A Harrods Christmas hamper, and a champagne chiffon cake

Christmas hampers are one of those things that are synonymous with the holiday season. Each departmental store has it’s own twist on the Christmas hamper – but there is one thing they all have in common: they are all beautifully packaged. Because good things come in beautifully wrapped packages, no?

Harrods is, of course, one of the stores that has some gorgeous hampers on offer – they range from affordable (under £50) to ‘blow the budget’ (over £2000!). Don’t get me wrong through, the more affordable hampers certainly shouldn’t be scoffed at, and make an equally impressive gift.

I recently received a Harrods ‘Pamper Hamper’, which contained pink champagne truffles, Marc de champagne milk chocolate truffles, Laduree candles, a Laduree room spray, and a bottle of rose champagne. A perfect girly present really. Just look at all the lovely pastel colours… (sorry, boys.)

A special mention is needed for the gorgeous rattan basket/box housing the gifts within. It was so pretty that I could not bear to put it away – and this is how it has earned its place as my Christmas tree ‘stand’. Looks much better than my makeshift stand from last year, might I add.

harrods hamper 1

We’re not huge drinkers (we drink the occasional glass of wine/bubbly), so I thought I would use the leftover champagne in a chiffon cake. I know it hasn’t made it on to the blog, but I’ve been on a chiffon cake kick recently – I’m enjoying experimenting with various flavours and combinations of recipes, and am still in search of my perfect, ‘even bubbled’ chiffon. As you can see from my photos, I am not quite there yet. But practice makes perfect, and I’m certainly not complaining about the sampling I get to do along the way!

There’s just something about the lightness of chiffon cakes that make them so addictive. I can honestly eat half a cake in one sitting, and be under the impression that I have not consumed any calories whatsoever. Ha. Delusional much?

A few notes on chiffon cakes – 1) Never ever grease the tube pan. You need the batter to ‘grip’ onto the sides, so it can rise up high. This is why tube pans all have a smooth flat edge (as opposed to bundt tins which have intricate designs), as you have to run an offset spatula/knife around the tin to release the cake at the end of the baking/cooking process. 2) Patience is key! The cake needs to be left to cool (upside down) before you cut into it. Yes, this is unfortunately one of those cakes that you can’t dive into straight out of the oven – if you do so, the cake will end up dense and we can’t have that now can we? 3) Try not to overmix the batter. Treat the batter gently when folding in the whipped eggwhites. I find that mixing in 1/3 of the eggwhites in the first instance loosens up the batter, and makes the subsequent folds much easier. You can also be a little less gentle with the first ‘fold’.

Champagne chiffon cake
Makes one 20cm chiffon cake

  • 190g cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 130g champagne
  • 50g corn oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 egg whites
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 165′C (fan forced).
2. Sieve the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk the egg yolks and 50g sugar in a large mixing bowl, until the yolks turn thick and pale. Add the champagne, corn oil and vanilla extract, and whisk until just combined.
4. Slowly add in the sieved dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture, whisking whilst you add. Ensure there are no lumpy bits in your mix.
5. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites on high speed until they become foamy. Add in the 50g caster sugar and cream of tartar (if using) gradually, and continue whisking until you reach stiff peaks.
6. Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to your cake mixture – this helps to loosen the cake mix.
7. In 2 additions, fold in the remaining egg whites into the cake mixture, until just combined. You should ideally not see any lumps of whites. Take care to not overmix though!
8. Pour the cake batter into an ungreased, 20cm chiffon cake tin (tube pan).
9. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. A skewer inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.
10. Remove tin from oven, invert, and leave to cool upside down (either by sticking the tin on a bottle top, or placing it on a wire rack if your tin has ‘feet’). Leave the cake to cool completely.
11. Once cooled, run a knife along the edges of the tin, and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Cut, serve, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I received a Harrods Pamper Hamper as a gift, but all opinions expressed are my own.

Pear & chocolate cupcakes

I love my food. I find any excuse imaginable to snack, and sometimes worry about how much I am seemingly able to eat! To ensure I maintain some sort of balance, I do try to sometimes snack on fruit rather than something errr… less healthy. I also like using fruit when baking, subsequently declaring it “healthy”.

Which is why I welcome the idea of office fruit boxes, which appears to be the new “in” thing. Fruitdrop are one of the companies that offers this service, and supply a selection of fruit to your office – each box contains a selection of 50 fruit, and you can choose from either the “Essentials” or “Seasonal” Fruitdrop office fruit boxes. Prices appear to be fairly competitive, and start at £20 per box. R gets a fruit box where he works, and I am perpetually envious that I don’t, and have to bring in my own fruit!

fruitdrop box

I was recently sent a “Seasonal” box – and was pleasantly surprised at the variety of fruit included within. The site didn’t state how many varieties would be supplied, so it was all a bit of a mystery until I received the box. As you can see from the photo, there were a few seasonal fruits e.g strawberries and plums, alongside the ever present bananas, apples, clementines and so forth.

As I had an abundance of fruit, I decided to experiment and bake with them. Eating them as they are gets boring after a while you see…

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcakes

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

So yes. I uhmed and ahhed about which fruit would be my first victim, and finally decided to make some pear and chocolate cupcakes. I tried to make these a little healthier than the average cupcake, so these were made with yogurt and oil (no butter). Shocking, I know. And there isn’t any icing because I honestly am not a fan of cupcake icing – I find it way too sweet for my taste.

The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to sprinkle some demerara sugar on the tops of the cupcakes, as this tends to give a very pleasant crunchy top to bite into. And I like crunch.

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

Pear & chocolate cupcakes
Makes 24 small cupcakes

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125g corn oil (or any other flavourless oil)
  • 280g Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 180g pears, chopped into 1cm pieces, and tossed lightly in 2 tbsp of plain flour*
  • 100g dark chocolate chunks/chips
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 170′C (fan assisted).
2. Sieve the caster sugar, plain flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.
3. Add in the corn oil, Greek yogurt and the egg yolks, and mix until just combined.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
5. Gently fold in the egg whites into the cake mixture, in two additions. Take care to not overmix, as this may result in a dense cupcake.
6. Gently fold in the pear pieces and chocolate chunks.
7. Spoon the mixture into a cupcake tin lined with cupcake cases. Sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar if you wish.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on the top.
9. Cool slightly, and enjoy!

* Tossing the pear pieces in flour prevents them from sinking to the bottoms of the cupcakes.

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Fruitdrop.

[instagrammed] Pandan bundt eggwhite cake

I first made this pandan bundt cake when I realised I had an ever-growing stash of leftover eggwhites in my freezer. I’m not a huge fan of meringue/macaron baking, and was trying to figure out what I could do with all those leftover eggwhites. And I have yet to purchase a chiffon cake tin.

I then came across this recipe for “Munavalgekook”, an Estonian eggwhite cake. I was intrigued, and not just because I couldn’t pronounce the name of said cake! So I made it. And absolutely loved it.

pandan bundt eggwhite cake

This cake has a slight pound-cake like texture, but has a beautiful delicate crumb due to the volume created by the whipped eggwhites. I personally prefer whisking eggwhites separately in cake recipes (even when the recipe calls for a whole egg), as I find cakes made this way result in a finer crumb.

And in keeping with my aim in life of putting a Malaysian twist on all my baked goods, I added a dash of pandan (screwpine) extract into the cake mix.

pandan bundt slicedNot a very good slice through the cake, is it? I really need to sharpen my knives… Oops.

Pandan bundt cake
Adapted from this recipe for Munavalgekook, from Nami-Nami

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 tbsp + 100 g caster sugar
  • 160 g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tbsp potato starch or cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100 g melted butter, cooled slightly (I use salted butter)
  • 2 tbsp pandan extract (I never measure, I plonk in as much as I feel is necessary on that particular day…)

1. Preheat your oven to 170′C (fan assisted).
2. Sieve the flour, potato/corn starch, 100g of caster sugar, and baking powder into a bowl. Set aside.
3. Place egg whites and 2 tbsp of the caster sugar in a clean bowl. Whisk until the egg white/sugar mixture forms soft peaks.
4. Gently fold in the sieved flour/sugar mix into the whipped egg whites, until it forms a smooth mixture. Be careful when doing this as you do not want to knock the precious air bubbles out of the egg whites.
5. Slowly trickle the melted butter and pandan extract into the mixture, and gently fold until just incorporated.
6. Pour the cake mix into a bundt tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, until the cake becomes golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean.
7. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.
8. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool, then eat!

Spiced pumpkin cupcakes

It seems that an increasing number of my posts now start with “So I’ve been a terrible blogger…”, doesn’t it? What can I say? I want to say I blame Instagram (where I post very regularly), but truth be told, Instagram can probably only be held partly accountable for the lack of posts. After all, it is me who decides whether or not I want to whip out my camera to take photos of the food I make/if I measure out my ingredients!

Despite a rather sizeable backlog, I thought I would post the recipe for these spiced pumpkin cupcakes which I made fairly recently (i.e. within the last month, as opposed to last year). I suspect some of you may have some leftover pumpkin puree from Thanksgiving, so what better way to use it than in a delicious not-too-sweet treat?

I adapted Aran’s recipe for beetroot and poppy seed cupcakes to make these. And by the way, if you have yet to try Aran’s original recipe – please do! I’ve made them countless times now, and everyone always loves them. I’ve even tried making banana cupcakes using her recipe as a starting point. :)

Another plus is that these little babies are gluten free (though you can easily make them with normal all purpose flour). Interestingly, I have found that using gluten free flours seems to enhance the texture of cakes/cupcakes – not sure if I’m the only one who feels this way?

I use a fair bit of spices in these cupcakes, but you can always use more/less depending on how ‘spiced’ you want these cupcakes to be. You may also add some chopped walnuts or pecans to the cupcake batter if you wish.

Alternatively, you can whip up a quick cream cheese frosting to top these cupcakes – I usually whisk together 200g cream cheese, 100g softened butter, 3/4 cup icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. I then add a teaspoon of lemon juice at the very end.

Spiced pumpkin cupcakes
Adapted from this recipe by Canelle et Vanille
Makes 12 small-ish cupcakes, or 9 medium cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour (you may use normal all-purpose flour if you wish)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn oil (or any other flavourless oil)
  • Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 180′C.
2. In a small bowl, mix the coconut milk with the lemon juice. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.
3. Sieve the brown rice flour, allspice, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium sized bowl. I usually don’t sieve my ground almonds, because they usually aren’t ground finely enough to easily pass through the sieve.
4. Add the pumpkin puree, egg, sugar, coconut milk mixture and corn oil into the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment, until it forms a nice smooth paste (this should take only 1-2 minutes). You can also do this with a handheld whisk or a spatula if you don’t want to use/don’t have a stand mixer.
5. Add the sieved dry ingredients (and the ground almonds) to the wet pumpkin mix. Mix until the batter is just combined.
6. Scoop the batter into cupcake tins. If you wish, you may sprinkle some demerara sugar on top of the batter – this will give you a nice crunchy cupcake topping.
7. Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes until cooked. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes should come out clean.
8. Leave to cool slightly on wire racks, then eat!

In photos: The Cake & Bake Show 2012

The Cake & Bake Show. I was intrigued from the moment I heard about it – UK’s first baking exhibition, with the promise of stars such as Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and *gasp* Peggy Porschen… how could I not be interested?

I almost didn’t get a chance to attend, as I was originally supposed to work this weekend. Am very glad I managed to swap out of it, as I genuinely enjoyed the show, and picked up a LOT of cake and cookie decorating tips. Very handy as I do enjoy the occasional spot of cookie decorating!

Peggy Porschen’s Parlour – featuring a selection of her jams, sweet treats, books & cake stands. There were also free sessions held throughout the day (on a first come, first served basis) – couture cookies (which I attended), butterfly cookies, rose cupcakes etc.

One of Peggy’s wedding cakes, carefully housed in a glass box.

Naomi explaining the best way to fold a piping bag.

Flooding cookies with ‘flooding icing’.

Close ups of the process on the screen – oh, all that precision! It puts my efforts at cookie decorating to shame. Ha!

The finished product – so pretty! Might do something similar soon, as this is actually a fairly simple design (comparatively). Just a note to mention that Peggy’s recipes for sugar cookies are by far, the BEST I’ve used to date. They spread very little, and taste delicious.

The rose cupcakes which were featured in one of the other sessions.

And most importantly – I met Peggy! Highlight of the show, to me anyway. I love her work (I use her recipes for all my cookie and cake decorating), so it was great to chat to her. She’s like my ‘Bill Granger’ for decorating. Ahem. She is lovely, and signed a copy of her book for me (yay). I also got a photo with her, though admittedly it comes second to *that* photo of Bill & I (and Mowie)…

The very popular Squires Kitchen stand.

Cupcake cases in all the colours of the rainbow! If I didn’t already have a ridiculous collection (including some of the light blue polka dotted ones that you can see in the photo), I would have totally stocked up. Sadly I do not have the space (nor funds) to do so…

Paddi Clark (whom I admittedly hadn’t heard of before the show) was at the Squires Kitchen stand, and was showing the crowd how she made her sugar flowers. I picked up a few useful tips, which I hope to put to use very soon!

The finished product. I’m such a sucker for pretty things..

A very graceful ballerina cake, by Carlos Lischetti. There’s just something about his work that was different and very refreshing. I believe he has a book called ‘Animation in Sugar’ coming out shortly, and this is one of the cakes featured.

Another example of Carlos Lischetti’s work. I’m not a fan of fondant covered cakes, but yet, I am always impressed by what people can achieve with it.

Mich Turner’s Little Venice Cake Company stand. The chocolate/lime cake on the far right was absolutely stunning!

Falcon Products/Bake-O-Glide stall. I picked up a non-slip roll out mat from here, I’ve been looking for something like this but didn’t want to buy it online as I wouldn’t get a chance to see it before hand. It’s really quite useful as it can be placed on any worktop, and its super smooth surface allows you to roll out pastry, sugarpaste, knead bread etc on it. They also sold silicone mats (similar to Silpats) – if you haven’t used one before, you’re missing out on it’s amazingness!

More silicone moulds from Silkomat. I almost bought the purple mini “bundt” one, but felt that the person I spoke to was slightly unhelpful/unfriendly. Maybe it was because she were tired (it was late in the day by then), but still… So I didn’t buy it.

Dr Oetker stall. They had various demonstrations throughout the day, but I didn’t catch any. This was a good place to head to if you wanted to rest your feet, as they provided a fair number of benches here.

British Sugarcraft Guild stand. The detail and effort that had gone into each piece was quite simply, amazing.

But nothing floored me more than this ‘tea table’ display from the Maidstone branch of the British Sugarcraft Guild. EVERYTHING you see in the photo was modelled from sugarpaste. From the plates, to the sandwiches, to the teapot, to the cake knife. Not surprised that they won a Gold Award for their efforts at the National BSG exhibition earlier this year.

Even the bunting was made from sugar! Just check out how intricate the work is…

There was also an ‘Edible Beach Bake Competition‘ exhibit – for both professionals and non-professionals. There were at least 50 cakes on display (I think), but I only took photos of my favourites.. the pastel cake above (professional category) won a certificate of merit.

This was the winner of the professional category. A photo of the whole cake doesn’t do it justice (as you can’t see the detail), so I chose a close up photo instead. It doesn’t look as good in the photo, but believe me, those mussels looked pretty darn realistic to my eyes!

The winner of the non-professional category. I suspect this won due to its originality – everyone had a sandcastle or a beach scene, this was one of the only ‘beach food’ cakes on display.

I thought this was really cute!

A rather impressive sandcastle.

A Brighton-themed cake – I think this was from the non-professional category, but I might be mistaken.

Cute cupcake from Gingercups. It was hard to miss their stall, which was bright pink, and manned by two lovely ladies (whose names escape me!). They’re currently based in Hertfordshire and are looking for a site in London, and I hope they manage it. They’d fit in perfectly to the whole Soho vibe. Plus, the cupcake I tried (Ruby – strawberry & cream with a jam centre) was delicious. The icing was admittedly a little too sweet for me, but to be fair, I find ALL cupcake icings way too sweet. So I always just eat the ‘cake’ bit. ;)

The lovely girls at the Gingercups counter. The one on the right is the founder/owner of the company. They had incredibly bubbly personalities to go along with their cupcakes – a win win combination!

Cathryn and Sarah Jane (from the current season of Great British Bake Off) in the Cake Kitchen. I’m rooting for Cathryn, I like her and I think she doesn’t believe in how good she is (like Jo from last season) – so it would be great if she could go all the way. I also like Danny though… can’t stop myself from supporting a medic! An intensivist no less. We will have to wait and see who wins!

Phew. That was a lot of photos. And there are more – but I chose the better ones for the post, naturally. I rarely blog about something so promptly, but I truly enjoyed myself at the show, and as such wanted to document it before my ailing memory forgot any details. That said, I can see how some people might not enjoy it as much as me, as there was a heavy emphasis (I thought) on sugarcraft/decorating work – and if this is not something that interests you, you might get bored…

For those of you who are wondering, the majority of the stalls were selling baking/decorating equipment. There were a few stalls that were selling cupcakes, and there was a cafe area – but I suspect more food/drink stalls might have been welcome. Because let’s face it, we can never have too much cake. ;) For instance, I wish that Peggy Porschen’s Parlour had brought some cupcakes along to sell in their stand.

There were also classes available at the event (but these incurred an extra charge), which included tutorials on bread baking and macarons.

So yes. It was a good day out for me, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s show!

Edit: I’ve just read some of the comments/feedback about the show on their Facebook site, and a number of people mentioned the lack of food/drink options (and the long queues + the fact that they ran out of food), the lack of stalls selling baking equipment (e.g. tins), and the fact that the classrooms were not fully enclosed – so other non-paying people could just hover around and watch the class as well. All fair comments – though none really applied to me as I went in between mealtimes, love decorating, and already own lots of cake tins. I do hope they improve though, as I would love for this show to become a regular fixture.

The Cake & Bake Show
23-23 September 2012
Earls Court, London
http://thecakeandbakeshow.co.uk/

*Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the Cake & Bake Show, but all views expressed above are my own. Also – I chose to write this post although there was no stipulation that I had to do so, I did it because I wanted to.