Sunday, 26 June 2011

A week of birthday cupcakes and a GIVEAWAY!!

Apologies for the lack of blogging, this past week has been crazy busy! with 3 different birthday celebrations, a night of Kings of Leon and a night and day at Wimbledon! but I'm ready now to share all the yummy cupcakes I have been indulging in this week...and because it was my birthday and I'm feeling generous I want to give you all the chance to win something delicious! but first...back to the cupcakes.

Last weekend my parents came to celebrate mine and my sister's birthday.  None of my birthday celebrations are complete without cupcakes, like the ones we tried last year at Queenie's in Shropshire, so we headed to Bake-a-Boo which is just down the road from us in West Hampstead that we hadn't got around to trying until now

It's a cute little tearoom where you can sit in and enjoy their baked goods, and there's also lots of fun cupcake paraphernalia to purchase too. We were there quite early in the morning, I was disappointed they only had 2 proper cupcakes on offer: lemon or white chocolate and raspberry - they were both gluten and dairy free which I wasn't too thrilled about but they were surprisingly tasty nonetheless! If you want to check out the other fun we had in London for my 'pre-birthday' celebrations you can see all the pics here

On Monday, I found myself in Westbourne Grove...which is fast becoming a favourite area of mine! with so many delicious eateries how can it not be! Ottelenghi's, Melt chocolates and this time I discovered Tom's Deli.  It is owned by the same people who own Crazy Homies and Lucky 7 - both awesome restaurants that I checked out on my other blog here  and so I knew I was going to love it! It sells tons of yummy American treats inside and has platters full of delicious looking treats.  They told me their cupcakes are brought in daily from a nearby bakery - from the looks of it, they may come from The Cupcake Company but I can't be sure.  I picked a raspberry and white chocolate which was very yummy but I would have preferred more frosting:cake ratio! The brownie was outstanding! it was so fudgy and moist, and it was filled with raspberries - bonus! I will definitely be going back to this cute little deli.

On Tuesday evening, my husband came to town and we had an amazing birthday meal at Chicago Rib Shack in Knightsbridge.  When we got home I was greeted by these amazing Wimbledon themed cupcakes from Lola's! and had happy birthday sung to me!  

I was SO surprised to see this little pic of Andy Roddick sitting on top of my cupcake! The actual one you buy from Lola's comes with Andy Murray's face on but I'm defo not a fan so my sister promptly replaced it with my fave State side player! 

Also in the box was two strawberry and cream cupcakes, and this awesome vanilla cupcake decorated like a tennis ball!! Lola's redeemed themselves this time around, and I enjoyed the cupcakes much more than the last one I ate from them.

Wednesday was my actual birthday! so more cupcakes were in order! After an amazing birthday meal at Navajo Joe in Covent Garden, which I just cant recommend highly enough, we popped around the corner to The Primrose Bakery.

It's been a long time since I've eaten one of their cupcakes and I had a feeling they might have a fun flavour, different from the boring combo's you usually get, and I was right.  We picked up a chocolate cupcake with marshmallow frosting and a giant marshmallow on top! I loved the pink glitter on top, and the cupcake tasted great! I love the atmosphere inside their little shop too and it was a good place to give our feet a little break for a while! 

The cupcakes I had chosen specifically to try were 'cat and the cream' cupcakes.  I always like to find cupcakes I've never had before and so I looked on their website and saw they sold them at Whole Foods.  I wondered why I had never come across them before since Whole Foods is one of my very favourite shops to frequent! I found out that they don't do them at the main store, only the smaller ones.  So after a while of getting lost in Soho, we finally came across the small branch and I was eager to find the cupcakes! I looked all over and there wasn't a cupcake in sight, finally I asked a shop assistant who told me they were in the fridge - ugh!! I was not impressed, you never keep cupcakes in the fridge!! So since it had taken me so long to find the place I decided to give them a try anyway and hope for the best.  They have lots of interesting and different flavour combos so we opted for the chocolate cupcake with mint ganache filled topped with a raspberry buttercream! 

I walked around with it for a while to get it back up to temperature before eating it.  By the time I had reached Hyde Park where we were seeing Kings of Leon it was just about ready to eat, I had to smuggle it in under my cardigan as I was worried they were going to confiscate it from me at the entrance to the gig! It was a pretty large cupcake and not the best thing to eat in a field full of people, I got frosting on my nose and cheeks several times and ended up a complete mess by the end of it! The cupcake and frosting were soo good and I was really enjoying it until I hit that ganache in the was actually made with fresh mint leaves chopped up and for me it just didn't work.  The flavour was far too strong, I was expecting it to be more along the lines of a mint extract or something like that so unfortunately I felt the mint ruined the overall cupcake for me, but it was still fun to try something new!

So that was my cupcake filled week of birthday fun! 

Now on to the giveaway! 

As you all know I recently started working at The English Cheesecake Company and for too long now I've enjoyed their delicious cheesecakes all to myself and I feel it's time for one of you to enjoy them also!! So I am giving away one of their cheesecakes! for your tastebuds to try! 

I don't like to exlcude my fellow bloggers who don't live in England but our cheesecakes have to be sent out frozen and by the time they arrived to you in America or Australia they would be a soggy melted inedible mess! so that really wouldn't work! but what I will say is that if you have friends or family who live in England who you would like to send a cheesecake to then feel free to enter! but please don't enter if you are expecting it to be sent to you because it's just not going to work!! 

How to enter:
1. You need to follow my blog, then check out the English Cheesecake Company's website or my recommendations below and leave a comment on this blog post telling me what flavour cheesecake you would like the most! 
2. If you want a double entry you can also start following me on twitter here and just be sure to write another comment saying that you are doing so.
3. Sit back and cross your fingers that some scrummy cheesecake will be heading your way soon!!

It's really that easy! You have a week to enter and I will choose a winner at random next Sunday, 3rd July, at 8pm!

Here's a few of our newest additions...

and a few of my personal favourites...

and for those of you out there who aren't cheesecake fans we do some delicious chocolate fudge cakes...

Good luck!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The London Cheesecake...and not a piece of cheese in sight!

So this week was my sister Mara's birthday and I baked her up an old family favourite.  In our family there were always known as Cheese Straws...upon further research via google I have discovered their official name is 'London Cheesecake'.

They don't contain any cheese at all, rather confusingly, but I'm guessing the shredded coconut on top looks like strands of cheese and that's where the name came from.

From what I can tell they were a big thing back in the day in London.  There's an 'underground following' for them springing up on the internet, and they even have their own facebook page with lots of Londoners who have moved away from London questioning where they can now get their fix! Apparently Greggs sell them, but you won't find them in every Greggs store, although I have it on good authority there is always a steady supply in the Portobello Road store.

Growing up we had a favourite aunt and uncle, Auntie Sheila and Uncle Brian.  They were true 'East-Enders' and we used to love their visits! Uncle Brian was a joker and would always have us laughing hysterically and we used to love going to our local park where he would always climb the tallest trees with us, despite his age! He would give Auntie Sheila a heart attack when she would see him poking his head out from somewhere up high! but of course no visit was complete without auntie Sheila's famous home-made cheese straws. 

I'm sure that hers were 10 times better than mine, but I decided to have a go at them and see what I could come up with.  I had to cut a few corners because I had sent Mara out to the gym so she wouldn't see what I was baking so I only had about an hour to whip them up! but if you've never heard of them before they're definitely worth trying - especially if you're coconut lovers like me!

London Cheesecakes
(Makes 6)

1 pack of ready to roll puff pastry
120g Raspberry jam (try and make it the best quality you can)
Fondant Icing (Icing sugar+water)
Shredded Coconut (desiccated will not do!)

1. Roll out your pastry and mark out 12 squares with a knife.  On my sheet of pastry I marked out 4 along the width and 3 deep.
2. Put a spoonful of raspberry jam in the middle of a pastry square.  I put a rather large tablespoon full when I was making mine but I think I got carried away and in hindsight it could have been less! I'd say about 15g would be a good amount but just eyeball it and see what you think.
3. Cover with a piece of pastry and seal around the edges using your finger to press the two pieces of pastry together.
4.  Bake your 6 jam filled puff pastry squares for approx. 20 minutes at 200°C.
5.  Allow them to cool, and whilst doing this whip up your fondant icing.  I can't tell you amounts...I made these in a hurry but you want it to be quite thick (so it doesn't run) so only add a few drops of water at a time.
6. Finish with a more than generous sprinkling of shredded coconut - in my opinion this makes the whole treat!

I have been out cupcaking it up in London today with my family as part of my 'pre-birthday' celebrations, check back in a few days for the photos and for a VERY exciting birthday giveaway on my blog!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Finally...a week of coconut-ing and cupcaking

Sorry for the lack of blogging.  In the week when I am in London our macbook is back in Milton is lightroom, and I refuse to blog unedited photos so I apologise for the wait! 
This week I've mostly continued on my coconut kick! After Mara told me about an amazing new coconut chocolate bar she had tried at Marks & Spencer I knew I had to try one too.  It was amazing and definitely one of the best coconut products out there on the market right now, not that it would be hard...our nation is not one for Coconut loving - we need to learn a thing or too from the Australians in that area that's for sure.

It just so happened that on the day that we bought this chocolate bar it was Monday, and I recalled that Hummingbird's Monday special for summer is a Coconut cupcake.  I decided we should head to their Wardour St store and give them another chance after our very disappointing pineapple cupcake we tried last time.

It was not a good cupcake.  I tried the cake part by itself, minus the frosting and could detect no flavour at all - not even a hint of coconut.  The frosting was far too buttery and the whole thing left me feeling distinctly unimpressed.  This is Hummingbird Bakery! They are known to many as the 'best' and certainly most well known cupcakery in England, yet how can they not make good tasting summer special cupcakes! Surely they would have had to have a tasting panel and their cupcakes would have to be approved etc... how did these cupcakes get past the taste panel? I just don't know, what I do know is that I won't waste anymore of my time trying Hummingbird's mediocre and tasteless summer offerings.  

We also washed down our so so cupcake with yet more coconut - I told you I was obsessed! I decided to try out this 'dreamy coconut drinking fudge' by the Fudge Kitchen... 

and just because you can never have too much coconut, I added coconut marshmallows and shredded coconut with a sprinkling of cocoa! It was a coconut treat, and they do a whole host of yummy flavours of drinking fudge plus regular fudge in a zillion different flavours - it's definitely worth checking them out.

Luckily our week had a happy cupcake ending because we stopped off at The Cupcake Company just before our tasty Mexican on Tex Mex Tuesday.  The Cupcake Company is a cupcakery that has never let me down, there was the one time when we tried to visit it on New Year's Day and they were closed but I suppose everyone is entitled to a holiday! otherwise every time we have gone we have eaten delicious, moist and fresh cupcakes...and this time was no different!

and just because we're coconut crazy, we tried this delicious coconut & walnut bar.  I don't even like walnut but I could have easily devoured the whole bar and it was a pretty hefty slab too! 

We opted for some mini's, just so we could try lots of flavours without being fatties.  Their chocolate cupcake was a little too rich for me, but the red velvet was amazing - they had got their cream cheese frosting just right, I hate it when it's too tangy.  I'm usually not a fan of orange flavoured things but the orange cupcake was so fresh and fruity I couldn't help but be impressed and the banana cupcake was still our stand out favourite.  

So my advice to you is that if ever you're in the Notting Hill/Portobello area walk straight past Hummingbird Bakery and walk the couple of minutes to The Cupcake Company where a far superior and more delicious cupcake awaits you! 


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