Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Best Cake EVER!

So I recently had a recommendation from my friend Claire (don't think I can get away with calling them my bridesmaids anymore) to make the Nigella Chocolate Guinness Cake.  Oh MY God!  I am so glad I did, even hubby says it's the best cake I've ever made.  It was super moist and soft and bouncy and delicious!

Here is the recipe, I highly recommend you try it!...

Ingredients:


  • 250ml Guinness
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 75g cocoa
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 x 142ml pot sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2 1/2teaspoons bicarbonate of soda



  • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 125ml double or whipping cream


Method:


Wow! Chocolaty Guinessy Creamy delights!
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C, and butter and line a 23cm springform tin.
  2. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter - in spoons or slices - and heat until the butter's melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
  3. Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
  4. When the cake's cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsieved icing sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.
  5. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.
Bubbly goodness!

None of my cakes have ever risen this well before :)

Frothy top to make it look all Guiness-like :)




I made it exactly as stated, it needed 55 minutes in my oven and was cooked perfectly.  The edge was slightly crispy which I love but the whole cake was moist - not dry at the edges like some cakes I've baked before!
It went down a treat at work as well and hubby was popular since he took a chunk into theatre with him for the nurses.

Think I might be making another one on Thursday to take down south with us to see my brother and the in-laws this weekend!  :)

(Don't forget to enter my competition over on Twitter!)


Monday, 28 November 2011

Honeymoon Pt 11 - Zanzibar, Stone Town

So we stayed in the lovely Serena Inn hotel.  When we returned from our walking tour of the town we were taken to our room which blew us away!  We had an ENORMOUS balcony, bigger than the room itself!  They must have given us a superior room (we didn't request this at any hotels but think our tour company must have told them we were on honeymoon) as we were right at the top of the hotel with a sunset sea view and a massive balcony with it's own hammock!  AND we again received a lovely gift of a fruit basket and bottle of fizz.

Hammock and sea view

HUGE balcony

Another romantic 4-poster bed :)

Fizz & Fruit gift 
My Lovely hubster  :)
We enjoyed our lovely fruit and headed down to the cafe for a bite before heading out again to explore more of the town on our own.

Pool
 

Cute cafe area by the pool

Gorgeous hubby again  :)

I managed to squeeze in a little bit of shopping after our tour in the more touristy area and down some of the back street markets.  I bought a silver Africa charm and Nik bought me a very cute malachite elephant I fell in love with (I'm really not into these kind of ornaments usually but I love malachite and it was such a nicely patterned piece made into a very cute elephant which I was getting very excited to see on safari!!)  We also got a gorgeous watercolour painting of one of the carved doors from an artist we found on our way back to our hotel balcony for sunset.


Africa Charm


Malachite Elephant
Watercolour Painting
Sunset wasn't particularly amazing but I took a couple of photos from the balcony (we'd missed most of it anyway by the time we found our way back) and we got ready for dinner.  (i.e. sprayed ourselves with insect repellent!)



We had been told on our tour about a big open area down at the sea front which is filled up at night by dozens of street food stalls selling all kinds of zanzibar specialities which is where most of the locals go to eat! We decided we'd rather do this than have another hotel meal so headed off to see what was there.  




We had also been told by our guide of the favourite speciality of 'Zanzibar Pizza' which consists of a doughy base (like pizza) but filled with Nutella, banana and MAYONNAISE!?!!?  Apparently it's lovely but we both chickened out and just got a savoury version which was still quite exciting as it wasn't at all what we expected when ordering a cheese and tomato pizza (OK we were REALLY unadventurous) he started mixing up eggs and chopped tomatoes and soft cheese and then put a doughy lid on also.  It was more like an encased omelette and was delicious, if a bit tricky to eat while standing up!


Our 'safe' option omelette style pizza


We also shared a chicken gyro wrap which was very tasty and the chef was so friendly and chatty and loved my Africa charm as it proved I loved Africa apparently :)


The best thing though was the cane sugar juice which they squeeze fresh like I had seen in the Borneo market.  In Zanzibar they served it with lime and ginger pressed through as well and it was amazing!




The next day, we had one of the best breakfasts yet (we were even offered fizz!) and the windows open right onto the beach, I believe the sea can reach right up when the tide is in!  We watched the early risers working out while we enjoyed our food before heading off for our flight back to the mainland which turned out to be just for us!  It was literally us and the pilot on a 12 seater plane, very exciting!  More on this next time with the start of our safari!

Enjoying my coconut water with breakfast :)

Breakfast view


Friday, 25 November 2011

Etsy Competition

To celebrate my new shop on Etsy, I am running a twitter give-away competition.  Just follow me on twitter and RT one of my special competition links and you will be entered into the prize draw (on Thursday 1st December) to win a 10 pack of my Photo Art Cards (see below) :)

I've put the tweets in my favourites so you can find it or just search for #BexPhotoComp!



London

So, as well as celebrity encounters, we had an amazing time on our long weekend in London last week.  Nik had booked a super early flight to Luton so we arrived at St Pancras around 9.30am and made our way to Samir's flat in Islington to dump our bags and get organised for the day.  I had arranged to meet Anna and Gemma that day for lunch in Victoria so we decided to head straight there as we weren't sure how long it would take and then we could get our bearings.  We arrived about an hour early so went for a wander to the shopping centre where we were planning on going for lunch only to find it had been evacuated due to a 'police incident' with the area all taped off.  As we wandered along the outside instead I was instantly attracted to a sparkling in a window.  Since we had time to kill anyway, I went in to try it on and out I popped with my new Christmas party dress!  (And with 25% off!)

This but in Silver from Monsoon
(for some reason they don't have the silver one online)

We then headed back along to the station to meet the girls, it was a bit of a blind date moment as we tried to figure out if the person hovering by Costa was Anna or not until she gave us a tentative wave (we'd obviously been spotted staring so thank goodness it was her!)  Luckily I had met Gemma before and shouted her as she walked straight past us (she was on the phone sorting out jobs to be fair), lol.

We all headed off to Wagamama since the police were now done with their incident.  I absolutely love their Chicken Raman Noodle Soup with a dash of chilli oil.  We had a great time chatting over lunch and the girls seemed very impressed with Nik  :)  I did quite like his response when Gemma was talking about some studded leggings she'd seen and Nik said...

"Oh yeh, I've seen them!" all excited.
To which they both replied, "Really?!"
He said "No".

Oh dear, he cracks me up that boy.  But he was very patient listening to us talk about wedding food, jobs, parties, etc. and of course blogs!

After lunch we headed towards Covent garden on the recommendation of Anna and hopped on the bus.  On our way there we went past a few interesting places at Piccadilly and when the bus two behind us crashed into the one behind us we stopped to let other passengers on.  We made the impulse decision to get off and just wander around where we were.  We walked back to the Royal Academy of Art building we had admired from the bus and discovered the Degas and the Ballet Exhibition was on so we spent a couple of hours in there admiring the paintings, drawings and sculptures, there were even a few photos towards the end which always interest me more.



After this, we wandered along one of the lovely arcades and I treated myself to a Laduree Macaron, yum!  Poor Nik can't eat them as he's allergic to all nuts, even though the woman in the shop tried to tell him only the praline one had nuts in (Luckily I knew they are made using ground almonds!)  We also marvelled at Fortnum & Mason with their fab burlesque styled windows.  We particularly enjoyed the free tastings although they definitely work as we bought a vintage port for Christmas!  Surprisingly it was delicious not just with cheese but with dark chocolate which my husband and father-in-law are both particularly partial to!

F&M Window

Inside F&M
Down to the cheese & wine floor!

After so much walking all day my feet were starting to ache (despite wearing my comfiest flat boots) so we found a coffee shop to rest for a while before meeting Nik's brother for a pre-theatre dinner.  The coffee from Cilantro was AWFUL, the worst I've ever had it was so weak and I don't even like strong coffee.  While we were sat there, another couple next to us settled down, took one sip and left!  Had my feet not needed the rest, we probably would have done the same!

Dinner was a different matter.  Ishan had booked the pre-theatre deal for us at PJs Bar & Grill which was literally up the road from the theatre.  It was a bargainous £13.95 for 2 courses and a Bellini!  (I do love a Bellini!)  I had the chicken liver parfait which was delicious and we both had the sirloin for main.  Ishan joined us for a quick drink when he finished work before we headed down to the Lyceum Theatre.

Mmmm Bellinis

My Pate and Nik's Thai Fishcakes

So, the highlight of our day (and the whole trip for me, even counting the markets believe it or not) was The Lion King musical.  I absolutely LOVED it!  It's been years since I've seen the film although it is one of my favourites (I have a bit of a thing for kid's films) it's not one I have on DVD.  I loved seeing how they had transferred it to the stage - the costumes and set were simply amazing, especially the giraffes who had stilts on both their feet and hands and the neck and head was on a hat!  I'm so glad the songs were all still the same (had to resist the urge to join in singing - not even the kids in the audience were so I behaved) and they had even made an effort to keep the look of the animals the same as in the film.  I was especially impressed with the heads of the hyenas - just how I remembered them looking along with Zazu and Pumba & Timone!

Image from TicketMaster

Image from Freshly Social

The puppetry involved was also impressive, not only do the cast have lines and stage directions to remember but how to move their costumes and puppets, while simultaneously concentrating on their own facial expressions - I was particularly impressed with Zazu and Timone who seemed to have the most complicated puppets but controlled them so well.  Talk about multi-talented!  I was impressed by all of the characters but my absolute favourite was Rafiki, the baboon.  Her singing was fantastic and she was definitely the funniest which is why I think she got the biggest cheer at the end!

Image from Disney

You can see how amazing the costumes were.  The gazelles in the background were so amazing leaping around the stage with one on each arm and one on the head so they could move them as they jumped making them look so graceful and like a proper herd.

Image from Disney

The Lions were particularly good which you would expect with a show about Lions.  The make up was fantastic and the heads a brilliant design which could 'lunge' forward when they moved in a certain way (i.e. lunging!) and then retracts to sit above their face.

Image from Broadway.com

My own rubbish picture of the sun rising (I was trying to be subtle and just snapped this quick shot at the start)
We had great seats in the middle of the circle.  Thanks Nik!
The bit I liked the most about the set was the watering hole drying up.  At first I thought the water was just lighting onto the stage until it started to move just like water and trickled slowly into the middle as it dried up.  I realised then that it was a large circle of fabric which was being pulled into a hole in the middle.  So effective!

All in all, the show was beautiful to watch, great fun to listen to, funny and and ideal way to spend a couple of hours in London.  I would happily see the same show again!  Highly recommended!

*Spoiler alert if you have never seen it - (where have you been?!)*

And yes, I still cried when Mufasa died.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cosy Cushions

After seeing the grey knitted cushions on Naomi's blog in her post about snugs, I fell in love with the idea of knitted cushions to add a bit of texture and warmth to our new grey study.  As we have a day bed in there with Nik's computer, I thought it would be nice to make that my reading corner while he works (plus there are lots of cosy pillows and the duvet to snuggle into!)

We've decided compromised (Nik wants all the same style not too chunky and same colour and I want a mixture of different chunky styles and a mix of grey and neutral shades) that we would like a combination of four or five cushions in two styles and two colours - grey and neutral.  I went on an Internet search last night and found these options...

Mocha Cable Knit 65 x 65cm Cushion Cover, John Lewis  

Inspire Cable Knit Cushion - Cream, Argos 

Cable knit cushion cream 40x40, Tesco 

Handknit Plaited Cable Cushion, Not On The High Street.com 


Inspire Cable Knit Throw - Cream, Argos

Another possible option to add texture is this gorgeous velvet throw which I love (especially in the Plum colour) but just wouldn't work with everything else we have happening in there.


Mia Velvet Collection, Graham & Green



But I think my favourites are these two...

Cable Knit Throws and Cushions, SlumberSlumber.com

Charcoal Somerton Cable-Knit Throw & Cushions, The White Company


And my absolute favourite!!

Natural Chunky Hand-Knit Cushion, The White Company

(Also comes in dark grey)

Which are your favourites?  To see more ideas and other cushions I found see my Pinterest board here.

I can't wait to curl up in the cosy cushions with my kindle in our new snug corner :)


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