Monday, 25 July 2011

Do you Speculoos?

Why is it when you go abroad all the food just looks so much more interesting? Speculoos pasta is one of my favourite 'foreign' supermarket finds - it is a Dutch spread based on the lovely Lotus biscuits you can buy in UK supermarkets. I know it sounds weird but it is ADDICTIVE. I hearby start the campaign to get it sold here. You can email them via their, rather boring, UK site.

Just before I left my old crappy office job in March a colleague mentioned he was going to Amsterdam for a day and he kindly brought me back a jar of paste and two packets of Speculoos sprinkles aka Hagel. Yesterday I finally got round to using them and damn, why did I wait so long?

I made two kinds of cupcakes - one stuffed with Speculoos and one with it baked in.

I used my basic vanilla cupcake recipe (except I used slightly less vanilla than usual), and scooped some into the cases with my trusty ice cream scoop, then mixed two dollops (approx 2 tablespoons - give or take some spoon licking) into the leftover mixture for the baked Speculoos cupcakes.

For the plain cupcakes - once cooled I scooped the middle out of them and added a heaped teaspoon into the centre of the cakes. Again spoon licking may have been involved.

The frosting is trusty vanilla frosting base (125g unsalted butter, 250g icing sugar - milk if necessary), without vanilla, with about 2 -3 tablespoons of Speculoos mixed in to taste. And boy did it taste pipe straight into your mouth good.

The plain ones got topped with a swirl of frosting and a good sprinkle of Speculoos Hagel - little sprinkles of biscuit. The baked Speculoos ones I did a circle of frosting and filled the middle with spread before topping with sprinkles. This was my favourite one I think, but it was difficult to choose - they were both delicious. 

As I was baking these I realised the mixes go out of date next month so I am giving away an unopened box of Speculoos Hagel Mix, the biscuit sprinkles mixed with chocolate. The Dutch put these on buttered toast, but they are great cupcakes toppers, could be mixed into cake or just eaten from the box.

To win, just leave a comment below stating what item you have found on holiday that you wish you could buy in the UK.

You can get an additional chance to win by following @annecupcake on Twitter and tweet the following message: I've just entered to win #speculoossprinkles from @annecupcake and you can too. Enter here:

Open to Mainland UK residents only. Contest closes at midnight Friday 29th July. PLEASE ensure you leave an email address or @twitter name so I can contact you - if you do not I will award it to someone else as I work all weekend and can't chase people up! Winner will receive the prize early August and the use by date is August 18th so only enter if you are going to use it please!

Finally you can buy Speculoos paste in the UK online but compare the prices to Hollands - 1 Euro - I must get to Holland soon. They also have crunchy spread. The lucky sods.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's the final crapcake(s)

You may have noticed that posts on this blog have slowed down a little. This is mainly due to me working odd hours at the bakery (4am starts!!!), but also because I really am TIRED of eating crap cupcakes. They are expensive and they sadden me - my heart breaks a little more each time I spend £2 on a cake that if you threw it as someone could lead to an attempted murder charge. Also, I'm tired of the hate mail I receive from bakers when they read my reviews, accusing me of trying to hate on them or lying etc - rather than question why their cakes are, quite frankly, so f**king awful. 

Anyhow I have made the decision to only eat cakes I bake myself or from bakeries I know and trust for the time being. Don't worry I'll still review places when I travel but I am just tired of some of the awful cupcakes in London at the moment and shall be giving them a miss for a while. 

However I couldn't leave without mentioning two truly awful recent(ish) cupcake exploits. 

First up we travel to Birmingham and back in time to March. I know - it's taken me a while to get round to writing this up, for that I apologise. 

As soon as I'm travelling anywhere I check out what cupcakes there are on offer - Birmingham seemed to be quite a cupcake-free zone so I was happy when I chanced upon the 90 Day Cafe in a review about great cupcakes. Whoever wrote that review I'm imagining their pants are on fire as I type. 

The cafe itself was quite cute but when we were told to "pick whatever cake you like" from a cake stand in the window I sensed this wasn't going to be a success. Manny put down the first one he picked up as he said it was rock solid. 

I opted for...

Which swiftly became...

after my one and only bite. Completely tasteless - devoid of ANY flavour but rancid butter. And hard. Joy. 

Manny opted for what we think was....

but we can't be 100% sure - it's the flavour Manny wanted, but Andy Pipkin behind the counter couldn't come out to show us which was which and instead opted for the old point and mutter 'that one' routine. I would like to point out we were the only customers in the place but he still couldn't be bothered to properly explain which cakes were which.  

Again this cake was hard, tasteless and just unpleasant. Both cakes were about £2.50 and both were left when we decided to leave. 

I have a feeling this sign...

goes some way to explaining why the cakes were so incredibly dry - they must just bake in bulk (or buy in?) and keep them hanging round till they sell. Cupcakes in an hour will not be fresh people! Not sure why they were so tasteless though - I'd imagine a Fruit Pigeons fart would contain more vanilla than my cupcake did. 

My review in one sentence - only visit the 90 Day Cafe if you like eating cakes that appear to have hung around the shop for 90 days. Blurgh. 

no she wouldn't, my mum has great taste in cakes 

While in Birmingham we also tried a couple of cakes from Cupcake Delights in Selfridges - while they weren't the best cupcakes I've had they were edible - but a little sweet for me and the vanilla one was on the dry side, but Manny enjoyed the chocolate one. 

Next up a bakery we first visited in February 2010, Chewies.  I remember the date as we also visited Bake a Boo that day. 

I didn't blog it at the time as my photos were awful, as were the cakes. I was in the area, Chalk Farm, today and needed lunch and coffee and decided to give them another go. Sometimes I want to slap myself for my stupidity. 

There were three flavours of cake to choose from; vanilla, chocolate and red velvet. The red velvet looked frankly sweaty so I opted for the lurid blue vanilla. I should've just walked out but to be honest I felt rather conspicuous - I was the only person in the cafe - which btw is really rather cute. 

Yes, that layer you see on top was rock hard. So hard when I tried a bit, for research purposes I nearly broke a tooth. HOW OLD are these cakes!!!? I jokingly tweeted that perhaps this cake had been sitting here since my last visit - I'm not so sure it was a joke now.  Their website boasts that everything is freshly baked but I am hard pressed to believe this cake wasn't at least a week old - it was that hard.

And the frosting - I had one bite of it and it was so sweet I had toothache for about an hour - it was grainy and thoroughly unpleasant. How any baker can get frosting so wrong is beyond me. 

The photo above shows how little I ate of the cake - two members of staff were watching me the whole time (no one came in in the 30mins I was there) yet they didn't ask me if I enjoyed the cake or what was wrong - they just stood there. If it was my business and someone didn't eat my cake I'd want to know why. I can say this is one of the worst cakes I've had - no redeeming features at all.  Another £2 + down the drain. 

Now - can anyone recommend some good cupcakes, I'm sick of crapcakes. 

Friday, 15 July 2011

Wedding cakes and a rather sweet giveaway

Readers of this blog may recall a couple of months ago I went on a cupcake decorating course with Eloise of Gourmet Cupcake. This week I went on her wedding cake course as I have a couple of weddings booked and I fancied learning some tricks of the trade.

The course was really good - we decorated a three tier top cake and 6 cupcakes - my favourite was embossing the fondant - I love how pretty it looks.

The tier cake not only looked pretty, but tasted lovely as well - we had a slice each and Manny took the rest to work the next day with the cupcakes and they were all scoffed up sharpish.

After all that sweetness, I now have a giveaway for a fantastic event by the chaps famous for their love of jelly - Bompas and Parr.

Bompas and Parr are flooding part of the roof of Selfridges to create a crystal island and boating lake to celebrate the arrival of Truvia® calorie free sweetner. 

...encompasses an emerald green boating lake, thousands of stevia plants, 12 rowing boats, a gushing waterfall, a life guard, cocktails by ECC, design by Studio Toogood, uniforms by Tour de Force, tropical soundscapes by Dom James, teas by Rare Tea Company, coffee's by Caravan, and a Crystal Island - all six storeys above Londons busiest shopping street.

Tickets for the Voyage of Discovery are now totally sold out but I have 5 pairs of tickets to give away for the 5.45 - 6.15 slot on Friday 22nd July - you need to be at Selfridges in time for entry and the prize is the tickets only - you need to make your own way to London!

To enter leave a comment below telling me what you would love to learn to bake. Please make sure you leave an email address so the organisers can email you your tickets if you win!

You can get an additional chance to win by following @annecupcake on Twitter and tweet the following message: I've just entered to win #bompasandparr tickets from @annecupcake and you can too. Enter here:

Open to Mainland UK residents only. Contest closes at midday Tuesday 19th July. Winners will be announced shortly after.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Happy 4th July

Some of you may  have seen my trial run at my all-American cupcake last week.

It's a rather simple idea - a red white and blue cupcake. Nothing special but it does look kinda fab. And very patriotic.

I just took my favourite vanilla cupcake, and....dyed some red and blue. Simple.

As you can see the colours kind of merged, and the blue on top went kind of green, but when you bite into them there is still a hint of white in there and you can see the three colours. Sorry I don't have a cross section picture - it began to fall over while I took it but you can kinda see how it works.

I had planned to top the cupcake with some red, white and blue fondant hearts to signify I Heart NY (my favourite place in the US..well the world actually),  but after a long weekend of working, and getting up at 4am today to open the bakery I just couldn't face fannying about with fondant. Also I couldn't find my small heart cutter and just didn't have the energy to go through my tonne of cupcaking paraphernalia. I did manage to find my USA cupcake cases and toppers that Ann Arbor Dennis brought me back recently though.

So to top the cupcakes my second plan was blueberry and strawberries on top of vanilla frosting, but then I decided to dunk the strawberry in some blue chocolate (Lindt white coloured with food dye) and voila - my perfect all-American cupcake was born.

Happy 4th July everyone!