Christmas goodies

So I promised I would share some Christmas presents with you all! I have been coveting the Harrods Ruby Slippers for months. Unfortunately they sold out on the Harrod's website in no time and soon after were sold out in the Harrods store in London. Then the price of the skyrocketed on ebay so I thought my dream shoes were lost to me.


I was very surprised and excited when I opened a box on Christmas mornining and saw a little Wizard of Oz logo peeking out from beneath the paper. My boyfriend got me my dream shoes! I'm a very lucky girl. They are so beautiful. I'm going to save them for nights out that do not in any way involve alcohol! Too precious to be scuffed! I think people are saving them as collector's items but they're too pretty not to be worn.


I also got the print I shamelessly hinted at, it's beautiful. I can't wait to hang it above my bed. And it's gold! It matches the gorgeous bracelet my boyfriend bought me, my sister was laughing because nearly everything I own is covered in bows. As well as that I got other lovely and useful things a lightbox alarm to try to quash my bad moods in the mornings, a much needed external hard drive, itunes card so I can buy all the apps I want and money towards driving lessons (badly needed!).

Usually I get really excited about boxing day sales but I don't get paid until the 31st and I also couldn't be bothered leaving my warm bed on boxing day. I popped out to the shops for an hour last night and there's not much going, I got a few things in the sale but most of what I bought was full price, including these amazing fly earrings and this Love necklace from River Island.

I heart Victoria Sponge.



So Christmas is over, I hope you all had a relaxing, food filled time! I'm going to photograph the lovely things I got once my room is not completely covered in wrapping paper and chocolate wrappers. In the meantime I thought I'd share some photos of a cake I baked this morning.

A family friend got us a deal on a Kitchenaid mixer, we saved over £100 so I baked a Victoria Sponge cake to say thank you. It was the first time I'd used this recipe and as I gave the cake away I can't vouch for the taste but it was simple to make and smelled really good. It's from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. I made buttercream instead of using double cream.



The Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer is amazing, it really speeds things along. It only takes me half the time to bake now! More time = more cake.






Ingredients:

* 225 grams unsalted butter, very soft
* 225 grams sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 4 large eggs
* 200 grams self-rising cake flour
* 25 grams cornflour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder (only needed if using food processor).
* 4 tablespoons milk
* Raspberry jam for filling and either double cream or vanilla buttercream.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Cream butter and sugar, add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour between each one. Fold in the rest of the flour and cornstarch and enough of the milk to create a mixture that is a soft, dropping consistency.
3. Alternatively, put all ingredients except milk in a food processor and process to a smooth consistency. Then add milk slowly and pulse to reach soft, dropping consistency.
4. If you are using the food processor method, add the baking powder now.
5. Pour and scrape the batter into 2 - 8" round cake pans that have been buttered and lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for about 25 minutes, until cakes are beginning to come away from the edges, are springy to the touch on top and a cake tester comes away clean. Leave the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 min before turning out and leaving to cool completely.
6. For the filling I used raspberry jam and a simple vanilla buttercream recipe, though the original recipe calls for whipped double cream. The top is dusted in icing sugar, edible rainbow art glitter and a heart I cut from Regal icing and painted with food colouring.

France and Photographs by Sarah Kane.



Hello all! I'm back from France, our flight got cancelled and we had to drive to Spain and fly from there but I'm home now. I had a very relaxing time. It was freezing, so as you can imagine lovely to sit inside by the roaring fire with a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows.




My lovely and very talented friend Sarah Kane photographed some cupcakes I baked for her. They're just plain vanilla with a bit of sparkle! I am so pleased with these photos, and very grateful for all the work Sarah put into them! Please check out her blog and have a look at her website. She's extremely talented, I envy her so much. Her photographs are beautiful in every sense.

















I'm off to the south of France until Friday. I'm sure I will return with lots of nice photos for you, but in the meantime have a photo of the cupcakes I baked last week with my new kitchenaid mixer.

The Hummingbird Bakery.


I've been to London 5 times this year and I'll be visiting again next week. Every time I have been there I've had the yummiest cupcakes! Even Sainsbury's local near our hotel sold sweet little pink ones for £1! Unfortunately I probably won't have time for any next week. A friend and I are flying over there to see Tori Amos, and the tickets for the show are only given out (free) on the day so we are queuing all night on Oxford Street for them! There will be a whole group of us so hopefully we can send each other for hot chocolates to keep warm.

I thought I would share a few photos of cupcakes I had in London and in my next post I will share some I had in New York City when I was there in September from perhaps their most famous bakery!

The Hummingbird Bakery

The cupcake on the left is Red Velvet, the topping was delicious but I wasn't too keen on the sponge. Not enough vanilla for me! The Nutella cupcake on the right was good, although I reduce the sugar required in their recipe because I think it overpowers the nutella slightly. I also add some nutella to the frosting recipe. Just a spoonful or two.

They also bake brownies, cakes, pies, muffin - you name it! I will have to try some next time I go. I just get sucked in by the cupcakes and end up spending a fortune on them! The last time I was there I had their chocolate with chocolate frosting, and it was amazing. Such a sugar rush!

My friend Sarah had this chocolate with vanilla frosting one, she loved it. Although she eats all the frosting off first then eats the cupcake which I think is so strange and cute.

I have only ever been to the branch in Portobello, luckily there are many cute shops and eateries nearby for you to explore and you could spend a whole day at the market there rummaging for treasure. I abosulutely love Portobello, look at all the little houses there in pastel colours, how could you not love them?

Me enjoying Portobello in May. Photo credit goes to my dear, talented friend Sarah Kane.

Honourable mention goes to Selfridges, where Sarah and I shared some lovely chocolate cupcakes. The woman working there gave us one for free as well! If you're only in London for the day and can't choose between Harrods or Selfridges definitely go to Selfridges. Harrods was so stressful for me but we spent ages enjoying all the knick knacks and yummy food in Selfridges on Oxford Street.


And to go with this Hummingbird themed post here's a recipe from their cookbook (which I highly recommend, and incidentally, purchased from Selfridges) that I baked back in September for a birthday party.

Hummingbird Bakery Frosted Brownies

Makes about 12 portions.

5 eggs
500g caster sugar
120g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
250g unsalted butter, melted
30g shelled walnuts, chopped
30g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

for the frosting:

200g icing sugar, sifted
75g unsalted butter, at room temperature
30g cocoa powder, sifted
150g cream cheese, cold
a 33cm x 23cm x 5cm baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper

Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3.

Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with a handheld electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the flour and cocoa powder and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed. Pour in the melted butter and mix through. Stir the walnuts and chocolate in by hand until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until the top is firm but the centre is still soft. Leave to cool completely.

For the frosting, beat together the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy - at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny. When the brownie is cold, spread the frosting over the top.

Christmas gift ideas.

I can't say I am big fan of Christmas. Or at least not of the hype, I only really get excited about Christmas around the 20th of December but this year I'm looking forward to it already! I will be spending a few days in France in December which I'm so excited about and my boyfriend is spending Christmas day with my family so I can't wait for that.

Also who doesn't love presents? I don't believe Christmas is all about presents of course, but it's definitely part of the fun. I love buying for people and getting excited to see their faces when they open their presents. We're all trying to save this year in my family so I will probably be doing a lot of baking again! Last year I bought some lovely tins, filled them with some cookies I baked (peanut butter and then orange and chocolate) and wrapped them in tissue paper and ribbon. I think this is a really lovely idea, and I'd love for people to give me baked goods so if you're short on money or ideas for what to buy try doing the baking thing. People love it, I promise. I'm going to bake some sugar cookies soon so I will post up the results here and possibly a little guide for making your presents that little bit sweeter with ribbons and bows.

For now though I thought I would post a few items that would make lovely gifts. I love buying presents from little online stores rather than from the high street if I can. Having something not a huge lot of people own makes the gifts even more special. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on these goodies.


I have a weakness for birds. Don't ask me how many bird necklaces I have. These sweet wooden brooches are only £7 each and would make a perfect stocking filler. Available from Rock'n'Rose.


These cake slice rings may cause you to crave cake every time you wear them but they do look delicious, they are also adjustable so no worrying whether or not they will fit the lucky person you're buying for. Also from Rock'n'Rose.

You can choose from a huge collection of gorgeous prints over at Keep Calm Gallery, including of course the famous 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster in an array of colours. Hint to my boyfriend, I want the gold one. They also stock a selection of unique Christmas cards.




I am in love with these shoes from Miss Selfridge. I recieved a pair of shoes I had ordered from Asos.com last week and they arrived wrapped in gold tissue paper, definitely won me over. I'm a packaging addict. Students don't forget Miss Selfridge offer 10% discount year round.


Cath Kidston have some lovely gift ideas. Their oilcloth wallets would make a lovely gift, they're very sturdy and will last a long time so are well worth it at £20 each and come in a variety of patterns. The store also has a range of stocking fillers in at the moment, all cositng under £10 which include compact mirrors, kissclasp purses and gadget cases.


This etsy.com store has a range of really beautiful patterned tights and socks, definitely unique!

Remember if you're ordering from US websites get in there soon because delivery can take weeks sometimes and post will be even slower around Christmas. Another thing to remember if you're in the UK is not to get too carried away on American websites as you can be slapped with insane custom charges once your parcel reaches you. Hopefully there's a few ideas up there to buy someone or to ask for yourself. Enjoy your shopping!

Ultimate Apple Pie.

Hello! Wow, I really have neglected this poor blog. Time to kick start it back into action I think. I haven't posted much lately because I haven't really been sure what sort of blog I want to keep. It's just a mash up of lots of little things really, for a while I was trying to just blog about baking but wanting to post outfits, share lovely sites I have found etc but feeling like my blog should be about just one thing. Clearly that wasn't working for me since it just left me abandoning this place so for the next while I'm going to do a trial run of just posting what I like and see how it goes. Any requests, let me know!


For now though, I will revert back to my old baking ways and share a few photos with you. It seems winter has really set in already, I don't know about the rest of the UK but it is freezing in Belfast. I've been warming myself up with this delicious apple and cinnamon pie from the BBC Good Food webite. It's called 'The Ultimate Apple Pie' and it really is. I've always made pies before by stewing the fruit before baking it, which is alright. But nothing beats this pie, and it is incredibly easy to make. Eat it while it is still warm, and piled high with thick whipped cream.




The recipe can be found here. The only fault I can find with it is the lack of cinnamon, I double the amount required. Sometimes triple, it depends on your taste!

1st Birthday Cake | Hot Milk Sponge


It is my niece Jaime's first birthday on the 3rd of September, the lucky wee thing is going to Spain with her mum and dad on her birthday though so we threw a little party at the weekend. I baked this cake, a hot milk sponge. I had some problems with the layers though, they didn't rise. I checked the date on the baking powder and it was fine so I can only imagine the problem was in the recipe. Doubling the amount of baking powder worked in the third layer I made to bulk it up, usually it makes two layers only.

It was also my first time using a silicone case, how did I ever cope without them before?! They are absolutely brilliant. I got mine from tesco for £5 as well so they don't break the bank!


For the icing I just made a plain light vanilla buttercream which works wonderfully with this cake, which is quite dense. I also sprinkled crushed flake chocolate over the icing between the layers. It's definitely comfort food at it's greatest. Perfect with a cup of tea.


For the letters, I rolled plain white regal icing out with a rolling pin and cut the letters with some metal cookie cutters dusted with icing sugar to stop it from sticking. I then mixed up some caster sugar with hot water and dipped a brush into it and then into my gold edible glitter and painted it on. I love this glitter, I'm going to buy it in every colour it just looks great. Although it can be very messy.

Happy Birthday Jaime!


Ingredients.

  • 235 ml milk
  • 15 g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 335 g white sugar
  • 2 g salt
  • 10 ml vanilla extract
  • 3 ml almond extract
  • 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 15 g baking powder

Method.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until just boiling, then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Beat eggs until thick and pale yellow in color. Beat in sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extract. Reduce mixer speed to medium and add hot milk in a steady stream. Quickly beat in flour mixture. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the center springs back when lightly tapped.

You can't go wrong with vanilla!



I'm sure most baking fanatics out in the UK have heard of The Hummingbird Bakery in London. Well you can now get their cookbook which is choc full of amazing, delicious baked goods (not only cupcakes but cakes and savory foods as well).

When baking vanilla cupcakes I always use a recipe from Nigella Lawson, however the Hummingbird Bakery have a great recipe as well. I baked these vanilla cupcakes for a birthday, well two birthdays. They're simple vanilla but with a bit of chocolate and glitter on top. This recipe makes quite moist cakes, in future I might cut back the butter just a little bit but they're still very yummy!



Hummingbird Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients
240g plain flour
280g caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
80g unsalted butter at room temperature
240ml milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Frosting
250g icing sugar sifted
80g unsalted butter at room temperature
25ml milk
A couple of drops of vanilla extract
A couple of drops of food colouring (I used red for pink frosting)

Method

1. Line muffin tray with paper cases and preheat oven to 180C.

2. Cream the sugar and butter then mix in the flour, baking powder and salt until combined.

3. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

4. Whisk the eggs, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl and then pour into the flour mixture and continue mixing for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth.

5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases but only fill them two thirds full. Bake in the oven for 25 mins or until slightly golden and then cool on a wire rack.

6. Beat the icing sugar and butter together until well mixed.

7. In a separate bowl combine the milk, vanilla extract and food colouring then add to the butter mixture gradually. Continue to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

8. Decorate the cupcakes with the frosting once cool.


In other news Cupcake Camp NI was today and it was just brilliant! I have so many photos to upload and I'll post those soon and make a little post about the day. Thanks for reading! And hello to anyone who picked up one of my cards at Cupcake Camp, do say hello!




Nigella Cheesecake


Cupcake camp is fast approaching so I guess I should be practicing cupcakes at the moment but today I wanted to try something different. I found a recipe in Nigella Express for cherry cheesecake which looked great. We had strawberries in the fridge to use up though so I adapted it slightly. It was simple to make and it tastes so good. It's not too sweet but not sour at all either. And not too filling! Maybe I will have another slice...




INGREDIENTS

125g digestive biscuits
75g soft butter
300g cream cheese
60g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
250ml double cream
1 jar strawberry conserve
Strawberries to decorate
Serving Size : Serves 6–8

METHOD


1.Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until beginning to turn to crumbs, then add the butter and whiz again to make the mixture clump.
2.Press this mixture into a 20cm springform tin; press a little up the sides to form a slight ridge.
3.Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth.
4.Lightly whip the double cream, and then fold it into the cream cheese mixture.
5.Spoon the cheesecake filling on top of the biscuit base and smooth with a spatula. Put it in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
6.When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, unmould it and spread the black cherry over the top.


I left the lemon juice out since we didn't have any lemons but it's fine without it! And I used whipping cream because the shop had no double cream and that worked too. Yum!