6 Valentine’s Day Recipe Ideas

http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/getmedia/929c383c-7b10-45fe-9744-797cfce5f368/Sh-passion-fruit-and-vanilla-cheesecake-website-featured/?width=420&height=270&ext=.jpg

Vanilla and Passionfruit Cheesecake by Simon Hulstone

1. Passion? You said it with this vanilla and passionfruit cheesecake from chef Simon Hulstone. Passionfruit puree can be bought from Amazon and you can buy fine leaf gelatine leaves from Tesco. Not sure whether these will be bronzed though!

Poiresauchocolat

Dark Muscovado Truffles By Poires Au Chocolat

2. Or how about making some delicious dark chocolate truffles for your loved one? Much more thoughtful than bought choccies. I recently reviewed these Paul A Young dark muscovado truffles which were easy to make and yum! Poires Au Chocolat made some lush ones pictured here.

3. Take your other half to a Valentines afternoon tea – why not? I recently sipped hot chocolate downstairs from Rabot, a cacao restaurant in Borough Market in London and their afternoon tea menu caught my eye. Think cacao-infused drinks, brownies, banana bread and gin-cured smoked salmon sandwiches.

4. Concoct a raspberry courting cake – inspired from my Lancashire roots, the mascarpone icing tastes amazing.

5. Bake some love bug cookies – these look very cute and bright – perfect to cheer up your partner on a wintry February day! Ready to roll red icing can be bought from supermarkets and you’ll also need some 8cm and 6cm heart cutters (you can get a set from Lakeland).

6. And if baking eludes you then make your partner a Valentine-inspired cocktail. Rasmopolitan or Raspberry Chocolate Kiss Martini gets my vote!

For more inspiration you can read my previous year’s baking ideas. What will you be baking this Valentine’s?

Afternoon tea review: Beas of Bloomsbury


On Saturday I went for afternoon tea with my friend at Beas of Bloomsbury in St Pauls. We originally went a month ago for coffee and cake but hadn’t found the service very good. Having been in touch with Bea herself, we were invited back for afternoon tea to recreate first impressions. We were greeted with a table upstairs where all the afternoon teas take place and the table was set out with fresh baguette portions and a cake stand adorned with cupcakes, scones and mini cakes. I liked the lights which were teapot shaped – thought it was a fun touch to the atmosphere.

Baguettes by Beas of Bloomsbury by Naomi LongworthWe were offered a selection of teas and coffees and iced water which came quickly. The food was very fresh and it was good to have baguettes rather than sandwiches to be a bit more substantial. Flavours included brie and ham, salami, and my friend had a soft cheese and veg one. It turned out my friend was cutting out sugar for Lent so she only tried a few bits of the afternoon tea. I, on the other hand tasted everything! I most enjoyed the millionaire shortbread square, nut and choc brownie and the pistachio macaron was to die for. The food was good quality and tasty. The only cake that let them down was the mini meringue which was a bit tough to bite in to. I wasn’t a massive fan of the homemade mango marshmellow because of the texture but thought it was something a bit different. There were so many other mini morsels to try that it didn’t matter too much if there was one you didn’t like. The scones were also fresh and broke in two easily and they went down a treat with strawberry jam and clotted cream. We had a lovely afternoon and really enjoyed it.

Close up of cupcake at Beas of Bloomsbury

Couple of things to note: there are only four tables for coffee and cake downstairs in winter, double that capacity on sunny days. If you want to go for afternoon tea then you need to book by email in advance. Everything is made to order based on the number of afternoon teas that day – this is to reduce food wastage and keep the price of the afternoon tea more affordable – £17 for full afternoon tea which I do think is good value. However, because of this sandwiches aren’t on the menu at weekends for those not having afternoon tea, nor are scones. Beas of Bloomsbury are looking into what they offer customers who aren’t coming for afternoon tea so you never know this might change.

Passionfruit frosted cupcakes and flat white and latte by Hannah CarmichaelI would recommend the afternoon tea – it was a lovely atmosphere and great fresh food plus good service. Hopefully the service is mirrored downstairs from now on and if you’re only wanting cake and drinks anyway then it’s not a problem that sandwiches aren’t provided.

Afternoon tea review: Dean Street Town House Hotel

Afternoon tea at Dean Street Townhouse Hotel by Naomi Longworth

Yesterday I went for afternoon tea at the Dean Street Town House Hotel for my friend’s birthday. It’s a great location for a winter afternoon tea as the low lighting and cosy furnishings are perfect for hiding away on a cold winter’s day. They were incredibly busy and we had to wait for our reserved table so we were offered a free glass of champagne at the bar which cheered us up. We were then seated at a big table by the window on low green armchairs and comfy cushions. We did have to wait quite a while before our order was taken and the afternoon tea came a lot later than our teas and coffees. However, the food was very good – the sandwiches were very fresh and tasty – egg and cucumber which was subtle and delicious, ham and mustard – again very tasty and the mustard wasn’t too overpowering and smoked salmon and cream cheese. As you can see, we gobbled the sandwiches down before I remembered to take a photo! We opted for one afternoon tea between the two of us which costs £16.75. Depending on how hungry you are, this is about the right size but you probably need to order another set of sandwiches as you only get three sarnies each time.

We then started on the plate of fancies – a cake with thin layers of choc sponge and choc coating – it tasted divine, a lemon macaron which was zingy and had the right amount of crunch and chew and then a fairy cake with cream piped on top which was average and not as adventurous. Finally, we tucked into scones which were very fresh and slightly warm, followed by homemade strawberry and raspberry jam and clotted cream. It tasted delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d recommend the afternoon tea but the service was slow so bear that in mind.

Afternoon tea review: Cocomaya

Cocomaya fine chocolateLast weekend for my birthday, I embarked on an afternoon tea with my girl mates at Cocomaya which is an artisan bakery and chocolatier in central London. I had tried out the bakery a few months earlier with my French friend and enjoyed the flourless chocolate cake, sitting outside in the warm sunshine. The afternoon tea was set in the chocolate shop next door to the bakery and it was adorned with plates of beautiful homemade chocolates, brightly wrapped chocolate bars and a cabinet full of trinkets and vintage china. It is a girl’s dream!  The setting was perfect and we sat down to a variety of teas and coffees and water flavoured by blueberries, raspberries and flowers. My friends had rose tea, Darjeeling, good old breakfast tea and earl grey. I was brave enough to try tea for about the second time in my life and had assam chai tea which was bearable for the non-tea drinker!

Cocomaya triangular sandwiches with cream cheese, salmon, ham and cheeseFirst up was a selection of sandwiches with a difference – they used a dark ryebread which was very tasty although rather filling and heavy for an afternoon tea. The cream cheese and chilli, salmon and cucumber and ham and cheese sarnies were tasty. We didn’t eat too many though as we wanted to save ourselves for everything else to come. We also ate cheese rolls which were in Mary Berry’s words ‘scrummy’.  The next course included a selection of three types of scones – fruit scones, chocolate drop scones with cranberries and plain scones. They were accompanied by homemade jam which I guessed was something like blackberry and damson jam plus clotted cream.

Cocomaya lemon and poppy seed cakes, raspberry and choc cakesThen came a selection of about 10 mini cakes – some to half, some to have all to yourself. I couldn’t believe such a large selection of delights! Firm favourites included mini chocolate flourless cake, lemon and poppyseed mouthfuls, raspberry and creme patissiere cakes, fudge brownie and blackberry mini loaf. There were also mini banana loaf and mini marble cake slices. What a treat!

We were starting to fill up and had to go rather slowly. We opened pressies, took photos next to the chocolates and vintage china and smelt teas! It was lovely to take the afternoon at a really leisurely pace and savour every mouthful. Cocomaya let us take little boxes home of all the cakes we couldn’t eat at the time so the afternoon tea memories carried on into the weekend….

choc brownies by Cocomaya

For £25 per person I think this was one of the best afternoon teas I’ve had – the atmosphere was fabulous, the food generous and varied and the service patient and not intrusive. When I say patient – we asked if I could smell lots of different teas before I plumped for the assam chai and our waiter also took lots of piccies of us too! It can sometimes be hard to get through to them on the phone but I can only think they’re putting the finishing touches on their cakes. It’s well worth persevering and booking that afternoon tea of yours.

Special thanks go to my friend Hannah Carmichael for taking the amazing photos in this post. You can view more of her work at: http://picasaweb.google.com/hannie20

Edwardian Garden Party – afternoon tea treats

I have finally got back to the blogging after a little reprieve during the holidays but rest assured I have been baking and have lots to update you on! I have also been watching the Great British Bake Off and it has inspired me to do more baking. I thought the tarte au citron from Mary Berry would be a great recipe to try soon.

Back in June I was invited to an Edwardian Garden Party. It was great fun and full of delicious afternoon tea goodies. I managed to get a few snaps of the raspberry and champagne jelly and these little lemon and mini cupcake treats on vintage crockery! This year Lili Vanilli has been researching the Edwardian High Tea so you can see her photo story if you’re feeling inspired!

Afternoon tea review: Wyndham Grand Hotel, Chelsea Harbour

On Saturday, I went to afternoon tea at the recently refurbished Wyndham Grand Hotel in Chelsea Harbour. It was a lovely sunny day and the Harbour was a great setting. My friend had found a special deal on the Afternoon Tea website for a champagne afternoon tea for £20 which was a bargain. The afternoon tea was themed and because of the Chelsea Flower Show currently being on, it included flowers and herbs being subtly woven into the menu. You can read the menu here.

Wyndham Grand Hotel London

First up, we were ravenous and ate all the sandwiches, though if you want an extra plate, it’s £6.50. I liked the salmon and cream cheese one and it was nice and fresh. I’m not a personal fan of lavender so the honey and ham sandwich with lavender bread was not to my taste. The next layer was some lovely warm scones which were wrapped in a linen napkin to keep in the heat. We managed a scone each but there was another scone still to go at! The scones were fresh and came apart easily in two pieces and we smeared on plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Next up were the smaller cake delights and everyone had their own favourites. The one I enjoyed the most was the flourless chocolate cake with chilli. The chilli was mild enough not to be too overpowering and there was a lovely treacly gooey taste at the end of your mouthful. I also enjoyed the lemon drizzle cake and the rose and raspberry chibouste (looks like a shotglass in the pic) but you did have to dig a little deeper to get the lovely creamy filling so that the raspberries weren’t too sweet with it. The lavender shortbread wasn’t for me but it was nicely done and I did love the idea of the violet and blackberry eclairs although they were too dry. There was limitless tea and coffee and my friends chose mint and breakfast tea and a cafetiere of coffee whilst I went for a cappuccino.

The hotel has been done in a modern style and the seats were comfortable although I’m not sure the lounge bar had the right furnishings for afternoon tea. If it had been warmer we would have ventured on the terrace for the great Chelsea Harbour views. Overall it was a fantastic afternoon out and after the champagne we all felt very pampered and relaxed. I felt thoroughly stuffed from the afternoon tea so went for a long bike ride and did my fastest ever lap of the park so it must have been down to all that sugar!

Afternoon tea review: The Orangery

Kensington Gardens, afternoon teaOn Saturday I visited the Orangery in Kensington Gardens for afternoon tea with my friend. It was a beautiful sunny day so we didn’t mind waiting too much for a table. Unfortunately you can’t book in advance. We opted to sit inside so we could enjoy the atmosphere of this grand building. Each table has a little mini orange tree on it which is a nice addition. We chose the signature afternoon tea and an enchanted palace afternoon tea. The afternoon tea was on the whole very good although I have a couple of small gripes. The sandwiches could have been a little fresher – when eating finger sandwiches it is immediately apparent if they’ve been sitting about for a while. The scone although tasty was a little undercooked and heavy. On the plus side, the passionfruit mini tart was to die for. We couldn’t believe the people at the next table left theirs! They missed a treat. We loved the little cakes from the enchanted palace afternoon tea – a mini chocolate ganache gateau and a heart shaped shortbread with raspberries. We polished off everything! I am trying to avoid caffeine at the moment and there was no problem to swap the included tea or coffee for another soft drink. The homemade lemonade was refreshing and simple. Overall we really enjoyed the afternoon tea and would recommend it. However, be aware that at the weekends service is slow and staff seem content to keep the pace that way, even when there is a queue of people and the odd table is empty. Perhaps visit in the week if you’re on holiday or go with the mindset that you will be taking a very leisurely afternoon tea.

10 great Valentine cake ideas

With just under a month to go before Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be a good time to share some Valentine cake and cupcake ideas with you. There’s a savoury idea in here too if your man isn’t in to cake. Ignoring the latter sentence, cake is a great way to show your love for someone – surely that is undisputed! Here are a few ideas to get your cakebuds going.

1. Make heart shaped cupcakes – you can buy a cake mould with a set of 6 little cakes from Amazon here

2. Make a heart shaped cake – perhaps a chocolate sandwich sponge cake with red foil heart shaped chocolates in the middle of the cake around the edge – a bit like a heart treasure chest cake! Cake tins can be found here on Amazon

3. Make heart shaped cookies, dipping one half of them in dark or milk chocolate; buy cookie cutters here and you can even put them in heart celophane bags

4. Make a red velvet cake or red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book

5. Make vanilla cupcakes in these cute cases with hearts on them

6. Make cupcakes and sprinkle with these lovely edible glitter hearts or heart smarties

7. If your man isn’t in to cake but you still want to do something cooking related, how about bake him a pie in one of these magnificent red Le Creuset dishes?

From the Mad baker blog 8. If you’re a guy and London based, why don’t you book for a special Valentine afternoon tea at Bea’s of Bloomsbury which includes a gift bag of limited edition heart shaped meringues or if you’re feeling  a little more flush how about the afternoon tea at Claridges which includes champagne and heart shaped macarons? On a related note, check out the pic of these amazing heart macarons made by the Mad Baker – blog post here.

Harrogate bakery 9. Oh and if you want to see a fab Valentine cake display from last year, see my post on a Harrogate bakery here

10. Bake chocolate brownies and make a raspberry coulis for the side – BBC Good Food has a recipe to try

And what will I be baking for my fella you ask?! Secret…until after 14th Feb!

Landmark Hotel afternoon tea review

Selection of finger sandwiches and miniature cakes at the Landmark HotelToday I was fortunate enough to be invited to afternoon tea at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone. We were met with a calming atmosphere as we walked in the atrium style room known as the Winter Garden restaurant. Piano music drifted from the mezzanine as we chatted. Three of us chose the Landmark Hotel afternoon tea which included a glass of Tattinger champagne for £40. We were met with a traditional three tiered cake stand with four types of finger sandwiches and 10 miniature cakes. The second round of cakes included a basket of warm scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream. I was absolutely stuffed by the end! This was shared between two of us. The afternoon tea is generous on tea and coffee – each person is given a large teapot each and I had a full cafetiere of coffee.The waiter also gave us second helpings of sandwiches. I particularly enjoyed the coronation chicken ones which were very fresh and tasty. On to the cakes! My favourites were the passionfruit dome, not dissimilar to a chilled mouse on a little biscuit, the chocolate and kahlua millefeuille, the crunchy caramel eclair and the petite carrot cake. The scones were warm and soft and came apart easily in two parts. My colleagues said the orange cupcake frosting was a bit hard and dry and the odd salmon sandwich had slightly dry bread but these were minor points. The only limiting factor was the size of my stomach; I didn’t manage all the miniature cakes but I made a hearty attempt at eating atleast six of them! The Landmark also does a chocolate afternoon tea but this wasn’t available today. I’d love to go back and review it. Overall a fabulous afternoon tea in a relaxing setting. And I’ve just returned from a freezing hockey training to burn off the cakes!

Blooming Great Tea Party for Marie Curie

Last weekend, my friend (who writes this gift ideas blog) and I organised a Blooming Great Tea party as part of the Marie Curie fund raising initiative. The idea is you bake lots of nice cakes and eat them with cups of tea whilst giving a donation! We had perfect weather and our guests enjoyed summer berry muffins, strawberry and buttermilk scones with clotted cream and jam, plus lemon drizzle cake. The berry muffins were amazing, I must try the recipe out for myself sometime. This was all washed down with tea, coffee, iced tea or Pimms! We raised over £100 for Marie Curie and had a lot of fun in the process! I’d recommend getting involved and holding your own tea party.

This is the lemon drizzle cake recipe which I used from Easy Living’s website. It is totally idiot proof, quick to make and is my trusty fall-back recipe if I’m short of time/need to bake a cake with minimal effort. I would definitely recommend this recipe and there’s no need to tweak anything either. Good luck!

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