30 October 2014

My Halloween Cupcakes

You're probably aware that it's Halloween tomorrow. Each year the British people seem to embrace it more and more. When I was little, you'd perhaps get one or two rings at the doorbell accompanied by an unenthusiastic "trick or treat". Either that or an egg smashed over the car. This year, so many of the houses on my street are covered in fake cobwebs, ghosts and rather disconcerting ghoulies! Whatever America can do...!

It's all good news for business! I've done a few batches of Halloween themed cupcakes this year and I thought I'd share with you my favourite.

I spent most of Wednesday moulding and painting the sugarpaste decorations. This can take some time!

Then today, I baked the sponges - my client requested pumpkin and chocolate flavours - swirled on the coloured buttercreams and made the finishing touches.

There were Chocolate Red Devils (with a smooth milk chocolate filling)...

....Triple Chocolate Witch Hats....

....and my personal favourites; the Pumpkins! 

Which ones do you like the best?

I thought I'd share the pumpkin cupcake recipe with you in case you fancied making some for this spooky weekend. This is a new recipe I tried and tested and I love the results; such a delicious, moist sponge and so simple to make. I added a naughty little dulce de leche filling too!

Pumpkin cupcakes – makes 12

You will need:
80g unsalted butter, softened
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
200ml whole milk
80g pumpkin puree (pumpkin pulp, cooked in butter over a low-heat 'til soft & mashed)
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the Coating/filling
60g unsalted butter, softened
220g full-fat cream cheese
400g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Lemon juice to taste 

50g dulce de leche (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 170C/150C fan assisted.  Line your cupcake tray with cases.

2.  Beat the butter, sugar, sifted flour, baking powder, spices and salt on a low speed until a sandy consistency.

3.  Place eggs, vanilla and milk in a jug and mix with a fork.  Add 3/4 to the dry ingredients and mix in on a low speed then scrape down the bowl.  Add the rest of the milk, the pumpkin puree and beat on medium speed until smooth. 

4.  Divide batter between cases until 2/3 full.  Bake for around 25 minutes until sponge springs back when gently touched. Leave on a wire rack to cool.

5. Using a sharp knife, cut a small round from the top of each cupcake, add a little dulce de leche then place the removed sponge back on top. Press down gently.

6. Combine the buttercream ingredients in a mixer until smooth then pipe onto each cupcake.

I always make sure I have a few leftover cupcakes too - I like to spoil my friends and family with them! A couple of girlfriends popped round to see me today so I decided to turn it into a bit of an unusual afternoon tea (unusual because of the kale chips, pork scratchings, nuts, crisps & berries!). 

The Ritz, eat your heart out!


26 October 2014

A Little Luscious Night

Saturday evening was a reunion of sorts. It was between two bloggers who met in September 2013 and within a year had countless amazing nights out under their belts as well as two fantastic holidays. Not bad going for Laura and I! But somehow - due to diary-clashes, illness and a low-carb diet - over a month and a half had passed since our little rock climbing adventure and we had remained apart. An evening of champagne and good food to bring us back together was just what the doctor ordered!

We had booked tickets to a pop up hosted by our fellow blogger Rosie of A Little Lusciousness. I'd seen various mouthwatering pictures of her food from past events and I thought it safe to assume that we were in for a treat. But first, Laura and I were reuniting for a drink or two at the rather glamorous Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill. 

Whilst open and bright, Beach Blanket Babylon also has that nice homely feel to it. We were seated by the side of a flickering fireplace and it was so wonderful catching up on everything over a glass of bubbles.

As well as going back to what bloggers do best together; taking advantage of a decent photo opportunity! 

Before we knew it, two hours had already flown by and we were in a taxi flying down the B409 to Acton and the home of Rosie.  The delightfulness of the autumn berry and elderflower fizz cocktail we were greeted with on our arrival was a decent indicator of what we had to come. 

We chose our seats at the long table and chatted to our fellow diners. The event was a sell-out; a credit to Rosie and the fantastic reputation she's building for herself. Well done lady!

Our starter course was steak tartare, quail's egg yolk (I'm currently a bit obsessed with quail's eggs), cauliflower puree, pickled cauliflower and homemade crusty white bread. Welcome back into my life, bread.

I'm not going to keep on about how delicious, fresh, and flavoursome everything was. I run out of good adjectives. You can just take my word for it from here on - it's was all amazing. I wasn't even sure if I liked steak tartar but it turns out I definitely, definitely do.

Main course was a hearty venison and rabbit puff pie served alongside roasted leeks, garlic kale, celeriac mashed potato and wild mushroom & shallot gravy 


I can't remember the last time I was cooked a homemade pie. I need this to happen much more often. Although having that much mash potato available to me whenever I wanted was a little dangerous. I was already starting to feel a little on the full side...

But of course there was much room for dessert! Apple & blackberry hazelnut crumble served with - and this was the absolute corker - salted caramel creme fraiche!

I couldn't seem to stop myself putting huge dollops of that sweet cream on my crumble. It got to the point where all the dessert had been demolished and I was just eating the creme fraiche straight out of the bowl. I sensed the results from six weeks of low-carb eating bidding me goodbye as it headed off into the distance...

But it was worth it. And that wasn't all. 

There was more. 

There was cheese. And lots of it. Served with chilli tomato chutney and Rosie's heart-shaped cumin salty crackers.

Oh cheese, how I love you so. The triple creamy Delice de Bourgogne was my favourite. 

Laura and I both had the most fantastic night.  The atmosphere at Rosie's was great and it's something very special when so much love and attention has gone into every detail and flavour. We felt very spoilt indeed. Plus I got to finally meet Rosie who was as lovely as expected!

Then just as we proclaimed how we could not eat one more thing...

Out came the homemade chocolate truffles!

Laura and I both rolled home that night.

Click here to keep up-to-date with Rosie's latest pop up dates! 


22 October 2014

Tipsy Tea @ Mr Fogg's

Like most sane people, I love afternoon tea. As featured on Cocktails & Caroline, I've sampled several London afternoon tea offerings over the past couple of years and there have been all sorts; classic ones, trendy ones, 24-carat gold ones and the downright confusing.

I'd been eyeing up Mr Fogg's Tipsy Tea for some time. Listed in My Favourites as one of my top cocktail bars, the quirky speakeasy den is hidden away down a little road off New Bond Street. It's been a while since my first visit and I was keen to return. When my good friend Angela suggested that our next get-together should involve a good movie then afternoon tea (with a few cocktails thrown in for good measure) I knew exactly where to book.

I'm a member of the Everyman cinemas so we decided to begin our day at their new venue in Selfridges. You'll find the cinema on the lower ground floor, right next to a nice little restaurant and wine bar called Harry Gordon's. The perfect spot for a pre-movie snack and glass of bubbles!

Yes, I had smoked salmon - again! I'm going to turn into a slimy salmon at this rate...

We saw a film called The Judge starring Robert Downey Jr. It had mixed reviews so I went in with quite low expectations but ended up really enjoying it. It's not a courtroom drama as I'd feared but instead an easy-to-watch and moving story about love and family. We both liked it. 

Afterwards it was off to Mr Fogg's for cocktails and cakes!

We'd booked our table for their latest possible afternoon tea slot (4.30pm) and we arrived right on time, full of anticipation.

Having loved the bar when it first opened and because it had subsequently won several accolades including 'Best Bar' at the Food & Travel Awards, I'd been confidently advising Angela that this afternoon tea was going to be great. I had faith. We were greeted heartily on our arrival by a man wearing a top hat and shown to our table. It had already been laid out for us with pretty teaware, the menus and two fruity little cocktail shots served in expresso cups.

It's not your standard Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong fayre here; the teas are pleasingly alcoholic. You each choose either a gin tea or a champagne tea from the menu. The cocktail bit, without the alcohol, is presented in the big teapot; the booze is in the milk jug. 

And if you're naughty like us and choose the bottomless option, this jug gets topped up constantly throughout your visit. It doesn't matter how quickly you drink - more will come your way! How very spiffing.

And then the sandwiches and cakes arrived on their stand. I loved the retro look of the delicious finger sarnies - none of that posh, granary business!

But the cakes. Oh the wonderful, fresh, chunky, indulgent cakes! There was coconut and chocolate layer cake, big chocolate brownies, a beautiful fruit tart (big enough to share), macarons and on the top - my favourite - the amazing pistachio cake!

(sorry the photographs aren't as crisp as I'd like; it was quite dimly lit in there)

I've never been to an afternoon tea where you've got proper slices of cake. There was nothing delicate and dainty about it but how I loved Mr Fogg for that fact! They were truly scrumptious. I can think of no better word to describe them.

In fact, that pistachio cake was so darn good, I did my best Oliver Twist impersonation and asked our friendly waiter for more.

Extra cake = happy Caz!

We were only supposed to have that table for a couple of hours but we ended up staying there chatting, sipping 'tea' and scoffing cake until around 9.30pm. A credit to the bar; what a charismatic, wonderful little place it is.