How does one follow on from possibly one of the most exciting weeks you have ever experienced?! With a works Christmas party of course! I’m not normally a fan of Christmas goings on in November (I’m no scrooge but after 10 years of working in retail where Xmas starts in September, you’d understand) but this year feels…. Different. Maybe it’s the effects of last weeks big win? Has it put me in a premature celebratory mood? Probs. So I threw on my vintage 1970’s gold and black frilly frock, slipped into my dancing heels and trotted over to the Le Creuset crimbo shin dig in Winchester. I had been bleating on all week that in no way was I getting drunk. It’s just not professional is it? I don’t want my boss or my big big boss to see me loose control and embarrass myself. No, that would be hideous!
This weekend has mainly consisted of trying to avoid anything to do with Glastonbury which has turned out to be much harder than I imagined. In fact, avoiding it has been as much work as if I was actually there, wading through the mud! It’s on the BBC (live coverage plus news, weather, radio etc), in every newspaper, my entire Facebook feed has been full of comments from people there and those like me who are feeling bitter and depressed. It has been made significantly worse as the BF is there too so I have had phone calls from the site plus texts and I even arrived home to a postcard from the muddy fields of Glastonbury. There is no escape! I’m so jealous as after attending 3 events, I know just how much fun everyone will be having drinking warm cider, having magic Glasto moments, discovering new music and people. Why did I think I would be OK with not going?! After booking Barcelona in the diary last year I thought I should be sensible when the tickets sales came around, I can’t really afford to go and chances are I will be still be recovering from the hen do. What a silly, silly girl (lady? I think I’m too old for girl, too young for lady, madam perhaps?)! I would sell my left arm to go next year if it came to it now. Thinking how amazing would it be to have a Hollylovescake van?! Serving amazing cake with a pot of tea in a tea cosy to the unclean revellers (actually, no it would be terrible because I would have to be serving cake instead of partying). So what did I do to take my mind off it? I baked. Obvs. (I apologise about the quality of the pictures, BF normally sorts this out for me but seen as he is currently drunk in a field, until he returns these fuzzy excuses will have to do…)
Ola! I have finally recovered enough from my raucous Barcelona hen do to bake cake. It took a lot of sleep, paracetamol and carbs but I’m finally there! My girls absolutely know how to PARTY. I, however, seem to be loosing the power to keep up (Going straight from the airport after no sleep from all night clubbing? Not me, I was in bed my midnight, natch). However my inability to keep up raving meant I had more time to discover Barcelona and hunt down some sweet treats. It is scorchio in Spain (obvs) so cake smothered in meltable butter cream is not ideal, it’s all about the pastry, creme patisserie and deep fried sugariness. I discovered these deeeelish mini dough balls coated in cinnamon and sugar at an indoors market. Crispy on the outside, billowing white fluffy insides. They were so good they made me giddy.
This 3 tier cake I designed and made for a birthday party for 3 people celebrating the same weekend! The top tier is chocolate fudge, the middle was maple and walnut and the base was brown sugar salted caramel, all covered in a vanilla bean butter cream. I also made the letters myself with glittery foam. Please contact me with any cake requests for availability and prices!
Its pretty obvs that I love to bake and there is nothing better than dedicating an entire day to produce a bouncy billowing sponge cake to order. Some cakes can take a couple of hours to produce, some take whole days. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing (butter cream being the exception to this rule. And Fox’s Crunch Cream Biscuits. And Milkybars. And possibly custard). After spending 10 hours on a cake order on Friday I was covered in icing sugar (but then everything in my entire kitchen has a constant layer of shimmering icing sugar), there was butter in my hair and I had devoured so much cake mix I felt rather nauseous (seriously, why bother baking the cake when the mix tastes so frikkin shamazing?!). I just wanted to sit down with a cuppa and watch Supersize Vs Superskinny. Alas, I still had more baking to do, my brother needed something to take to his charity cake sale at work. I obvs offered my services being the wonderfully kind and thoughtful sister I am (it was also out of the eternal guilt I feel from when I pushed him down the stairs when I was 5). However, after my massive all day bake-a-thon, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time in the kitchen. Sometimes, you want to produce something gorgeously tasty with minimal effort possible, when you don’t have time for technique or decoration, no faff but impressive results.
Poor Victoria sponge, generally always over looked for its more fancy friends, the chocolate, the carrot, the red velvet cake. Who wants a plain sponge?! BORING.That is probably because so few people have had a really good Victoria sponge. Often over baked, dry, flat, sandwiched together with a bit of cheap jam, no wonder old Vic always gets over looked. I have baked many a sponge cake in my baking career and have come to love a simple sponge. To create a great cake, it is actually not difficult as long as you use a few hints and tips I have provided here, have a little patience and give it a little lovin’. The skills used can be applied to most cakes once mastered and you should hopefully have towering, lush, moist cakes forever, hurrah!
I absolutely lost my baking powers this weekend. And what little cooking skills disappeared too! What happened to them I do not know, will they even return at all?! What will become of me? A sad shadow of my former self, only capable of preparing a Pot Noodle and dreaming of my past cake creations…. The picture you see attached to this post took so many attempts to get right, I normally do a cake like this standing on my head and blindfolded. My first attempt at baking the sponges went so very wrong through a simple mistake, opening the oven door too soon. I know, I know, a schoolgirl error! I really should know better, obvs. The sponges sank to become flat eggy pancakes, sad face. So, round two I got cocky and attempted three layers of sponge in one oven. Duh! What possessed me do this I don’t even know. I ended up with one burnt layer, a wonky half risen layer and an undercooked layer. Fail. By round three I had learnt my lesson and out came two beautiful even sponges. Thank goodness as by this point I had spent a small fortune having made 3 separate trips to Tesco at the end of the road for supplies (Any more visits would see me with enough Clubcard points to fund a trip to Pizza Express). I really should have taken a break by this point, had a cuppa and read the paper. Instead I went straight to the next part of preparing the caramel. Anyone who has boiled sugar substances will know how you have to carefully boil the mixture, with loving patience and care. I had no patience by now, blasted the heat on full power and halfheartedly stirring, paying more attention to singing along to Tony Blackburns Pick Of The Pops. It wasn’t long before there were black bits floating around and the strong wiff of burning wafted round the kitchen. The pan is still soaking in the sink after three days…
I am a sugar queen and I can take or leave savoury food stuffs (Always dessert over starter. Always.). Because I’d rather eat a jam tart over a sausage roll, I tend not to cook. I bake. I really struggle with putting flavours together and I lack the ability to pick up what is missing out of a dish when making a meal. I am the master of bland stir frys and over cooked omelettes. Therefore it was a blessing to spend an hour or two with Tess Ward (www.theyeschef.com). Tess is a talented chef who trained at Le Cordon Bleu after finishing her History degree. She now passes on her wisdom and knowledge through teaching several different cooking programmes and writes for several publications and her own shamazing blog. Tess uses fresh seasonal produce in her cooking and my class with her was no exception. She took inspiration from the food market she had visited that day and on the menu was sweet potato gnocchi with kale and bacon plus a mango, carrot and radish salad. Tess talked me through the process of preparing and cooking the ingredients. She also taught me a great lesson on how to chop and slice properly instead of being perilously close to chopping my finger tips off at any moment! We chatted and drank tea as we prepared dinner. The best bit was rolling the gnocchi which involved getting elbow deep in flour and mashed sweet potato to roll little sausages ready to be chopped up for the pan. I loved this bit as the generous use of flour all over the kitchen table resulted in a mess similar to the icing sugar explosion that appears to happen in my kitchen whilst baking (except in Tess’s kitchen I don’t get told off). We discussed foodie blogs, boyfriends and books with great recommendations from Tess on books and blogs she thought I would enjoy. Before I knew it, it was time to sit down and enjoy all my (ok, ok, it was a joint effort) hard work
I find baking the most enjoyable, relaxing and calming activity. Its like my therapy, I can loose myself for hours in the kitchen. I get in the baking zone and forget everything else. This week has been one of those weeks, it has been pretty rubbish for several reasons (I shan’t bore you with the gory details) so I was just itching to get baking. I also really enjoy running and working out (Sadly, no matter how hard I wish, cake is never going to be calorie free) which I also find is good for the soul but nothing beats some bonding time with the Kitchenaid with Radio 2 in the back ground. The whole process of sitting down with a pile of books trying to find or create the perfect recipe, then measuring, making and baking. It requires all your concentration for those couple of hours and then, at the end you have created something lush that you can share with someone who deserves it (or, if it has been one of those weeks, just grab a fork and scoff it on your own. Note: Several runs needed after this). So next time you are feeling down or just need a little pick me up, don’t reach for the vodka, pick up your apron and get baking!
This Easter weekend, I have eaten a lot of cake. However, in the words of my inspiration, Nigella, you should only feel guilty about food if you do not feel pleasure from eating it. And each sweet treat was v pleasurable and therefore guilt free (until I stand on the scales)! I started off my sugarathon at Manuka Kitchen in Fulham where I shared a peanut butter, chocolate and pretzel tart with the BF. Very rich and indulgent, one to share was more than enough (pictures can be seen on my Instagram @hollylovescake). The ground pretzels were used to make the pie crust filled with a rich chocolate ganache and topped with peanut creammmmmmmmmm (Opps, sorry, just thinking about it is making me drool). Delightful. The cafe itself is stylish with an open kitchen at the back with black and white pictures from local industry adorning the walls, it serves a great brunch menu with pancakes as big as mattresses. The same day also saw us going to Dum Dum Donutterie located in Box Park, Shoreditch. Wow. They are all about the doughnut and they do it so so well. Every doughnut sounded like a dream including creme brulee. But I was all over the cronut, a big craze of cake hybrid mixing a croissant with a doughnut. Flakey yet doughy, buttery and sugary and oozing with pistachio cream. This was absolute filth in the best possible way.