Saturday 2 June 2018

13th birthday cake

My boy is a teenager.

Actually he has been now for almost 3 months. He is certainly showing signs of growing up. And sometimes he's just a little kid. Confusing times for him, and for us. 

My blog, on the other hand, has been sadly neglected. It has taken me 3 months to get around to blogging about a cake! Lots of other stuff going on at the moment, but hopefully after this academic year, I'll have a little more time to relax.

For the teenager's cake, he's recently become a Star Wars fan, so Nigella's chocolate cake, the go-to recipe for birthday cakes in this house was a given. Instead of spending days baking and decorating (something I do miss!), the cake was baked in one evening, yellow fondant Star Wars writing quickly fashioned using an online image of the infamous font, and Himself was sent out on a mission to the toy shop to pick up the Star Wars figures. Sure, I could have made them! But coming back full circle to the first cake I ever made, it was decorated with toy dinosaurs if I remember correctly (and that's quite unlikely), so the cake was the gift too. Grown up though he (sometimes) is, he still likes to play with figures, so Yoda and Kai Lo Ren are now residing in his room, along with Rae and Chewwie. 

Happy (belated) birthday, young man. 

Star Wars

Tuesday 18 July 2017

11th Birthday Cake

My little girl turns 11 years old today.

She is growing up too fast. Some days, she's a giggly cheeky little monkey, some days she has a teenage-type strop. But I love her. More.

And I love her style. She designed her birthday cake herself - three layers with flowers in her favourite colour blue. Inside is a chocolate brownie cake, the only cake she really likes. (Although only the top layer, the rest is Nigella's chocolate cake, which never fails me).

I improvised with the flowers, trying to cover the mess I made of the icing - glace icing on chocolate cake doesn't really work! The roses were made by following this tutorial - so simple to do.

She shared her party with her friend Katie (favourite colour - purple), born on the same day, and they've known each other since nursery. This is their last week at primary school together. It's the end of an era.

11th Birthday Cake

Happy birthday my beautiful girl.
I love you.

Sunday 18 June 2017

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes - Recipe

 In this sweltering weather (all three days of it), cake isn't the top priority. But Summer Fete Bake Off beckoned and duty must be done. These strawberry shortcake cupcakes were inspired by ChocolateWithGrace and are a perfect summer bake. Sweet strawberries with a light creamy icing and fluffy cake inside are delicious with a cup of tea or a cheeky Pimms...

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Makes 12
Prep Time: 20 mins plus 10 mins
Cook Time: 15-20 mins


For the Cupcakes:

115 g butter
200 g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
195 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
115 ml milk (or cream)

For the Buttercream:

115 g butter
350 g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk (or cream)
Red food colouring

For the strawberry filling:

12-15 strawberries
2 tsp white caster sugar


Heat the oven to 180 C and line a muffin tin with 12 cases.

For the cupcakes:

Beat together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Sieve in the flour and baking powder and beat again until thoroughly mixed, then add in the milk/cream and keep mixing until very smooth.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, about 2/3 full. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool. If you wish, you can gently chop off the risen dome in the centre for a smoother finish.

For the buttercream:

Beat the butter for several minutes until very smooth. Sieve in the icing sugar, beating further, then add the milk/cream and keep beating until very smooth. Add a drop or so of red food colouring until you get a soft pink colour.

Using a small  palette knife or spatula, spread a small amount of buttercream over each cupcake, scraping off any excess. This gives a smooth crumb coat and prevents any strawberry juices from seeping into the cupcake.

Using a small flower nozzle, pipe the icing in a circle, starting around halfway in, and working out to the edge, then back in, but do not fill in the centre - this gives a sort of basket shape, leaving space to fill in with strawberries.

For the strawberry filling:

It's best to prepare the filling just before serving, a few hours at the most. Dice the strawberries into half centimetre pieces and spread in a flat layer on a plate. Sprinkle with the sugar and allow to infuse for about 15 minutes, and they start to release their juices. Then carefully spoon a teaspoon or so into the centre of your prepared cupcakes.

Happy Summer!

Link up your recipe of the week

Thursday 8 June 2017

Boxcar, Marylebone - Soft Launch Preview

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the exclusive preview party of Boxcar in Marylebone. It's an exciting new venue which multi-tasks like the best of them. Not only is it a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it also doubles as a deli, a butcher's and, just for me, a cocktail bar.

Specializing in prime cuts of meat sourced ethically, independently and locally (I believe Cornwall is local enough when it comes to meat, I can't remember seeing any cows grazing in Hyde Park recently), the menu is short but specific. A mighty good burger, the finest steak and chips, and veggie burgers to end all veggie burgers. Pork pies and in-house barbecue sauce are an absolute must-try - just try not to get the gravy all over your new white shirt...

Fitted out in sections, dark inky tiling with copper trim gives the venue a clean and contemporary look. No stainless steel or blood-stained aprons, the downstairs Butcher's counter offers advice on your meat purchases, the cuts, the cooking, and even a butchery masterclass, if you are so inclined.

Outdoor seating at the front is at the moment taken up by a rather large (and beefy looking) bull, but for summer, there will also be outdoor dining, for enjoying a cocktail or two. Which, by the way, are worth popping in for. If you prefer, there's independent spirits and wines on offer too, making Boxcar pretty much a local corner shop with bells on.

Located just at the back of Marble Arch, this new concept in eating out (or cooking at home, if you prefer) is the perfect stop-off after a hard day's graft in the office, or in the shops. For a short time, Boxcar are offering 50% off their menu, so I recommend trying it now!

Boxcar Butcher & Grill

23 New Quebec Street

Photos courtesy of PalmPR

Thursday 1 June 2017

Baby Shower Cupcakes

Today we say goodbye (for now) to a friend and colleague going off on maternity leave. I made her Naked Wedding Cake a couple of years ago, and these are sort of linked. Rose flavoured cupcakes. The rose petals were also on her wedding cake. The storks were simply made following ThenIBecameAMum's tutorial.
She doesn't know if she's having a girl or a boy, though I suspect a girl. I don't know why...

Good luck with everything, Roya! Looking forward to seeing what the stork delivers <3

Thursday 18 May 2017

Confirmation Cake

For my friends' beautiful daughters.

Inside are three layers of Rachel Allen's chocolate mousse cake - wheat-free so my friend could eat some of her daughter's cake! Crumb-coated in chocolate buttercream icing. All fondant cracks hidden by flowers and pearls :)

Congratulations to Isabelle and Anastasia.

Sunday 14 May 2017

Piri Piri Chicken - Recipe

This is a fail-safe dish to serve at a dinner party. Impressive, yet relatively simple, and very tasty. It was somewhat of a prophesy that I decided to serve Piri Piri Chicken on the night Portugal won Eurovision for the first time. We love to get together with friends and watch the show whilst criticising and laughing with/at our European friends. Europe: for fabulous food, amazing costumes, and somewhat dubious music...
An advantage of this dish is that you can make it in advance, and then just stick it in the oven 45 minutes before you are ready to eat. It doesn't matter if it stays in a bit longer, in case you forget about it whilst downing Strawberry Daiquiris, and Prosecco, and enjoying some lighter European snacks such as olives and Padron peppers.
Have a go and let me know if you think this Piri Piri Chicken is a winner...
(Please excuse the rather drunken photography)
Piri Piri Chicken

Piri Piri Chicken

Prep Time: 15 mins plus marinating
Cook Time: 25 mins plus 45 mins

Serves: 4


2 peppers (red or yellow)
50 ml olive or rapeseed oil
4 red chillies, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 lemons, juice only
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 chicken thighs


Firstly, prepare the peppers. Heat the oven to 190 C. Slice the peppers into thirds and drizzle generously with oil. Roast for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the marinade. Using a blender (or a mortar and pestle if you wish to be more authentic), blend the oil, red chillies, garlic, oregano, paprika and chilli flakes to a smooth paste. Then add in the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper if you wish.
When the peppers are roasted, you can remove the skin if it comes off easily but I usually leave it on. Roughly chop the peppers and add them to the blended mixture, then blitz it all again until smooth.

Place the chicken thighs in an oven-proof dish and pour over the marinade. Allow to infuse for as long as you wish - an hour is enough, but overnight is even better.

The chicken takes about 45 minutes in the oven at 190 C, so allow enough time for it to cook through. Turn it twice during cooking (if you remember) finishing with the skin side up so it get's nice and crispy before you serve with fries, salad, and/or crusty bread.