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

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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.

Easy pancake recipe

Pepperoni and cheese pancake by Naomi Longworth
I decided to make pancakes a night early so here is the Delia recipe on the BBC Good Food website I used last night and some pics to give you some inspiration for different flavours. I can highly recommend cheddar cheese, pepperoni or salami slices with an accompanying salad and sunblushed tomatoes. For dessert, try blueberries, raspberries drizzled with loads of maple syrup. YUM! Delia gives a tip about sieving the flour high above the bowl. Definitely do this because it helps not to get lumps. I actually managed to get a really good consistency for the batter by doing this. Good luck tonight folks! In terms of how well I fared at flipping pancakes – I cut one pancake in half and hit the pan on the back wall  – whoops! and the first pancake I flipped ended up in the pan as a folded mess! Am clearly going to have to practise before next year! Oh and if you want to know what is the difference between a pancake and a crepe then read my post here or if you want to see my mini pancakes based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe click moi.

Raspberry, blueberry and maple syrup pancake

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.

Nigella’s New Year Chocolate Cookies

Nigella Christmas chocolate cookies with chocolate glaze and sprinkles made by Naomi LongworthAfter Christmas I caught up on lots of Christmas cookery programmes like Nigella and Nigel Slater. I thought Nigella’s Christmas chocolate cookies looked yummy so I wanted to try them out. It turned out the programme was a repeat from 2008 and took me a while to find the recipe online – thanks to Living in the Kitchen with Puppies for this link. It was only in American units so I had to convert it. I’ve shared the recipe below which I also had to tweak a little bit (for the chocolate glaze). If you ever need to convert weights from US to UK for different ingredients then this is a useful site – Recipes4Us. The cookies should be baked at 160 degrees for a fan oven, 180 degrees for a normal oven.  Nigella can show you how to make the cookies far better than I can – here’s the YouTube clip.

The cookies turned out well if a bit crumbly so if you make bigger cookies I’d cook them for a bit longer than 15mins. And don’t bother cutting out nice Christmas shapes like I did originally – the cookies just expand and pretty much develop into circles whatever you do! I had fun choosing mini Christmas tree sprinkles and edible gold stars (part of my Christmas pressie!) to decorate the cookies over the chocolate glaze. For the first time, I took these photographs outside and I do think the light looks really good on them (thanks to Jonathan Pollock). More to come on food photography outside! BTW, the boyfriend loved the cookies and kept stealing them when I wasn’t looking (note the lesser number of cookies in the second picture) and they went down well with work colleagues although I ruined their healthy eating regimes on day 1. Whoops!

New Year cookies by Naomi Longworth

Cookie dough

260g butter (2 1/4 sticks)

170g caster sugar (3/4 cup)

33g cocoa powder (1/3 cup)

250 g flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Chocolate glaze

170g icing sugar (1 1/2 cup)

2 fl. oz of boiling water (1/4 cup)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

Christmas sprinkles

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

Mary Berry easy lemon cheesecake recipe review

lemon cheesecake by cake takes the biscuit blog

On Sunday I wanted to make a dessert for some friends coming round. After a BBQ with lots of meat, I thought something light and refreshing would go well. I started sifting through my recipe books and found that there were plenty of cheesecake recipes out there but a lot of them were a bit faffy especially if you had to bake one. In the end I plumped for the easy lemon cheesecake recipe from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book because it was super easy. I was impressed about how quickly it could be made.

It says to use a 9 inch flan dish, but as I didn’t have one, I used an 8 inch cake tin which was loose bottomed. The first thing to do is mix the 10 crushed digestive biscuits, 2 oz of melted butter and 1 oz demerara sugar together for the biscuit base. I found that the base did go a bit soggy when eating it so I now want to experiment with baking the base for a short amount of time before adding the filling.

For the cheesecake filling, you mix together 150ml of single cream, 1 tin of condensed milk, almost a pack of soft cheese (175g) and zest of 3 lemons. I used light condensed milk and light soft cheese so this was a bit healthier. Then you add the juice of 3 lemons – I actually put the juice through a sieve to make sure the filling was really smooth. It’s also really important to use a whisk to get rid of any lumps when you add the soft cheese. The lemon juice almost instantly thickens the mixture as long as you keep whisking. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and leave for four hours to set. Just before serving I added strawberries round the edge. If you’re more organised than me then you can make it the night before, which is actually a good plan if you’re preparing for a dinner party. I would definitely make this again because it was faff free. If you want more info on Mary Berry and her other books you can read about her here.

Yumbots – robot cupcakes!

My boyfriend spotted these when they first came out in America but it’s only recently they’ve become available in the UK. I spotted mine in the sale at Oliver Bonas (currently out of stock) but you can buy them from Play.com but they’re cheaper on Find me a Gift. In the box, you get four ‘yumbots’ – robot cupcakes moulds made out of silicone. They’re dishwasher safe, they swizzle their heads, and look super cool. What more could you want? Just be careful when taking them in and out of the oven as I found one of the yumbots came loose during the baking stage.  I filled them with vanilla sponge cupcake mix and then piped vanilla buttercream icing on their heads.  Perfect for a cake treat for your man or kids! Yum-bots!

Angry Birds Cupcakes

Angry Birds Cupcakes for the Cake takes the biscuit blog

My boyfriend sends me lots of links to cool cakes he sees on the web and hints at which cakes he’d like for his birthday. I knew an Angry Birds cake was on the list after he sent me the Playable Angry Birds Cake video and this clever modelled one. I’m not all that experienced at modelling so didn’t think I’d be able to do the birds justice. In the end I came up with the idea of cupcake toppers but found there are very few items of Angry Birds merchandise out there at the moment. I bought these off eBay and they’re very reasonably priced and were delivered quickly. I made vanilla sponge cupcakes with piped buttercream (Cakes4Fun recipe) and then added the toppers. I found the pigs came out the best because the printing of that topper was the most accurate colour wise. I then bought some happy birthday candles and was set! Note to self though, don’t walk with those happy bday candles – the wicks are really short and they fizzle out in seconds!

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