Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Giveaway - Cake International Tickets

To celebrate my first full year of blogging the lovely people at Cake International have kindly donated two tickets for the Cake International Show, held at the NEC Birmingham between 9 -11 November.

It's a great day out for all bakers and cake decorators, whether you do it for a living or like me for the love of it. I have been for the last three years, and always come away with armfuls of goodies. I got rather carried away at last years Cake International show, but you can never have too many piping bags, lustre dusts or cutters. Or maybe you fancy treating yourself to a cake pops kit or sugar paste mould so you can make some Cake Pops like I did this month.

It's a great opportunity to see demonstrations too, learning new techniques using sugar paste or chocolate. You also get to see some amazing cakes, here's a photo of one at last year's show. A table laid for tea with a super cute Battenburg cake. For more information to help you plan your visit see the Cake International website

This giveaway is only open to UK residents. Only valid entries using the Rafflecopter widget will be accepted. If the winner does not respond within 2 weeks a new winner will be selected. Giveaway closes 30 September 2012.
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Monday, 27 August 2012

Cake Pops Strawberry Sweet Treats

I've been intending to make cake pops since the end of last year when I bought a kit from Cake International Show in November.  I'd anticipated setting time aside to focus on following instructions and perfecting technique. But in the end that plan went out of the window, instead it went something like this.
I'd made my niece's Seaside birthday cake, and had some left over cake trimmings, with an hour or so to spare and I had a sudden urge to Cake Pop! I measured nothing, looked up no instructions and went for broke, and yes I think it paid off. 

The week before I made some decorations I'd originally intended to use on the seaside cake but were now going spare. Miniature donuts, ice lollies, biscuits and pie, all made with sugar paste, a mould, lustre dust and a steady hand.

Leftovers guide to Cake Pops!
Step 1 - Crumble up cake crumbs
Step 2 - Add leftover butter cream, mould into balls

Step 3 - Pop balls into fridge for 30 ish minutes 
Step 4 - Melt strawberry chocolate melts* 
Step 5 - Pushed stick into ball, removed and dipped stick into chocolate and pushed back into ball
Step 6 - Dipped into chocolate
Step 7 - Added decoration and left to dry
*Tip - my friend Wendy who's a dab hand at making cake pops, always recommends melting the chocolate in tall narrow container so you can dip the ball of cake into, easily covering the ball but without wasting too much chocolate. My sundae glass was perfect for this task.

I'll admit to there be one casualty during the process, the very last cake ball I was dipping into the chocolate seemed to be  pulled off the stick by a vacuum of chocolate. I managed to rescue it, but it did lose it's shape. Look closely at the cake pops with the slice of pie.

I thought that visually they really delivered a wow! Although for taste satisfaction it's not like eating a piece of cake, just nice enough - helped by the strawberry chocolate. If I ever have any left over sponge I will certainly cake pops again.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Review : Cocoa Boutique Chocolate Tasting Box


As you know from my previous post this week I have been celebrating my first year of blogging, and I can not think of a better way than indulging in a box of chocolates. I adore chocolate and there are few days when I go with out eating any, pralines being my particular favourite. So I was more than happy to do my duty and eat my way through a Cocoa Boutique Chocolate Tasting Box to aid my celebration.

Who are Cocoa Boutique? A new luxury artisan chocolate tasting clubon a mission to bring their members the very best Pralines, Truffles and Caramels. Cocoa Boutique offer you the chance to have chocolates delivered direct to your door. To sign up to Cocoa Boutique tasting club costs initially £34.95 for 300g of 31 chocolate creations, and then £19.95, you can choose how often you want to receive the deliveries. I think the initial cost is a little expensive but would be happy to pay £19.95.
Chocolatiers
This is not all about a company making chocolates - all of the chocolates are hand made by award winning Master Chocolatiers such as Barry Colenso, Pierre Ledent and Claire Hicklin. Each box also contains a few hidden gems from up and coming British chocolatiers to stretch your taste buds and give you a truly artisan experience. 

Chocolates delivered through your letterbox
This really impressed me - I was expecting to have missed delivery of the chocolates and have the inconvenience of re-arranging delivery. But there was none of that, the box of chocolates are the perfect size to fit through your letterbox, and still arrived in perfect condition. 

Taste test
I'd set myself up with a cup of tea, I'd put my feet up and I was ready to indulge myself with chocolates. There was a choice of dark, white and milk chocolates though they were mostly milk, which pleased me as I like them all. Though I did avoided those with Rum and Brandy in as I'm not a fan of spirits. 
I was particularly impressed with Barry Colenso's 70% Ecuador Dark Chocolate Buttons. They were smooth in flavour and not bitter which I find some dark chocolate can be. You could also taste the notes of liquorice and banana. 

I did find it very helpful having a full description of each chocolate, you could really appreciate the different combination of flavours.
My favourite Milk Chocolate Almond Praline
I can also understand why the Milk Chocolate Almond Praline is rated no.1 in Cocoa Boutique's taste tests, it was my favourite. I loved the fact you could really taste the roasted almond and it had a real crunch to it. A closely followed runner up was the unusual Raspberry with a Hint of Orange by Claire Hicklin, you could taste both these flavours in this very smooth chocolate. I was slightly disappointed with the Pink Champagne Truffle, it looked wonderful and you could taste the Champagne, but the flavour from the raspberry sprinkles seemed lost.

I did not gorge on the whole box, I did share them with my sister. We both agreed on the Milk Chocolate Almond Praline being our favourite, my sister's second favourite was called Pamela. A cassis-pear ganache with dark chocolate decorated in a rainbow of colours, very appealing to the eye.

You also get the chance to feed back your views, as each box of chocolates is accompanied by a chocolate scorecard.


Each month Cocoa Boutique also offer 25 lucky tasters the chance to taste free luxary artisan chocolates, so be sure to pop your name in the hat.

I was sent a Cocoa Boutique Chocolate Tasting Box for the purposes of a honest review.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

My First Year and an Award



Who would of thought it, but this time last year I sat down and wrote my first blog post, and this is how it all started. I had spent last Summer immobile having had knee surgery, I was heavily into tweeting, which in turn pointed me to the direction of many great blogs. Before I knew it I was playing the game 'If you had a blog what would it be called...' and the rest as they say is history. 

I remember well the week before publishing my first post, spending hours finding my way around Blogger, never mind getting my head around all the new terminology that goes with it. I had already used Wordpress previously when setting up a site for a local history group Wellington History Group, but this was a static site without the comments function. For various reasons I had decided to publish my personal blog on Blogger.  I wish I had spent a little longer on the design and layout, but I was terribly impatient to publish my blog. Still that's one thing I have found during the year, my blog continues to evolve.

I want to thank all my blog followers, subscribers, readers and  those who have left comments during my first year. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Tanya at Cards With a Difference for bestowing my blog with the The Versatile Blogger award - yippee!

The rules of the Award are:

  1.   Link a picture of the award to your blog 
  2.   Thank the person who gave you the award  
  3.   List seven random things about yourself
  4.   List the rules
  5.   Give the award to 15 other bloggers. 
  6.   Inform the other 15 bloggers of the award.

Seven Random facts
  1.   I once did a screen test for a toothpaste advert
  2.   My sweet peas were award 1st place in a local garden show
  3.   I once won a years supply of Virgin Cola
  4.   I squeal like a child if I see a spider in the house
  5.   For some reason I say Lion instead of Line when I speak
  6.   I freak out over the smell of vinegar and can not go near   bottles of the stuff, although I love Salt n Vinegar crisps!
  7.   My first car was a red Ford Fiesta

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Yorkshire Tea Cakes

Yorkshire Toasted Tea Cakes
I've turned to something of a favourite of cookbooks of mine The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.  I've made a number of recipes from this cook book including Cherry Cupcakes and  Hot Cross Buns and now I have discovered another Yorkshire Tea Cakes. Tea cakes are a favourite of mine, particularly if I am out and about and want something other than cake with a cuppa.

Yorkshire Tea Cakes Recipe

450g strong plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried yeast
25g butter
40g currants
25g cater sugar, plus 1 tsp
300-350ml milk (lukewarm)
extra milk for brushing

makes 6 tea cakes

  • Sift flour and salt into bowl and rub in the butter.
  • Add sugar and currants, mix lightly.
  • Dissolve 1 tsp sugar into lukewarm milk and sprinkle yeast on top. 
  • Leave for 10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.
  • Add all at once to the dry ingredients, mix to a firm dough. Add extra flour if needed, until dough leaves sides of bowl clean.
  • Turn out onto floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes the dough should feel elastic.
  • Cover and leave to rise until double in size.
  • Turn out onto floured surface, knead well. Divide into 6 equal sized pieces.
  • Roll each one into a round cake 1cm (1/2 inch) thick.
  • Transfer to greased baking sheet and brush tops with milk.
  • Cover and leave to rise until almost double in size.
Bake 200 degrees C for 20 minutes. You may need to cover in foil if they are browning too quickly.
Cool on a wire rack.

I sneakily ate one of the tea cakes fresh from the oven with a little butter, they were light and fresh and perfect! They were still equally perfect a little later on when toasted with lashings of butter. 


I am submitting this recipe as part of the Best of British Blogging Challenge over  The Face of New World Appliances  this months theme is Yorkshire which is most appropriately hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage. There were so many different great Yorkshire based recipes to choose from but in the end settled for Yorkshire Tea Cakes. Although I very much looking forward to seeing some of the lovely recipes other fellow bloggers bake.

I'm also posting this recipe for the August Alpha Bakes Challenge hosted by Ros at More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, with Ros being this months host. This months letter is T for Tea Cakes!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Giveaway - Russian Doll Measuring Cups


I've another giveaway for you, this time I have a set of Russian Doll Measuring Cups for one lucky winner, courtesy of Find Me a Gift. If you've never used measuring cups before find out more from my review when I baked some Chocolate Brownies.

These would make a great edition to a kitchen shelf or create lots of fun when baking with children. If you think these very useful measuring dolls would look wonderful in your kitchen or help you make some yummy Chocolate Brownies then be sure to enter  my giveaway.

Apologies to my international readers, but this giveaway is only open to those in the UK. This giveaway closes 13 September 2012. Good luck!

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Review & Recipe - Russian Doll Measuring Cups make Chocolate Brownies


Baking dolls
Imagine my delight when Find Me a Gift offered me the chance to try these super cute Russian Doll Measuring Cups. Not only do they look fabulous in the kitchen but have a practical use too. Which have certainly come in handy, I follow many bloggers many based in America and Australia and love gaining inspiration from their recipes. Which usually have all the ingredients required shown in cups and not weight. Well now there are no excuses for not baking them, for now I have the assistance of these wonderful measuring cups designed in the style of Russian dolls. 

The set consists of three dolls, of different sizes with the smaller ones nestling inside the large one. They split into two with each top and bottom measuring a different size cup ranging from 1/4 cup to 1 cup, the measurement is shown on the inside bottom.  
A beautiful gift in a lovely box
Although it does not say on the product that these are microwave safe, I did use one of them in my microwave when I had to melt some butter. I encountered no problems. The dolls are packaged in a very good quality box, making these a perfect idea for a house warming gift or birthday present. 


Chocolate Brownies Recipe

2 eggs
1/2 cup Self raising flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate spread
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheated oven 170 degrees C

  • Line a tray (7 x 7 inches square)including the sides so it is easy to remove from the tray once baked.
  • In a bowl beat together the brown sugar, chocolate spread, eggs and vanilla essence for approximately  two minutes.  
  • Add the salt to the flour, and then with the whisk on slow speed add the flour mixture and alternate with the melted butter.
  • Pour into your tray and bake for around 35 minutes or until the knife comes out not quite clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tray for an hour or two before removing and cutting into squares.
I'll confess that I have still have a slight problem when it comes to making Brownies, I have a habit of leaving them in the oven just those few minutes too long. They are on the wrong side of not gooey, its the cake baker in me that wants my cake tester to come out clean! But hey they still taste great.


I was sent The Russian Doll Measuring cups for the purposes of this review.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Giveaway - Urbanara Apron and Oven Glove

Giveaway!
It's August 2012, and who would of thought that by the end of this month I will have been blogging for a whole year! To celebrate this momentous occasion I have a lovely giveaway for all you cooks, bakers and chefs, courtesy of Urbanara UK.

Urbanara UK offer beautiful, high quality homewares without the sky high price tag.  They really do have a fabulous range of products including a selection of blankets and bed linenThere are some wonderful table cloths my favourite being the Hanstholm Tablecloth.
Stylish products to present your best bakes
I know you want to know more about the prize on offer, well wait no longer. One lucky winner will win a Vanoise Apron and matching Vanoise Oven Glove, both items are hand-embroidered with a lobster motif on the front. Now if you are anything like me an apron is a must have in the kitchen, to avoid those untimely splashes and splatters.

I have more good news for you this giveaway is open to residents in the UK, Germany, Switzerland or Austria! 


To enter the giveaway follow the instructions below in the Rafflecopter widget, there are many different ways to enter but you must answer the question and leave your response as a comment to this blog post. I will be verifying each method of entry so no cheating. If the winner does not respond within 21 days of being notified a new winner will be selected.

I would like to thank Urbanara UK for supplying the prize for this giveaway.

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