Thursday, 22 December 2016

Mistletoe and Wine Bundt Cake

Mistletoe and Wine Bundt Cake
Before we get going, no, I am not a fan of Cliff. Quite the opposite in fact! This was a cakey challenge by my friend Anna. I saw her challenge, and raised her Mistletoe and Wine cake with a gilded framed picture of Sir Cliff himself. I was sick of standard Christmas cake toppers; who needs another plastic Santa hey?

This cake is actually Prosecco flavoured, and I kept the mistletoe to the decoration, seeing as it's highly poisonous. That would be a proper festive ruiner! I added a bit of ginger to warm things up, and covered the whole thing in white chocolate. I even added a little yuletide green ribbon to the inside of the cake; a nice little trick which will make folk think you're really clever, when actually it's very easy.

Ingredients
    Mistletoe and Wine Bundt Cake
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 100g of vegetable fat 
  • 550g golden caster sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 250ml Prosecco (or lemonade)
  • Green food colouring gel
  • 1 jar of white chocolate spread
  • Choice of decorations. I used Lindor white chocolate balls, mistletoe tinsel, a mistletoe tree decoration, a smattering of green glitter, and Cliff Richard in a gold frame. Obviously. (Cliff in a frame optional).

Method
  1. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch). I used the Nordic Ware Kugelhopf.
  2. Soften the butter and vegetable fat and then cream in the sugar in stages.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time on a slow setting.
  4. Add all the remaining dry ingredients to a large bowl.
  5. Add the vanilla extract to the Prosecco.
  6. Sift in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the liquid. Repeat until all the flour and liquid is used up. Fold it in gently...
  7. Tip: at this stage it will look a shocking festive mess. Do not worry... 
  8. Give the whole thing a quick mix for about 10 seconds or until well combined. Magic.
  9. Put five 5 heaped tablespoons of the mix into a different bowl, and dye green, 
  10. Half fill the tin with the standard coloured mix.
  11. Spoon your green mix over the top and smooth out.
  12. Cover with the remaining standard mix. 
  13. Bake at gas 3/160 C for about an hour and a half. Just turn it after about an hour.
  14. It should be shrinking from the sides and a skewer should come out clean.
  15. Let it cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn it out. 
  16. Allow to cool fully before icing. 
  17. Warm the chocolate spread in the microwave until it's runny, then pour over the cake. 
  18. Decorate with Mistletoe decorations, but not the real stuff - it's not your friend! 
Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Selection Box Bundt Cake

Selection Box Bundt Cake
I was having a bit of a week. On the upside, I hadn't killed anyone, not got myself in a whole world of trouble, and not got sacked. Cash back. Cue my crackers friend Anna; she of ace Swedish accent, lilac hair, and madness that would rival the proverbial box of frogs. I adore her. She rocked up at my desk with gift in hand, 'Clive' etched on the wrapping paper (don't ask).  

Inside was one of the best items I have ever seen. Not for those who are easily offended, but it made me laugh - lots, and aloud. Multiple times. Er, see below...

I decided the only way to reciprocate such finery was to prove that she very much falls into the opposite category, so she was getting a bundt! Had to be a selection box bundt. She has two little boys and a husband who would help to devour such an item too. A moist, fudgy cake, topped with more chocolate, and Cadbury's finest Freddo's, amongst other items. Not just for Christmas...

Ingredients:
    Selection Box Bundt Cake
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 50g good quality cocoa powder - I used Green and Blacks
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml vanilla yoghurt with chocolate flecks - I used Muller Light
  • 100ml chocolate milk
  • 150g chocolate chips 
  • 2 heaped tbsp chocolate spread
  • 1 jar of chocolate spread (minus the above mentioned spoonfuls)
  • Lots of chocolate bars, coins, buttons etc. More the merrier. 

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray/melted butter and dust with flour with a little cocoa mixed in.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Pour the yoghurt and chocolate milk into a jug.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt mix. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  9. Stir in the chocolate spread and chocolate chips.
  10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
  12. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  13. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  14. When the cake is fully cool, pop the chocolate spread into a jug and heat in the microwave to loosen it. Tip over your cake.
  15. Now throw as many chocolate bars, coins etc at the cake as you see fit. Literally if you wish. 

Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page.

Baileys Yule Log

Baileys Yule Log
Challenge set. Baileys/cake interface. The challenger... Statuo and Prestige Drinks, the baker... well, me, obviously. Last year my friend Tash bought me this beautiful Nordic Ware Yule Log tin, which has lay dormant for 12 months, until this weekend!

I had a plan. A vision. A Baileys infused chocolate cake; moist, almost fudgy, smothered in chocolate and with a little glitz on top. I detest playing with sugar paste, so I utilised the tin to make imprints of the pretty holly leaves, and put as much Bailey's in as I dared, without it being an utter wreck!

The verdict? Very happy campers at Statuo today. Cake demolished! I'll chalk that one up as a success then.

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 50g good quality cocoa powder - I used Green and Blacks
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml vanilla yoghurt with chocolate flecks - I used Muller Light
  • 100ml Baileys
  • 150g chocolate chips 
  • 2 heaped tbsp chocolate spread
  • 1 jar of chocolate spread (minus the above mentioned spoonfuls)
  • Sugar paste - red and green
  • Glitter. If you're feeling glitzy.

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray/melted butter and dust with flour with a little cocoa mixed in.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Add the vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Pour the yoghurt and Baileys into a jug.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt mix. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  9. Stir in the chocolate spread and chocolate chips.
  10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
  12. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  13. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  14. When the cake is fully cool, pop the chocolate spread into a jug and heat in the microwave to loosen it. Tip over your cake.
  15. Make your berries and leaves from the sugar paste, and dip in the glitter. Pop on your log and off you trot!

Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Pecan Pie Bundt Cake

Pecan Pie Bundt Cake
Hate Christmas cake? Sick of your mum serving up a chunk of Christmas pud that will keep Gaviscon in business until Boxing Day 2017? Or perhaps you've been challenged to making dessert, and are feeling a little under pressure... Worry not my friends, for I am here to help you out of this Yuletide predicament. I have a few options up my glittery sleeve.

Cake challenges are the best, especially when you're being hugely indecisive when faced with many options. Homepride saw my festive predicament, and set a Facebook poll to see what you Christmassy little lot were fancying. The options were:
  • Hot chocolate bundt with toasted marshmallows
  • Pecan pie bundt
  • Snowball bundt

I really wasn't sure which would be most popular, as they're all crowd pleasing flavours over the festive season, and looking at the results, it was very close indeed! But here we have it, in its very own 'Bundt Chart'. The pecan pie won your vote, so get baking...
Pecan Pie Bundt Cake
The combination of the dark sugars, toffee yoghurt and syrup go perfectly with the nutty pecan flavour. Eaten cold it's a beautifully moist cake, best served with thick vanilla cream, but it can quickly be turned into a pudding by warming it slightly and serving with ice cream or custard. Likewise, it can be eaten directly from the cake carrier, with your hands, when no-one is looking. I checked. 
Pecan Pie Bundt Cake
    For the full details, please pop over to the Homepride website! Recipe coming soon... 

    Saturday, 17 December 2016

    Snowball Bundt Cake

    It's festive cake time! I love it too much... what I dislike is having to go to work, do shopping, be a grown up, and anything else which stops me from just staying at home and baking.

    This week I was off to the hairdressers to see my long suffering colourist, Aimee. She's the little beaut responsible for my ever changing, technicoloured barnet. As a little thank you, I decided to make her a bundt of her very own. With all the booze, shimmer and glitter, this was the perfect cake for a glamourous girl.

    I'm a big fan of the decoration reflecting what's in the cake, so my Snowball flavoured cake had to be a snowy scene, complete with its own Snowman. I know it's in your head now too. Sorry.

    I wanted the cake to be light and zesty, but with a real warming kick from the booze, so the sponge itself is laced with Advocaat and lemon, whilst the frosting is made with lemonade and vodka. An actual Snowball drink, in a cake. Well paint me red and call me Mrs Claus, this is one festive little bundt!

    Cake:
    • 225g butter
    • 450g golden caster sugar
    • 4 medium eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 350g Homepride plain flour
    • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 250ml lemon yoghurt
    • 100ml Advocaat
    • Zest of 1 lemon

    Topping:
    • 300g icing sugar
    • a good splash of vodka
    • Enough lemonade to make a runny icing
    • Gold cake glitter (optional)
    • Anything remotely snow-like which is edible! 

    Method:
    1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
    2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with melted butter and dust with flour.
    3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
    4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
    5. Stir in the vanilla extract.
    6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
    7. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and add the Advocaat and lemon zest.
    8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
    9. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
    10. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
    11. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
    12. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
    13. When completely cool, mix the icing sugar with a good splash of vodka and enough lemonade to make a runny icing.
    14. Tip it over your cake like you just necked the rest of the vodka - gravity id your friend here!
    15. Decorate with all the snow related edible stuff that the shops have to offer. More is more here. Tis the season.  

    Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page.

    Friday, 9 December 2016

    Hot Chocolate Bundt Cake with Toasted Marshmallows

    Hot Chocolate Bundt Cake with Toasted Marshmallows
    I had the urge to bake. It was cold, a bit drizzly, and I needed to make something comforting. Granted, I wouldn't be eating it as I'm mid-way through the Body Coach 90 Day SSS (more on that later), but the act of baking provides some joy to my sugar starved routine.

    This one's been in the arsenal for a while now, and a dismal Sunday was the perfect time to crack it open. Imagine this... a super-moist chocolate cake, drizzled in molten chocolate, and topped with sticky little pillows of joy. I had you at chocolate, didn't I?

    I sent this one to the Statuo lot, as I already knew I could never be trusted in its presence. Enjoy this one with a big mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream, or a lovely cup of tea. Fluffy socks and dressing gown optional, but advised.

     Ingredients:
      Hot Chocolate Bundt Cake with Toasted Marshmallows
    • 225g butter
    • 450g golden caster sugar
    • 4 medium eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 300g plain flour
    • 50g good quality cocoa powder - I used Green and Blacks
    • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 200ml vanilla yoghurt with chocolate flecks - I used Muller Light
    • 75ml chocolate milk
    • 150g chocolate chips 
    • 1 heaped tbsp chocolate spread
    • 1 jar of chocolate spread (minus the above mentioned spoonful)
    • Large marshmallows

    Method:
    1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
    2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray/melted butter and dust with flour with a little cocoa mixed in.
    3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
    4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
    5. Add the vanilla extract.
    6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
    7. Pour the yoghurt and chocolate milk into a jug.
    8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt mix. Repeat this until everything is combined.
    9. Stir in the chocolate spread.
    10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
    11. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
    12. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
    13. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
    14. When the cake is fully cool, pop the chocolate spread into a jug and heat in the microwave to loosen it. Tip over your cake.
    15. Toast your marshmallows on a foil lined baking sheet under the grill, and pop on top when cooled.
    Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page.

    The best ever festive roasties

    Roast potatoes
    It's lunchtime on Friday 9th December, and I've already had one Christmas Dinner so far this month. I feel it's my duty to cane as many of these as I can over the festive period, for when they are gone, they are gone. At the heart of this glorious meal is the golden, fat seared roast potato, which is nowhere to be seen on my Body Coach eating plan. When they're good, they are a thing of joy, but get a bad one, and that culprit will be on the naughty list for the rest of eternity (or until they make better ones). 

    United Utilities are asking us foodie folk to spare a thought for their amazing teams who de-gunk our water pipes this Christmas. Did you know that the average North West household pours 14Ibs of fat, oils and grease down the drain in a year. Across the region, this equates to 2.9 million stone - the weight of over 243,000 UK adults (more than the population of Oldham!). Disgusting! 

    You might not have realised that United Utilities have to attend over 53,000 call-outs to pipe blockages every year at a cost of £20 million. That's caused by folk tipping fat down their drains.

    What can I do instead?
    • Pop it back in the container when cool, and chuck it in the bin.
    • Goose and duck fat can actually be reused a few times too!
    • Use lighter cooking methods where possible. I only ever use coconut oil to fry things other than roasties. No excess means no waste. You might lose a few pounds too...

    ‘My Roastie Photie’ - #binfat2winthat

    United Utilities is launching the ‘My Roastie Photie’ competition, asking people to post a photo of their perfectly cooked roast potato with the hashtag #binfat2winthat – giving five people the chance to bag £100 of food vouchers. SO SHOW ME YOUR ROASTIES!

    Get them shared, and say hello to those fat clearing heroes at United Utilities on Facebook or Twitter

    So here's my offering. The best roasties in the west, in my opinion anyway!

    Ingredients
    • 1.5 kilos of Maris Piper potatoes
    • 320g jar of duck fat (I used the M&S one)
    • 1.5 tbsp semolina powder
    • Maldon sea salt

    Method
    1. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Cut diagonally in order to maximise the exposed surface area. This means more crispiness! Give them a wash in a colander before putting in the pan.
    2. Preheat the oven to 'Hades' level. The hotter the better! Place the shelf on the top rung of the 'middle' section. 
    3. Pour the whole tub of duck fat into a large, heavy bottomed roasting tin and place in the oven.
    4. Pop the spuds into cold, salted water and bring to a simmer. Parboil for 5 minutes. 
    5. Drain and then put back in the pan. 
    6. Sprinkle in the semolina.
    7. Right. Muscles needed folks. Start chuffing! Shake that pan like you're in a pan shaking competition! You're also burning a few calories, so you don't need to feel bad about the amount you will eat later... The edges should be all fluffy (see above).
    8. Your duck fat should be bubbling nicely in the oven. Remove the roasting tray and put onto the hob. BE CAREFUL! It's hotter than hell fire!
    9. Working quickly, place the potatoes into the bubbling fat. Do not tip them from the pan. You will regret this on your way to A&E. I generally do it carefully by hand so I can do a few at a time, but I would recommend using cooking tongs.
    10. Back in the oven sharpish!
    11. Cook for 30 minutes.
    12. Turn using tongs.
    13. Back in for 30 minutes.
    14. Turn using tongs.
    15. You are looking for a nice golden brown colour all over (see above). They will probably need at least another 20 minutes, but unlike baking this is no exact science. Take them out when they are done!
    16. Remove from the hot fat using tongs and into a large ovenproof bowl lined with kitchen roll.
    17. Dab any excess fat with more kitchen roll. Remove all said kitchen roll.
    18. Sprinkle with about 1 tsp of Maldon sea salt.

    I generally then leave these in the bottom of a medium oven whilst I cook my veggies and carve the meat. This gives them an extra bit of crispy wonderfulness.


    Saturday, 19 November 2016

    Mulled Cider Bundt Cake

    Mulled Cider Bundt Cake
    It was my daddy's birthday this week. He's the only person I know who could out-cake me, if push came to shove. Saying that, I have two sets of cake eating genes, as my grandad on my mum's side is a world class cake eater too. To celebrate our John's birthday, I always make a cake; something warming, without it being too 'spicy'. I should note here that my dad thinks pepper is spicy. Hold the ginger. 

    Earlier that week I'd been daydreaming about what to make. I'd convinced myself that the day had come where I had genuinely run out of ideas. After a brief mental brainstorming session, I decided it just had to be mulled cider. It's so 'Autumn/Winter Collection' I could burst. Baked on National Bundt Day, it had to be the Golden Crown bundt tin to celebrate Nordic Ware turning 70.

    For the past couple of weeks I have been on the Body Coach plan, which involves lots of muscle building food, which is rigidly prescribed. Baking this cake nearly killed me dead. The aroma in our house was off the scale! If I could bottle it I'd make my fortune, and my friend Vicki would be bankrupt. Nothing beats a spicy bundt baking long and low.

    My dad absolutely loved it, and promptly sent a slab to my grandad for testing!

    Cake:
      Mulled Cider Bundt Cake
    • 225g butter
    • 450g golden caster sugar
    • 4 medium eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 350g Homepride plain flour
    • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 250ml Toffee Apple yoghurt - I used Onken. Vanilla will do if you can't find it.
    • 100ml good old fashioned cider - the strong stuff! Save the rest for the icing.

    Topping:
    • 300g icing sugar
    • More cider 
    • Crystallised apple
    • Gold cake glitter (optional)

    Method:
    Mulled Cider Bundt Cake
    My dad with his cake
    1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
    2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with melted butter and dust with flour.
    3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
    4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
    5. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices.
    6. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and add the cider and vanilla extract.
    7. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
    8. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
    9. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
    10. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
    11. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
    12. When completely cool, mix the icing sugar with enough cider to make a very runny icing. You want it to be quite sheer on the cake.
    13. Tip it over your cake and let it drip down the cake. 
    14. Decorate with chunks of crystallised apple and a little gold glitter if you're feeling fancy. I was.  

    Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page.

    Tuesday, 25 October 2016

    Halloween Cocktails

    Halloween Cocktails
    So when thebar.com challenged me to create a cake recipe based on one of their cocktails, I jumped at the chance. I thrive on a challenge, and absolutely love Halloween, so this combo was perfect. Some of my favourite recipes recently have been my take on classic drinks, and they always seem to go down well with my tame tribe of cake testers.
    Halloween Cocktails
    They gave me a list to pick from, all of which sounded right up my street to be honest, but I changed my mind on the last minute from a Zombie bundt to a Smirnoff Ghoul's Goblet. The ingredients in this drink lend themselves perfectly to a delicious cake. Vodka and ginger with a citrus twist are my idea of cocktail perfection. 

    If you want to make the drink version, I've added a link to the recipe above, however if you would rather stuff your face with cake, follow this instead... (my personal recommendation would be to do both). This recipe is the right size for a standard bundt tin, or two 2lb loaf tins, however I urge you to find one of the spooky options out there like my 3D skull tin! These are available from Nordicware. 

    Ingredients
      Halloween Cocktails
    • 225g unsalted butter
    • 100g of vegetable fat 
    • 650g golden caster sugar
    • 6 medium eggs
    • 450g plain flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3 tsp ground ginger
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • Zest of half an orange
    • 200ml Schweppes ginger ale
    • 50ml Smirnoff vodka
    • 5 tbsp shredless marmalade
    • Jelly worms, snakes or laces to decorate - the choice is yours!

    Method
    1. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch - or see options explained above).
    2. Soften the butter and vegetable fat and then cream in the sugar in stages.
    3. Add the eggs one at a time on a slow setting.
    4. Add all the remaining dry ingredients to a large bowl.
    5. Add the zests and the vodka to the ginger ale, and give it a good stir.
    6. Sift in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the liquid. Repeat until all the flour and liquid is used up. Fold it in gently...
    7. Tip: at this stage it will look like death. Breathe... it will all magically work when whizzed up.
    8. Give the whole thing a quick mix for about 10 seconds or until well combined. It will no longer look like a zombie threw it up.
    9. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and give it a good whack on the worktop. Because the cake has fizzy stuff in, it will hold a lot of air bubbles. Too many may mean the tin design is lost.
    10. Bake at gas 3/160 C for about 2 hours. Just turn it after about an hour and a half.
    11. It should be shrinking from the sides and a skewer should come out clean.
    12. Let it cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn it out. 
    13. Allow to cool fully before glazing. 
    14. To make the glaze, warm the marmalade in the microwave until runny - keep an eye on it though, and do not touch it! It'll be hotter than hell... Brush it over your cake for a lovely orange flavoured glaze.
    15. Surround your creation with as many jelly worms, fake bats, top hats or spiders as you see fit. 

    Disclaimer: This post was written in conjunction with thebar.com.

    Monday, 24 October 2016

    Review: VonShef Stand Mixer

    Domu
    I was recently approached by Domu.co.uk to review one of their VonShef stand mixers. It's like they had hard my recent conversations... A friend and I were discussing the astronomical cost of stand mixers after her sister-in-law's bit the dust, prematurely. Just like its competitors, this one is available in a range of different colours (11 to be precise), and follows the same format of multiple attachments, variable speeds and a whole lot of power. So I put it through its paces.
    VonChef Stand Mixer
    Before we start, here are some mixer facts for you:
      VonChef Stand Mixer
    • 1200W motor and planetary action. 
    • 6 Speed Settings and Pulse Function
    • Chrome dough hook - for mixing dough and heavier cake mixes.
    • Silicone flat scraper beater - for whisking egg whites, creaming butter and sugar, mixing lighter cake mixes and ensuring ingredients don’t stick to the bowl.
    • Chrome balloon whisk - for cream, egg whites and light batters.
    • Splash guard which fits around the bowl.
    • 5.5l stainless steel mixing bowl (2kg max. mixture preparation and 5 litre liquid capacity). 
    • Silicone lid and a dust cover with storage pocket to keep the stand mixer protected when it’s not in use.
    • Non-slip rubber feet to stop it moving when in use.
    The dial and locking mechanism feel sturdy, and I particularly liked the fact that you can either pick a speed setting by number, or by selecting 'flour', 'egg' or 'P' for pulse. These illuminate when selected, and show which beaters may be used. I loved the little suckers on the base of the mixer, which prevent any unwanted movement, therefore making it safer too. The only obvious difference in build quality is the outer casing is made from heavy plastic rather than metal, but so is the Kenwood Titanium Chef. In terms of beating, it's not too loud, and has enough power to beat you butter and sugar into a fluffy mix in minutes.

    A little while back, I did a comparison of the two most popular mixers amongst my baking pals (see the full article here). I've done a quick comparison for you below. As much as I love my pink Kitchenaid (incidentally, the VonShef is available in baby pink too), I have to say that I would think twice about spending £400 on another, when there are such cost effective alternatives. 

    Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer
    • Power 300W
    • Capacity 4.83 litres
    • Dimensions 35.3 x 22.1 x 35.8
    • Guarantee 5 years
    • Price £399.99 RRP
    Kenwood Titanium Chef
    • Power 1400W
    • Capacity 4.6 litres
    • Dimensions 29.7 x 22.7 x 40.0
    • Guarantee 5 years
    • Price £649.99 RRP
    VonChef Stand Mixer
    • Power 1200W
    • Capacity 5.5 litres
    • Dimensions 39 x 35 x 19 cm
    • Guarantee 2 years
    • Price £114.99 RRP
    I'd definitely recommend this mixer based on my own experience. It's about time there was a more cost effective, yet stylish alternative.

    See the mixer on the Domu website here.

    Disclaimer: I was sent a mixer to review. I was not asked to write a positive review - Domu were interested in my honest feedback. 

    Thursday, 13 October 2016

    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester

    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester

    I've been a bit of a fan of Scene since I first visited back in May last year. Lee and I had been shopping and ordered so much food that it would have easily fed four. Last December we went en masse for our work Christmas Do, and once again, ate so much food that we had to call it a night at about 10pm, declaring ourselves too full for cocktails.

    A couple of weeks ago I was invited to go and try out their new superfoods menu, which was created by executive chef Sudesh Singh and celebrity Nutritional Biochemist, Jeannette Jackson. Both were on hand to explain the menu, and how it had been developed. These new offerings promise 'a special focus on superfoods and healthy eating to nourish the mind, body and soul'. Let's see what they've got then.

    First up was the obligatory poppadoms and dabba. I'm not sure how they fit into the superfood category, but they were very welcome all the same. We were starved.
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Carrot and coriander soup: This soup was gorgeous, but gee whiz, it blew our heads off. All memories of the chilly walk from Deansgate train station were blown away after a mouth full of this. The general consensus was that everyone enjoyed it, but perhaps a little less heat next time. We ate it all though...
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Chicken 65, Lucknowi chicken wing and paneer pakora: A nice little selection of starters, my favourite being the paneer, although again, I'm not sure how much of a superfood fried cheese is. 
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Potato and mint chaat: Loved this dish. Just look at it, I couldn't wait to dig in. Lots of protein in the chickpeas, bursting with colour and a subtle minty flavour in the potato chaat.
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Mirchi pakora: One of my favourites. A green pepper filled with 'Scene's special stuffing'. I have no idea what this was, I just know that I liked it.
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Spiced grilled chicken, and kale & beetroot with spiced orange: This chicken was fantastic. Really nice depth of flavour and still very moist. Luckily for me, it seems someone forgot to add the beetroot (mortal enemy) to the salad. Bonus!
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Chicken biryani: My absolute favourite dish. I love a good biryani. Mix this with the daal and scoop it up with that soft nan bread. Heaven.
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Nan: So simple, yet often got so wrong. This was perfect, soft and fluffy, and warm from the tandoor.
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    Daal Punjabi: Very popular on our table, this one. My mouth is watering remembering how well this went with the two dishes above. I could eat this every day. At least once.
    Scene Indian Street Kitchen, Manchester
    It was quite a long evening, and not a natural way to try the dishes to be honest, however, we enjoyed everything we ate. There's quite some competition in Manchester now in the realms of Indian food, so it's interesting that Scene are trying to appeal to a different market. Healthy isn't a word that I would have associated with Indian street food before, so I'll be interested to see how this one pans out. I can imagine it would be more popular with people ordering tiffin for lunch, rather than those wanting a sit down meal, but it's great to have a healthy option available too.

    Disclaimer: This was a press evening run by Scene. We were given samples of the food from the new menu, and were asked for our honest opinion throughout the evening. 

    Chaophraya, Manchester

    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Chaophraya seems to have been around forever, and was certainly part of the Manchester dining scene long before the Northern Quarter got its facelift, and Spinningfields was even a glint in Tim Bacon's eye. I think it got a little lost in the 'foodie' (hate that word) explosion that happened after around 2011, when names like Solita and Southern Eleven started to dominate Manchester dining, everyone wanted either burgers or pulled pork, and a tribe of bloggers began to emerge from their back bedrooms (guilty). Fine dining was dying off in favour of 'down with the kids' pop ups, no booking policies, and restaurant Twitter banter. There they stayed, quietly waiting, dormant. 

    I'm only a recent convert to Thai food, but I'm now fully embracing it. I think my first experience was some dodgy gaff in Bolton where the staff were rude, and the other diners were ruder still. That ended badly. Chaophraya's a world away from that terrible night. We were greeted like friends when we arrived, despite never having set foot in the place before. It certainly has a wow factor, the large doors concealing a beautiful reception area which is not visible from the street. 

    Our welcome included introductions to the front of house team, Thai crackers with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, and some beautiful cocktails.

    Temple of Dawn -  smoked, Whitley Neil gin, cherry marnier, almond, maraschino, lemon (bottom)
    Rubies and Diamonds -  Pama pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice, Pinot Grigio (top)
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Whist we waited for our starters, one of the managers came over to explain how the new menu had been created, including many trips to Thailand, of which I was immensely jealous.

    Mushroom tom-kha soup (Tom-kha het) -  An aromatic Thai soup with enoki and shimeji mushrooms with galangal, lemongrass, chilli and kafir lime leaves: One of the stand out dishes of the evening for both of us. If you're not a mushroom fan, worry not, as this is very delicate, and tastes nothing like your standard fungus.
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Steamed dumplings (Ka Nom Jeeb) - Assorted prawn and pork dumplings steamed and topped with fried garlic and a sweet soy sauce: I love dumplings. Despite the fact I used to hate prawns with a passion, these have become one of my favourite Thai dishes. They add a delicate sweetness which works fanatically with the salty soy sauce.
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Thai chicken tacos (Taco Gai) -  Red curried chicken finished off with coconut milk and served over lightly pan-seared rice flour tacos: Yes, they're very pretty, but they also taste remarkable. They are just like the Mexican kind, only with the signature Thai flavours you would expect. Loved these.
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Massaman lamb curry (Massaman Gaeh) - Pieces of tender lamb stewed with massaman curry, coconut milk, carrots, potatoes and baby onions, topped with cashew nuts: Massaman curries are one of my new favourites because of the sweet cashews. This was a lovely, fragrant curry, but it was a little overshadowed by the other main we ordered.
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Chamber aged sirloin steak (Nua Sirloin Yang) -  8oz sirloin steak cooked at your table on a Himalayan rock salt block. Served with a tangy chilli dip alongside stir-fried shimeji mushrooms, onions and Bok choy: Seared on the outside before it's brought to the table, the steak is then finished off Raclette style on a hot block of pink Himalayan salt. I like my steak really rare, so this did not take long at all! I like a bit of theatre with my food.
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Sides - sugar snap pas, mushrooms and tenderstem broccoli and sticky rice: I adore the crunchy vegetables served with Thai food, and the fact they aways add red chilli, which is either sweet or will blow your head off; you never quite know which one you'll get! Sticky rice is the only type I ever order because I love it so much. This was slightly overdone and was a little hard in places, but they were forgiven, because strangely, I quite liked it.
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    Desserts don't generally appear to be the strong point in Asian cuisine. I'm thinking Funky Pie at every local Indian I've ever been to, or basic 'three scoops of ice cream' at some Thai places. No, no my friends. The desserts we had at Chaophraya were some of the best I've had in Manchester.

    Mango meringue roll - A light Alphonso mango and passion fruit meringue roll served with Thai Mango and roasted almonds and lightly caramelised strawberries: So delicate, every flavour and texture were considered, and presentation was just perfect. The tang in that mango with the sweet meringue was heaven. I just need a Viennetta sized portion.
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    White chocolate box - White chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis on butter shortbread served with a mini macaron and passion fruit syrup: I love white chocolate, some say a little too much. So many elements, which were just perfection. A chewy macaron, that shortbread concealed beneath that moulded chocolate, and the tiny leaves placed 'just so'. Who knew?
    Chaophraya, Manchester
    What a wonderful evening we had at Chaophraya. Not only were we treated to the most fantastic of feasts, but I can't leave you without mentioning quite how lovely the staff were too. Our waitress was very sweet, and described every element in painstaking detail, despite struggling with her English a little (I can't speak a work of Thai so she immediately put me to shame), and one of the front of house chaps was keen to tell me what to try next time, with such infectious enthusiasm, that I'm already looking forward to our return. Go to Chaophraya for a real treat.

    Disclaimer: I was invited to Chaophraya to sample their new menu. I was not asked to rave about their roulade, or indeed get so excited when my food came served with flowers. Excitement - blogger's own.

    Wednesday, 12 October 2016

    Nonsense, Prestwich

    Nonsense, Prestwich
    I'd heard a lot about this little place. One of my work buddies had been telling me all about it, so I was dying to see for myself. Nestled in the heart of Prestwich, Nonsense is one of the new kids on the block, who promise to revive Bury New Road. Although there are a number of established eateries nearby (notably Slattery, Cuckoo, All the Shapes and Solita), at first glance, I think Nonsense might be doing something a little bit different.

    Owners Alex and Jeanette are having a bash at living the dream; running their own business, where they can bring the kids to work, doing something they both love. Alex appears to be running the coffee house side of proceedings, whereas Jeanette is busy creating pieces of art to sell in the shop at the front.
    Nonsense, Prestwich
    Photo credit: Renata Stonyte
    We were lucky enough to visit on a rare sunny day, which flooded the shop with natural light. Seems to me like they love cacti at Nonsense, which I have to admit, I became a little fascinated with whilst perusing the goods. It's filled with bizarre magazines, quirky jewellery and the kind of items I suddenly have the urge to buy for no specific reason. We absolutely loved the little pots some of the cacti were housed in, which appeared to be painted by hand.
    Nonsense, Prestwich
    Nonsense, Prestwich
    Nonsense, Prestwich
    At the back of the building there are two smaller rooms. The first has a larger table with a chalkboard wall, which was a huge hit with the kids (reminds self never to let husband within a meter of this - cannot be trusted to play nice), and then a quieter room behind it. Families seem to gravitate towards the larger of the two, whilst the room we settled in was full of people just like us, enjoying a brew and having a natter.

    Despite being in a coffee house, neither of us are huge coffee drinkers, but it did smell outstanding. Alex promised me I would not be considered a heathen for snubbing it! Now I've seen at least one leaf on the ground, I am in full autumnal swing, therefore it had to be chai for me. No dusty teabags here. I was presented with a glass mug full of boiling water and a small strainer packed with loose-leaf tea. It's also worth mentioning that for those less adventurous tea drinkers, they have Yorkshire Tea! King of the standard tea bag in my humble opinion. Lee opted for the cutest can of coke I have ever seen, in fact, she had two.
    Nonsense, Prestwich
    Although Nonsense don't do food as such, they do offer a lovely array of simple snacks, but the kind that go perfectly with the drinks they offer. There were a number of bakes to choose from, including a rather interesting looking brownie, but I was sold on sourdough toast when I heard that legendary bread-makers Trove were supplying the goods.
    Nonsense, Prestwich
    No exaggeration, best toast in the west - possibly beyond. Simplicity at its very finest if you ask me; soft bread with tonnes of flavour, a firm crust, salted butter, and jam the WI would fawn over. Loved it. I'm as confident as I can be that I could snaffle two rounds with ease (then followed by a little whinge about my own gluttony perhaps).

    It's early days for Nonsense, but it's looking very promising indeed. Space is somewhat limited, but in the future I'd like to see a slight expansion of the food on offer, perhaps bagels or crumpets, and a wider range of baked goods. However, they seem to be achieving what they have set out to do. When I visited, the gift shop was buzzing, and the seated areas were full of families and friends having a chilled Saturday afternoon. Plus, what's more inspirational than a family quitting everything to follow their dream? Good luck to them.

    Disclaimer: The folk at Nonsense had no idea I was visiting to complete a review, and I paid for our refreshments. They have not asked me to say nice things about their cacti, and my toast received no special treatment. 
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