Saturday 26 October 2013

Voodoo 'Dolly' Bundt Cake

Voodoo 'Dolly' Bundt Cake
I set the theme for cake club every month, but I never have a cake in mind before I do. I really don't make my life easy, do I?! This month I invited my colleagues to join us for our 'Something wicked this way comes' event as part of the Whitworth's Great Office Bake Off. Whitworths kindly offered to donate £200 to our office fundraiser if we encouraged folk to bake. Not a problem!

Earlier this year, a dear friend of ours lost her baby boy Charlie and nearly her own life too. The care she received from the Royal Bolton Hospital meant that she's here with us today. We have already raised over £2500 for the Women's Health Unit at the hospital by running a bake sale, a raffle with the most fantastic prizes, and oh yeah... my friend Gemma hurled herself off a 160ft crane.

Funnily enough, I got my inspiration from a packet of Whitworth's sugar! There he was. A little gingerbread chap on my demerara. I have a wonderful festive Nordic Ware gingerbread tin... I was going to make that happy little fellow into a monster! My husband suggested I make a voodoo doll, and since I am 'Dolly', it had to be a voodoo dolly!
Whitworths Sugar
This recipe would work just as well for a festive cake, as it's nice and spicy. Just don't stick pins in him. Or cover him in fake blood. Bob's your uncle. 

  • 225g unsalted butter - softened
  • 350g fine caster sugar
  • 100g fine demerara sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 350g plain flour
  • 6 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml low fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • Bits and bobs to decorate - depending on if your fella is going to look evil or not!

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 C
  2. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch. My gingerbread tin is a 6 cup one, so I put the remainder in a mini gingerbread bundt tin. You could use a muffin tin.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Add the extracts.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices.
  7. Pour the yogurt and syrup into a jug, and mix well.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yogurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. Don't over mix - it will be as tough as old boots.
  9. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  10. Pour into the prepared tin.
  11. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. It should be shrinking from the sides of the tin slightly.
  12. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin. 
  13. I decorated my voodoo dolly by making accessories out of coloured sugar paste, attached with a little glacé icing made from icing sugar mixed with water. I made the 'pins' out of cocktail sticks covered in edible silver spray topped with a little red sugar paste. Job's a good 'un.

If you fancy doing your own bake off, visit the #GOBO Facebook app, download the toolkit, have a butcher's at the Whitworths For Baking website, or tweet them @WhitworthsSugar. Please use the hashtag #GOBO so we can see them all!

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Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Something wicked this way comes...

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
It was rather fitting really. Our club was struck down with something wicked.... lurgy! This month's theme was 'something wicked this way comes'. Halloween is a bit of a favourite of ours, but unfortunately we had quite a few poorly members today. However, as always there was a fine turnout of ghoulish creations and devilishly delectable cakes.

We went back to our friends at Delicieux in Bolton, who as always were fantastic hosts who like to pop up to see what's going on!

We had ten cakes, including:
  • Devil's Food Cake
  • Slime Pie Cake
  • Trick or Treat from the Black Forest Cake
  • Voodoo Dolly Cake
  • Ghostly Carrot Cake
  • Devil Ghoul Cake
  • Toffee Web Cheesecake
  • Ugly Rose Cake
  • Evil Edna Cake
  • Giant Spider Cake
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Something wicked this way comes...

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Something wicked this way comes...

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Something wicked this way comes...

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Something wicked this way comes...

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Something wicked this way comes...
Thanks to everyone who came - you more than made up for our fallen soldiers! There were severe cake aches before home time, and take home troughs were full of weird and wonderful creations...

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Friday 25 October 2013

A Gift from Thorntons

Thornton's Christmas Hero Competition
A few weeks ago I was contacted by the lovely folk at Thorntons to see if I would like to play a bit of chocolate secret Santa. They asked if I knew of a special someone who might deserve a box of treats...
Only one lady came to mind - my pal Gemma. Last Sunday she faced her fear and chucked herself off a 160ft crane over the freezing Salford Docks to raise money for Bolton Hospital's Women's Health Unit. She was utterly terrified, dangling in a cage before leaping off in front of a crowd of her friends and family. 

This was all in aid of our Charlie's Angels fundraiser. Earlier this year a dear friend of ours tragically lost her baby boy Charlie, and almost lost her own life too. The Royal Bolton Hospital's Women's Health Unit not only saved Debbie's life, but supported her family through the most difficult time they could ever imagine. 

As soon as Gemma heard we were running a fundraiser for the hospital, she offered her services without hesitation. Through Gemma's jump, an amazing bake sale and star studded raffle, we have raised over £2500 for the unit. Debbie's brother and sisters raised an additional £1000 by completing the three peaks challenge. 

I could not think of a person more deserving than Gemma. Enjoy!
Thornton's Christmas Hero Competition
Read more about Debbie's story here.

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Disclosure: I'm taking part in the Thorntons Christmas hero competition

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Testing a Tassimo

This week I have been testing out the Tassimo Joy coffee machine. Years ago my mum bought this huge coffee contraption that took up half of our kitchen, and I had a huge cappuccino before school very day... yes, I was hyper until about 11am! Tassimo are a far cry from the clunky machine we had back in the 90s. I've loved the range since staying over at the Hand and Flowers in Marlow - we were wired by the time we came to eat our dinner because we had been sampling the different types of coffee on offer in our room. 

The machine I received was a nice slinky black number, but also comes in red and white. It's really easy to use too; you just fill it up with water, pop a pod in the front and off you go. In just a few minutes I had a fresh cup of coffee - you just wait for the light to stop flashing. If you want to use tall cup, the base comes away to allow more room. It was nice and clean too: just remove the pod and whizz in the bin.
Tassimo Joy
My husband likes quite strong coffee, so I bought the Kenco Pure Columbian pods, but there are lots of others available in the supermarket. These were £3.89 from Tesco, which works out at around 25p per cup.Tassimo Joy

The technical bit...

  • Espresso, cappuccino and latte.
  • Pod coffee option.
  • 1300 watts.
  • 3.3 bar pump pressure.
  • Incorporated crema device.
  • Water capacity 1.5 litres.
  • Water level gauge.
  • Transparent removable water tank.
  • Adjustable cup stand.
  • Removable drip-tray.
  • Auto shut-off.
  • Descale warning.
  • Self cleaning system.
  • Dishwasher safe parts.
  • Size H28.9, W22.9, D31.8cm.
  • EAN: 4242002734200.
  • Manufacturer's 2 year guarantee

I can't see myself using this every day, as lets face it, popping the kettle on is much cheaper and easier. However, this is ideal for lazy weekend mornings or for small offices. I imagine this will get lots of use over the festive period too...

Disclaimer: This post is in association with Argos. Click here for more Tassimo coffee machines. 

Saturday 19 October 2013

Restaurant Story, London

Restaurant Story, London
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

The critics are loving Restaurant Story, the bloggers are going in droves and young chef Tom Sellers is making waves. Sellers has some impressive establishments on his CV, including New York's Per Se and former world number one, Noma. But what I love the most about this young chap's vision, is that his present and future are firmly rooted in his past. Memories of his happy times drive the menu, and create yours. Restaurant Story, London
My husband has been itching to go here for months, so on a drizzly day in September we made our way towards London Bridge, not sure what to expect. The building is a simple structure of wood and glass with an interior to match. It has a distinctly modern Scandinavian feel but nods towards our English heritage with pewter style jugs and aged copies of literary favourites holding the menus. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, but I still had the excitement that comes with knowing you are about to receive something spectacular. 

The menu is in tasting form, with the option to do either six or ten courses. We opted for the six course, as the additional dishes were mainly fish or beetroot, neither of which float my boat. 
Restaurant Story, London - Menu
The back of the menus are illustrated with curious pen and ink drawings of animals. I was particularly fond of our little otter in chef's whites. Or maybe he was a weasel. Hard to tell.
Restaurant Story, London - Menu
Our waitress explained that at Restaurant Story they like to bring some smaller items to enjoy before your tasting menu begins - absolutely fine by us! There were six in total, which made our £55 tasting menu even better value for money.

Cod skin with cod roe purée and carrot tops: Despite the fact I'm not a fish fan (they can breathe underwater you know!?), I always try it if it's put in front of me. This was one of those occasions where I was pleasantly surprised. The cod skin was crisp and actually quite sweet, and the roe puree gave a nice salty contrast.
Restaurant Story, London - Cod Skin
Nasturtium with oyster purée and breadcrumbs: It's recommended that this is eaten in one bite so you get a good mix. Flavours are quite subtle, but this is all about the texture.
Restaurant Story, London - Nasturtium
Radish with seaweed butter: I find radishes a bit hard work, but stuffing them with seaweed butter alleviates this problem. This wasn't too salty as I imagined, it was actually verging on sweet.
Restaurant Story, London - Radish
Storeo cookies - squid ink biscuit with smoked eel filling and vinegar powder: This was a beautiful dish. The biscuits had a lovely crisp texture and the eel filling was almost mousse-like. When eaten together they were rather moreish indeed.
Restaurant Story, London - Storeo
English corn barbecued, with corn custard: One of my favourite dishes of the day. Crisp edges on the corn and that delicious corn custard... I could eat it every day of my life.
Restaurant Story, London - BBQ Corn
Welsh rarebit/rabbit: Rabbit is mortal enemy number one - not rabbits themselves, but eating them. The staff were just lovely about this and so made me a mini rarebit instead. Nice touch. All the components of the classic dish were broken down then put back together once eaten.
Restaurant Story, London - Welsh rarebit
Bread and dripping: God I'm a sucker for a clever gimmick. Dripping candle? Yes! How very Harry Potter of you. Bread wrapped in a purple leather pouch, dripping and a pot of meat, jelly and cabbage. Simple yet majorly effective.
Restaurant Story, London - Bread and Dripping
Onion and English plum: What a pretty dish this was. I loved the charred bits of onion, which were lolling along in the sweetest onion consommé, and perched on plum purée.
Restaurant Story, London - Onion and English Plum
Heritage potato, turnip and coal: We were told that these spuds were grown in chalk soil in a climate similar to that in the Champagne region, just to get the right taste. For a humble potato dish, this creamy little number was an absolute masterpiece. I could have eaten a full bowl.
Restaurant Story, London - Heritage Potato
Wild duck, apple and bilberry: Before we received our potato dish, we were shown the duck whilst it was still being smoked in its stock pot. It was sat on a bed of hay, surrounded by fresh herbs and berries. It smelled divine. It was later presented with fresh leaves and a thick bilberry sauce. Real autumnal food.
Restaurant Story, London - Wild Duck
Brie with black truffle and wild forrest chutney: This was an extra course we chose before desserts. This beautifully gloppy cheese had a layer of black truffle running through the middle, and came with a small pot of wild fruit chutney and fruit bread.
Restaurant Story, London - Cheese
Almond and dill: By far the best course of the meal. Sweet almond with a slight bite, and fresh dill served with cold ice cream. It was out of this world.
Restaurant Story, London - Almond and Dill
Wild berries, chocolate and buttermilk: For those of you familiar with Aussie Crunch, yes, the base did taste a little like it but without the coconut. The addition of berries and that fresh sorbet was just a stroke of genius.
Restaurant Story, London - Wild berries
Tea cakes with rosemary and jasmine: It's genuinely upsetting how good these were. The shortbread base was thin and crisp, the fragrant marshmallow was gooey and the chocolate cold with a good bite to it. If M&S did these I'd be in trouble.
Restaurant Story, London - Teacakes
Plum purée with goat's milk foam: Although I loved the presentation, this was the only course I wasn't really fond of, but that was personal preference. I found the goat's milk quite strong against the sweet plums. No complaints from my husband who polished both.
Restaurant Story, London - Plum Purée
Tea and coffee: Nicely presented and provided a much needed shot of caffeine before we departed.
Restaurant Story, London - Tea and Coffee
Restaurant Story invite you to leave a book behind, so they can collect memories from their customers. We left a copy of the Plague by Albert Camus - I'm not sure what they made of that! I just couldn't bare to leave Harry Potter...

Despite its bustling location, Restaurant Story is a little oasis of calm. If it had been a book, it would perhaps be an Enid Blyton novel: written with memories of childhood, the hope of something magical, with a little bit of adventure thrown in for good measure.

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Thursday 17 October 2013

Nordic Ware National Bundt Day 2013 - Giveaway!

Nordic Ware National Bundt Day 2013
My name is Rachel and I am a Bundt-o-holic. My house is full of bundt pans. They take up most of my kitchen, my dining room and much to my husband's delight, they now also reside in his study. 

If you've never baked a bundt before, now is the time to have a bash. They are the ultimate friendship cake because they are large enough to share, and cut into lovely uniform pieces. They're moist, have a wonderful sugar crust, and come in an array of flavours and shapes. I make a bundt every month for my Clandestine Cake Club, and over the past couple of years have coached probably hundreds of you to make the perfect bundt. 
Nordic Ware National Bundt Day 2013
If you fancy having a go, perfecting your skills or trying a new recipe, there are lots of hints and tips on my Bundts on the Brain page, including my Build-a-Bundt recipe creator.

Now then, it's that time of year... National Bundt Day is nearly here! On 15th November 2013 the UK will celebrate its first official National Bundt Day. This is something that has been celebrated in the US for a few years, so it's time we got a slice of the action. Some of you may remember I flew the flag for the UK last year, but this year Nordic Ware have recognised that we deserve our very own celebrations on this side of the Pond. 
Nordic Ware National Bundt Day 2013
And boy do I have a treat for my little band of bundt bakers! Not only do I want you to share your bundts in a very special Nordic Ware Linky, but I have the best competition ever. Ever.

Nordic Ware National Bundt Day Giveaway

I have a pack of Nordic Ware goodies to give away worth over £130! The pack includes:
  • Bavaria Bundt Tin - a full sized, beautifully fluted tin
  • Cake Lifter - perfect for manoeuvring bundts 
  • Bundt Thermometer - never wonder when it's done...
  • Cake Pops Pan - perfect for making goodies with the kiddies
  • Bundt Cupcake Pan - teatime treats in bitesized morsels
  • Mini Pie Pan - perfect pies in individual size...
Yes, it is an absolute corker, and could all be yours by entering by National Bundt Day giveaway below. Easy peasy.

Nordic Ware Prize

How to Enter 

  • Simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below.
  • To be in with a chance of winning you must complete ALL the mandatory fields, and then can move onto the additional entries if you want to increase your chances of winning.
  • All entries will be checked and verified before a winner is announced.
  • You can increase your chances of winning by Tweeting on a daily basis.
  • Rafflecopter will pick a random winner.
  • The competition runs until midnight on 30th November 2013.
  • Please see the Terms and Conditions on the Rafflecopter widget for the rules and more information.

Please feel free to share this giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Show us your bundts...

We would also love to see your own creations using Nordic Ware Bundt pans. Why not show off your bundts using the Linky tool below?

  • If you're a blogger, please link back to this page to spread the word.
  • If you don't have a blog, you can link up pics from your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest or Instagram by right hand clicking on the picture and selecting Image URL. Just paste it into the Linky.

Need help or advice? Just ask...

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Wednesday 16 October 2013

Trove, Levenshulme

Trove, Levenshulme
A few weeks ago my blogging amigo, Mr Hoss sent me a picture of a familiar looking cake. It was round with a hole in the middle 'like a polo' (he knows no better bless him). I knew any baker of bundts was a friend of mine. Trove went onto 'the list'. 

Fast forward... My husband was spending the day in Manchester with some mates, and if I stayed at home, would have been hutch-bound and one very grumpy Dolly. That's when it came to me... I would get on the train with him, but go on a daring expedition... I am not a fan of dining alone, but I was willing to make an exception - they had cake dammit!

Three trains later, I found myself in sunny Levenshulme. A five minute walk from the train station lies Trove; a little haven on a bustling road full of odd shops and people driving too quickly. It feels a little out of place, but as soon as you step inside you are transported to the type of establishment you may expect of Chorlton or Didsbury. Is this a sign that Levenshulme is next for the cool kids...? I've heard their market is a bit of a corker too. 
Trove, Levenshulme
There are no overbuttered teacakes or greasy fry-ups here. Trove pride themselves on homemade bread, organic jams and fresh cakes. Although I was starved, the warm waft of fresh bread made me want something on a white bloomer. 

Apple and rhubarb juice: an absolute bargain at £1.40 for a decent sized carafe. This was mind boggling stuff! Sweet, tangy and very refreshing. No juice will ever taste as good again. They also had fresh cherry juice too, which I was strangely intrigued by, but in my haste forgot to order later on. Buffoon. 
Trove, Levenshulme - juice
Mellow cheddar with red onion marmalade and thyme: I'll be honest with you. When this rocked up with quinoa, I was a bit put out. Trust me - this works. The bloomer was soft with a chewy crust, the cheese generous and creamy, and lashing of home made onion marmalade did the trick. However, the star of the show was the cinnamon quinoa with dried fruit and toasted almonds. Gee whizz this combo is outstanding.
Trove, Levenshulme - sandwich
Hot chocolate: I saw someone else having a hot drink with a van on it... I wanted one too... Any establishment that puts a van on their drinks shall be considered friends.
Trove, Levenshulme - hot chocolate
Blackberry financier: I was giddy as a kipper when I saw these. My all time favourite dessert was a financier. I'm a sucker for anything with a ground almond base: that sticky top, soft crumb and moist finish. Pop fruit in it and you're onto a winner. I prevented myself from buying more to take home. I pined for them all evening.
Trove, Levenshulme - financier
I adored Trove. I loved the people, the window seat where I could watch the world go by, the fact they served cinnamon based grains with my sandwich and of course the wonderful choice of cakes. Trove is a happy little shop full of happy people.

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