Wednesday, 31 August 2011

My first cupcakes!

I have had a weakness for American-style cupcakes ever since a bakery specialising in them opened in my city. I had never dreamed it would be possible - let alone easy - to recreate the same thing at home, until I was recently given The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook as a gift.

Oh, it is wondrous! The sponge itself can be ready to cook in about fifteen minutes, and once cooled, the frosting is easy to spread on and utterly delicious. The recipes I have tried so far (three, and another later on today) are straightforward and produce perfect quantities - meaning heaps of frosting, just like the real thing.

These ones were my first attempt - the strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. There is chopped strawberry in the bottom, cream cheese frosting on top, and a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs to represent the biscuit base of a cheesecake.

If you enjoy baking or simply have a sweet tooth, this book is a necessity.


Ready to pour on the cake mixture...

... spreading on the frosting...

... and eating the rest!

Monday, 29 August 2011

My favourite LBD

As Charlotte previously posted, black is back and one of the biggest trends for A/W ’11. I decided to go with this trend a little early, yes we are still ‘technically’ in summer but it doesn't feel like it and the winter collections are drawing me in already.

I decided to go with my favourite LBD to kick off this trend. It’s the perfect little black dress, it can be worn casually on its own or paired with a smart jacket – either way its great for a lazy day or a night on the town. I think it’s the flowing, tunic-ey shape which makes it so versatile and as black is always in fashion it really is one of those classic pieces that will last forever.  


LBD: Topshop, Patterned tights: Next, Shoes: H & M

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Lemon meringue cake

I have never attempted a lemon meringue pie, but when I saw Nigella Lawson's version - a lemon meringue cake, towering high with layer upon layer of sunshine-coloured goodness - I just had to give in.

I find Nigella's recipes can often take a little time and patience, but they are usually worth the effort - and this was certainly one of those occasions. First the cake mixture is made and poured into two tins; then the meringue mixture is formed and piled on top. After baking, one cake is turned upside down (but do so with both, just to check your sponge is fully cooked... one of mine wasn't!) and the two are sandwiched together with cream and lemon curd.

Although it looks fairly small before baking, the sheer height of the cake makes it large enough to serve what the recipe (from the book 'Feast') claimed it would: eight portions. But whether that will be enough to satisfy hungry guests is another question...


The sponge cake ingredients

Piling the meringue mix onto the sponge cake mix

The baked meringue cakes, ready to be sandwiched!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Something funky, something fresh... something Fulton

Seeing the above lip-print trousers pop up in this month's ASOS magazine reminded me of the feature I have been planning to write on Holly Fulton ever since I caught sight of this collection.

Holly cites her creative inspiration as 'art deco', 'Bauhaus styles' and 'cubist fashion'... which is not difficult to notice in these pieces. It's pop art meets constructivism - intricate, almost architectural detail, yet bold and starkly outlined. Most of all, it is refreshingly unlike any collection I have seen before, let alone this season. Just feast your eyes on that blue dress (below)!

Images and quotes courtesy of

With the look being so daringly different, it's tricky trying to find something which recreates it on the high street. ASOS and Matches have a few of Fulton's last season pieces left in their sales, but otherwise the closest I've found is Motel's collection at Topshop, or, if you have the cash, Markus Lupfer's lips pieces (also available at ASOS) are to die for.

In the mean time, this cute and timeless Illustrated People sweat at Topshop will suffice nicely.

Topshop, £35

Let me know your thoughts!


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Brownie War!

Whatever the occasion, whenever I decide to bake my first thought is always brownies - they are my go to dessert. After simple fairy cakes they were one of my first bakes as a child, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I have experimented with the recipe and techniques for a long time and my last few batches have definitely been my favourite.

My secret ingredient is instead of using simple bought chocolate chips, is to chop up, into quite large chunks, the leftover dark chocolate and a bar of white chocolate, and add these to the mix at the end. The brownies come out with the yummiest melted (HUGE) chocolate 
chunks inside, creating a scrumptious, indulgent, chocolaty treat for everyone to enjoy.



Chocolate Chunks

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

My Trip to California (Cliffs Holiday Resort, Norfolk, England)

One day soon I am going to give in to my ever-growing wanderlust, and disappear to exotic places all over the world. However for now I am happy just travelling around England when I can, seeing places I’ve never been before with my family and friends. 

This weekend I went to Norfolk for a caravanning holiday. I’ve never been to the county Norfolk or stayed in a caravan before so I was very excited. It didn’t disappoint. The beaches and surrounding countryside was beautiful, and the busy sea-side town of Great Yarmouth was filled with loads of strange little shops. My favourite was called ‘The Chinese Shop’. I bought a lovely wall hanging and the most beautiful hand-made jewellery box. Overall I had a wonderful time, spending evenings watching the on-site entertainment, and playing cards in our cosy caravan, and spending the days exploring the beaches and towns. 



My Beautiful Chinese Jewellery Box

Simple Beachwear - Dress: H & M, Belt: Dorothy Perkins, Bag: Accessorize

Yummy Ice-creams from Great Yarmouth

My Chinese Wall Hanging

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Banana Cheesecake

Before this one, I had never attempted a cheesecake, but with a huge barbecue coming up it seemed like the perfect 'please everyone' dessert. (Alongside lemon meringue cake... pictures coming soon!)

To make it, I used the recipe for 'Big Baked Cheesecake' from Sam Stern's 'Student Cookbook', but I avoided the lemon rind and folded in a few overripe bananas instead. I also made double quantities, expecting to produce enough cheesecake for twelve people. But as you can see, it provided more than a little over that... possibly enough for twenty! I ended up having to send my brother away with the giant one to share with his housemates!

The recipe was dead simple and overall I was pretty impressed; only next time, I would use a firmer biscuit such as a ginger nut, as the base was a bit too soft and crumbly for my liking.

(Although banana and ginger... perhaps not).


Pressing the biscuit base into the tins...

... and whisking the cream cheese mixture.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Bye bye camel... hello black

Alexander McQueen

Yep, that's right... the collections for A/W 11 are overflowing with black. But you know what I didn't see? Camel, last winter's biggest trend. Not an ounce. Even Chloe, the house which seemed to kick the trend off, had replaced its camel fetish and headed in a striking new direction, with leather and snake print.


Above images courtesy of

 With black being such a wardrobe staple, it would be easy for us to dig out the boots and dresses that got replaced with tobacco and camel last year. But we should never underestimate its versatility and potential for reinvention.  This year, reflect the catwalk trends with luxe textures to bring it alive: sequins, leather, velvet, satin and faux fur.

Team it with the brights of summer to make them last, or buy one of these pieces to see you through the season.

Miss Selfridge, £45
Minkpink @ Urban Outfitters, £95
Reiss, £169

What do you think of the return of black? About time? Or are you too settled in your camel ways to shift already? Let us know.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Cupcake Chaos

As you've probably gathered by now I quite enjoy baking (a lot), and my mums birthday presented a perfect opportunity. I decided to rent one of those giant cupcake tins. Now I have to admit it didn't go swimmingly. I ran out of butter twice, and had to chuck loads of lemoney icing away as it went too runny. However, the lemon curd I made for the centre of the cake worked perfectly, and it does look pretty yummy. 



Saturday, 13 August 2011

Crunchie Bread Pudding

Last year, my grandad suffered pancreatitis, which meant he would have to cut down on high-fat foods for good. Now, going to my grandad and nanas' house has always meant a real feast - usually involving beautifully rich, indulgent desserts and plenty of chocolates for afterwards - and likewise when they visited us. So we suddenly found ourselves seeking out low-fat dessert recipes - an interesting but exciting challenge! - and here is one of my favourites. I made this for all of us to eat after we enjoyed a barbecue last week.

The recipe is taken from a freebie in a back issue of the Rosemary Conley magazine Diet & Fitness, which I imagine is pretty hard to find now! But it is very simple: a mixture of milk and beaten egg, and chunks of chopped Crunchie bar, poured over (and absorbed by) layers of bread. Bake until golden. Simple!

Let me know how you find it.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Fall for Forever

Blouse, £13.75
 The first time I visited a Forever 21 store in Las Vegas last year, I noticed a definite European feel in comparison to the other fashion chains I had explored in the US... which is perhaps why it has landed over here. I would compare it to Republic or maybe New Look.

With Oxford Street recently opening its own Forever 21, I thought I would browse the site and pick out my favourite A/W 11 pieces. Unfortunately, the collection still seems to be reminiscing over summer, with printed maxi dresses and nautical stripes a-plenty. I look forward to what it will offer in the colder months, and to visiting on my next London spree.

What are your thoughts?

Shoes, £19.75

Cardigan, £24.75

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Lemon Bars

I have to confess to something. Until I baked these I didn't really know what a lemon bar actually was. Yes, they were obviously made with lemons (!), but I was expecting something more like mini lemon drizzle cakes. As I was following the recipe I was getting increasingly confused as to what I was doing, but I persisted with it, and they actually turned out pretty well. I now know lemon bars are similar to lemon meringue pie, with a soft biscuity base and a creamy, mushy, very tasty lemon topping. They were good, but I think in future when I bake something I'm unsure of I will research a bit more into the recipe before I attempt it. As for lemon bars, I will definitely be attempting them again soon.



Saturday, 6 August 2011

Double Chocolate Brownies

I made my best-ever batch of brownies around a year ago. They were risen at the edges, and damp and squishy in the middle, to the point of being fragile to handle. The recipe was taken from 'Blissful Brownies' published by Marks & Spencer, and it was entitled 'Sticky Brownies', which really did not do them justice.

These brownies were not those.

These, taken from the same book, were a batch of 'Double Chocolate Brownies', made with a few compromises dependent on what was lying around in my store cupboard, and without the chocolate sauce included in the recipe. I also used chopped chocolate chunks (or, as Nigella Lawson aptly describes them, chocolate 'morsels') as I find they give a more interesting texture than simple chocolate chips. They were pleasant, but not a patch on the others! I really think golden syrup is needed to make the ultimate brownie.

Anyway, making brownies is always an indulgent experience for all the senses, so I thought I would photograph the stages and get your mouths watering.



Mixing the wet and dry ingredients...

... folding in the chocolate 'morsels'...

... and ready to bake!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pre-Season A/W '11 Edit 2

I love winter. Big coats + chunky scarfs are my favourite combination. Its not that I want summer to end, but all the pre-season talk/photographs in magazines has got me lusting after winter clothing already. Here's my top five pieces from the pre-season A/W '11 collections (mainly the ones i can afford!).

Miss Selfridge

Fur has always been a big thing in fashion, and it looks like its back again this year (see Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Gucci for but a few examples) . Of course I'd only ever wear faux fur, and this Miss-Selfridge coat is the perfect example. So glamorous, yet warm and practical for a cold winters day. I love the vintage look of fur coats; they look high fashion whether teamed with a gorgeous dress or a simple knitted jumper. Throw this coat on and your ready, and always looking great!


I have wanted a chunky, tribal patterned scarf for a long time and it looks like this season I'm going to get my wish. This scarf from Next is just right. The pattern is subtle yet still striking and the monotone colours will go with anything.

Miss Selfridge

This jumper links in with my previous piece, another nod to the patterned tribal trend. I love chunky knitted jumpers (well, to be honest, i love anything which is chunky and knitted) and the bright colours and pattern makes this the first chunky jumper - of many - that I'm going to buy this winter.


 This outfit as a whole stood out to me, the orange knitted jumper (another one, I know!) is very versatile, it could more worn on a chilly summers evening, or a cold autumn day. The midi skirt is still very much in style this A/W and this tweed number gives a gorgeous heritage look.

Maxmara Pianoforte

Dresses are my go-to item for any season, and while flicking through a recent issue of Grazia magazine i caught sight of this wonder. Isn't it just beautiful?