Monday, 27 September 2010

Next ♥ cupcakes

It's Chrissssstmaaaaaaaaas.

Ok, it isn't. BUT it's just under 3 months to the big day and the Christmas gift guides are coming thick and fast. The best I've seen so far (thanks to the lovely Tcakes messaging me via my blog!) is the Next Christmas Guide.

Oh. My. God. It is cupcake-alicious. FULL to brimming with cupcake goodies.

First up is the cupcake stacking mugs. I have wanted someone to make these for ever, and now they have not only made them but they feature my blog name on them. It's basically someone telling me I must have them. Crockery ban be damned!

Next are these uber cute I ♥ cupcakes measuring cups. I know I have already got a few sets of measuring cups but these are too cute to resist. Must have.

Perfect for those cold Winter evenings and those times when a girl needs a hot water bottle is this cute little gift set. And I love the little cupcake mug.

Another must have since I broke my last one is the cupcake kitchen timer. Again something I've been after for a while (my Debenhams one died some time ago and they no longer stock them).

Perfect for my cupcake kitchen are the Time for Tea wall plague, cupcake prints, cupcake clock, cupcake apron, cupcake oven glove and I ♥ cupcakes tea towels set.

Not to forget the baking set and I ♥ cupcakes baking book.

And if you don't have an oven handy, what about this gorgeous cupcake maker. I've not been that tempted by these before but this one is soooo pretty I am quite tempted to get it.

Oh and the cake stand.

That sums it up pretty much, except for the photo frame, house mat and cupcake bank. Which I may need to save up for it all.

I want it all!!!!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Pretty vacant

Today I finally made it to Cox, Cookies and Cake after previously turning up on their "opening day" to find it full of builders after they didn't bother to announce it was no longer opening as expected.

I wish I hadn't bothered.

Manny and I trekked through Soho in the pissing rain, avoiding umbrellas and the wheely trollies of tourists to get there. When we arrived I was quite impressed with the look of the shop - neon sign outside (complete with flashing Cox..oh how risque), black glittery walls, black pretty much everything and a pink neon sign "designed"* by Tracey Emin saying "I keep haunting you".

Anyway to the cupcakes. I won't comment on the cookies as I didn't see any at all when we were there - just cupcakes. There were none of their advertised bars either - I had hoped to try a nanimo bar but there were none to be seen. Perhaps that was for the best.

The cakes all looked quite nice but there wasn't much on offer, about 3 of their classic cupcakes, with featuring the usual suspects like vanilla, lemon, chocolate and some of their specialities featuring the skulls, the marilyn and the bling. Which are basically the classics fancied up at nearly double the price.

I had intended to just buy one cake after hearing nothing but bad reviews on the cake but Manny couldn't resist a brown titty cake so we ended up buying two. I chose a black skull cupcake. Two cakes came to the grand total of £8. Yes you read that right, two normal sized cupcakes were just short of a tenner.

Were they worth it?

In a word, NO.

My skull cupcake is advertised as being.. triple Valrhona chocolate cake with goth black frosting and a dark chocolate jewelled skull. I am not exaggerating when I say there was not a hint of chocolate in either the cupcake base, or cupcake frosting. None. Nada. Zilch. If we want to get Scottish about it, f**k all. As well as being utterly flavourless, the base was as dry Gandhi's flip flop. Completely devoid of moisture. The frosting, again, tasted of absolutely nothing. Not a hint of chocolate. None. The only flavour was food colouring but I'd wager money that the frosting had never seen any Valrhona chocolate. In fact Valrhona should be suing for using their name under false pretences. I'm assuming the triple came from the chunk of something unidentified in the middle of the cake -which may have been chocolate - I gave up trying after the second tasteless bite. Life is too short to waste on a bad cupcake.

a right tit - what I felt after paying a fortune for an inedible cake!

Manny's boob had slightly more flavour, with the merest hint of chocolate but was still as dry as a nun's gusset. I've made chocolate cupcakes that retained their moisture for four days so god only knows when these were put together. (I refuse to say baked - baking involves love and care -something these cakes had not seen!)

I cannot believe I've waited this long to try the baking of Eric Lanlard and this is it? I also can't believe he allows his name to be used with such atrocities to baking. A dry, tasteless waste of money. I can compare it to only one other cupcake experience - trying chocolate cupcakes from Aldi - these tasted pretty much the same. If I'm honest the Aldi ones were probably slightly less dry, and cost about £1 for four. So yes I paid the most money ever for a cupcake and it was the worst I've had. Go figure.

This place is definitely a case of style over substance which is a pity as it looks quite cool, is something different from the usual cupcake cafe and the staff were really nice. One thing I did adore was the staff aprons - very S&M with leather and studs - and the girl who served us was chatty and friendly. If only the cakes were as pleasant as her.

My recommendation - avoid unless you want disappointment. If you're in Soho and want a cupcake Hummingbird is about 4 mins walk away and everything is fresh and full of flavour! Cox, Cookies and Cake join Buttercup in my cupcakeries to avoid.

*I'm possibly not the best person to comment on modern "art" but how much design goes into a neon sign? Surely its just choosing a font, a colour and a phrase that means naff all?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Keeping toasty cupcake style

Today was the first day of Autumn and typically our weather reacted badly with monsoon-like weather in London, and in our office which a couple of months after the restoration work leaks like a blooming sieve! What better excuse than the impending cold to head to the shops and stock up on some lovely Winter woollies, and these cupcake items from Accessorize are just perfect.

I definitely want these cupcake gloves - they are too cute to resist and my hands are always cold in the Winter! They are kids sizes but my last gloves were from the kids range at H&M so hopefully they'll fit - if not I'll squeeze them in. Accessorize bring out adult versions - don't you know adults love cupcakes too!

While I love this cute little cupcake hat I think it may be more suited to the kids its aimed at. Imagine my poor child, if I had one, it'd be head to toe in cupcake - even worse if it was a boy! Btw if you want this hat but are a full grown adult I suggest trying it out - again I got my pom pom hat from H&M children's section and it fitted perfectly and you don't pay VAT!

If you don't fancy squeezing your head into the kiddie size one check out Fred Flare who do an adult cupcake beanie. Still not sure if I want to walk around with a cupcake on my head however.

Finally something we can all enjoy without squeezing into kiddie sizes - some lovely cupcake lip balm to keep your lips nice and kissable over the cold spell! Is it too early to prepare for the mistletoe season?

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Cupcake Camp

So after a night watching 5 episodes back to back of Cupcake Wars last night you think I'd be all cupcake'd out, but no, I'm sitting here with my thinking cap on wondering what I can make for Cupcake Camp on October 31st.

Cupcake Camp was started in San Francisco but has since gone global and the first one is coming to the UK on Halloween, organised by Daisy Coole to raise funds for the North London Hospice who lovingly cared for her late father

I cannot emphasise enough the difference between a hospital and this wonderful hospice. They were caring and supportive to both him and my mother and me, offering cups of tea and a shoulder to cry on as we sat with Dad for between seven and 24 hours a day. The nurses were amazing.

When Dad died I never got to say thank you to our nurses. This is my way.

The event takes place at Proud Galleries in Camden from 2-5pm and there will be lashings of cupcakes provided by amateur and professional bakers. You can sign up to bake for Cupcake Camp here, and you can also choose to enter your cupcakes in the competitions taking place with categories like Halloween inspired and Most unique ingredient. The competition will be judged by the ladies from the Primrose Bakery and the wonderful Ms Cupcake.

If you don't want to bake you can always come along on the day and scoff some cupcakes - tickets will be available for £1 each which will get you one cupcake. So you can grab yourself a cupcake bargain and help a good cause.

I hope to see you there!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Vegging out with cupcakes

These yoga pants, crop pants and vest look perfect for slobbing out in front of Cupcake Wars while munching on a cupcake.

All available from Peacocks.

Is this the cupcake "must have" gadget?

You may recall I blogged about the Lakeland cupcake maker some time ago, well now kings of the toasted sandwich, Breville, have brought out their version of the cupcake maker.

Simply pour your own mixture into the cupcake moulds, wait for it to cook and viola you have cupcakes. Basically the same as you'd do with an oven, except these machines claim to make cupcakes in about 8 minutes so if you're really keen to get your hands on some cupcakes it's a little quicker than your oven. Oh and its pink!

It's currently on offer at Very, costing just £25. It's going to be available in John Lewis as well.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Get busy with the fizzy

I haven't been to Hummingbird for what seems like years, but is actually seven months. Yes seven!!!! The horror.

I missed out on their Summer floral inspired cupcake range but I refuse to miss out on their soda range as they just sound and look too good to miss. The range includes your favourite sodas like cola and lemonade, and I must try a root beer and a cherry cola (pictured above). I wish they'd done an Irn Bru one, I'd have probably exploded with excitement mind you.

The full range is listed below and you can find more pictures of each cupcake on Hummingbird's facebook page.

Available at all Hummingbird Branches. Branch details can be found here.

Photographs are copyright Hummingbird Bakery.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Cupcake Week round up

If you're a cupcake fan you must know that yesterday was the start of the second Cupcake Week. The event, launched in 2009 by British Baker, was launched with an installation using 5000 cupcakes in Westfield Shopping Centre London, depicting the face of Olympic boxer James de Gale with cakes were baked by Lily Vanilli and organised by blogger Ms Cakehead. You can see pics on Ms Cakeheads blog. If this reminds you of something, it's quite similar to Zilly Rosen's Obama cupcake mosaic.

It's two days into Cupcake Week and I've not yet scoffed a single cupcake so thought I'd do a round up of some of my recent(ish) cupcake purchases instead.

First up are some disappointing lemon cupcakes (top pic) I baked from the Primrose Bakery cookbook. The cakes were rather dry and didn't have much of a lemony taste too them. Instead of their lemon frosting I opted to make a white chocolate and lemon frosting using Green and Blacks white chocolate which tasted really nice but was waaaaay too runny for piping. Although I wasn't too impressed with them Manny seemed to enjoy them.

Next was a trip to Ella's Bakehouse after our visit to Cake Britain made us fancy a cupcake!
I've been a bit disappointed with the offerings on previous occasions however this time the cupcakes were fabulous. I had a banoffee cupcake which was very moist and incredibly flavoursome and unlike last time the frosting was tasty and not just buttery.

I got Manny an Oreo which he loved. I had gotten him an Oreo cupcake from here before and it was stale - this time it was moist, fresh and incredibly moreish.

I also got a little red velvet mini cupcake which was one of the better red velvets I've had. Alas the greed of not just settling for one cupcake resulted in my banoffee cupcake looking gorgeous on one side but like this...

on the other - alas my red velvet mini was rather unceremoniously shoved on top of my banoffee cupcake. The horror!

Beneath the red velvet cupcake you can see my chocolate of choice, Hotel Chocolat's caramel Tiddly Pots - heaven in a polka dot pot.

Another weekend meant a trip to Paperchase which resulted in me buying another cupcake tote bag. I see it as being environmentally concious as buying cotton shopping bags means I don't have to use plastic ones. Manny see's it as another f*cking bag in the house. However it was too cute to resist and even he agreed I should buy it.

I also got this cute little birthday card which sums up perfectly how you should spend your birthday. Although I'd add and lashings of mojitos too!

After our trip to Paperchase (and a mornings boxing for Manny, a morning of shopping and lounging in Starbucks with the Sunday papers for me) we couldn't resist popping in for a cupcake on our walk past Primrose. The last cake I had from Primrose was inedible, and as mentioned earlier in this post I had a disappointing lemon cupcake incident from their book however the cupcakes restored my Primrose faith as they were gorgeous. Manny got double chocolate (is anyone surprised by this?) and I had a strawberry and white chocolate which was moist and incredibly tasty with a lovely strawberry jam/compote in the middle.

The polka dot cases and cupcake boxes were bought on a recent trip to Sainsburys who have added loads to their baking range and seem to be embracing the home baking phenomenon. Wish they'd start stocking some decent extracts and colourings though instead of those horrid essences! They did have a baking promotion running with 1/3 off lots of baking essentials (I stocked up on tonnes of Doves flours) but I think that may have ended.

Finally on a trip to Tescos today I spotted these strawberry cupcake cones and couldn't get over how unappealing they looked, they also had some really vile looking whoopie pies that looked so unpleasant I can't imagine anyone buying them. There's a pic on my Twitpic page if you want to see them - sorry was trying to be surreptitious with my phone taking pics hence the quality!

Also in Tescos were these rather nice cupcake mugs which I felt would cheer up anyones morning cuppa. I didn't buy them though as I'm banned from purchasing crockery.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Visiting Violet

I've been a fan of Violet cakes since I first tried them over two years ago at Covent Garden Market and as soon as I heard they had a cafe opening I've been thinking of ways to get there. On Saturday we finally made it - after a long walk from The View Tube at Pudding Mill Lane - it's quite a walk and we certainly earned our cupcake (although someone couldn't stop at one!).

First impressions when walking in is that it is a quaint little shop, with seating inside for about 6 people, with some tables outside, and if its busy there are a couple of benches nearby. Its in a quiet street off the main Dalston to Hackney route so you can sit outside and enjoy some peace and cake. As well as cakes they stock sourdough bread and some fruit and veg. We got there quite late in the day but thankfully they still had some delish looking cupcakes left.

Manny opted for the last Valrhona - of course and said it was amazing. He certainly wolfed it down as I didn't get a chance to sneak a bit. Oink oink.

I couldn't resist the coconut milk cupcake and I chose incredibly well. It was incredibly moist and flavoursome - the taste of coconut was lovely. And it went fabulously with my mug of breakfast tea. Sometimes you just can't beat a cup of tea and cake.

Manny spent the whole time we were in there drooling over the afternoon tea scones that were on display and just couldn't resist having one. And who can blame him - this is sheer food pornography. I had a little smidgen (I wasn't going to but can't resist clotted cream ever!) and it was absolutely divine.

We couldn't resist taking a couple of cakes home for pudding on Saturday night. Manny got a Devil's Food and I got a raspberry. Manny's devils food was really nice and tasty, however my raspberry one was just ok. The frosting was delicious but the cake was a little bit lacking in flavour.

However this doesn't make me change my mind and I still say Violet make some of the nicest cupcakes you will ever try. Definitely in my top five.

Manny summed it up - as we were leaving, my foot hadn't even stepped outside when he asked "when are we coming back?"

Oh and if you're interested in baking some Violet style cakes, owner Claire Ptak's The Whoopie Pie book comes out next month and if the recipes are as good as the cover looks it'll be a stunner.