Japan Earthquake Baking Fundraiser

I'm sitting here watching the Channel 4 documentary on the Japan earthquake and tsunami and its just completely unimaginable what has happened out there. I wish I could do more to help as do most of us and I thought I would put some of my skills to use to do what I can and so last Sunday I spent the evening baking in order to raise some money for the earthquake appeal.

First up I made some low fat gluten free cupcakes, which were devoured. Last time I made gluten free brownies with beetroot, no one ate them as I wrote it on the box. So this time I didn't mention it that the cupcakes were made with courgette/zucchini (for my Aus readers). They are a simple cupcake with a jam centre which still retain the light fluffy texture of a normal cupcake.

I fooled them all!!!
at about 220 calories.. who can't enjoy this cupcake!

Since I had to share my kitchen space/time/oven with my housemate who was cooking a lovely roast for us all, I decided to try making the Chewy Monkey Bars from the new Hummingbird Book - Cake Days as these bars needed no oven time. I love the Hummingbird Cookbooks, however I think sometimes they forget we are just humble home bakers. Anyway they didn't quite work as I was meant to slowly melt down all the marshmallow's to use as the combining agent, but I seemed to mis-read that vital step and it just ended up being a mess of delicious ingredients. However the next night I melted down some more marshmallows and we had success!!!

Monkey Bar fail :(
I like that it now had chunky bits of marshmallows in it.. nom

When I got the use of the oven back, I was straight back in there with a rhubarb and flaked almond loaf, also from Cake Days. I've never cooked with rhubarb as its always slightly intimated me, but oh my what have I been missing. Not only is it dead easy to cook, its delicious!! So far this week we have had apple and rhubarb crumble (which I also baked on the Sunday - 5 baked things in one afternoon - yes I'm slightly mental), and also a rhubarb and meringue which was low fat and a little less guilt free than the crumble with Cornish custard.

filled with rhubarb goodness...

The last thing I made that evening was another Cake Days recipe - Lemon & Poppy Seed loaf. I did have a slight disaster with the drizzle and my lovely boyfriend ran to the store at 11pm just to get me lemons - I think he saw me going a bit sour after seeing my lemon drizzle go brown so I think he thought best to get some more... bless!

is meant to be messy okay?!

The treats lasted over 3 days and I raised a total of £72 which will be donated to the Red Cross. I feel like I should do more after watching the show tonight - so any suggestions for fundraising ideas are welcome!

Happy Baking x

The Folly

I am slowing getting around London to different bakeries, tea houses and other places of baking goodness which I have read or been recommended and yesterday I got the chance whilst at work which was an added bonus. Whilst I would normally shy away from entertaining clients, however the place my boss had selected to go was right up my alley.

Most places in London City are a bit sterile in my opinion so when my boss showed me the website for The Folly I was definitely keen to give this place a go and a free lunch is hard to turn down so close to pay day.

The restaurant was very busy when we walked in, but very spacious with lots of natural light from the massive windows which is unusual for a restaurant in the City as most are below street level. I was impressed with the detail of the whole venue, from the chairs, wallpaper, the real tree trunk in the corner, down to the mint plant that was the centre piece on our table.

I ended up ordering a Thai beef salad and a tiramisu sundae for dessert. The presentation of both was amazing with my salad coming out in a brown take out box on a wooden chopping board, actually writing that sounds horrible, but trust me it looked great. The tiramisu was served in a martini cocktail glass and was delicious and rich, but without being too much for a lunch time treat.

Anyway, what I also got to try was one of the vanilla cupcakes which my boss so kindly ordered for me to take home and try. This was one of the better cupcakes I have tried, but still a little disappointed when the butter icing fell off when I got it home. The look of the cake itself was quite cute with a purple metallic case and green icing and little wafer bird, however I did think it should have had a pistachio flavour with the green coloured icing, but I can't be a hypocrite when it comes to overuse of the food colouring. The real test was the cake base which was still light and fluffy, but just didn't taste as fresh I would like. If I had to rate it I would say would give it a 6/10 - but that's also because I didn't have to pay the £2.95 for this simple treat. I am definitely going to go back with some friends as the rest of the menu looks amazing... as do the cocktails :)

Happy Baking x

Winning Lemon Curd Cupcakes

The first batch was a birthday gift for my lovely friend Anja. However they did get a bit squished on the way over on the bus... but she assures me they still tasted amazing and her housemate agreed.

the pre-squished treats

The second batch was for the 'big' boss at work and I still have my job, so guessing his department enjoyed them thoroughly.

These littles one are a bit more prepared for rush hours trains...
Happy Baking x

Lemon never seems to fail to satisfy and so this last week I decided to bake lemon flavoured cupcakes with a lemon curd centre and topped with cream cheese icing. I myself always love a good lemon flavoured treat and adding the lemon curd centre just gave that little bit extra lemony awesomeness.

The little trick (thanks to the Love Bakery cookbook) of using an apple corer to remove some of the cake after they have been baked worked a treat. And as you can see, once the icing was placed on top you are none the wiser.

St. Paddy's Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

I couldn't let this day go buy without baking something green. There is really no other day in which you can overdose on the green food colouring.
My current house lodger requested these for her work mates for St. Patrick's Day.

And now that the baking is done... I'm off to the pub to celebrate properly.

Happy Baking x

Sweet Spaghetti Meat Balls

This week I got to try out some interesting cupcakes out for my workmate Nicky. She is so young at heart and since I couldn't work out how to make burger cupcakes, I went with something a little easier, but definitely lots of fun - Spaghetti Meat Ball cupcakes!

Since I don't even like to put to many things on a cupcake that you wouldn't want to eat, ie to much marzipan, everything on the cake had to be edible and delicious.

I started with normal vanilla cupcakes and used my vanilla butter-cream - with a dash of yellow colouring which was squeezed out to look like the spaghetti.

The meat balls were Ferrero Rocher's tossed in a lovely rich raspberry jam sauce and sprinkled with white sprinkles. I have to say this is probably the wrongest looking dozen cupcakes I've made but were lots of fun.

all ready for the spaghetti
looking edible??
Bon Appetit!!

Also requested was her favourite - coconut slice.. I had to resist eating this when it came out of the oven as the smell of coconut slice has when its fresh out of the oven is irresistible.. nom!

Happy 24th Birthday Nicky!

and Happy Baking x

Belated Birthday Bourbons

This is a fairly late birthday present as my housemates birthday was on the 1st January, however I was in Australia and so that's my lame excuse.

My housemate seems to have an endless supply of bourbon's in his cupboard which tend to go stale as he never seems to bother putting them in a air-tight container. I know this because on occasion I would go for a sneaky biscuit and would end up disappointed as they would be stale. So I decided that he needed his own tin to keep his biscuits fresh (and I needed an excuse to purchase some Emma Bridgewater products, I'm just in love with her stuff).  And to fill it, well attempt too,  I have baked some freshly made bourbons. These little biscuits proved a bit harder than they looked and the dough was incredibly dry and kept cracking when I tried to roll it out on the bench. I ended up throwing out about a third of it in frustration towards the end, but the ones I managed to cut out and fill with delicious chocolate cream will hopefully live up to my housemates standard of bourbon.

Happy Belated Birthday Marco

and Happy Baking x

Cupcake Delights

I was very excited about my cupcake order this week. My boss asked my to make 36 cupcakes for his 50th and I was left to decide what flavours they could be. I get a little overwhelmed with the possibilities, but took the opportunity to try some flavours I've wanted to for a while. This was the final three:

Jam filled vanilla base with a Vanilla Butter cream frosting - topped with sprinkles and edible glitter!

These were my 'simple' cupcakes for people who don't like a fuss about cupcake and also since I have to bake after work I knew these would take no time at all. This time though I did something a little different and that was to use vanilla from a vanilla pod for the base and icing. I must say, once you've cracked the vanilla pod, you will never go back. However at £2.50 for one pod its not the cheapest ingredient, but thanks to a good baking friend of mine I managed to purchase 20 vanilla pods of eBay for £0.90. okay postage was £5, but that's still only 30 pence for one pod.. amazing!

Next I chose a flavour combination which I can never seem to pass up Chocolate Peppermint. Despite loving this combination I had never actually tried creating a cupcake with these amazing flavours. I have to say these are my favourite of all my cupcakes so far.. delish.

The third batch were the Hummingbird Strawberry Cheesecake cupcakes. I had seem my lovely sister in law make these when I was back in Australia and thought these looked very simple to make - I guessed wrong, but it was my stupid oversight that you need to fully dry the strawberries after washing them before putting them in the bottom of the cupcake case. Basically there was too much moisture which caused the cupcakes to bubble over with the excess water and I was left with 12 watery cupcake mess's.

Luckily my new lovely house guest ran to the store and grabbed me some eggs and I made another batch and these came out a treat after I learnt my lesson.

The cupcakes didn't last very long around the office at all...
A lovely lady at work sent me an email which made me smile: "Laura, Just have to say the choc & mint cake was absolutely delicious!  The others look gorgeous as well! "

Cupcakes all boxed and ready to go - transportation is definitely the hardest part!

Happy Baking x

Pancake Day / Weekender

Today is Pancake day! And even though I'm not a religious person I do believe in a good pancake.
However since I really love to make an occasion when making pancakes, my friends and I had a Pancake Weekender and what a weekend it was.

On Saturday despite actually getting into bed at around 6am I was still promptly up at 10.30am for Sweet Saturday Pancakes.

We decided to make Ricotta, Blueberry and Honey pancakes which have been tried and tested in my house in the past, however as there was 3 of us I realised one batch was not going to be enough and whipped up another batch.

Since my weekends are when I tend to be guilt free with my food, the Ben and Jerry Fairly Nuts and some Australian Milo were just the trick for an overindulging Sweet Pancake Saturday.
Sunday we decided to go savoury and we had an extra mouth to feed so we cooked up a Potato Pancake Feast. I think she just happened to hear about our plans for the morning and ended up on our couch from the night before - but she was highly entertaining at the breakfast table so good to have her around - Luv ya Meg!

The menu was as follows - potato pancakes with chives, scrambled eggs with rosemary and thyme, slow roasted tomatoes, crispy bacon (for the non-veg), rocket and a good dash to ketchup.. shhh! we are Australians, ketchup is a must!

I would say the Pancake weekend was a success!

Happy Baking x

Purple Party Cake

This week one of the lovely girls in our office turned 30 years young and the best way to celebrate such a momentous birthday... cupcakes obviously.  

I was a little bit apprehensive about making these cupcakes as last week when I made my vanilla cupcakes from a recipe which I have been making forever, I seem to be getting something clearly wrong. My cupcakes were consistently coming out of the oven all perky and high, then I would disappear upstairs for 10 minutes and I would come back to some sunken sad looking cupcakes. Once you put the icing on, you are none the wiser just by looking at them however what should be a lovely light cupcake base is a dense cake which is completely unappealing to me - in a cupcake anyway.


This problem was bugging and I was racking my brains to find out what I was doing wrong all of a sudden and I finally cracked it! BUTTER!! Previously I am prone to using Flora as this is better for the waistline and I always have a large tub in my cupboard. This had always worked for me in the past however after my cupcake class the other week I remember Chole saying '..I don't know who said never to over beat a cupcake mixture to get as much air in as possible...' So with this in mind I have been putting Big Red into action and getting all the air I can into my cupcakes. It finally clicked and I went with my theory that was the Flora that couldn't hold the vigorous beating and so I switched for good old unsalted butter. I don't know if it was the fact that for the first 10 minutes out of the oven I never took my eye of them so they wouldn't sneakily sink behind my back, but the butter seemed to do the trick and I had some lovely jam filled vanilla cupcakes which I topped with delicious purple butter cream icing and a bit of edible glitter.
If they sink again... I'm moving onto mini pound cakes!

Happy Baking x