Day Out At Barton Arcade

Day Out At Barton Arcade

I’ve recently join a blogger collective in Manchester called We Blog Mcr and they let me know about an opportunity to spend the day at Barton Arcade checking out the different shops, eateries and hairdressers located there and getting the word out about it. I was really excited to get involved as I’d been to Barton Arcade briefly once or twice, but never fully explored it. It’s located in a Victorian Grade II listed building on Deansgate in Manchester city centre. The building has a glass and iron domed ceiling so lots of natural light gets in and it’s a very unique and beautiful place.

I met the other bloggers taking part in the Six and Flow offices, they are a digital marketing agency that organised the day and also a popular meeting spot for the We Blog Mcr events. The other bloggers were Eleanor Graceful, Smile At Style, Holly Goes Lightly and My Big Fit Diary.

We started the day at PKB Coffee where we sampled some of their dishes. They are a cafe serving breakfast lunch and cocktails, and of course great coffee! Their brunch menu offers up choices such a N’Duja Baked Eggs, Coconut Porridge and Blueberry Cheesecake French Toast (pictured). The food was all beautifully presented and tasted divine. Filled with wooden benches and exposed pipes it’s casual dining with a trendy feel.

We then went for a wander around some of the retailers located in Barton Arcade. There is a barbers called Barber Barber, who have caused controversy by only allowing men through the door. All of the barbers were dressed in Hawaiian shirts and some sported very well manicured moustaches. Jeffery West sells men’s shoes, they have everything from smart work and dress shoes to more eccentric and colourful options. Jill Black is a women’s clothing store, great for a rummage through the racks and vintage finds.

Then it was lunch time! We headed to Lunya which is a Catalonion deli, restaurant and bar. I’m a huge tapas fan so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the restaurant was here as I’d never heard of it before. I enjoyed a very tasty lunch of tortilla, patatas bravas with aoili and tomato sauce, and the house salad with soft boiled egg. Everything looked fresh and tasted so good and the portions were very generous.

After lunch it was time to get pampered at Too Funky Hair. The salon is much bigger than it looks from the outside and they have colour specialists and a beauty therapist too. I was taken upstairs for my wash and blow dry. I find getting my hair cut quite stressful, so being able to just go for a blow dry where my hair was only being washed and styled made the experience fun and relaxing for me.

Getting your hair washed at the hairdressers is never usually a comfortable experience what with having to stretch your neck back over the sinks, but the chairs at Too Funky Hair were brilliant and so relaxing to sit in, you can even put your feet up! I had my hair curled by one of their friendly stylists and I absolutely loved the final look!

 

We ended the day at Be At One, a cocktail bar underneath Barton Arcade. Again this was a new discovery for me. It was very stylish and funky inside and offered a wide array of cocktail options, which we all happily sampled! They even do a Kinder Bueno Cocktail – dessert and drinks in one! I had such a great day at Barton Arcade and I’ll certainly be going back for more delicious food and relaxing experiences.

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Book review and giveaway!

Book review and giveaway!

I recently received three exciting new recipe books from Ryland Peter & Small, who publish books about the greatest pleasures in life such as art, food and crafts – as mine is all things baking I was happy to receive three books all about cakes and desserts! I’ve reviewed the books and tried recipes from each one, and at the end of this post I am running a giveaway so one lucky reader can win a copy of each book!

Miracle Mug Cakes and Other Cheat’s Bakes by Suzy Pelta is all about that moment late at night when you just need cake! The recipes are easy to whip up in minutes, satisfy a variety of cravings from chocolate to cookies, and many of them don’t even need a set of scales. You might know the author, Suzy Pelta as she was the winner of ITV1’s Lorraine’s Cake Club Competition in 2012. She’s a regular at The Cake & Bake Show and BBC Good Food Shows.

I made this Peanut Butter & Nutella Cake (apologies for the bad lighting but I was having one of those late night cake craving moments I mentioned earlier, so there was no time to wait for natural light!) and it took a few minutes to throw together and less than two minutes to bake in the microwave. I had all the ingredients already in my cupboard so I could get that cake craving I needed with minimum effort involved. The sponge was soft and tasty, and there was a pool of warm Nutella and peanut butter at the bottom, it was also massive and very filling.

My favourite of the three books and the one most suited to my style of baking is Lola’s A Cake Journey Around The World. The book is separated by continent and then there are recipes for each country. There’s such a huge variety of cakes in here, some I had heard of and some I hadn’t. This would be a great book to read before a Great British Bake Off technical challenge!

I was immediately drawn to this Sticky Orange & Almond Cake from Spain, it involved boiling whole oranges and the pureeing them – which smelt amazing! The cake was gluten free too as ground almonds were used instead of flour. The recipe was so easy to follow with a yummy result.

I also made this Amarula Cake from South Africa. Amarula is a spirit made from the fruit of the African marula tree, then it’s mixed with cream and sugar. If you like Baileys you will most likely enjoy this drink! The cake was a fabulous chocolate sponge, soaked in Amarula and decorated with caramel and whipped cream. I was in cake heaven!

The third book is called Japanese Patisserie and the author is James Campbell who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and now works for Marks & Spencer product development. The creations in this book are very high end and absolutely stunning to look at. It’s definitely one for those people that are interested in experimenting with their baking and challenging themselves. Although there are lots of more complex and impressive recipes, there are also simpler yet still impressive options to start you off such as madelines and scones.

If you enjoy Asian cuisine you will have heard of most of the ingredients in the book, such as yuzu, miso and matcha, but they have been fused with western recipes to create elegant and stunning desserts. I always wanted to try yuzu so I tracked some down at the Chinese supermarket, you can also get it in Waitrose and online. I made a yuzu and lemon meringue tart recipe from the book which was absolutely delicious.

If you would like to be in with the chance to win a copy of each of the books I’ve reviewed in this post, enter by using the Rafflecopter below – good luck!

NB. I received the books to review free of charge, all opinions are my own. Competition is open to UK residents only. The winner of the competition will receive one copy of each recipe book featured in this blog post.
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BBC Good Food Show Winter 2016

BBC Good Food Show Winter 2016

It’s been a foodie filled month for me with The Cake & Bake Show a couple of weeks ago and then this weekend I headed to Birmingham for the BBC Good Food Show Winter. This place is foodie paradise with stalls filled with every type of food and drink you can think of, thankfully the show lasts for three days so you are rich with time to explore every inch and every food sample! There’s also lots of celebrity chef demos with the likes of Mary Berry, The Hairy Bikers and Michael Roux Jr. to name a few. I spent a Saturday there with my friend Sophie and this is what we got up to…

We got straight onto the gin when we arrived and Edinburgh Gin is a brand I’m familiar with as I’ve purchased their Raspberry Liquor for my boyfriend before so I wanted Sophie to try their wares as she is a gin lover. She was certainly impressed and left with a bottle of their Christmas Gin.

Next we spotted Seeds of Change‘s stand where they were giving out sample pots of their spinach pasta with tomato and basil sauce, it was really yummy and they gave me some vouchers to get money off my next purchase of their organic food. I also got a couple of packets of basil seeds from them which I am looking forward to growing!

Bahlsen make my favourite biscuits – Choco Leibniz – but I didn’t know about all of the other products they make such as Lebkuchen, the classic German Christmas biscuits which I’m also a huge fan of.

We must’ve walked past the Jazz Apples stand at least three times and couldn’t resist grabbing a slice of juicy crisp apple each time. On our final visit we finally bought some apples!

One of the great things about the BBC Good Food Show is all of the show bargains on offer. For example Wyke Farms were selling 4 different blocks of cheese along with a block of butter, and either the mug or the bag pictured, for only £10! Such a bargain considering one block of cheese is around £3 in the supermarket.

I love sweet potato crisps but I’ve only ever seen salted ones in the shops, so I was excited to see that Glen of Antrim have created mutiple flavours including the irish whiskey and salt & vinegar flavours pictured. They also had cheese & onion and chilli.

I tried some Salted Caramel Vodka from I Heart Vodka and it was deliciously sweet. Certainly one for any fellow sweet tooths out there!

Frobishers had some delicious cordials which they’ve just recently added to their range. I tried the Sloe & Raspberry and the Lemon & Mint and really enjoyed them both. They are available in Waitrose.

We went to watched Mary Berry do a Q&A on the Lakeland Good Food Stage. She was interviewed all about her Christmas food plans and she revealed that she is going to do a TV programme next year where she goes to stately homes around the country to look behind the scenes and meet the families that live there, I can’t wait to watch it!

Mary Berry has a new range of kitchenware which is absolutely gorgeous, I love the pastel colours and grey details. This is definitely going on my Christmas list!

We headed to the Super Theatre to watch Paul Hollywood do a demo of a dessert called kransekage, which is a tower of marzipan rings sandwiched together with chocolate. He was chatty and open with the audience about The Great British Bake Off and his other plans for TV shows next year.

An audience member got up on stage wearing this apron and the camera man wore one too! It was very funny but Paul was not impressed!

This was the final product!

The Renshaw Academy were also on site at the show holding classes to teach you how to work with sugarpaste and maybe even make a masterpiece like this one day!

 

I adore maple syrup and I grabbed two bottles of Pure Maple which is absolutely delicious as well as being completely pure and not mixed with anything else like some other maple syrups are.

We watched Lisa Faulkner, who is an actress that won Celebrity Masterchef in 2010, she made a strawberry milkshake cake and her latest book focuses on family recipes.

We ended the day watching John Whaite, the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2012, demo two recipes from his new book – Perfect Plates In 5 Ingredients. He made a Sweet Potato, Gruyere & Pecan Gratin and a Orange Self Saucing Pudding. Both recipes looked delicious and John really entertained the crowd, everyone was in fits of laughter including myself! We had a great day at The BBC Good Food Show and I’m already looking forward to next year! In the meantime there are the summer shows, check out the BBC Good Food Show website for dates and tickets.

I’m linking this post up with Brilliant Blog Posts hosted by Honest Mum.

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The Cake & Bake Show 2016

The Cake & Bake Show 2016

I recently went to The Cake & Bake Show in association with Argos at Event City in Manchester. It’s the show’s second year at Event City, and also it’s second year of extending it’s run from 3 to 4 days. Last year after a change in event organisers, the show was much smaller and I was a bit disappointed with it. I was very glad to see they have upped their game this year! The place was packed with exhibitors, demo stages and gorgeous cake displays.

I attended the show with my friend Beth and we started our day watching Benjamina demo a Pistachio, Lemon and Cardamom cake on the super theatre stage. I was really excited to see her as she is one of my favourite contestants from this year’s Great British Bake Off. I loved how pretty she made all of her bakes look throughout the show and even working quickly on the demo stage she still pulled off a gorgeous bake!

Benjamina also talked about how she’d love to release a book one day – and I hope she does! She told the crowd how her and the other bakers from this year all have a Whatsapp group and they talk to each other almost every day.

And this was the gorgeous cake that she produced, the recipe for a loaf version of this cake is available on the BBC Food website. To jazz it up like she did, double the recipe, bake it in sandwich tins, and decorate with cream cheese frosting, edible flowers and edible glitter.

We went for a wander round the exhibitor stands. I was really impressed with Mr D’s Pie Machine, how awesome is their stand?! It really stood out and had such a unique look.

The Sunday Girl’s gorgeous retro aprons really caught my eye, plus they even do kids versions – so cute!

 

I couldn’t miss the gigantic potato rostis and potato cakes being sold by the Piece of Cake Bakery, I’m regretting not going back to buy some of these amazing treats!

 

These impeccable cupcakes were on offer from Candy’s Cupcakes and I thought they looked gorgeous.

The Gorgeous Ventures taught me what puff puffs are, and my waistline is not going to thank me! They are an African snack made by deep frying balls of cake dough flavoured with ginger or banana and damn are they good!

I adore Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and their stand was selling packs of 2 half pound cups for only £5! Such a bargain considering I saw them on another stall for £13. They are a limited edition for Christmas and would surely make any Reese’s fan very happy on Christmas day!

I bumped into the lovely Benjamina and had to grab a photo! I was so nervous, but she was lovely and so nice. She is a fellow blogger too, check out her blog Carrot & Crumb.

We wandered over into the Ideal Home Show, which is connected to The Cake & Bake Show and you can access it with the same ticket. We grabbed some lunch from La Raclette, above is Beth’s cheese smothered potatoes with gherkins.

Then we grabbed a warm apple strudel drink from this fab red bus bar. It was a mixture of Malibu, apple juice and cinnamon, and it was delicious. Christmas was in full swing at the Ideal Home Show with twinkling Christmas trees dotted all around.

Back at The Cake & Bake Show super theatre we checked out GBBO 2015 winner Nadia as she made za’tar and lemon palmiers, and coconut macarons. She was very chatty and friendly to the crowd and talked a lot about her children. She also admitted to using ready made puff pastry, which I thought was great as it really is such a time saver.

And the famous Nadia facial expressions were in full swing!

I did a bit of shopping and grabbed these cute gingerbread sprinkles, and some pump action glitter spray from The Cake Decorating Company. I discovered this glitter spray at John Whaite’s Kitchen Cookery School recently and I wanted some straight away. I got it in all three colours (gold, silver and red) as it was 3 for £12!

There was a stunning display of Beatrix Potter characters made from sugarcraft to look at. It was made by The Sugar Chronicles to celebrate 150 years since Beatrix Potter was born.

It really brought back memories from my childhood of reading the books. The Tale of Benjamin Bunny was one of my favourite stories.

The characters were all stunningly recreated in sugar craft and the detail was superb, from the eyelashes on the rabbits, to the tiny woodlice and rocks in the grass around them.

I introduced Beth to Sugar & Crumbs amazing flower nozzles that create the stunning designs above so easily. We watched a demonstration and her mind was blown!

I got some fudge from The Kilted Fudge Company last year and I was back for more this year as their fudge is fantastic! Honestly the best fudge I’ve ever tasted.

There was some amazing competition cakes on display that we gazed in awe at. The theme was fairytales and I also saw several mermaid themed cakes.

The detail on these cakes is so beautiful!

And the day ended with watching Rosemary Schrager and sitting behind these fab four – Val, Rav, Benjamina and Louise from The Great British Bake Off. They are holding my friend Beth’s baby in the above photo! I had such a fun day at the show and it was great to see it back on form after last year’s hiccup. I’m looking forward to next year already!

I’m linking this post up with Brilliant Blog Posts hosted by Honest Mum.

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Bake Box 2 & 3 Unboxing and Giveaway!

Bake Box 2 & 3 Unboxing and Giveaway!
 If you haven’t heard of Bake Box yet then you are missing out! It’s a bi-monthly subscription service for all the baking lovers out there. Once you sign up, every two months you receive a themed box filled with bakeware items, a specialist decorative item and 6 recipe cards to inspire you. I’m such a huge fan of this subscription service as I love the surprise element of it. Every time I’ve received a box I’ve been so excited to see what the theme was and really impressed by what I’ve found inside. If you’d like to check out what I got in box 1, read my previous Bake Box post here.

I’m very excited to announce that I am now a Brand Ambassador for Bake Box, this means I get to share with you what’s inside each new Bake Box as I get them, and what I make using the items inside. I’m combining the unboxing of Boxes 2 & 3 into this blog post and I can’t wait to share with you all the goodies that were inside and the treats that I’ve baked with them so far! There is also a giveaway at the end of this post to win a 6 month subscription of Bake Box so keep reading!

The theme for Box 2 was Springtime In Paris, which I think is such a fantastic theme as I love the French style of baking. Inside the box was:

  • A madeline tray
  • A silicone brush
  • Eiffel tower and cat shaped and embossed cookie cutters
  • A heart shaped macaron mat
  • 2 flower presses
  • 3 tear drop shaped cookie cutters
  • A black decorating pen with edible ink

The Eiffel Tower and cat shaped cookie cutters were so unique and pretty, I was particulary excited to try them out. I thought the silicone brush was especially useful as it can be used for so many different things, and the madeline tray looked like it would create beautifully shell shaped cakes.

There were also 6 Parisian themed recipes inside. Each card has full details on how to make each recipe, step by step instructions and expert tips. The cards also correspond to a different item in the Bake Box, so you immediately have some inspiration to help you use each of your new baking toys.

From Box 2 I made Parisienne Biscuits. The cookie cutters and embossers were really easy to use, the recipe was simple to follow, and I love how pretty the final results are. However I definitely need more practice with the decorating pen!

 

The theme for box 3 was Decorate With Flowers, such a pretty a feminine theme, and inside the box was:

  • A rose shaped silicone cake mould
  • Flower jelly moulds
  • Flower shaped cookie cutters
  • 4 flower shaped plungers
  • A flower decorating template
  • A pie top pastry cut out
  • Pink blush rainbow dust

The rose cake mould immediately stood out for me, I thought it was gorgeous. I also loved the pie top pastry cutter, which I thought could also be used as a template to dust icing sugar over a cake with, and the flower jelly moulds are so beautiful too.

The recipe cards were are floral themed in both flavour and apperance. And just like the box before, each card corresponds to an item in the Bake Box. The recipes are all very detailed, simple to follow, and some of them include expert tips to help you get the best results. They are also all hole punched so you can collect them in a binder.

I made this gorgeous rose cake using the silicone mould from the Decorate With Flowers theme in Box 3. It was easy to make, tasted delicious, and I greased and floured the mould as the recipe card instructed and it came out easily and looked beautiful!

-The giveaway has ended-
 
To win a 6 month subscription to Bake Box, enter using the Rafflecopter below:
 

 

 

NB. I am sent the Bake Boxes free of charge, all opinions are my own.

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10 Foodie Tips for Venice

10 Foodie Tips for Venice
 I’ve recently returned from a short trip to the beautiful and unique city of Venice in Italy. It’s been a dream place of mine to visit for as long as I can remember and I had such an amazing time exploring the city. Of course one of the things I was most excited about was the food! So I wanted to share my foodie tips based on my experience in Venice, and I hope they help you enjoy your trip there too, or even inspire you to visit.

1. Head to a local bakery
Dotted around the city you’re sure to come upon a bakery. Meringues, ‘S’ shaped biscuits, strudels, cakes and macarons line the windows. Head on inside to try the delicious treats. We enjoyed some fresh sugar coated mini donuts with raisins inside that were absolutely scrumptious.

2. Try a Spritz!
You’ll see people drinking this bright orange drink from wine glasses, and it really is the drink of the city. It’s most commonly served with ice and a slice of orange, sometimes you’ll get an olive in it too. The flavour is bitter orange, it reminded me of the cocktail Negroni.

3. Gelato comes in lots of flavours
So try as many as you can! Trust me – it’s worth it. We got a different flavour every time we visited a gelato counter and in 3 days we managed 12 flavours! The scoop size is fairly modest and you’re on holiday so why not! I also saw vegan friendly gelatarias if you don’t eat dairy.

4. Take your time
Meals tend to be eaten later in Venice, for example breakfast in our hotel was served 8 – 12. So take it easy and enjoy a leisurely meal as the Italian tradition is to take your time and really enjoy your food.

5. Eat Seafood
If you eat seafood like I do, then take advantage of how fresh and plentiful the seafood options are in Venice. Every menu I saw was packed with options from the more well known like calamari and lobster, to the more exotic like octopus and squid ink pasta.

6. Avoid the restaurants in Piazza San Marco
During my research for this trip I constantly came across warnings about the restaurants and cafes directly in and around Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). I’ve read stories about being charged for sitting down, and a bill for €100 for 4 coffees! I’ve not experienced anything like this myself, but personally I’d rather not take the risk.

7. Grab a slice…
Of pizza! There are so many toppings to choose from and the slices are reasonably prized and generously sized. It’d be rude not to! We shared a delicious slice of spinach and ricotta pizza for €2.50.

8. Cicchetti
Also known as tapas, this is the Italian version of small bites of food and it’s worth checking out for authentic Venetian flavours. They are also great value for money! We didn’t get a chance to try any as the restaurant we were recommended was so busy people were stood outside on the street eating (a good sign I know, but we wanted to sit down after walking all day), so it’s high on my list for next time.

9. Take it home
The pasta section the supermarket near our hotel was the biggest pasta section I’ve ever seen, and also the most diverse. We grabbed the pasta haul above to take home with us, which includes red wine flavoured pasta and rainbow coloured pasta. I also saw lemon flavour, and orange and paprika flavour pasta. I wish I had a bigger suitcase!

10. Enjoy a drink
Drinking alcohol in Venice is a relatively low cost pursuit, so it was nice to treat ourselves for a few days whilst we were on holiday. I enjoyed a glass of prosecco with a meal for only €2.50 and we found 3 bottles of beer in the supermarket for under €2! When eating cicchetti (see tip 8) you can also often get a deal where a glass of wine is included in the meal price.

And one final bonus tip…
If you go to Venice I highly recommend the hotel we stayed in, Ca Maria Adele, it really was very beautiful and the service was excellent!

Products from Amazon.co.uk

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6 Month Bake Box Subscription Giveaway

6 Month Bake Box Subscription Giveaway

I am so excited about this giveaway! You may have noticed that subscription boxes are all the rage at the moment, I’ve seen them for beauty products, geeky gadgets, weeknight dinners, snacks, alcohol… the list goes on! And now finally I am so pleased that Bake Box has come along for all the bakers out there. And I’m even more pleased that I am offering you the chance to win a 6 month subscription!

Each box has a surprise theme, which I found so fun as I had no idea what to expect when I opened it. It was so exciting discovering what was inside.

As well as the theme, you get 6 recipe cards with each box, 6-8 baking gadgets or tools, 1 decorative ingredient such as food colouring and access to the Bake Box Bake Club!

From the box I chose to make the Fashonista Biscuits. The recipe card was so easy to follow and all the baking gadgets I needed to create the biscuits were included in the box. I used the dress shaped cookie cutter, the circular plunger, and the fondant wheel cutter to shape and decorate the biscuits.

It was perfect timing as I was hosting a clothes swap party that weekend and these colourful dress biscuits went down so well! I used some Renshaw ready to roll fondant that I already had in the cupboard too so I got creative with my dress colours and designs!

I really love Bake Box and I honestly wish I could win this giveaway myself! Well I can’t win it, but you could! Enter using the Raffecopter below…

-Giveaway has finished-

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Little Sins Cupcakery Mix Review

Little Sins Cupcakery Mix Review

I generally don’t like to use cake mixes, but if one takes my fancy I do like to try it out and see what the results bring. I also like to support smaller independent companies because I feel can you trust the quality of their products more. Little Sins Cupcakery is located near Bedford and they sell cupcakes to local residents and businesses. They have launched these mixes to bring a taste of their cupcakes to a wider audience. They currently have four flavour options on offer – Vanilla, Red Velvet, Double Chocolate & Carrot – and they sent me all four to try out.

All of the cupcake mixes come in a cardboard tube which details on it all the ingredients contained, the recipe instructions, and the extra fresh ingredients (butter, eggs etc.) that you’ll need to add. It even details nutritional information and allergy advice, altogether very informative!

Inside each tube I found cupcake cases, bags of ingredients and a recipe card which had all the buttercream options detailed. I liked how the ingredients for the cupcakes were only in one or two bags, so it made it very easy to follow the recipe. The only thing I found problems with were the cupcakes cases. In some of the tubes they were a bit squished.

All of the mixes were very straightforward to follow and I was able to make them all by hand. The vanilla mix involved putting everything in a bowl and mixing together. The carrot mix had some dried carrot in it which had to be rehydrated with boiling water. And the double chocolate mix had chocolate chips which were sprinkled onto the batter before baking. I didn’t get round to trying the red velvet mix for this review and I am saving it for a party I’m having later this month.

In all the mixes I found that there was always excess mixture. With the carrot mix I managed to make 17 cupcakes, and with the chocolate I made 14. For the vanilla I just made quite big cupcakes, but it could’ve stretched to 14 cupcakes too I reckon. This wasn’t a problem necessarily, but if you didn’t have extra cupcakes cases in the house like I do it could be a waste of mixture.

I was really pleased with the results after baking the cupcakes, they all rose very well and baked evenly. As you can see above the squished cupcake cases did cause a bit of an issue, but if you’re just baking these for friends or family I’m sure no one will mind! I was also impressed that the chocolate chips stayed on top of the chocolate cupcakes and didn’t sink.

I decided to decorate all of the cupcakes with my own buttercream recipes, but as I mentioned before the mixes all come with recipe cards for different options. I also added a sprinkle of cinnamon on the carrot cupcakes, some sprinkles on the vanilla and some Dr Oetker chocolate hearts on the chocolate ones.

Now onto the most important bit, the taste! I enjoyed eating all of the cupcakes and I could only tell with the carrot one that it was a mix (although no one else could). I also got fantastic feedback from my colleagues and boyfriend, they had no idea it was from a packet mix and everyone was surprised when I told them. I think these mixes would be a fantastic gift to give to someone who is interested in baking, but is perhaps not very experienced. It would also be a great gift for children as the instructions are easy to follow and I think they would really enjoy making the cupcakes.

If you’re interested in purchasing the mixes or learning more about Little Sins Cupcakery you can check out their Facebook page and their website.

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BBC Good Food Show Winter 2015

BBC Good Food Show Winter 2015
At the end of November I was given some tickets for the BBC Good Food Show by the lovely people at ao.com, I jumped at the chance to visit the show again as I went lasted year and enjoyed wondering around checking out all the different products and of course sampling as much free cheese as possible!

I couldn’t help but be drawn in by this chocolate fountain when we first arrived, doesn’t that liquid layer of chocolate cascading down look so perfectly shiny and delectable? How could you resist indulging!

I passed by Mash Direct‘s stand and with a boyfriend who is not only vegetarian but also one of the biggest mash potato fans I’ve ever met, I couldn’t not stop and purchase some of their products. I bought some champ, potato cakes and vegetable burgers. I prefer to support independent family run companies like this and it’s a bonus to know that all of their food is free from anything artificial, and that it’s cooked and packaged on the same farm it’s grown on.

I was intrigued to try Yorkshire Drizzle‘s products as I am a big fan of dipping bread into oil and vinegar. They had a delicious rosemary oil and cherry balsamic vinegar that I particularly enjoyed sampling.

Hilltop Honey are a brand that I have recently become a big fan of. Ever since my WI bee themed meeting (where I made Honey & Orange Cupcakes) I’ve become more aware of how honey is made and what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. All of Hilltop’s Honey is raw, and it either comes from British bees, or organic European ones. I got the cinnamon infused honey which is amazing! I’ve been enjoying it every morning with my yoghurt.

I’m not a tea drinker myself but I can recognise a tea brand that are going to be a hit! Bluebird Tea make some delicious sounding flavours such as Christmas Cake, Gingerbread Chai and Strawberry Lemonade. They are an independent company and their tea is hand blended in the UK.

So most of my day involved eating cheese samples, which was pretty amazing. I actually ended up buying some cheese from Snowdonia Cheese, but I also had to feature these super cute heart shaped cheeses from Godminster – how adorable! Godminster also make vodka and their cheese is organic.

For lunch we grabbed a sausage butty from Heck. The company is a family business who focus on quality. That is certainly evidenced from their delicious products, and also the giant queue outside their food truck!

I watched Nancy Birtwhistle – the winner of The Great British Bake Off series five – make a Sage & Onion Tart. It looked absolutely delicious! I might try it myself as it’s a very simple and cheap recipe to make. EDIT: Sadly I can’t find her recipe online anymore, but I made a Brie, Leek & Onion Quiche that was inspired by her recipe!

Nancy was fantastic on stage and chatted away comfortably. She also concentrated on passing on her baking tips and tricks, such as using her food processor to make pastry and to roll the pastry out between two cut open freezer bags as they don’t wrinkle up like cling film.

After I watched Nancy I ran into Bake Off series five finalist Richard Burr. I was so excited to meet another Bake Off contestant! I then watched him be interviewed, he talked about his new book and about how he made a cake for a gorilla!

I couldn’t resist some of Joe Delucci‘s gelato. I had a scoop of coconut and a scoop of cookies and cream. They were so creamy and honestly some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted!

I absolutely love Baileys and they had a stand to promote their new cocktail recipe – the flat white martini. It’s a mix of espresso, baileys and vodka. It felt like a sophisticated drink and had a real kick to it!

My last stop of the day was Joe & Seph’s, who make gourmet popcorn. I got the Christmas flavour of mince pie, which is so moreish. All their popcorn is air popped which gives it a lighter flavour. I had such a fun day at the Good Food Show! I came home with a bag full of quality products that I am so excited to start eating my way through. You can see my vlog of the day below.

 

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The Cake & Bake Show 2015

The Cake & Bake Show 2015
Last weekend I went to The Cake & Bake Show in association with Neff at Event City in Manchester. The show has been running in Manchester now for 3 years and it spent it’s first two years at Manchester Central. As well as moving to a different venue, it’s also extended it’s run time from 3 days to 4 days. I attended on both the Friday and Saturday, here’s what I got up to…

Christmas and pink were big themes! The carpet of the venue was a bright pink, there was bunting hung all over the place and Christmas trees everywhere. It definitely felt fun and festive. Neff also had a stand featuring their well known ‘hide and slide’ ovens as featured on The Great British Bake Off. If you’re interested in learning more about Neff ovens, you can visit the Neff shop at ao.com.

One of the first things I noticed when I walked into The Cake & Bake Show was this giant chair photo opportunity, of course I got straight in there! Now where can I get one of these for my living room…?

Next I headed straight to The Great British Bake Off theatre where I spent a lot of my time at the show. Beside the theatre was a stand selling all the Bake Off merchandise. I’ve not used any of the merchandise myself, but the pretty pastel colours and retro feel makes it look very attractive.

Sugar & Crumbs make flavoured icing sugar which is seriously yummy. I couldn’t believe how much the apple crumble flavour actually tasted like apple crumble! I don’t know how they do it. They’ve also started selling piping nozzles that make some pretty impressive flowers with buttercream.

The Big Bakes Bakery had giant versions of popular bakes on sale such as cookies, gingerbread men and jammy dodgers. I shared a jammy dodger with my friend Sophie and she also purchased one of the giant gingerbread men. I love the idea of over sized bakes!

I didn’t buy much at The Cake & Bake Show, but I had to grab this amazing bargain of 1 litre of Nielsen Massey Vanilla Extract for only £22! That was a show only deal, but you can still get it for £25 from the One Stop Cookery website.

The other thing I bought at The Cake & Bake Show was some delicious fudge from The Kilted Fudge Company. Their fudge is so flavoursome and creamy!

I watched Chetna Makan from series 5 of The Great British Bake Off make a Cardamom & Coffee Swiss Roll, which looked so pretty. She is well known for fusing Indian flavours with traditional baking. She talked about how the bakers from her series like to get together every few months and each of them bring a dish along. Chetna has a YouTube channel now where she releases a new recipe every week. She is also bringing out a book in April next year called The Cardamom Trail, but she explains that not all the recipes feature cardamom!

John Whaite made some Fig, Walnut & Gruyere Bagels which also had Marmite in the dough. He has such a fantastic stage presence and was chatting away to the crowd and making jokes the whole way through. John talked about how food is a projection of who you are, and so it can feel really personal when people don’t like your food – which I really relate to! He has a cookery school called John Whaite’s Kitchen and also a new book out soon called Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients.

Then it was time for this year’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya to take the stage! She made her Peanut Salted Caramel Tart that earned her a Paul Hollywood handshake. Nadiya talked about her time on the Bake Off. She hated doing the technical challenges, her favourite creation was the chocolate peacock, and her final showstopper bake of a wedding cake was her hardest challenge. She is writing a weekly column for The Times at the moment, but would love to do a book.

One of my favourite bakers from this year’s Bake Off, Tamal Ray, hit the stage to make his Apple, Pistachio & Rose Madeira Cake. Tamal revealed that he applied for the show in series 3, he got quite far but didn’t make the final cut, and was encouraged to apply again. The final showstopper was Tamal’s favourite bake during his time on The Great British Bake Off, and since being on the show Tamal has made two more wedding cakes. He also confirmed the answer to a questions he gets asked a lot – that he gets his syringes for injecting cakes off ebay and not from the hospital where he works!

Luis Troyano was up next and he made some absolutely delicious looking Spanish Empanadas filled with beef, chorizo and vegetables. He also added paprika to the dough and cooked them in the deep fryer. Luis has a book called Bake It Great which features recipes with a Spanish influence. He recommended shopping in Indian supermarkets for spices and exotic flavours as they are much more reasonably priced. He also said that he thinks if you can bake a great Bakewell Tart, you can bake anything, as the tart combines a great range of baking skills.

Sandy Docherty was so entertaining to watch, she is such a great character. She made Parmesan biscuits with a cream cheese filling. I couldn’t believe that she was only in four episodes of The Great British Bake Off, it feels like she was in the show for longer! She did her creme brulee ‘wobble’ dance and also judged some bakes from a young boy in the audience who had brought in some profiteroles filled with creme patisserie – what a talent!

I was lucky enough to meet Mat Riley before he appeared on stage to make his refined sugar free carrot cake. He sweetened the cake with dates and a fruit syrup. I was surprised to hear that Mat only got into baking two years ago when he had some time off work and started going through his wife’s recipe books and making things. He now has a YouTube channel where he makes something new every week, it’s called Mat Riley Bakes.

There were some competition cakes on display for visitors to look at. My favourite was the Jungle Book cake above – such stunning detail!

There were also cakes made by professionals on display, which were jaw droppingly amazing. There is so much time and detail that goes into these beautiful cakes.

The Ideal Home Show was also on in the same venue and it had an amazing winter wonderland area full of Christmas trees. It made me feel so happy and festive!

I had such a great time at The Cake & Bake Show, and I got to meet Lisa Faulkner too! I was a bit disappointed that the show was smaller this year. As it had moved to a bigger venue and had two successful years in Manchester already, I was expecting a bigger show. I know that the show has been taken on by a new events company, so I hope that they give it more attention next year. The Great British Bake Off stage was certainly the highlight for me, and although there were some great exhibitors, I would’ve loved to see more. It was also great that you could access the Ideal Home Show for no extra charge.

You can watch my vlogs of the day below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

NB. I received a press pass for the show, all opinions are my own.
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