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.

The Graduationsaurus Rex

Unfortunately, I have been so busy this summer that I have only just got round to posting about the cakes that I made for my boyfriend’s graduation at the end of July.  I spent absolutely ages trawling through beautiful graduation cake ideas with absolutely nothing jumping out at me.  I wanted to create something special that he would never have had before to celebrate his amazing achievement that had taken three long, laborious years to complete!  And it was in the middle of the night when I came up with this:

The Graduationsaurus Rex

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I had recently purchased some dinosaur cake moulds from Lakeland because I am such a big kid and absolutely love experimenting with fun shapes and decorations.  I knew I didn’t want to leave them plain and decorate them with icing pens in the same way that Lakeland had advertised them on their website, especially as I was baking chocolate chip dinosaurs instead of the vanilla recipe that they offered with the moulds.  Therefore, I decided that candy melts were the perfect antidote to my decorating woes!  I could create a fun and colourful dinosaur simply by covering my cake in blue chocolate and decorating with icing.  This was much easier said than done. I ended up having to paint the blue chocolate on with a paint brush that I had to constantly dip in hot water so that the chocolate was still melting and runny enough to spread over all the curves smoothly.  It took absolutely ages, but I could see that the end result was going to be worth all of the hard work, and creating the icing decorations was so much fun at the end of it all!

It may have been a little bit rough around the edges, but I was so ridiculously pleased with the finished product.

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Unfortunately, the dinosaur did get a little battered travelling around 100 miles from Bristol to London when I got the train up for the graduation.  But it was still clearly a graduation dinosaur and I think it did well considering the distance and the fact that it was all by public transport!

It was super convenient that I had loads of extra cake-mix left over to make some cupcakes for my boyfriend’s family who were also travelling up to watch him graduate that day.  Luckily, we were all meeting at my student flat in London, so I had enough time to whip up a quick vegan chocolate frosting there, as his mum is lactose intolerant and I didn’t want her to miss out.  I also managed to find some pretty sprinkles in my little uni baking box that I could quickly pour on them too!

The cakes went down an absolute treat.  My boyfriend and his family loved them and really appreciated all the effort that I had gone to.  If you ever get stuck deciding on sentimental present ideas, especially for events like graduations, cakes are definitely the way forward.  I mean, let’s face it, who doesn’t like a good cake when celebrating something special?!

The Great Hummingbird Bake-Off: August 2014

Banana & Chocolate vs.

Panettone

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.

August 2014 has seen the rivalry of two delicious cupcakes: Banana and Chocolate vs. Panettone.  One is a rich chocolate sponge topped with a decadent chocolate banana frosting; the other is a creamier affair with a wonderful Italian twist.  But which cupcake deserves the number one title this month?

Banana & Chocolate

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I knew from the second that I set eyes on this chocolatey feast of a cake that I was going to fall in love with it.  After all, anything that combines chocolate and banana is a complete winner with me.  Sometimes there are certain things that certain places or people just do fantastically every single time, and chocolate cake is one of those things for Hummingbird!  Their chocolate cake is always soft and springy, and their frosting is always thick, rich, and decadent.  But the addition of banana to the mixture took the standard chocolate cupcake experience to a whole new level.  This is one of those cakes that should not just be a monthly special, but a permanent feature on the Hummingbird bakery counter!

Panettone

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This wonderfully, fruity Italian loaf has been made into a delightful little cupcake by combining pieces of panettone in a light vanilla sponge, topped with creamy custard and more panettone.  I mean let’s face it, you can never have too many piece of panettone!  It truly was a wonderful surprise to find generous chunks of the fruity loaf surrounded by the fluffy vanilla sponge in every mouthful.  And to top the whole thing off, the custard brought a fantastic creamy contrast to the rich, fruity panettone, making this month’s Hummingbird bake-off decision the hardest one yet!

However, after a considerable amount of consideration, I am pleased to crown the Panettone Special Edition Cupcake this month’s bake-off winner, simply due to its innovative take on the classic Italian loaf.  The flavours of these cupcakes were simply beautiful, and neither could win on purely flavour alone!

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!

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.

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.

Mr Men and Little Miss Biscuits

It was my birthday this weekend and the parents came up for a very British day out of theatre-going and afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason.  However, like most Brits, it is often hard to start our day without a nice mug of coffee (albeit mine always comes in a plastic cup as I am addicted to Frappuccinos in the summer), and this is where my parents gave me my birthday presents.  I received lots of lovely gifts, such as a cute ladybird cupcake kit, but the one I was most excited about was my Little Miss Birthday biscuit made by Biscuiteers.  I have wanted to try their biscuits for a long time, especially after reading a blog about the launch of their Mr Men and Little Miss collection, and I have to say it was well worth the wait!

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Not only did this beautiful biscuit look perfect, it tasted perfect, and it is such a fun and novel idea for a small birthday present!  I don’t know anyone who didn’t love Mr Men and Little Miss as a kid, and so it is very apt for a nostalgic trip to your childhood on the day you are most aware of how far you have come since those innocent, playful days!

However, once you bring yourself to eat something this beautiful, you are presented with an absolute treat for your tastebuds!  It is soft and crumbly, with a slight crunch on the outside, and the vanilla flavour really comes through in every mouthful.  The icing is a lovely sweet accompaniment, but not overpoweringly so, and really completes the whole experience.

My parents bought me the Little Miss Birthday biscuit from Fortnum & Mason.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the display, but guessing from their Mr Men Biscuit Tin on their website and what my dad has told me, I’m assuming there is quite a lot of choice!  These are absolutely wonderful biscuits, to look at and to eat, and would make the perfect present or biscuit for a celebratory occasion.