Friday, 24 July 2015

Beth’s 30th Birthday Cake

Beth's 30th birthday cake

I had the honour of making my best friend Beth’s 30th birthday cake. I found out beforehand from her fiancĂ© what her favourite cake flavour is. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I hadn’t made a red velvet celebration cake before, only cupcakes, but I figured I could make the recipe work for a large cake. It needed to feed 20+ people!

I decided to use Lola’s Cupcakes red velvet cupcakes recipe which I've used before. I doubled it to make two large cakes. I like this recipe as uses lemon juice instead of buttermilk, which I've used in another recipe before. This is more convenient for me, as I have usually have lemons in but never buttermilk. I've also had disasters with buttermilk and vinegar in red velvet recipes, (cake was very sour!), so try to steer away from these ingredients now.

I’ve tried a few different cream cheese frostings in the past and fancied trying a new one. A bit of a risk but  Kerry Cooks recipe for Foolproof Thick Cream Cheese Frosting turned out decent. I couldn’t get it as thick as Kerry does but it had a really good flavour and complemented the red velvet cake perfectly! I doubled the recipe to frost in between and cover the two large cakes.

I’ve wanted to try piping royal icing flowers for a while. I’ve tried piping buttercream simple swirl roses before but wanted to try making more challenging and technical types of flowers. I chose to use royal icing so I could make them over a week, as they keep well in an airtight container once dried. It was challenging and I need more practice to perfect the flowers but I’m chuffed with the overall look. I used this You Tube tutorial to pipe the more realistic looking roses and used some of the decorating techniques from the Wilton site.

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Beth's 30th birthday meal at Carluccio's

Last weekend, Beth’s birthday meal was at Carluccio’s in Newcastle. We were sat in the private dining area upstairs, which has lovely views over the Monument and Grey Street. The food was decent and the service was excellent. I was impressed with the staff in particular, who were really accommodating with the cake. People were stuffed after their three course meal so didn’t want to eat the cake. The staff offered us takeaway cartons so people could take a slice home with them!

Beth loved the cake and I received lots of compliments. All the time and effort was worth it. The cake tasted great so will definitely be making it again. It is a chocolate cake without being too chocolatey and the tang of the frosting sets the chocolate flavour off beautifully. It could easily become my new favourite!


Lola’s Cupcakes Red Velvet Cake

220g butter
320g caster sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon red food colouring paste
2 eggs
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
70g dark chocolate, melted
380g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
140ml single cream
140ml whole milk
70g ground almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Prepare baking tins by greasing with butter and lining with baking paper.
2. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla into a bowl
and beat the mixture with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl 
with a rubber spatula to make sure the butter and sugar are incorporated.
3. Add the food colouring and the eggs, and beat slowly until combined.
Beat in the oil and lemon juice, followed by the chocolate.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder together into a separate bowl.
5. Mix the cream and milk in a jug.
6. Add the dry ingredients (flour mix) to the batter, a little at a time,
alternating with the wet ingredients (milk & cream mix),
until you have a soft batter and all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
7. Add the almonds and mix until smooth and a uniform colour.
Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula
and briefly beat at a high speed until the mixture is smooth.
Do not over-mix.
8. Fill the baking tins to two-thirds full.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30- 40 minutes,
or until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

N.B. Cakes can be frozen.
Ensure cake is fully cooled then wrap in cling film twice and place flat in the freezer.
Take cake out of freezer the night before using. Remove the cling film when defrosted and use.




Royal Icing

2 cups icing sugar (plus extra), sieved
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 egg white
Food colouring paste (if using)

1. Whisk lemon juice and egg white together until combined.
2. Whisk in icing sugar gradually.
3. Add more icing sugar if want a thicker consistency.
3. If using food colouring, add in gradually using a toothpick.
Stir in colouring until a uniform and desired colour.


I am linking for the first time to Kerry Cooks Cake Club July.
Join me and other food bloggers in sharing our cake-related adventures!


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sloppy Joe’s Deli & Sandwich Bar

I was offered a free lunch by Sloppy Joe’s Deli & Sandwich Bar in return for a review. This is the first time I’ve done this so thanks to Sloppy Joe’s for the opportunity. I want to start by stating this review is my own honest opinion and a positive review is not guaranteed.

Sloppy Joe’s is located within the Grainger Market in my hometown of Newcastle. Grainger market is no longer known just for the market stalls, butchers and grocers. But it is becoming a popular place for independent street food eateries trading under one roof. Wide ranging cuisines from traditional Chinese dumplings to Turkish coffee and baklava.

I have walked past Sloppy Joe’s before and their display of sandwiches have looked mighty tempting. As well as ready-made sandwiches and salad bowls, they do a ‘Subway’ style of make up your own sandwich. You choose your outer, filling (including salad) and sauces from the sandwich-making bar.




I was surprised to find out what I would be reviewing was not a sandwich but in fact Rice paper rolls. This south-east Asian twist on the sandwich would not be the most obvious offering to find in an American style deli shop, however,  Sloppy Joe’s are trialling this for their menu. Rice paper rolls make a gluten-free, lighter and healthier alternative to current options of a baguette or Panini.

I got to try the Chicken rice paper rolls with a spicy dipping sauce.

The rolls have a pleasant flavour and are full of veg and fresh herbs. The accompanying sauce is full of flavour and goes well with the rolls.

My critique is the messiness of the dish which could do with some refinement. I found it difficult to eat a whole roll without some of the contents falling out. For me, street food has to be easily eaten whilst being out on the hop. I would have liked chopsticks to pick up the bits that had fallen out. But I guess that would defeat the object of these being an alternative to a sandwich, where you wouldn’t need an aid like a fork to eat it!

Leigh (the hubby) found the fresh herbs, especially the mint to be overpowering, so could only manage to eat one. I finished the rest as found the combination of flavours suited my palate. It’s notable though that this dish may not be to everyone’s tastes.

Leigh also would have liked more chicken in the roll and perhaps a sauce running through the roll to give it more moisture. I agree that the chicken could be more moist but I think the addition of a sauce in the roll would take away from its’ already fresh clean flavours present.

Overall, the crisp and punchy flavours in this dish will divide the lovers and the haters.


We couldn’t resist sampling one of the ready-made sandwiches on display, so bought a pastrami, emmental cheese and gherkins sandwich for £3.

There are a variety of sauces available where you can help yourself. It was nice to see Safari sauces in the selection. An independent eaterie supporting local produce. Leigh went for the garlic sauce and Piri piri sauce to go with our sandwich.

We’re both partial to an occasional Subway but we thought the flavours were cleaner in a Sloppy Joe’s sandwich. The overall sandwich tasted less processed, and at similar price points, I know which one I would choose if I was around in town! We should all strive to support local independent businesses. I’m already looking forward to returning and having a go at making my own sandwich ‘the Sloppy Way’.


Sandwich or Roll. What’s your lunch?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Wedding weekend in Windermere

It’s been super busy these past 6 (?) weeks. It feels so nice to have a weekend free when I have nothing planned. I can recharge my batteries and take the opportunity to catch up on my blogging. I’ve been to two Hen Do weekends, a Wedding weekend (this post), a week’s family holiday in York and a local foodie event!! I haven’t stopped till now. Anyhow, I’ll catch my breath and now pick up from where I left off. Mid-June…

My (not-so) little cousin Jo is getting married this year. So it was very exciting for all the family! The family event of 2015! I really wanted to blog about this as it was truly a wonderful and memorable weekend in Windermere.

Friday 19th June

We drove down to the Lake District on Friday evening (after Leigh had finished work). The female cousins went out for food at Wild & Co in Windermere whilst the male cousins joined the Groom-to-be for drinks in neighbour town of Bowness-on-Windermere.

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Wild & Co

We chose Wild & Co as it had good reviews and was known to be child-friendly. They were very good in accommodating a large party of people last minute. They also provided crayons and paper, as well as a Little people menu for our two year old.

I found the surroundings to be modern, relaxed and cosy. The menu was equally attractive and appealing.

I shared two starters with my cousin Carine, so we could have a try of both dishes. I had to try the Tempura goats cheese stuffed courgette flowers with wild honey, as had never come across it before at a restaurant. This was a stand-out dish. The batter wasn’t as light as it could have been. Not really Japanese tempura light but more fish batter from the chip shop. However, the flavours went so well together and it was incredible. Really light, tasty and moreish. I only wish I had ordered one of my own! The Crab & avocado stack was fresh and zingy. But it was nothing new and was overshadowed by it’s deep-fried superior peer.

Onto the mains. 3 out of 4 of us ordered the Crusted lamb rack. We all asked for it to be cooked medium-rare. Unfortunately, 2 out of the 3 lamb were way overcooked. Mine, luckily was a thicker piece of meat, so was cooked more medium than the others. All the components and flavours were there in the dish. The accompanying smoky puree and the crust were tasty. However, it was such a shame to see such inconsistencies in cooking across the table. What could have been another amazing dish was made mediocre by the overcooking of the main component. My cousin Minda had ordered the Fish pie with Isle of Mull cheddar crust. She thought this was alright but not the best she’d had.

We were all full by the time it was dessert, so we decided to share a Raspberry, meringue & cream type affair. I wasn’t enamoured by the dessert. I found it bitter in places (probably due to the freeze-dried raspberry pieces), which made it unpleasant to eat at times. There was just something not quite right about the dessert and it didn’t all come together well. The flavour profile could be improved but we managed to finish it all! The little one got a Brownie, which was quite rich and we were full so it didn’t get finished.

I enjoyed spending time with my cousins. Some, I don’t get to see very often. We all love our food and eating out. Wild & Co in Windermere was a pleasant night out with great company.

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The Grey Walls

Me and hubby stayed at The Grey Walls on Friday night. This is a budget hotel and was the cheapest rate I could find in Windermere at the time. It was £70 for a double room for one night with breakfast. The rooms aren’t the highest quality but you do get what you pay for. They are a bit tired looking and not the best maintained. However, it did the job for the one night we needed before moving onto the hotel the wedding was at the next day.

The bar was really accommodating in the night time. Even though it had shut (pumps had been taken off), hubby was allowed to continue drinking as they let him buy bottles of drink instead. Leigh wants to add that the cooked breakfast was really good. It certainly set us up for the day ahead.

Saturday 20th June

Jo & Chris’ wedding was held at the Beech Hill Hotel in Windermere. This a a popular hotel, probably due to its’ amazing view overlooking Lake Windermere. This hotel is pricier than the previous one but again, you get what you pay for. The room was modern, clean and comfortable. The surroundings and location are pretty and difficult to fault. The view of the lake from the balcony alone is worth paying for. The photos taken don’t really do it justice.

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Beech Hill Hotel

Lake Windermere

The ceremony was beautiful, like the bride! There was not a dry eye in the room and Jo had everyone in rapture.

Jo is a graphic designer and her creative flair and talent showed throughout her wedding. The giant ‘LOVE’ lit-up letters stood out and were great to take photos by earlier in the day. I particularly loved the handmade and designed touches like the Disney ‘Up’ inspired thumbprint guestbook.

I had my Wedding stationary designed by Jo. Completely bespoke and we loved it. Exactly what we wanted and more. If you’re interested, she’s on Twitter @Joannacreates and her website is

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Personal wedding details

The wedding breakfast tables were decorated with a pretty park & woodland theme. The weather had been gloomy during the wedding ceremony. We received favours of sunglasses, which were perfect, as the sun came out during the wedding breakfast! Hooray!

And onto one of my fave things in life: The food.

I got the Cocktail of Fresh salmon, avocado pear and tomato confit with toasted ciabatta. A yummy way to start a meal. Leigh got the Rustic Cumbrian farmhouse terrine with apple and sage relish. Leigh enjoyed his starter too.

The intermediate course was a Bramely apple and cider sorbet. I don’t drink alcohol and asked for mine to come without the cider. This wasn’t a problem and the sorbet was delicious! I could have eaten a bucket of it!

The mains were cooked well. I got the Pot-roasted fell-bred beef with shallots, wild mushrooms, cheddar mash and merlot fumet. Leigh got the Roast leg of lamb, potato dauphinoise, spinach crumble and minted roast jus. Both were very enjoyable. Only thing would have liked was more sauce for the lamb. I like my sauce like Manu from My Kitchen Rules! But, the meat was tender, fall-apart and moist on its’ own.

I got the Chilled white chocolate and raspberry marquise and Leigh got the Vanilla creme brulee with hazelnut shortbreadfor dessert. Mine didn’t have a lot to it and was a bit bland. Leigh wasn't fussed on his either. More Bramley apple sorbet for me please! ;–)

Overall, a very enjoyable meal!

Wedding breakfast

Thank you Jo and Chris for having us as part of your wedding. We wish you both all the happiness, love and laughter that you deserve. Love you xxx

Sunday 21st June

Time to leave the Lake District but not before heading to the flagship Lakeland store in Windermere. I didn’t get much but picked up a couple of flavourings (coconut &  butterscotch) and edible glue.

We popped upstairs to the First Floor Cafe. People tried the soup and sandwiches and found them to be tasty. I was drawn to the yummy looking cakes. Carine got the Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries, which I tasted and it was amazing! I got the carrot cake which was alright but not as good as the Victoria sponge.


Windermere First Floor Cafe