Monday 24 June 2013

Is it *really* vegan?

This post is about a month or so late and for that I apologise. 

Ms Cupcake's The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town was published last month and I was lucky enough to receive a review copy. 

As soon as I opened it I knew what I was going to make - my favourite from Ms Cupcake - the Bounty cupcake. 

Obviously the recipe meant I had to buy a couple of vegan friendly items - soya margarine and milk. Everything else I had at home. 

Working in a bakery I'm used to creaming for ages to get light fluffy cakes so the method here was completely new to me but everything was well explained and easy to follow! In fact, the cakes were really easy and quick to make. 

Once baked it was time to make the two frostings. I admit here I cheated a little I made one batch, which I then halved. The first half I added coconut extract and shredded coconut too for the bottom layer. The rest I added some cocoa powder, vanilla and a pinch of salt too to make chocolate frosting. 

The title of this post comes from Manny's reaction when I gave him one to test. They were really moist and tasty. And best of all you couldn't tell they were vegan! And I mean that as a compliment! 

And this wasn't the only recipe I plan to make. The book is full of really great looking cakes, cupcakes, tray bakes and savoury treats to make. 

Definitely not just for vegans!! 

Monday 18 February 2013

Butter v Stork challenge

I was watching Food and Drink last week with Mary Berry and Michel Roux Jr and the question - what makes a better cake, Butter or Stork - came up again. They tasted two cakes made to Mary's recipe one made using butter, the other with Stork and all three testers preferred the taste of the Stork cake.

As well as shocking me, this got me thinking that over the years I've always argued that butter is always better....but is it?

The Butter v Stork baking challenge was conceived.

I'm arranging an event in London (venue to be confirmed) hopefully in March. I'm aiming for a Monday (hopefully evening) so people can bake on the Sunday when they have no work. This is where you can help - we'll need a few bakers to bake cakes as I cannot bake them all myself. No fancy baking is required - just basic good old fashioned cakes - two of each, one with butter, one with Stork. Once we have the bakers decided we can arrange what butter to use (I think it's best we all used the same butter) and what cakes to bake. Obviously we can do cupcakes or cakes - this can all be decided once we have more info.

We will obviously also need some taste testers.

If you are interested please get in touch via email, Twitter (@annecupcake) or leaving a comment below.

And thanks to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for putting me in touch with people on Twitter who are aiming to help out with venues.

Please get involved so we can finally answer this very important question once and for all.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Wedding anniversary at Peggy Porschen's Parlour

Halloween was our 11th wedding anniversary and of course we needed cake and where better than my favourite cake parlour in London - Peggy Porschen. If people ask where to go for tea and cake in London I always suggest Peggy's - who can fail to fall in love with such a beautiful pink parlour? This is the colour everything in my house would be if Manny would allow it! 

We opted for a cupcake each - Manny going for Chocolate Heaven and I opted for Sticky Toffee - one of their range I've wanted to try for some time. 

Manny's Chocolate Heaven cake was delicious. I'm sometimes put off chocolate cake by bad frosting - this one was as light as a feather. As was the cake.

My Sticky Toffee one was fabulous. The addition of walnuts was a little strange at first but I think it added some good texture to the cake. Again the frosting was divine.

When we finished Manny went and got the Halloween special - a pumpkin and cream cheese cupcake which we shared while finishing our coffees. I'm not that fond of pumpkin - sometimes I find it makes me gag - but this one was lovely. And the cream cheese frosting was again lovely. The cake itself was heavily spiced which I really liked. 

We left clutching two take away cupcakes (I know we're fatties but we just couldn't resist), for our trip around Brompton Cemetery where we snuggled, fed squirrels and crows, and had a lovely day. There are no photos of the second lot of cupcakes alas as when we were taking some photographs in the Cemetery I put the cakes down and the box blew over. We still ate them obviously! Manny had a Black Forest and I had a Banoffee - Manny loved his (I tried a bit and it was really flavoursome), however my Banoffee wasn't my favourite cupcake ever I have to admit - the banana flavour wasn't that strong but it was moist and fresh so better than a lot of cupcakes I've had previously. 

The perfect anniversary day out in London. 

Monday 8 October 2012

Review of the Cake and Bake show and Cake International ticket giveaway

Manny's beautifully decorated cupcake

Snappy title - huh?

A couple of weeks have now passed since the first Cake and Bake show in London's Earl's Court. Before the event social media was awash with excitement about it, after the event a little less so with more moaning about crowds, lack of loos etc. 

We went along on the Saturday afternoon, already bored with the amount of Tweets proclaiming 'I'm in the press office' from bloggers keen to let us know they were, well in the press office. Yawn. I lost a few Twitter followers for pointing out that covering an event by constantly tweeting 'I'm in the press office' was a little boring. Oh dear. 

Also being tweeted were horrendous pics of queues and lots of issues about crowds.  Yes, the venue was too small and very shoddy looking (I believe it's going to be demolished soon?) and yes there were too many people trying to look at too few stalls BUT the main problem wasn't any fault of the organisers but the fault of the people attending - lack of manners mainly. The organisers didn't make the lady next to us during Mich Turners excellent demo talk loudly and hit several people with her giant fake Cath Kidston bag while insisting loudly 'take my pic with this baking woman'. They didn't make people push in on queues, or nearly knock others of their feet while they were paying/looking at stalls. I'm a big girl and I was nearly knocked off my feet by some rude woman while I was paying for some purchases as she just HAD to get to the front of the stall. Seriously what happened to having some manners? The same thing happened at Cake International - rudeness appears to be an epidemic amongst those who like baking. They should eat some cake and chill out a bit. I was also appalled to read on Twitter on Sunday that people were stealing unattended goodies bags which were being sold to raise money for charity. For the love of god -what kind of people are these? Possibly the kind who looked horrified at tattooed people being at the Cake and Bake show - who knows. 

My main gripe re the organisers were a complete lack of anywhere to actually eat cakes or bakes. Surely this kind of event was calling out for an afternoon tea area or similar. The cupcakes/cakes on offer were not the enticing - some looked like small children had decorated them so we gave them a miss. Manny did however eat a couple of brownies and loved them and I took a pandan cupcake home which was lovely. 

The other main problem in my opinion was the cake decorating area. We went there so Manny could decorate a cupcake. I was APPALLED at the state of the cupcakes they were selling for £2 to decorate - more so when I found out a professional baker had made them. Seriously Cake and Bake next year get in touch - I could churn out better looking vanilla cupcakes in my sleep. Manny at least had fun decorating - and he's in his 40s so it wasn't an issue telling him the cake wasn't fit for human consumption, but good luck trying to tell kids they couldn't eat the cake that felt like it was weeks old as the mothers next to us had to do. 

I did manage to brave the pushing crowds to buy a few good things including a lovely Kozial cake stand that I've been after for ages for the bargain price of £15 from a company called Baker and Maker. I also got some lovely straws from them.  Other purchases included some chocolate moulds, chocolate transfer sheets and some other little bits to play around with. The scrum around areas like Peggy Porschen's stall was too much to bear so if I want anything I'll just go to her store and enjoy a civilised cup of tea and cake at the same time. 

If you fancy attending a similar event, hopefully without hoards of elbowing women I have two tickets to Cake International in Birmingham from the 9-11 November to give away. The tickets can be used for any of the days. To enter please leave a comment below saying what you would like to see at the Cake and Bake show, or Cake International. Giveaway closes on the 15th October and is for show tickets only - does not include travel. 

Monday 20 August 2012

Holy Fuckcakes

If you're reading this from  London and are a fan of street food then I'm sure you'll need no introduction to Holy Fuck hot sauce, the infamous hot sauce made by the Ribman.

What you may not know is that this sauce is now available baked into a cake.

Two weeks ago Kaelie from Sweet Tooth Factory made some Holy Fuckcakes to celebrate the Ribman's birthday and sold some at Street Feast. After reading about them on Twitter how could I resist?

We bought three cupcakes from the lovely Kaelie - Manny nearly exploded with excitement when he saw the triple chocolate ganache cupcake so obviously we had to get one of those, and I opted for a salted caramel cupcake. If it'd been up to Manny we'd have bought all the flavours. And cheesecake.

We sat down with a Brown Betty of tea and got to scoffing. I didn't have much time to take pics, and it was dark so please accept my apologies for the pics - they don't do the cakes justice.

First up was the chocolate ganache. Oh. My. God. I'm not usually a fan of very chocolate'y cupcakes but this was really tasty. Well the bit I got to try was - Manny wolfed it down superfast. And the ganache frosting was amazing. I may have to kidnap Kaelie till she tells me her secret!

The salted caramel cupcake was really nice. I never used to like salted caramel but since working in the bakery and making salted caramel goodies I now love it, and this one was good, with really lovely salted caramel sauce oozing out from under the delicious frosting.

And finally, the Holy Fuck cupcake - aka the Holy Fuckcake.

On first bite, I thought 'oh it's not that spicy' and then ....oh my....the heat HIT. Wow these cakes were hot! And tasty. Very very tasty. A total hit!

They were such a success at Street Feast Kaelie has now added them to her cupcake menu so if you want to try them make sure you follow her on Twitter to find out where she's selling them. Next time I visit I shall be buying all her cheesecakes!

On a non cake point we tried The Ribman's Holy Mother of God sauce - bejesus that stuff is EAR BURNING.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Brighton

The third and final part of my recent travels takes us to the lovely coastal town of Brighton. I know not quite as glamorous as Paris but I love Brighton.

Alas I did not love their cakes - this final part is the 'downright ugly' of the trilogy.

I had wanted to visit Choccywoccydoodah for years. Every time we went to Brighton we seemed to get swayed by other things - usually the pub - however we finally made it on Valentines day this year. I really wished I hadn't bothered.

First we visited the chocolate store.

The cakes in the window were amazing and the shop has some lovely things in it but I'm afraid I find myself unable to justify paying £20 for a chocolate kitten or a tenner for a pair of chocolate lips. I actually toyed with buying a small cake but decided to go to the Bar du Chocolat first. Thank f**k I did.

I'd read online about the intimate boudoir where sumptuous hot chocolate is served - however when walking in we were faced with a modern looking cafe which smelt a lot of cheese and oil. We were shown to the back room, aka the boudoir, which was very cramped and rather shabby.

We ordered their luxury (sumptuous?) hot chocolate and some cakes; a chocolate coconut cupcake for me and for Manny lemon cake as strangely they had no chocolate cake available. Not a great start for a chocolate cafe.

Our hot chocolate was ok - nothing luxury or sumptuous about it though. It tasted less chocolate'y than a Starbucks hot chocolate, was covered in masses of cream and contained a LOT of really cheap tasting marshmallows which added nothing to it at all and made it all gloopy. If I was to guess I'd say no real chocolate was involved in the making of this hot chocolate. It tasted like it was from a packet. My home made hot chocolate is nicer than this and, even using expensive chocolate, cheaper.

Manny liked his cake with ice cream. I tried some and it was quite nice, nothing spectacular.

My cupcake was in fact a cake covered in melted chocolate with some dessicated coconut on top. The cake itself was rock hard and tasted of nothing. The chocolate was hard and rather unpleasant. But nothing was unpleasant as taking a bite and finding....a hair. A longish curly hair that did not belong to me.


Now normally I would've pointed this out to staff, however we had a charming couple and their children squashed into the area next to us - he was threatening to beat the crap out of her for not eating any of their, frankly disgusting looking Rocky Road, and being incredibly unpleasant to the staff who were young and I felt had enough on their plate. However I did email Choccywoccydodah afterwards and tell them I was disappointed to find hair in their cakes and mention how old/stale the cakes were but received no response.

Next time I'm in Brighton I'll stick to the pub.

Monday 9 April 2012

I Heart Cupcakes on Tour - Athens

 This is part two of my three part series about my recent travels - aka 'the bad'.

A few days before we boarded the Eurostar to Paris for my 40th birthday we flew to Athens for Up the Hammers festival as Manny was playing there and as I'd never been to Greece I decided to tag along.

I was not a fan of Athens on arrival, mainly because we were staying in an area labelled the 'Greek Camden' which I can only say looked more like the Greek version of downtown Basra after a raid by lots of junkie prostitutes. Our hotel was lovely but the area outside it was not.

However the rest of Athens was lovely. The people on the whole were amazingly friendly, the food was good when we found it (our area was very much in the recession hit part - everything was closed apart from several toilet seat stores - Greeks must go through a LOT of loo seats) and the sights were amazing. Standing on top of Lycavittos Hill or the Acropolis just takes your breath away. The stunning beauty of it is awe inspiring. And how can I not love somewhere where trees with juicy ripe citrus fruit are everywhere!

It was near Lycavittos Hill we chanced upon Cake.

Their selection of cake was quite disappointing if I'm honest. Chocolate, vanilla and red velvet ALL with incredibly bright frosting - all vanilla frosting as far as we could ascertain.

 Tasting them helped in no way decipher what flavour the frosting was. We are still trying to decide what the fuck it was made out of. I'm pretty certain it was NOT butter based that's for sure, and if it was,  butter in Greece is not something I'd ever wish to try again. In trying to decide what it was I had to eat a few bites and the only thing I've ever put in my mouth of a similar taste and texture was play-doh. I am about 90% sure it's made of some kind of edible modelling clay. Oh and dear god the cake was dry and tasted of absolutely nothing. Just air and dryness, oh and a sweaty stickyness that was not pleasant. Even Manny couldn't eat more than a bite of his 'chocolate' one. It was one of those instances when we had to immediately brush our teeth after tasting these. Vile is the only way I can describe it. And wrong. Ok that's two ways.

I kinda smooshed about with the 'frosting' to try and show the texture but I'm not sure it comes across in the photo - it was totally mouldable - just like play-doh. I honestly think I ate play-doh.

I said to Manny we should move to Athens and open a cupcake shop immediately in Athens as this place has several locations - imagine how nice tasty cupcakes with actual flavour and buttercream would be received!!

To make up for the vile cupcakes I had to share the best food we ate while there - pork chops and Greek salad from Telis in an area that was described by our cab driver along the lines of 'very dangerous, you may die'. It was a little run down, with police everywhere but the chops and wonderfully fresh Greek salad made up for it. And the staff were lovely and friendly and no-one tried to kill us so..bonus.

And some amazing Gelato pre the walk up the Acropolis on a hot Saturday afternoon!

Finally, we had some lovely macarons in Costa  - I know, I know another chain but we needed a sit down and some coffee!