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.

Easter vanilla cupcakes recipe

with mini eggs in pink gingham cupcake boxHaving recently been to the Cakes4Fun cupcake course in Putney, I have continued to use their vanilla sponge and vanilla buttercream recipes. The sponge is light and the frosting is yummy! This time I made a mistake to use Lurpak spreadable butter as the icing wasn’t stiff enough. Next time I will definitely stick to the butter blocks as this tends to give a better result. I made these cupcakes for my friend’s birthday and she was over the moon with them. They make great pressies when you put them in a professional looking cupcake box. I bought this pink gingham one from Cakes Cookies and Crafts. See below for the Cakes4Fun vanilla cupcake recipe. Have a lovely Easter everyone!

Cupcake sponge (makes about 10)

  • 125g castor sugar
  • 125g margerine
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 2 eggs (large)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 2-3 tablespoons of milk as needed

Vanilla buttercream:

  • 125g soft butter (use salted)
  • 250g sifted icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 1 tablespoon of water as required

Top 10 Baking Tips from Cakes4Fun Cupcake Course

Here is my top ten list of tips which I learnt from the Cakes4Fun Ultimate Cupcakes Baking Course. I hope these tips help and you can read more about the courses on offer here.

  • Use margarine not butter so that you get a flat top for your cupcake; butter makes them dome
  • Weigh your eggs so that you get the same weight ratio to your flour, sugar and butter – 125g of each for 10 cupcakes
  • Pipe your sponge mixture into the cupcake cases (half full) so this leaves a little gap at the top for your icing
  • Use disposable piping bags to pipe your mixture and buttercream – this is much faster than spooning the mixture into the cases
  • When using sugar glue, ensure you make it the night before – see this video for instructions. I didn’t know this before!
  • Divide your sugar paste into small sections, wrap well and store in the freezer. Defrost the night before you bake. This way your sugar paste won’t dry out as one large bundle and will last longer
  • Use a non-stick board and non-stick mini rolling pin to roll out your sugar paste or flower paste – I had very swift delivery from Windsor Cake Craft
  • When using sugar paste, warm it in your hands and work quickly to make butterflies and flowers (Lakeland stock them) so the paste doesn’t dry and crack when you roll it out
  • Roll out your sugar paste thinly and flip over. For flowers add a shimmer with a cake brush (looks like a paintbrush). For butterflies, add sugar glue, then tap the cake brush with edible glitter on to the butterfly
  • When using liquid fondant, ice the cupcake, then put it back in the cupcake tin for a really even finish
  • Happy cupcake baking and decorating!

    Review: Cakes4Fun Ultimate Cupcakes Baking Course

    This month, I was lucky enough to be treated to a full day’s baking course at Cakes4Fun in Putney for my Christmas pressie from my boyfriend. He did a lot of research before he chose the course and I can confirm it was excellent. It’s definitely a treat as it’s not the cheapest course at £99 but you do get 5.5 hours of tuition in a group of eight people, 12 beautiful cupcakes to take home, you learn two different ways to ice the cupcakes and four ways to decorate them. You also get a sturdy box and cake carry bag to ensure your cupcakes get home safely. Our tutor was really friendly and organised and was very helpful too.

    Cakes4Fun cupcake by Naomi LongworthThe surprising part of the baking course was how relaxing it was. With classical music quietly playing in the background, and the calmness of making little sugar paste decorations, I felt thoroughly chilled out after the day. I honestly thought I had been pampering myself in a spa I was so relaxed and I even fell asleep on the bus home!

    You can see the results of the baking course for yourself – they look pretty professional! My favourite cupcake was this vanilla sponge one with bluegrass liquid fondant icing with waterlilly sugar paste flowers. I wasn’t particularly gifted at making the waterlillies but had more success with the butterflies and hydrangea flowers. I wasn’t the best at modelling either so my teddy bear isn’t as good as some of the others in my group. The course is really good for finding out which techniques you like.  At home, I would like to explore using liquid fondant icing. I have already tried making the butterflies with edible glitter at home but I have learnt some tips on how to get the best results which I’ll share with you in another post! Here’s the Ultimate Cupcakes course on offer in May if you’re interested.

    Cupcakes and cake plates

    This week I made a small batch of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book. There is a new Hummingbird recipe book publishing on 17 March which you can pre-order from Amazon. I used concentrated sugar paste colouring to make the purple frosting – it lasts a long time as you only need one tiny blob using a cocktail stick. I used a variety of fun decorations including hundreds and thousands, shiny mini balls and blue edible glitter. The cupcakes went down a treat and all my friends had two.

    Recently, I was given a vintage cake plate for my birthday from eBay. I did a lot of research before finding the one I wanted and found that it’s actually quite hard to find a nice one at the right price.

    You can also buy it here for the same price on ‘Say No  To The Highstreet‘ or Amazon. My friend found a lovely one at a vintage sale so you may find them at car boot sales, charity shops or on vintage websites.

    You can buy modern ones like this single tiered cake plate from Amazon or this other Portmeiron one from John Lewis. I also like Cath Kidston’s three tiered cake stand and at House of Fraser, this one layer cake stand is currently on offer. Happy cake plate hunting!

    Celebrating one year of Cake takes the biscuit!

    James Martin recipeToday is a special day, as it’s the first anniversary of the Cake takes the biscuit blog. It’s been a fabulous culinary journey so far and I intend to keep it up! I thought a Valentine’s theme post would be particularly appropriate, especially since I did promise to let you know what I would bake. First of all I made a beef and ale pie with this James Martin recipe. It’s a great one to get simmering away on a Sunday in winter and then just finish off on a week night with the puff pastry and add into the oven for 25mins. I added a heart in pastry to make this Valentine themed. It was very tasty and I’d definitely cook it again. My boyfriend did have two helpings so that was a good sign.

    Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing and heart shaped chocolates
    For pudding, clearly the most important part of the meal, I baked vanilla Hummingbird cupcakes in heart shaped baking cases. I also used homemade vanilla essence which was a present from my sister-in-law at Christmas. Add two good quality vanilla pods to sterilised jars and fill with decent vodka, shake and wait. It needs 4-6 weeks to mature so this week was great timing to use it. I then decorated the cupcakes with vanilla icing and little hearts wrapped in pink and red foil from M&S. I made these in fairy cake cases rather than bigger cupcake cases. Nonetheless my boyfriend tucked into four of them! And my housemates polished off the rest with me tonight and they went down a treat. All in all, a success and a great way to start the second year of Cake takes the biscuit!

    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!

    Hummingbird Bakery cafe review – Old Brompton Road

    Last night, I visited the Hummingbird Bakery on Old Brompton Road (nearest tube is South Kensington). I went there with a friend back in February but had poor customer service and emailed the bakery to let them know I had been disappointed. Their customer services team were very good, made some changes, apologised and offered me and my friend complimentary cupcakes and coffee. We decided to give it a shot yesterday and I had a red velvet cupcake and my friend had a choc chip cheesecake cupcake (hard to say!). I thought the icing on my cupcake was delicious but the sponge was rather dry. I tried a bit of my friend’s and hers was nice and fresh and she really enjoyed it. It was a little sweet for me but then that’s what cupcakes are all about! The staff were OK but still slow to clear tables and bring drinks. On a Monday evening this could definitely have been a bit swifter. I’d like to return for take-out to keep trying their different cupcakes and cakes but I still think the ambiance of the cafe is missing that bit of sparkle.

    Hummingbird Bakery Halloween cupcakes recipe review

    Hummingbird bakery chocolate cupcake with pink frosting

    Last week I made these scary chocolate cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book for Halloween. I doubled the quantity making 18 cupcakes (they make 9 rather than 12 in a batch). I had run out of caster sugar so used golden sugar which went well. One batch of the vanilla frosting (250g of icing sugar) is enough to ice all the cupcakes. Split the icing into two bowls and add some cocoa powder. I added red and yellow food colouring to the vanilla icing. I was hoping for orange icing but without any orange food colouring I was struggling! It ended up being a deep pink instead. Next up came some scary eyeballs and pumpkins wrapped in foil, sold by Marks and Spencer.

    Hummingbird bakery chocolate cupcakeThe cupcakes went down very well with my taste testers and I particularly liked the eyeball ones in the end! I did find this cool baking website – Cakes, Cookies and Craft Shop in the process which sells great cupcake decorations. I thought their Halloween selection was fun, I just didn’t have time to order them before Halloween!

    Paris: the tale of the tart, the cupcake and the macaron

    Lemon cupcake from Miss Cupcake shop in ParisI recently visited Paris for the very first time and as part of my trip, I made it my quest to sniff out a cupcake shop and devour raspberry tarts and try my first Parisian macaron. First up, I stumbled across a cupcake shop not far from the Sacré Coeur called Miss Cupcake (nearest metro station is Abesses). I chatted to the two ladies in there and bought a lovely looking lemon cupcake with yellow edible glitter. Whilst admiring the view from the Sacre Coeur I took this pic of the cupcake which came in a very handy portable cupcake container. The sponge melted in your mouth and I loved the amount of icing. As it was a lemon cupcake I think it could do with a little bit more lemon juice to make it really lemony.

    Raspberry tart from Les Magots, ParisNext up was this corker of a raspberry tart in Les Deux Magots in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. The crème anglaise was yummy and the raspberries were plump and delicious. I did have one other raspberry tart which was superior in fact. It was from La Durée and I devoured it on the Eurostar home but I couldn’t get a snap of it with flash as everyone was fast asleep!

    Macarons from La DuréeFinally, I spent a good 20 minutes queuing up for some of these beauties in La Durée. I chose vanilla, blackcurrant, caramel, red berries and chocolate. Six of these will set you back around eight euros. The intensity of flavour was incredible. I loved the blackcurrant and caramel ones. My friend told me that Pierre Hermé (here’s his chocolate macaron recipe) sells delicious ones near le Jardin des Tuileries but I didn’t get time to pop in there. I will have to save that for my next culinary visit to Paris! According to the Daily Telegraph, his book ‘Macaron’ should be publishing this autumn in English so I will be keeping my eyes peeled for that! I’ve done a bit of digging but can’t find it on sale yet so the mystery continues…Finally, if you fancy reading a bit more about macarons and Pierre Hermé, I enjoyed reading He-Eats’ blog post.

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