Cafe Review: Brew, Northcote Road, Clapham, London

Clapham coffee Brew CafeAt the weekend I popped into Brew on Northcote Road in Clapham for a coffee. Boy it’s good coffee, great taste, strong and a lovely bit of barista art on top. They do great brunch food too so it’s a good all-day place (their website has some lovely brunch pics). Cake wise I plumped for a carrot cake which was enormous and you could definitely share it with a friend. It was nice and moist but I thought it was lacking a wee bit of flavour, perhaps cinnamon. They also had a gigantic red velvet cake on display too. My friend tried a Lamington which I hadn’t come across before. It’s an Ozzie cake with sponge, a layer of chocolate and dessicated coconut covering it. It was a bit dry so I reckon you’d be better to stick to their other tray bakes and layer cakes. All in all the coffee made it worthwhile. I’d defo head back to try some more of their cake range and sample another brunch dish. Some other ladies were busy drinking prosecco with their cake so it’s a fun place for a late afternoon meet up before you hit the bars.

lamingtonBrew cafe carrot cake

Clapham coffee Brew Cafe

Cafe Review: Nordic Bakery

Nordic Bakery cinnamon bunsI am well over due an update to the blog so today is my attempt to kick start things and get back to my regular posting. After many weeks of working long hours I had to put the blog on the back burner but I was itching to get back to the baking and blogging. As part of National Novel writing month, my friend is brave enough to embark on writing a book for the first time. She has to write atleast 1,500 words a day for a month, the equivalent of over 50,000 words.  I think it’s a great initiative because not only does it encourage people to start creative writing, but it envelopes their friends too. Hannah has initiated group chill out sessions where we can meet and write novels and journal entries, blog and read.

Front cover of Nordic Bakery book My suggestion for yesterday’s creative café was the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square in Soho. I had always wanted to give it a try and this seemed the perfect excuse. The industrial décor and low lighting is great for a chilled and dark Sunday afternoon. I opted for a cinnamon bun which is like a giant, tightly coiled croissant, filled with doughy goodness and lashings of cinnamon. It was crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside and just about gooey enough with oozing syrup. Other cakes on offer include tall sponge cakes marbled with chocolate (Tiger Cake) or orange and poppyseed or topped with caramelised almonds (Tosca cake).  The cakes looked a bit dry which is why I opted for a bun but with a good cup of coffee I’m sure they would have been tasty. My friend had a gravalax and Nordic cheese sandwich on rye bread which she said was very tasty although rather minute for £4. If you want to recreate their recipes and other Nordic nibbles, you can buy the Nordic Bakery Cookbook for £15 from the café.

The staff were helpful although they needed to come round more often to clear all our cups and plates. I would recommend this café if you’re after a peaceful, lazy afternoon away from the hubbub of Regent St. Bizarrely, they started turning the lights down every 15 minutes! I was still there after 6pm and the really nice thing was how the atmosphere was really chilled and the staff were so nice they didn’t make any attempt to throw out their customers after closing time!

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

Hummingbird Bakery – animated pop-art cake video

When having a look on the Hummingbird Bakery website a little while ago, I stumbled across this animated pop art cake video. The video is by Tarmak Films. Take a peak! Oh and I just found out that HBB have a new store open on the great named street Frying Pan Alley near Spitalfields! I will have to go and visit soon when I’m heading eastwards…

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.

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.

Peggy Porschen teapot cookie and cafe

There’s a very cool cookie, cake and cupcake shop in Victoria which I’d recommend – Peggy Porschen Cakes. I’ve just been in there to buy this lovely pink teapot cookie for my friend as it’s her birthday tomorrow and unfortunately, she’ll be travelling back from Switzerland rather than kicking back with a glass of wine. This was a lovely little treat to cheer her up! At Peggy Porshen’s as well as being a cake shop, they have two tables in there and serve a selection of nice teas. I am hoping to try out the cupcakes for myself very soon! I have also spied that Peggy Porschen is running cupcake masterclasses…They also have an online shop which has lovely gifts. Will keep you posted on the cafe review soon!

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!

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