Friday, 3 December 2010

cupcake club: the event

So, to some pictures from the cupcake club meet itself.


Unfortunately marred by the tube strike, the turnout was pretty tight but everyone who came along was lovely - there was Anne from I heart Cupcakes and Manny, Kelly from An American Cupcake in London and Marcus, who came along bearing extremely delicious brandy snaps and also very kindly bought me a pint of Blue Moon.

We ate cakes, we talked about the Walking Dead and moaned about TFL and afterwards I felt like I never wanted to eat a cake again (I soon recovered from that).

Firstly Kelly made both mulled wine and gingerbread cupcakes, aside from the sweet gingerbread men the cakes were delish. Even Mr LROC liked them and he only likes fruit cake. Anne's caramel and Bailey's cakes with a soft centre and Quality Street on the top were amazing and just the thing for a pre-Christmas get together. Also, suitably festive were her sprout cakes which won a prize for most novel cake at Cupcake Camp. Although tasting much more like a carrot cake and the cake itself being delicious, I couldn't shake the knowledge that I was eating sprouts, but well worth a try.

On that note it will be fab to meet up again, and hopefully some more cake bloggers too.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

cupcake club: the prep

When I heard that Kelly, from An American Cupcake in London, was throwing a pre-Christmas cupcake club I was eager to go along. After all, what could be more fun than sharing a few cakes with fellow bloggers but there was one stipulation on the invite - to bring along 12 cupcakes.

Now, I'd seen Kelly's baking recipes and tutorials on her blog and knew that nothing that I could do would look anywhere near as good, nor be as imaginative as her recipes so I stuck to a classic that I'd made before. Generally I'm more of a sampler, and less of a baker but I attacked these with gusto.

Pretty much the main cookbook I use is the classic Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and this was the recipe for their black bottom cupcakes - a dense chocolate base with a big splodge of cheesecake and chocolate in the centre, covered in a cream cheese frosting.

The ingredients - in lieu of choc chips in Tesco Express (other supermarkets are available) I picked Cadbury's buttons which actually worked out quite well.

The actual recipe can be found on the Guardian website here.
The main base mix uses oil and vinegar, which makes it dense and moist.
The cheesecake mix is a blend of sugar, one egg, cream cheese and vanilla essence which bakes into a New York style cheesecake. I added the buttons directly into this mix.
The chocolate mix was spooned into the cases, and the cheesecake mix on top. Ideally the cheesecake mix should be slightly thicker so instead of spreading out across the top they sit in a little well.
Once baked.
I tried to pipe on the cream cheese frosting so they looked fancy but it just spead back out into an amorphous blob. Oh well, to eat I really liked the soft consistency but maybe I need to just spread it on and dust with cocoa next time.

I also attempted salted caramel cupcakes too; remembering I had an unused can of dulce de leche from my failed try at salted caramel macarons and inspired by a whoopee pie purchased earlier that day from the Sunday Up-Market at Brick Lane. I made a fairly standard white cake base and substituted some of the milk in the recipe for the caramel and added a little more than the usual pinch of salt. For the icing I mixed the left over caramel with icing sugar, hoping to have something stiff enough to keep the piped shapes that I wanted so much - the mix became so stiff that it broke my electric whisk but as soon I piped onto the cakes, again it flattened into nothing. They were also not particularly salty.

I think, considering my current loved for salted caramels and chocs of all varieties there's plenty of mileage in this idea - I just need to work on the execution.

Now only If I'd tried to make some notes on that whoopee pie....

Saturday, 27 November 2010

all I want for christmas

It's less than a month until Christmas, so I thought I'd share all of the lovely things I hope are waiting under the tree for me on Christmas morning - not that I'm a greedy girl of course! some of it might give clues to the kind of things I'm planning for my loved ones.
Clockwise: Creative Spaces, Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators; Dream velvet sofa from Graham and Green; framed print of my Julia Boggio vintage boudoir session; Richard Ardagh Pop Goes the Weasel print from Nelly Duff gallery; Eames chairs by Vitra; vintage bus shades from Pedlars; stitched throw from Graham and Green.

Monogrammed drawer of fresh couture chocs from Artisan du Chocolat, Sea salt chocolate wafers from Rococo, Sucre from Laduree.

New London Style; A Perfectly Kept House is a Sign of a Misspent Life; Shutting Up Shop - The Decline of the Traditional Small Shop; Ladies, A Plate; The Domino Book of Decorating.

iPad, Nikkor 24-70mm lens.
Marc by Marc Jacobs satchel; Aubin and Wills Ashwicke snood; Lanvin silk travel set; See by Chloe Monster tote; underwear by 3.1 Phillip Lim; Brian Atwood Balleto shoes.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

bonfire night

I'm rather late in posting this, but as most of you will know the weekend before last was bonfire night here in the UK and Mr LROC and I went to stay with his mother in the countryside - in Matlaske in North Norfolk to be more precise.

There's an event locally called the Corpusty Bonfire, it's a massively well known night in the area and is a free firework display and a massive bonfire, lit following a procession of people dressed in an array of ghoulish garb. There's a proper ol' Norfolk boy who acts as a compere, and countryside themed covers of Jonny Cash songs. Generally it's all a bit odd but it did give us chance to get out into the country, sleep somewhere with no light pollution (if only it were the case every night) and for me to run down country roads with a grey hound and take some pics.

I took pics of the fireworks, which are blurred but have a nice feel to them, and even videoed some of the display but I can't work out how to get it from iPhoto to YouTube..

Bonfire night montage
Norfolk skies
Norfolk skies
autumn trees
autumn trees
Matlaske church
Matlaske church

People say that one of the best things about Norfolk is that the skies go on for ever - having seen the skies across the fields from my mother in law's house I think I'm inclined to agree.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

london burrito bars

The rise of the burrito bar in London has been slow but stealthy over the past few years and a rash of them has been spreading over the capital. Although I'm late in celebrating it I'm enjoying this Cali-Mexican inspired fast food revolution not least of which because there's finally something for the veggies to enjoy. I'm also trying to convince myself that the blend of roasted peppers, coriander rice, beans and salsas isn't wildly unhealthy although add lashings of sour cream, guacamole and cheese and the sheer size of the things and I think I can assure myself that they are not waistline friendly.

Anyway, the reason I've held off for so long, apart from not being able to get any decent images of the tasty sloppiness, is that last night I finally visited Benito's Hat who have a new-ish branch in Covent Garden and my word, it was good. See the thing is that the quality can be variable - with no love in the ingredients the flavour suffers. Witness the poor attempt from the new Daddy Donkey stall this weekend which was a flavourless and over-hot mass of white rice, beans and sour cream. A serious lack of love, Mr LROC informs me that his braised pork version was better.

Similarly disappointing was the offering from Chipotle, an American chain import with an outlet on Charing Cross road. The store itself had a bland corporate interior, the burrito was good enough, but for a store named after a flavoursome smokey chilli, to not offer anything with actual Chipotle in, not a marinade, not a salsa, was beyond disappointing. The staff didn't even seem to know what it was.

Meanwhile, my personal favourites include Chilangos on Upper Street, whose marinated peppers are delicious and customer service are top notch, taking time to reply to comment cards personally. I also love their colourful and engaging interior - it feels like Mexican food when you're surrounding by vibrant images of 'the DF' and listening to their upbeat tunes.

Another special mention goes to Benito's Hat - having tried them yesterday I have to say I think they're the pick of the bunch. Fresh and tasty ingredients, friendly staff, a great atmosphere and the most tasty guacamole ever. The good news is that I might be a little closer to their Goodge Street branch more often, the bad news is that I don't think it's going to help with the diet.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

pretty things

Recently I bought a copy of a magazine called 'Better Photos Now' which has actually given me some helpful insights into some things I had no idea about on my camera - changing the metering type, suing long settings and various other bits and bobs that have been a mini revelation. To that end I assembled a little selection of plates, bowls and various pretty packaged soap, got out my tripod and remote and had a bash at capturing them in natural light. I even made a bit of a DIY reflector with a plate and some tin foil to bounce back some of the light.

My only complaint is that my 50mm 1.8 lens never seems really sharp - maybe the 1.4 is better?

Anyway, I discovered that my dressing table is actually an excellent place to take pics as it's one of the few places that actually seems to have some light coming into it. The plates and bowls have all been bought with a view to using for cake photography, but they do look sweet in their own right.

I've edited the photos to give them the right kind of look and feel - but it would be nicer if the colours were a bit fresher overall. Below is the image pretty much as RAW out of the camera, a bit more punch and it could be there...

It would also be great to have some willing 'victims' let me take their picture - Mr LROC hates having his picture taken so no guinea pig there....


Friday, 5 November 2010

a cakey hiatus

I don't know how they do it - other food bloggers seem to be naturally slim, beaming and gorgeous but this blog has made me fat. I don't know if it's the fact that I've been using it as an opportunity to chow down on anything sweet and cheerful looking but I'm nearly a stone heavier than a few months ago. This is not a good state of affairs.

Any food bloggers reading this - tips on how not to be huge would be greatly appreciated but to that end I know I need a bit of a cake hiatus - more accurately a diet. This is a depressing thought but it basically means that I need to watch what I eat for the next month in a fairly extreme way so I can fit into the party dresses I have outlined for Christmas.

So, cake fans, look away now, come back in a month, unless you want to hear tales of quorn'n'veg dinners and long gym sessions. Those that are interested in my meandering tour into photography and like the oft-missing Fancy Friday features you're in for a treat - because it will be the only material I've got!

Meanwhile, as mentioned above, tips on keeping trim and eating heartily much needed.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


From time to time it's good to get out of the city, especially if you can combine a parental visit and cakes too. To that end we decided to treat the mother-in-law to lunch at Byfords in Holt.

Holt is an affluent little town in North Norfolk, full of shops selling fancy homewares and oil paintings of sea side landscapes. It's a magnet for visiting Londoners, and Byfords reflects that perfectly being both deli, cafe, restaurant and 'posh' B&B. The word posh seems to pop up frequently on their menu, used to describe anything that used to be naff but now in our savvy post gastropub era is now the acceptable face of honest British cooking. It's like they don't quite trust their customers to appreciate and understand that.


Entering through the deli, one is greeted by the pungent buy extremely enjoyable smell of cheeses from their ample cheese counter. The deli also has a great range of olives, organic and locally brewed beers, cakes, sandwiches and salads to take away and so on. It's well stocked and a great place in it's own right to buy a picnic lunch for any slightly warmer times to be taken to the nearby coast. They stock cakes and bread from Popina (I blogged about their Broadway Market stall here) as well as making and selling their own cake under the name 'Sponge'.


We were seated in the cellar of the huge eating area, there was a big queue when we arrived, which seems to be evidence of how popular the place is. The menu is divided into several sections - bready things made up the bulk of the lunch menu, but there was a strong offering of homebaked pizzas too, and main meals such as risotto or steak were available too albeit priced fairly high for a quick lunch. I ordered the focaccia melt, the mother in law opted for their take on eggs benedict, and Mr LROC opted for a mackeral paste sandwich with chunky 'posh' chips.

When the food arrived I was a little disappointed because I'd been led to expect so much. I was expecting brilliance, but it was merely good. The topping on the melt was delicious - cheesy rich and beautifully tender veg but the bread could have been better loved, the salad was a little plain despite the presence of olives, sun dried tomatoes and pickled onions. I could barely taste the promised pesto dressing. Eggs Benedict looked good, but I don't think much could compare to the bargainous and tasty eggs at the Premises on the Hackney Road which comes with an extremely generous helping of hollandaise sauce.


Desserts fared slightly better, as well an extensive range of ice cream they had lots of cakes on the menu; I opted for the lemon variety of the own-made 'Sponge' cake. It was perfectly baked - just the right amount of spring in the sponge, a golden yellow colour and moist. I understand that they are selling the brand on to other deli's but it felt too professional - almost too good, too slick and I think an overdose of the lemon syrup, or a slightly cracked top would make the cake feel more genuine. It was generously filled with lemon buttercream that was tangy and rich but again it felt too slick. Something more creamy, maybe with cream cheese would have worked well and offset the tang of the lemon to perfection. The New Zealand sauvignon, which accompanied my cake was excellent however.

All in all, a good and pleasant experience, and a lovely place to lunch in a small town, but not quite living up the hype that seems to surround it. It is stylishly presented and the B&B looks fab and seems to be reasonably priced too. if you want to know more, including reading about their hotel or some of the other gastropubs they own in the North Norfolk area then check out the website

As an aside, we had a brief walk around town after lunch and couldn't resist taking a photo of the pumpkins sitting in the rain outside the greengrocer.

Related Posts with Thumbnails