May 14th, 2013 | | permalink
Dig out your favourite apron, dust off those scales and raid your store cupboard. World Baking Day is almost here (19 May) and encourages people to step out of their comfort zone, by choosing to bake one of the 100 cakes on the event’s website, which have been submitted by cooks from all over the globe. At no. 1 on the list, Banana Muffins are for the kitchen novices, while the show-stopping Cream Puff Cake at no. 100 is for those very brave bakers.
The Vanilla, Strawberry & Rose Victoria Sponge took my fancy (level 66), but I decided to add my own take on it. Yes, I have baked many sponge cakes in my time. However, I must confess that recently I’ve been suffering from the curse of the dreaded soggy bottom! That’s why I wanted to go back to basics. For ease, I did an all-in-one recipe and my unique twist on the cake involves a blueberry jam filling and drizzle.
I’m proud to say my Blueberry Jam & Drizzle Victoria Sponge was a resounding success (next stop Cream Puff Cake?). Here’s how to make it…
4 eggs (weighed in their shells)
Soft margarine (same weight as the eggs)
Caster sugar (same weight as the eggs)
Self-raising (same weight as the eggs)
Drizzle and filling
Half a jar of Crabtree & Evelyn Blueberry Preserve
1 tbs margarine
2 tbs Belvoir Blueberry & Blackcurrant Cordial
50g icing sugar
A handful of rose petals (or you could use fresh blueberries)
1. Set the oven to Gas Mark 4, 160C (fan oven), 180C or 360F. Grease and line 2 x 8inch sandwich tins.
2. All the cake ingredients need to weigh the same amount. First weigh the eggs in their shells. I used duck eggs fresh from the farm and they weighed 8oz, so I made sure the margarine, sugar and flower weighed 8oz, too. The beauty of using duck eggs is that they have bigger yolks and make for a delicious golden sponge.
3. Make life easy for yourself by doing an all-in-one cake mixture. Crack the first egg in to a small bowl to make sure it’s a good egg, and add it to a food processor, KitchenAid, or a large bowl (you’ll need an electric whisk to beat the ingredients together). Repeat until all four eggs are cracked, then add the margarine, the sugar and sieve in the flour.
4. Mix all the ingredients together until they are pale, light and fluffy as a day old chick!
5. Using a large spoon dollop the cake mixture into the tins so it’s equally distributed. Smooth over with a spatula.
6. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes until they are golden and spring back to touch.
7. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins and then press them out onto a wire rack for further cooling.
8. Once the cakes have reached room temperature, put one half on a lovely large plate and spread half a jar of C&E Blueberry Preserve on to it (use more if you’re feeling lavish). Place the other half of the sponge on top.
9. Now for the really fun part, the drizzle! Pop the margarine, icing sugar and cordial into a bowl and whisk until all of the ingredients are combined. Pour onto the center of the cake and let the drizzle work its magic. To make the Victoria sponge look super-pretty and fit for a queen, scatter rose petals on top and dust with icing sugar.
Will you be taking part in World Baking Day? If so, tell us all about your cakey creations in the comments box below or on Crabtree & Evelyn’s Facebook page.
April 16th, 2013 | | permalink
Image by Sam Segar
Even on one of the greyest days, the sight of the honey coloured limestone buildings of Bath are enough to lift the spirits. On a sunny day the city has an even more dazzling charm, but whatever the unpredictable British weather, it’s easy to see why Bath is one of the jewels in Somerset’s crown.
As city breaks go Bath offers culture, chic shopping and the delicious culinary delights of the West Country, as well as, the chance to bathe in the rejuvenating spring water. Sold? Here’s our guide to the stylish spa city…
Where to stay?
Experience a taste of Georgian grandeur at The Royal Crescent Hotel. The decadent accommodation takes up two townhouses in the show-stopping Georgian crescent. Expect high ceilings, chandeliers and plenty of period charm. Plus, there’s a top-rate restaurant and spa facilities with a heated relaxation pool. The hotel is a 10-minute walk into the city centre, and the nearby Royal Victoria Park is a wonderful place to go for a stroll.
Cost: From £199
For more info visit: www.royalcrescent.co.uk
Also… For further pampering paradise, bathe in the spring waters of Bath Thermae Spa, enjoy spa treatments and yummy food.
Where to eat?
Tuck into seasonal dishes created from local fare at the award winning Olive Tree Restaurant. Love the sound of Slow cooked salmon, Eades golden beetroot and brambly apple puree? Perhaps followed by a Fine tart of shallot, violet artichoke, asparagus, goat’s cheese and oregano, and finished off with a sweet treat of Bourbon vanilla pannacotta, sweet Hendricks and marinated apricots? Stop drooling and book a table.
Cost: £26 – £45 per head
For more info visit: www.olivetreebath.co.uk
Also… Drop into Sally Lunn’s for a traditional ‘Sally Lunn bun’ or ‘Bath bun’, as they are also called. Enjoy a drink and bite to eat at Bath Ales’ new venue Graze Bar, Brewery and Chophouse.
Where to shop?
There are plenty of places to get your shopping fix in Bath, whether you’re after local cheese, antiques or the latest fashions. At The Guildhall Market, pick up antique costume jewellery and local food produce, plus chaps can have an old fashioned short back and sides at a traditional barber’s shop. Milsom Street and shopping centre SouthGate Bath offer designer and high street delights – and don’t forget to stock up on goodies at the Crabtree & Evelyn shop on New Bond Street. Afterwards check out the independent shops on Walcot Street and Broad Street– one of our favourites is Kiss the Frog Again.
Cost: Whatever your purse can handle!
Where to soak up culture?
The hot spring waters of Bath made the city a popular settlement with the Romans in AD40. They built a temple and bathing complex, now known as The Roman Baths, which is a must-see attraction. As well as soaking up the history, you can enjoy afternoon tea at The Pump Room. Make sure you try the hot Spa water, which contains 43 minerals and has been used for curative purposes for two thousand years.
Cost: Adults £12.75 (July & Aug £13.25), senior citizens and students £11, child £8.50
For more info visit: www.romanbaths.co.uk
Also… There’s no better time to visit the Fashion Museum, which turns 50 this year. To celebrate there’s a Fifty Fabulous Frocks exhibition featuring iconic names of 20th century couture.
Where is your favourite place in Bath? Tell us in the comments box below or on our Facebook Page.
December 23rd, 2012 | | permalink
So you’ve eaten enough festive food to make your buttons pop, unwrapped all your gifts and your Christmas playlist has done at least three rounds. What’s next? Make the most of 25 December with these ideas for Christmas Day activities…
Dust off the Monopoly board, make use of that prize pack of cards in your cracker, or unwrap your shiny new Cluedo box. There’s no better way of getting the family together by playing some good old fashioned games – unless you let your competitive streak get the better of you, that is. Give the usual suspects in the family a chance to have a break from doing the washing-up by making the losing team or player do the cleaning chores over the holidays.
We suggest the cardboard box game – get a empty cereal box and take it turns to pick it up from the floor using just your mouth. Tear off a section each round so the box gets smaller and smaller and more difficult to pick up. It’s guaranteed to have the whole family in stitches.
Avoid that sluggish feeling of overindulgence by wrapping up in winter woollies and going for a bracing walk with your family, loved one or favourite furry friend. You could make things interesting by taking a new route, or you could drop by at your local pub for a festive tipple and bag of nuts. If it’s snowing (fingers crossed) don’t forget your sleigh and snow boots!
Do you want to give something back this Christmas? You could give up a few hours of your day to volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Of course this isn’t just a Christmas Day activity, soup kitchen volunteers are needed all year around – so you could even give it a whirl in 2013. Contact your local council or Salvation Army to find out about how to volunteer. Did you know that Salvation Army founder William Booth set up the first soup kitchen in the 19th century?
Arguably, 25 December is the best day of the year for television – and this year there are some cracking programmes to keep you entertained. We’re looking forward to watching Doctor Who (BBC1, 5.20pm), which is set in Victorian England where scary snowmen monsters roam – and introduces Ex-Emmerdale actress Jenna-Louise Coleman as the Doctor’s new assistant. Call the Midwife (BBC1, 7.30pm) is another must-watch – in the Christmas special loveable Chummy (Miranda Hart) organises a nativity play and plays guardian angel to a young girl in need. However, don’t expect any snow over in Downton Abbey (ITV1, 9pm), as the Grantham family are off for a summer break at Duneagle Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Meanwhile back at Downton, scrumptious food isn’t the only thing that’s wafting in Mrs Patmore’s kitchen, love is also in the air.
Put the relaxation back into Christmas Day by stealing some time to indulge in some pampering. Hopefully Santa will bring you some lovely Crabtree & Evelyn products – but if you don’t want to take any chances, you can treat yourself to our bathing goodies now. We’d recommend creating a festive sanctuary in your bathroom by lighting a Noel Scented Candle and taking a long soak in the tub with Golden Petals Bubble Bath & Body Wash before drying off and moisturising with Golden Petals Silkening Body Nectar. Then jump into your Christmas PJs and enjoy some more festive TV, or play that 4th round of Monopoly – you never know, you might get Mayfair this time around!
Whatever you’re up to this Christmas, we wish you and your families a merry Christmas and fabulous 2013.
Image by sashomasho.