Yuletide Greetings

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Indeed, Yuletide greetings to you all.

Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, celebrated as the festival of Yule in ancient and modern Pagan traditions. Yule was the traditional mid-Winter festival of ancient Europe, before being adopted and adapted by The Christian Church into the festival of Christmas. Being the shortest day of the year – that is, the shortest period of daylight between sunrise and sunset, obviously every day is always 24 hours long – the festival of Yule is based around the celebration of the sun returning and bringing life back to the world with the (gradual) move out of Winter towards Spring.

Whatever you want to call it – this time of year always makes me want to bake and feed people! So I do like to mark the Solstice with a bit of baking. Of course, the Chocolate Yule Log derives from the tradition of the Yule Log which was an actual wooden log that was burnt to celebrate the Solstice. I didn’t fancy lining myself up for the stress of trying to roll my own Chocolate Yule Log – instead I decided to go down the route of orange, marzipan and cinnamon as ingredients that make me think of warmth and sunshine.

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I used this recipe from Sweet Paul for Norwegian Skillingsboller, that’s Cinnamon Buns, although this recipe has an awesome twist of added marzipan! It takes a bit of time to make as it is a yeasted dough, so you need to leave it to rise, but other than the waiting the recipe is pretty easy. Note: mixing the butter into the dough is very messy!

Mine turned out a bit, haphazard looking – but this isn’t GBBO and I’m not marking myself on presentation or uniformity, it’s all about taste for me.

The finished buns are delicious, I’m going to struggle to restrain myself from eating them all. I did a taste test when they were warm and they were amazing – I’ve also had one cold and it’s still really good, but it might be worth zapping one in the microwave for a few seconds to warm before eating.

I also made these Tangerine and Marzipan Muffins from Olive Magazine. I haven’t tasted one of these yet, I’ve been too busy focussing on the Cinnamon Buns, but they smell really yummy 🙂

UPDATE: I’ve just tried one of thee and they are lovely! Light and orangey and not too sweet, surprisingly! Recommended 😊

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I have a feeling I may take a few steps backwards on my weight-loss over the next week :/

Hope you are all enjoying the festive season, whatever you celebrate and whatever you eat!

Love

Betty

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2015 – Clean Slate

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of all the New Year hubub, or the massive expectations placed on the change in calendar year for bringing about change in our lives or the world at large. Unfortunately the little demon that lives in my brain sees this only as an opportunity to dredge up all the disappointment and missed opportunities of the past year and project them forward onto the next. All-in-all this makes for the beginning of January being quite a miserable time for me (and, often, for those unfortunate enough to be around me).

But, I am trying to be better. So, no dwelling on what I didn’t achieve this year, and no resolutions either, as they tend to make me focus on negatives too.

So, to kick of 2015, here is a quick look at some of the things I did do in 2014, even though I didn’t blog about them, in the hope of many more good things to come in 2015.

Halloween 2014

This year we celebrated our first Halloween in our own home with a small gathering of friends and a sickening quantity of sweets and cake 🙂

Canal Boating in Yorkshire, November 2014

In November we travelled over to Yorkshire to visit friends and hired a narrow boat on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal for a day. It was a lovely day with great weather and definitely something a bit different, I even had a go at driving for a bit which was nerve racking but fun once I got into the swing of it.

Wales Comic Con, November 2014

We attended our first comic convention this year in Wrexham. I’ve been keen to attend a convention for a while but had always thought we’d have to travel further to get to a good one – but when we found one in Wrexham we jumped at the opportunity. It was quite late notice so I only put together quite a simple costume – a test subject from the game Portal. It was loads of fun and we saw Anthony Head, Chris Barrie, Jerome Flynn with other Game of Thrones actors and the main cast from Atlantis. The next convention is in April and Nicholas Brendon is going to be there (Xander from Buffy), so I’m definitely planning on going again.

Thank you all for sticking around. Here’s to the future 🙂

Love

Halloween 2013

Halloween this year was not quite as much of an event for me as it has been in previous year.

A combination of factors including our recent move, work and a lousy mood that overcame me for most of last week meant I didn’t have the time, effort or cause for a big fuss.
I got to dress up a bit on the Wednesday when I helped with children’s craft activities at the National Trust property where my mum works. I wore the same Pearls & Swine Devil Horn fascinator as last year because, well, there aren’t exactly a great range of occasions when one can wear a devil horn fascinator. It was an enjoyable but very tiring day – something in the order of 120 kids got involved in making Halloween Trick or Treat bags and kept me on my feet (in heels) for 6 straight hours without a break!
On Halloween itself I found time to bake a cake; orange with chocolate fudge frosting. I’m not sure what happened but my first attempt went horribly wrong and barely rose at all. That one had to be consigned to waste and I had a second go that was marginally more successful. I was rather disappointed as it was a recipe I have used several times before and has always produced brilliant light, fluffy sponge. It was perfectly edible and tasted nice, but it fell short of my expectations and I don’t get on well with baking failures 😦

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As I had been quite busy I was rather tired, that combined with my low mood meant I didn’t really feel like going to the cinema in the evening, so we didn’t get to see Frankenstein. Again, I’m a little disappointed in myself now that I didn’t feel up to it. Fortunately there is another opportunity to see it, this time with Jonny Lee Miller as The Creature, later in the month, so I hope to still get to see it.
Instead, Pete and I carved pumpkins (also rather delayed by being do busy) and watched The Walking Dead. We’re a bit late to The Walking Dead and are only on Season 2 at the moment, only 2 episodes from the end of the season now. I was even quite lack-lustre in my pumpkin carving and stuck with a fairly classic scary face. It was still a nice evening and appropriately Halloween-y.

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Alf wasn’t completely convinced by his pumpkin doppelgänger

Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs. Taking pictures with my camera is another thing I’ve not been so good at lately, so these are just ones I have taken with my iPod. If you want to see more pictures from me you can follow me on Instagram.

 

I hope you all had a good Halloween, whatever you did or didn’t get up to 🙂
Listening to: Alkaline Trio (the only band for Halloween)
Watching: The Walking Dead, Season 2
Reading: Wuthering Heights (I’ve been reading this for ages and am trying to slog through the last few chapters)
Love,
Betty
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Blackberry Crumble Cake

One of the best things about having moved from our titchy flat into my parent’s house (temporarily) is their kitchen. In the flat we had a pitifully small box masquerading as a kitchen with barely enough storage space let alone enough surface space to indulge my joy of cooking and baking. I think I did pretty well with the space I had, but it’s so nice to have the space to move around and not have to stack ingredients, bowls and tins on top of each other whilst baking.

I had decided I wanted to make something for dessert after Sunday dinner over the weekend, but was torn between a good old cake or a warming autumnal crumble using the blackberries my mum had gathered from the garden. Luckily enough, I came across the idea of a crumble cake and my decision was made!

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I used a combination of two recipes; the preparation of the berries from this one from the BBC and the overall method from this one from Hippapotamousse (although I used Vitalite instead of butter due to Pete not eating dairy).

It was actually very quick (other than the 40-60 minute bake) and easy to make and I was very pleased with the result. More importantly, it was also very yummy. I had maybe expected the berries to be a bit more tart but I don’t know if the lack of zing is due to the wild berries or the method of preparation from the BBC recipe.
It all went down very well with the family. My parents had theirs with yoghurt while Pete and I had ours with ice cream (vegan ice cream for Pete, obviously). I was quite tempted to zap it in the microwave for a few seconds before serving, to properly embody the crumble side, but didn’t in the end as I was worried the jammy fruity middle might get unnecessarily hot and destroy my taste buds. If I make this again I think I might take the risk though.

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I only found Hippopotamousse’s blog while searching for a good recipe for a blackberry crumble cake, her’s was by far my favourite and I’ve also had a good look around the rest of the site and really like her recipes, as well as the fact that she is also a scientist. Plus, she is a far better photographer than I am – beware looking at her site if you’re hungry!

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I have, of course, been keeping up with The Great British Bake-Off, which has fuelled my desire to bake somewhat. I’m a bit torn on my favourite this year – I quite like Kimberley and shee seems to be a very good baker, but she’s possibly a bit over confident, I like Christine and Becca but their baking has seemed a little hit and miss, I’m very torn on Frances, she’s very inventive but can also be a bit hit and miss and I’m not totally convinced by all of her novelty bakes (although I adored her Secret Squirrel Cake), I am not a fan of Ruby at all, I find her annoying and I don’t like the way she seems to skate by by the seat of her pants.

Who else watches GBBO? Do you have a favourite, or least favourite?

Hope you are all well,
Love

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Nearly two months ago now (that’s how bad I’ve got at keeping up with posting), I met up with some of my old university friends in London to go for afternoon tea. We had a good look around on the internet for places to go before we came across the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson and our decision was made for us!

The Sanderson Hotel is actually really unassuming from the outside, so much so that we did almost walk right past it. Inside the foyer is filled with a very interesting selection of furniture – a giant lip shaped sofa, chairs with horns, chairs that look like Masai Mara carvings and something that looked distinctly like a space age coffin.

While there is a lot of outside seating as part of the restaurant we were taken to an indoor table. Whilst the outside looked lovely I wasn’t personally disappointed at being indoors as at the time (early June) the weather was still a little on the cool side. The table was beautifully set with specially designed Alice in Wonderland themed crockery, the menu inside an old book and sugar lumps in a working music box complete with twirling ballerina.

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First, we got to choose from a selection of teas – Strawberries & Cream, Mint Chocolate, Rhubarb & Custard and Green. The teas were all loose leaf and were brought round in small bottles that I suspect were old perfume bottles, they even smelt amazing just in the bottles. I went for the Mint Chocolate. It was very yummy (and came in a King of Hearts teapot).

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After some tea and much needed catching up we were presented with our afternoon tea treats, presented on a three tier cake stand that matched the designs of the rest of the crockery (I think you can also buy the crockery from the designers Luna & Curious).
The selection included sandwiches, sweet and savoury scones, mango cheesecake, mini Victoria sponge, green tea mousse, marshmallow mushrooms, carrot shaped meringues and a ‘Drink Me’ potion that consisted of a passion fruit coulis and panna cotta.

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The food was all beautiful, but too be honest I think there was actually a bit too much and (although I never thought I’d say it) there might have been too many sweet things compared to the savoury.
The sandwiches and both the sweet and savoury scones were great, and I really liked the Victoria sponge (decorated like a pocket watch) and the marshmallow mushrooms. I loved the coloured stripes decorating the mango cheesecake, but it was actually much too big and not the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. The green tea mousse was interesting, but not quite to my taste really.

Then all this was followed by a ‘Jelly Wonderland’ – a selection of jellies on a trolley. They were good jellies especially the Apple one and the Blackcurrant one, but I was too full to properly enjoy them. Also, in my opinion, four jellies does not a wonderland make.

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I had a lovely day meeting up with my girls, and I certainly felt quite special and a bit fancy having proper afternoon tea in a London hotel. I love afternoon tea and will definitely do it again, whether in London or somewhere else, but I won’t rush back to The Sanderson for the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea, unless I know someone who really wants to experience it. The theme is a great novelty that clearly draws a lot of people in, if it appeals to you then you should give it a go, but I think I’d like to try some different places, themed or unthemed (I’m pretty sure somewhere in London does a Peter Pan themed afternoon tea).
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Has anyone else been for Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea? Or have anywhere to recommend for their afternoon tea?

Thank You for still reading,

Love

Betty

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Flavourtown Bakery

Forget Lola’s and the Hummingbird Bakery, if you want the best cupcakes in London (and beyond, but they are based in London) you have to go to Flavourtown Bakery!

I only discovered these guys last weekend whilst wandering round Old Spitalfields Market. To be honest, I’d started to go off cupcakes a bit, most of the ones I’ve had recently have been quite disappointing – too sweet, too dry and just not really achieving the flavour they were aiming for. However, my eyes were initially caught by their Bad Ass Brownie cupcake – an amazing combination of chocolate cupcake and cheesecake and frosting. I was pretty sure it contained a whole days calories in a single cake, but it did look good.
As we still had stalls to see, we wandered off with the intention for returning for cake post-shopping.
Sadly, when we returned, the Bad Ass Brownie’s had sold out!! This was a little disappointing, but the rest of the selection available was plenty to take my mind off the disappointment 🙂

I ended up getting a box of four, as narrowing the selection down to just one would have been far too hard. I went for a Salted Caramel, Cookie Dough, Caramel Apple and Carrot Cake. The guys on the stall were really friendly and we had chatted for quite a while, so they also threw in a free Gingerbread cupcake which was their free secret cupcake of the week (if you like their Facebook page and show up at their stall in Old Spitalfields Market and ask for the secret cupcake by name, they’ll give it to you for free – while stocks last!)

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Clockwise from left; Salted Caramel, Caramel Apple, Carrot and Cookie Dough
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Secret Flavour – Gingerbread

 

I was not disappointed. The cakes were moist and the flavours were great without being ridiculously sweet.
The Carrot Cake cupcake was possibly a contender for being one of my favourite carrot cakes and definitely better than any carrot cake cupcake I’ve ever bought. The cake was moist and had a good amount of carrot and cinnamon. The cream cheese frosting was beautiful and complimented the cake well, without being too rich or sickly sweet.
Caramel Apple was also really, really nice and amazingly moist. As with the carrot cake, the cake itself was moist and had the amazing cream cheese frosting on top, plus a hidden centre of caramel that made this a very special cupcake.
Salted caramel was unusual, but not in a bad way, it made me think of toffee popcorn 🙂 With a caramel cupcake, a salted caramel centre and a caramel drizzle on top this threatened to be a seriously overpowering sugar hit, but the salt provided a great balance that gave the popcorn-y impression.
Cookie Dough was the first one I had whilst still at the market, and I wolfed it down so quickly it’s hard to comment on, but it was definitely enjoyable 🙂
Gingerbread was also amazing! It was like Old Jamaica Ginger Cake, which I love, with the addition of frosting. Plus the little fondant gingerbread man on top was super cute!

They also had a really interesting festive Mince Whoopie Pie. I didn’t get one, as I’m not a big fan on mince pies, but one of my friends did and I tried a bit – it was actually really nice. Turns out I dislike the texture of mince pies more than the flavour.

If you go to Old Spitalfields Market I strongly recommend you check them out. They do also take orders, but only if you live in London (booooo). Their menu is positively mouth-watering, I’d love to be able to try their maple bacon cupcake, Malt Teaser cupcake and Cheesecake cupcake 🙂 Plus, the guys are really nice to chat too.

I really want cake now :/

Love,

Betty

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I had a scream!

It’s no secret that Halloween is one of my favourite occasions of the year. I love the dressing up, themed food and cheesy not-very-scary camp horror (not so much the proper scary horror).

As Halloween fell on a Wednesday this year, we only had a small gathering of a few friends, a few drinks, loads of cake and a scary movie. I would have quite happily gone with Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (if you haven’t seen it you really should) but we ended up watching The Woman in Black. Everyone spent the week telling me how scary and jumpy it was, so I was pretty scared to watch it, but it honestly wasn’t that bad – thankfully.

I struggled to come up with a costume idea this year, especially as I’m working on limited funds. My dilemma was resolved thanks to The Vintage Fair who ran a competition to win a Pearls & Swine Devil Horn Fascinator, which I won! So that obviously had to be the centre piece of whatever I wore. In the end I just went for a demon type look, pale face, dark eyes, dark lips, blood and horns.

Halloween Costume 2012

My boyfriend Pete dressed up as some kind of scary Viking warrior. He completely covered his face in fake blood. Fortunately it was slightly easier to get off than the masses of black face paint he wore last year that took forever to scrub out of his beard. It’s probably a good job we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters.

Pete Halloween

I also did a fair bit of baking. We recently had a new oven fitted in our flat, and I was very excited to find out how much better it was at baking cakes than the old one. They turned out fantastically 🙂
In recent weeks I seem to have had a fair amount if luck in competitions I have entered. As well as the horned fascinator, I also won a Halloween Modelling Kit from Renshaw. The Kit was only available to buy at The Cake & Bake Show, or through this competition, so I was pretty excited to have won one! Fondant modelling has never been a strong point of mine, but I gave it a go. The ghosts and pumpkins were much easier than the witches hat, black cat or spider, so I mostly stuck to those.
I went a little crazy on the decorating front and used a mixture of rice paper eyeballs, sprinkles, plastic toppers, fondant models and fondant covered biscuit shapes. Oh yeah, and edible glitter, lots of edible glitter!!

Halloween Cupcakes

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Of course we had pumpkins too! We were both set on out-doing last years efforts. Mine didn’t work out to be quite as impressive as I had intended, and Pete very nearly bit off more than he could chew. In our own tradition, our pumpkins go to the vote to see whose is best – based on judgement of our guests, I think I won this year. What do you think? Mine is the haunted house, Pete’s is the howling wolf.

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I hope you all had a great Halloween. It is a great excuse for a party, some indulgence and a bit of silliness 🙂 Any good ideas for next year’s fancy dress would be more than welcome!

Next event on the calendar – Thanksgiving! So I’ve only got a few weeks to work off all of the Halloween cupcakes before then :/

Love,

Betty

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