unique to me: the ice cream cupcakes.

I have to admit that these cupcakes were an absolute frozen dream and were completely unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  Each one consisted of a freshly baked muffin base, with a layer of indulgent Häagen-Dazs ice cream to complete the cupcake shape, topped with a generous helping of lightly whipped cream, and finished off with a decorative and tasty topping.  Oh, and did I mention that each cupcake had its own saucy little surprise in the centre?!  Quite frankly, they were completely and utterly delicious!

Having spent the whole time going on about how amazing each and every one of these cupcakes were, Carrie asked me to rank them in order of preference.  I simply couldn’t!  They were just all amazing!

I started my ice cream cupcake adventure with the ‘Chocolate Indulgence’, and indulgent it most certainly was!  With a chocolate muffin base, Belgian Chocolate ice cream, and a beautiful chocolate fudge sauce centre, this cupcake was every chocolate lover’s dream.  The combination of the crunchy chocolate balls, on top of the light, fluffy whipped cream, leading to the soft chocolate ice cream and hard muffin base created a beautiful textured adventure.

My adventure continued with the ‘Summer Berry Dream’.  With a delicious blueberry muffin base, sweet Strawberries & Cream ice cream, and a contrasting sharp raspberry coulis centre, each mouthful was an explosion of flavour.  I’ll definitely be craving one of these during the Wimbledon final this year!

The ‘Caramel Delight’ was a bit subtler in flavour than the other two, but, as promised, it was a complete and utter delight.  This time, the chocolate sponge was topped with Salted Caramel ice cream, and there was a butterscotch sauce surprise in the centre.  The nuts were a beautiful addition and really completed the overall taste and quality of this cupcake, as each soft mouthful was completed with a crunch.

After such a wonderful experience, I am already excited for my next visit and can’t wait to try the chocolate fondue!  Let’s face it, if there’s anything that Häagen-Dazs know how to do well, it’s definitely flavoursome puddings!

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