Hannah Banana: THE Vegan Cake Lady

Recently, I was lucky enough to win a competition run by Hannah Banana Bakery to celebrate her reaching 2000 Facebook followers. My prize was a 9 inch cake of my choice!
Hannah Banana Bakery is based in Southampton and is run by Hannah who single handedly creates beautiful  cakes, cupcakes, cakepops, cookies, cheesecakes, wedding cakes and even chocolates, that are all vegan and can also meet other dietary requirements such as being gluten free, sugar free or soy free! I have followed her on Facebook for a long time and her cakes are always amazingly creative, beautifully decorated and consistently receive fantastic reviews. In March this year she even won first prize in the Vegan Cupcake category at Bournemouth Cupcake Camp!
I am super envious of her, not only because her cakes look and taste better than mine, but because she started training and setting the business up while still finishing her PhD – I’m in the final 9 months of my PhD and I can’t imagine doing anything alongside it, I only just manage to squeeze in blogging!!

For my prize I selected a red velvet cake with ‘cream cheese’ frosting, but it was a hard choice as she has a fantastic range of yummy flavours. It wasn’t for a particular occasion, I just love cake, so booked my prize in for the earliest available time (as a one-woman show, and being in high demand, she can get quite busy so it’s wise to make a booking well in advance!). I collected my cake, I’m not sure but I think all large cakes need to be collected, but her smaller treats can be posted, even her cupcakes thanks to some pretty ingenious packaging!

The cake was beautifully presented and came in a great box that I am totally going to reuse, she even finished it off with cute little red heart sprinkles and a ‘Made with Love’ ribbon. My cake was very simple so is by no means any measure of her talent (check out the gallery on her website to see just some of her amazing decorating skills!), but I still loved it!
Obviously, with a cake, looks are important but are far from everything. Some people may be suspicious of vegan cakes, but you shouldn’t be, especially not if they’re made by Hannah. Honestly, if you didn’t know, I doubt you would notice any difference between a vegan cake and a ‘normal’ cake. The texture was great, not heavy or cloying, really moist and very, very yummy – I could probably have eaten a whole bowl of the frosting (not that the cake wasn’t good, but I bloomin’ love frosting!!). I had intended to share it with work colleagues, but instead my boyfriend and I polished it off all by ourselves  :/ (over a few days, not all in one go).

Hannah is really lovely and so hard working, and she produces great results! I will definitely be buying cake from her again, and will recommend her far and wide. If I can come up with a good idea, I would love to commission her to make my birthday cake 🙂
I’m also going to be lucky enough to learn some of Hannah’s decorating skills, as she’s been kind enough to donate her time to run the cupcake decorating at my WI group, the Sotonettes, next week. I am very excited.

Hannah has a blog where you can keep up to date with her new cake recipes and ideas, her seasonal creations and events where she will be selling cakes. She also posts vegan recipes on Lasthours.org.uk – here.
Thank you so much Hannah! I tried to think of a good Bon Jovi reference to get in here somewhere, but I just couldn’t make it work :/ Hannah- her cakes are tres bon (jovi)………

Hope you are all having a good weekend,
Love

PS. Apologies for the lighting in the pictures, my flat is so dark but my flash is so bright :/

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Turtle Bay: Our 3 Year Anniversary

Saturday was me and my boyfriend’s 3 year anniversary 😀
Unfortunately he had to work during the day, but I booked us a table at Turtle Bay – a Caribbean restaurant in town. I’d heard a lot of things about it – both food and cocktails – but we hadn’t had opportunity to go before. Caribbean food isn’t really something I’ve had a lot of experience of before but I had already looked at the menu online and had some pretty high hopes!

Turtle Bay – complete with optimistic outside seating in March

It was a Saturday night, so the place was pretty busy, but we were seated really quickly, even though we got there early. I liked the interior, it was Caribbean styled, but not themed to the point of being tacky. The bar was set in the middle of the restaurant and styled like a beach front hut type thing. The bar was actually really busy in it’s own right, which isn’t surprising given the great range of cocktails the place offers. In fact, the bar was so busy that our drinks took longer to arrive than our food! Even though it wasn’t happy hour and the cocktails were a little pricey, I had to order myself a Raspberry and Chambord Martini – I love Chambord and Martinis are so elegant. It certainly lived up to expectations, so yummy.

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My Raspberry-Chambord Martini

Even though I had looked at the menu online, I hadn’t managed to choose what I wanted. There were so many options, loads of different and interesting things that I wanted to try – Goat Curry, Jerk Chicken, Marinated Pork, Jerk Ribs, Sweet Potato Fries. In the end I went for Browned Jamaican Chicken and Pete had the Goat Curry. Both came in rustic looking metal pots which I liked, I would love to have pots like that at home. Both were really yummy and came with rice and peas (which are actually beans). My chicken came on the bone, which I loved and Pete’s goat was ridiculously tender. They were both spiced really well, the flavours were great and left you with a warm spicy  feeling in your mouth.
The place had dessert menu, so I couldn’t really say no. I ordered the Dark Chocolate Pie, which was actually just a warm, gooey chocolate brownie and came with ice cream. Warm chocolate cakey things with ice cream are one of my favourite desserts and this was awesome – it was so chocolatey and gooey in the middle. Even though I was immensely full I couldn’t not finish it!

Pete’s Goat Curry with Rice and Peas and flatbread
My Jamaican Browned Chicken with Rice and Peas and a fried dumpling
Dark Chocolate Pie with ice cream

I had a really lovely evening. Turtle Bay is a great restaurant – if you’re ever in Southampton you should check it out, I think they also have one in Milton Keynes. They also have a lighter lunch section on the menu if you’re eating during the day. I will definitely be going back, I’d really like to have lunch there and also maybe go on an evening that isn’t a Saturday to see if the atmosphere is any different when it’s less busy. Plus I have to go back at some point to check out happy hour and try some more of their cocktails 🙂

Hope you all had a good weekend,
Love,

Taste the Rainbow (Cake)

Note: This is not a post about Skittles, although Skittles are great!

Yesterday was my boyfriend Pete’s 25th Birthday 🙂 He was working all day, which was a bit sad for me (although he loves it as he works with dogs at the Blue Cross), but that gave me plenty of time to prepare a special birthday evening for the two of us.
My main task was baking him a birthday cake. He always says he’s not a big cake fan, but a birthday cake is a necessary part of a birthday as far as I’m concerned (plus I love cake and baking). I had decided exactly what kind of cake I was going to bake ages ago, it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time – Rainbow Cake!
I was a bit nervous about it all going horribly wrong, but it was actually surprisingly easy. The main drawback for me was that I only own one circular cake tin, so had to bake each layer one at a time :/

(This is actually a slightly adjusted recipe from the one I used, as next time I’d prefer a bit more cake batter to work with.)

A few additional points;

  • Although the number of colours might look intimidating, remember – you can mix your own, so you only really need a red, yellow and blue, then mix the green (blue & yellow), orange (red & yellow) an purple (red & blue) yourself!
  • I used a silicone cake ‘tin’ which I very lightly oiled to be extra sure the cake didn’t stick. If you’re using a metal cake tin remember to grease and line to avoid sticking.
  • Keep an extra close eye on your layers as they’re much thinner than a standard cake. My oven is poor so takes longer than most :/ Bake until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed or a cocktail stick/skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool slightly before removing from tin, then leave to cool fully on a cake rack before frosting
  • As usual, I cheated on the frosting and used Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Frosting which I got from Tesco, but you can get a much greater range of flavours and alternative brands on AmericanSweets.com A lot of these frosting’s are ‘accidentally vegan’ as they contain nothing even close to an animal (or natural!) ingredient, but do be careful to check ingredients as not all brand/flavours are vegan suitable. For my cake I used around a can and a half of frosting to frost between layers and all around the outside – for this modified recipe it might be closer to 2.
We had a lovely evening. Pete got to open all his presents – I got him lots of sweets and biscuits (all suitable for his cow-product-free diet), lots of books, some comics and a torc bangle from St Justin Jewellery. I think he was pretty happy with his haul. I cooked duck legs (£2.50 for 2 in Tesco!) with hoi sin noodles, followed by the cake, then we chilled out with beer/wine and watched Ironclad- the DVD his brother bought for him 🙂
I’m very glad he had a good birthday evening 🙂 It all makes me excited for my birthday though – shame that’s still five and a half months away!!
Hope you’re all having a good weekend,
Let me know if you have a go at the rainbow cake. I promise it is easier than it looks, it’s more about time than skill.
Love,

Bake, Rattle & Roll

I’ve had a serious cupcake craving ever since Monday when I saw all the yummy cupcakes at the ZOMG launch party! I finally got a bit of time to bake this afternoon and wanted to share the process with you. I’ve also recently acquired some new retro fonts, so I’ve also been playing around with annotating my photos 🙂

Ingredients

Recipe










Tips:
  • Check if your cakes are cooked either by pressing on the top and seeing if the cake bounces back or inserting a cocktail stick into the middle and seeing if it comes out clean. My oven is really poor so actually took about 25 minutes, even though the recipe said 15! Keep an eye on you cakes (but don’t open the door too early or they might sink!) and get to know how effective you oven is.
  • I’m still a frosting cheat, I used Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Buttercream Frosting  from a can, because it’s easier. It whipped it up with my electric mixer before pipping (been working on my pipping skills!).
  • My cupcake cases are silicone, which means they can be washed and reused instead of just throwing away paper cases 🙂
  • Go as crazy as you like with your decorations. I buy most of mine on eBay but I fancy trying out some sweets as decorations soon, jellies and buttons and dolly mixtures!
Let me know how it goes if you try making your own; they are pretty yummy if I do say so myself 🙂
Love

My Weekend (Mostly) In Pictures: Cake-Pops and Clothes

I decided to give myself a break from work over the weekend and get involved in some things I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

On Saturday, I broke out my cakepop maker, that my sister bought me for Christmas. It wasn’t the first time I’ve used it, but I didn’t take pictures last time! I’m really impressed with it. It’s so simple to use and cooks so quickly. I like cakepops, they’re really cute, but I’ve never been able to get them right with the crumbled cake and frosting method. This bypasses that and just cooks the cake mix into a ball shape! So there’s less faffing around making the cake balls and more time for decorating!
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My Cake Pop Maker
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Tiny Spherical Cakes
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Jammy Cake Pops

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I added some sprinkles into the cake mix for fun, putting little colourful flecks throughout the cake 🙂 I’m still experimenting with decoration. Last time I tried standard icing, which didn’t work at all, fondant icing, which worked but was very time consuming and melted dark chocolate, which was the easiest. This time I tried vegan white chocolate, which I was initially disappointed with, but looked better when set, chocolate frosting, which was messy but worked and just rolled in sugar, which was very easy! The ones rolled in sugar also had jam inside, which I did using my new fancy injector nozzle for my piping bag 🙂
That wasn’t the end of my cake related activity. On Saturday evening we went to a 30th birthday party that had a kid’s party theme. There were so many sweets, treats, snacks and cakes! I came away with this beautiful cupcake (I was too full to eat it on the night!), which has further inspired me to improve my cupcake decorating skills.

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On Sunday, I moved from baking onto sewing, and got back to work on the dress that I started ages ago! Ideally, I’m hoping to wear it to ZOMGbloggersbash next Monday, but I’m not sure I’m going to get it finished on time. I’d already cut out most of the pattern pieces, so it was mostly just sewing the pieces together, which is quite nerve racking as I’m not the most accomplished seamstress (my most used tool is my seam ripper!). It took me quite a while to get started, but managed to sew together most of the top, both the sleeves and the skirt before I was hit with a mega headache and had to stop. I’ve been taking pictures along the way and will write a blog post about the whole process when I’m done.
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I’m making the long sleeved version 🙂
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My silver chick pincushion, a present from my grandparents

After lying down for a few hours, dosing myself up with paracetamol and then stuffing myself with pizza, I felt a bit better. We spent the evening with out recently engaged friends, talking weddings, playing board games and eating apple and blackberry pie. It was a really lovely end to a great weekend 😀

Finally, I wanted to welcome all my new followers and thank you all for reading my blog!
Hopefully I won’t be too busy with work to post again this week.
Lots of Love,
Betty
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National Cupcake Week 12th-18th September

Next week is National Cupcake Week. Not that I need an excuse to make or eat cupcakes, but I’m getting rather excited by the idea of making huge quantities of pretty little cakes 🙂
Hopefully I’m going to have some willing volunteers to help me eat all the cupcakes I’m hoping to make, otherwise all my diet efforts will be wasted :/

My favorite ideas at the moment include;

  • Millionaire’s Cupcakes: Basic vanilla cupcake filled with caramel and topped with chocolate frosting
  • Cherry Bakewell Cupcake: Almond flavoured cupcake, filled with jam and iced
  • Lemon Meringue Cupcake: Lemon flavoured cupcake, topped with lemon curd, frosting and a mini meringue

In case any of you are thinking of getting your bake on, either for cupcake week, or just generally, I though I would share some of my favorite baking blogs with you for inspiration.

Buns In My Oven
This blog features the best recipes, with pictures so delicious they make you feel like you’re gaining weight by just looking at them. Of course, looking at the pictures is the least of your weight gain worried. With such divine creations as Hot Fudge Sundae Oreo Brownies, Rolo Cake Mix Cookies, Caramel Turtle Tart and Nutella Pop Tarts you can see what I mean!
For those of you less cake-obsessed than I am, there are also a plethora of great savory recipes too.
The recipes are all really well written, well explained and not too complicated. They also come with nice little stories behind them and some fantastic photography!
This is definitely one of my favorite baking blogs.

Confessions of a Cookbook Queen
OK, so this is another awesome sugar fuelled, cakey blog and it totally rivals Buns In My Oven for calorie content and beautiful pictures.
I have seen recipes on this blog that I could never have dreamt up, but definitely want to try. Some of the best include; Rocky Road Brownies, Mini Jello-O Fish Bowls, Cheesecake Filled Brownie Bites, Rolo Brownies and Key Lime Swirl Cheesecake Bars. That’s just five, but I could honestly just keep on listing the amazing recipes on this site all day!
This lady sure does know her desserts, and her photography. This is dessert porn if ever I saw it 🙂

Cookies and Cups
Well, would you know it, another beautiful, mouth watering baking blog. It’s a wonder I’m not a hideous, morbidly obese monster. While this blog may be another enemy of my waistline, I can’t help but love it.
Every post contains a great recipe, accompanied by taste bud tantalising photography and a nice, personal blog post. Some of the recipe highlights in my opinion would be; Cream-cheese filled Snickerdoodles, Caramel Swirled Pretzel M&M Brownies and Double Glazed Funfetti Donuts.
Yet another fantastic recipe resource that I really enjoy reading.

I could go on, but honestly, the sight of all this cake is giving me cravings that I’m struggling to suppress :/ I must stay away from the can of caramel in the kitchen, things could get very messy.

If you have any favorite recipes or cake/baking blogs, I’d love to hear about them.

Love,
Betty
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I Love Cupcakes

Cupcakes are so joyful. They’re fun to make, even more fun to decorate, pretty to look at and yummy to eat :p Cupcakes make me smile 🙂 and things that make you smile can’t be bad.

Over the weekend I made mint chocolate cupcakes, that is chocolate cupcakes with mint frosting. They were pretty good, although I may have gone a little overboard on the mint and the chocolate was rather over-shadowed.

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They ended up a little messier than I would have liked, but perfection is over-rated :p

I’ve been looking for new ideas for different cupcakes, I’m a bit bored of making the same recipes. I like the idea of trying some cocktail themed recipes, mostly because I love cocktail umbrellas and think they’ll look amazing in cupcakes 🙂 So far on my list are mojito cupcakes, purple rain cupcakes and white russian cupcakes.
I’ve also found a recipe for salted caramel cupcakes, and I adore salted caramel. I think they’re top of my list, as they don’t involve investing in alcohol (£££). Hopefully the recipes will be easy enough to vegan-ise. Maybe they’d be good for sticking my chocolate covered pretzels on, although that might be a salt overload :/
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Baking is such a wonderful distraction from everything else in the world. I’ve been trying to cut back because baking = eating cakes = weight gain, which makes me sad 😦 I need to find people who not only will eat my cupcakes, but who will fight me for them and stop me eating entire batches of cakes and cookies 😉

Life’s too short, Eat dessert first
Betty
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