c September 2012 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Macmillan Coffee Morning - Mobile Blog Post

Here we go, this is my first attempt at a blog post using the Blogger App on my mobile phone. Today is MacMillan Coffee Morning - an annual charity event held nationally to help raise awareness and money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
The office I work in is one of thousands around the country joining the coffee morning. My contribution, a fruit cake, homemade of course.

I have to say that there were an amazing selection of cakes and biscuits baked and donated along with fresh cafetiere's of coffee too. My favourite of treats being the peanut cookies baked by Claire, I managed to eat two of these along with three pieces of cakes. I think you could say I have done my bit, all in aid of a charity. In total a staggering £223 was raised for MacMillan Cancer Support.

Enjoy the cake photographs, hope they appear ok as I don't have as much control of positioning photos as I would on my computer.
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Groupon Afternoon Tea - The Wroxeter Hotel

This afternoon I spent a lovely few hours with my sister and parents, indulging in afternoon tea at The Wroxeter Hotel. What a bargain of an Afternoon Tea it was too, £24 for four people! An offer I came across in my morning email from Groupon, who work with business to bring the best of offers to there readers. I subscribe to receive their free  newsletter by email letting me know of the latest deals. Whether that be a hotel break, a three course lunch or golf lessons, but any mention of tea or cakes always gets my attention. Now normally, if you are anything like me the email arrives but gets bogged down in my inbox and by the time I have thought about it the offer has expired. But not this time, a day or two later and the offer still opened I clicked the 'Buy Now' button. 

The whole process is so quick and easy, once the offer has ended you receive an email from Groupon with your voucher. Then it was a case of me phoning the hotel to book a convenient date. I had just brought myself for £24, Afternoon Tea with Pimms for four people.
The Wroxeter Hotel is situation in the heart of the Shropshire countryside, near to Wroxeter Roman City with views of The Wrekin hill. Being mid week it was very quiet and we had our choice of seating, we chose to sit in the conservatory with views of the countryside. The tables were laid with tablecloths and matching bone china plates, cups and saucers. I thought this was a nice touch, not just your standard hotel cups and saucers. 

Afternoon Tea Menu

Pimms, sparkling wine or soft drink

Choice of sandwiches - cheese, ham or tuna

Scones - plain, cherry or fruit
served with clotted cream and berry compote

Cider fruit cake, Ginger cake

Tea or coffee

The sandwiches were all freshly made, and very tasty particularly the ham. I managed to get my hands on one of the cherry scones, which were light even after I had smothered it with cream and berry compote. I must say it made a very pleasant change to have the berry compote as opposed to normally having jam.  

The one thing I was disappointed with, was the fruit cake it was clearly a packet cake the type you find in a supermarket. But that does not mean to say I had problems eating it, it just was not as good as homemade fruit cake. I did think the packets of Flora stood out like a sore thumb on the cake stand, but I guess that gave you an option other than clotted cream. Although I've yet to discover when I would ever chose an option other than clotted cream!

I can honestly say that I thought this Afternoon Tea was exceptional value for money, and will certainly be quick to respond to future Groupon emails. Particularly when an offer is for something that's so local to me, just 15 minutes down the road for this Afternoon Tea treat.

Disclosure - I was supplied a voucher from Groupon to complete this review, all opinions are my own and honestly given.
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Recipe Apple and Cinnamon Cake

This Apple and Cinnamon Cake Recipe creates a wonderfully light and tasty cake. It is a nice and somewhat slightly healthier option to a traditional cake with a butter cream filling.  

Apple and Cinnamon Cake Recipe
Apple filled cake a healthier option
With two apple trees in the garden, there is always a supply of apples stored in the garage or stewed in the freezer. This recipe is a change from the usual crumble or Eves Pudding I usual turn to, to use up the stewed apples I have stored in my freezer.

Recipe Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Ingredients - Cinnamon Cake

170g butter
170g sugar 
170g self raising flour
3 medium eggs
pinch of salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon 

Ingredients - Stewed Apple
3-4 tbs sugar 
8 cooking apples cored and peeled
1 to 2 tablespoons raisin's (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon 

Apple Cinnamon Cake Recipe
Apple and Cinnamon Cake
Beat the butter and sugar together, until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, add a little flour if needed to prevent the eggs and butter from separating. Add the cinnamon to the flour, then carefully fold this  into the cake mix. 

Split the mixture between two 7inch round cake tins that are lined and greased with a little butter. Bake for 20 minutes 180 degrees C or gas 4.

Whilst the cake is in the oven you can stew the apples. Peel and core approximately 7 apples, depending on size. Cut up the apples and place in a saucepan with 3-4 tablespoons of sugar and a splash of water. Simmer until softened, taste and add more sugar if needed or more water, but you want it quite thick. Add half a teaspoon of cinnamon and the raisins if you wish. Stir.

Once the cake and the stewed apples have both cooled, generously spread the apple on one of the sponge cakes to sandwich the two together. Decorate the top with a light sprinkling of icing sugar and cinnamon. I like to think of this as a slightly lighter in fat cake than normal, there is no thick layer of butter cream sandwiching the cake together - just lovely fruit.

The cake was shared with my aunt to celebrate her 81st birthday!

*any leftover stewed apples goes great with natural yogurt and granola for breakfast, or pop it in the freezer.

This recipe has been adapted from the basic sponge recipe in the Great British Bake Off book.

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Recipe: Orange and Passion Fruit Cupcakes

It's National Cupcake Week! No better excuse for me to put my apron on and start baking, and what a bake I have for you. Orange and Passion Fruit Cupcakes, they have a light fruity and refreshing taste to them. The inspiration for the cakes came to me during a recent shopping trip to a local farm shop  when I spotted some homemade curds, and as soon as I saw the jar of passion fruit and orange I knew I wanted to use it in a cake. 

Orange and Passion Fruit Cupcakes Recipe

oven temp 180 degrees C / 
makes 12 cakes

2 oz butter (softened)
2 oz caster sugar
2 oz self raising flour (sifted)
2 eggs (beaten)
Zest of one orange
1 tablespoon of orange juice

Butter cream
3 oz butter (not too soft)
6 oz icing sugar (sifted)
5 table spoons passion fruit and orange curd

Whisk the butter and caster sugar together for 2-3 minutes. Continue whisking adding half the egg if need add a little of the flour to prevent the mixture from splitting, adding the remaining egg. Fold in the flour and add the orange juice and zest.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (approx) a tooth pick or cake tester skewer should come out clean. Leave to cool whilst making the buttercream.

Mix the butter and icing sugar together, until smooth and well combined. Add the passion fruit and orange curd and mix.

Once the cakes are cool use an apple corer to remove some of the centre of the sponge. Spoon a little of the curd into the hole. I like to then plug the hole with the piece of sponge that I'd removed, just to help the curd soak into the sponge. It does not matter if this sticks up a little as the buttercream will cover it. Decorate the cakes with the butter cream, and add any sprinkles or drizzle a little more of the curd on the buttercream.

You can of course replace the passion fruit and orange curd with another flavour if you are unable to source any near you. Or you can order jars online from Mikes Homemade. 

Please note that this is not a sponsored post, I just wanted to share this great product discovery with you.

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Review : The Great British Bake Off - How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers Book and Phone App

I am one of millions of viewers who tune in every week to watch the Great British Bake Off. I enjoy everyday bakers inspiring me with their own baking creations, and watching how they embrace the technical challenge. So when I was asked to review the latest book accompanying the show The Great British Bake Off How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers not even Paul Hollywood could stand in my way. But wait - this season it's not just a book where you will find recipes from the show. No, this year for the first time there is a Great British Bake Off iPhone App too! Eek how every exciting, I confess to downloading mine a month ago. 

Review - The Great British Bake Off: How to Turn Everyday Bakes into ShowStoppersRRP £20

The book contains seven recipe chapters Cakes, Biscuits, Breads & Sweet Dough, Tarts, Pies, Desserts, Puddings. There is also a Basics chapter to help you with fillings, decorations, techniques and tips. 

Each chapter starts off with a basic recipe, great for inexperienced bakers. The recipes then build up in technical skills to a Showstopper recipe, which you are sure to recognise from the show. You will also find recipes for the technical bakes, including Paul Hollywood's infamous Plaited Loaf, you remember the one, it got many of the contestants in a twist.

I'm sure you want to know how I got on with baking a recipe from the book. I chose the Honey Madeleines which I baked at the weekend. The recipe instructions were well laid out and easy to follow and the bake turned out wonderfully. I've got my eye on the Chess Cake recipe and Swan Lake a Choux pastry recipe for next time.

What I love about the book?

The contestants recipe's, its great to have a chance to reproduce a true showstopper. Some we have already seen on the show and some that have yet to be broadcast.
There is a great 'tips' and 'don't forget' suggestions in the book, not just usable with the recipes. These hints will usefully help you save time and create new idea's for your own baking.

The paper in the book is produced from responsible sources.

What could be better?

Photographs illustrating the recipes are well presented, the only thing I would say is not all recipes are accompanied by a photograph. I find I get quite tempted with a recipe by a good photograph, so would rather have seen more photos of the lovely recipes than a pretty cushion.

I'd quite like to know more about the contestants, such as their favourite bakes, what got them into baking? 

Review - Great British Bake Off iPhone App £2.99
As I mentioned earlier I already download The Great British Bake Off app quite some weeks ago. It contains a staggering 50 recipe's based on the Great British Bake Off books, all at your finger tips no matter where you are.

It has some very useful functions, you can search for recipes by ingredient, occasion, difficulty or even baker. Each recipe includes details of what ingredients and equipment you will need. You can add the ingredients to a shopping list, which you can then add your own additional items creating your main shopping list and not just a recipe shopping list.

There is also something very special about this app it has a  touch free function for when you are baking and have messy hands. You slowly glide your hand over the top of the screen and the next set of recipe instructions appear. No need to get sticky marks on your screen, how clever is that.

Now once you have baked your recipe of course you want to share it with everyone. Simply tap the camera icon to take a photo, and tap share and before you know it everyone on Twitter or Facebook can share your success. It even automatically adds the #GBBO tags.
Honey Madeleines
This is a great app for all keen bakers, I will be interested to see how the app develops over time. What extra functions or recipe's will the team at The Great British Bake Off come up with next.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of The Great British Bake Off How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers book for the purposes of an honest review.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies - a Truvia Recipe

For those of you watching your weight or monitoring the number of calories your eating, you will have probably have already heard of Truvia. I tend to avoid sweeteners as normally they are artificial, however Truvia is a natural sweetener made from a plant called Stevia. It was this fact that made me decide to put Truvia to the taste test.

What is Stevia? 
Stevia, a plant with sweet edible leaves native to South America, has been used for centuries by indigenous people to sweeten food and beverages. The sweet components found in the stevia leaf are up to 200 times sweeter than sugar and have no caloric content. 

One thing that I've not had explained to me, is why is Truvia white. If Stevia is a plant, and plant leaves are very green, why is Truvia pure white? I can only assume this is because it has been through some kind of refinement process, which to me makes it not quite as natural. But I guess that's consumer driven, I mean who would buy a green coloured sweetener! I was curious if there would be a smell to the sweetener, so when I opened the jar I took a big sniff. I thought it had a slight smell of maple syrup, but according to my sister I was just imagining it.

I put Truvia to the baking test and made some Chocolate Chip Cookies, using a recipe you will find on the Truvia website. 

I must admit I found this quite an intriguing recipe with its use of rolled oats in the Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'm not sure if this really added to the taste or texture of the cookies. These were soft cookies and I prefer a crunchy crispy biscuit, but that's just me. Each Chocolate Chip Cookie contains 160 calories, it also contains 50% less sugar than a sugar-sweentened cookie.

I also made some custard and mini cheesecakes using Truvia - in my opinion there really was no taste difference when using Truvia or sugar. I don't take sugar in my tea, so I am not able to put to the hot drink test.

If you are a big artificial sweetener user you may consider switching to a natural sweetener. You can find lots of other recipe ideas on the Truvia website.

I was sent a sample of Truvia for the purposes of this review.
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