Hi! Welcome to my blog. I am a major foodie, with a haphazard cooking philosophy, currently making that transition from cooking and baking for friends and family to 'wonder if I could make this my career'. Follow me for recipes, the outcomes of a few experiments, and general lovely foodiness. Opinions, reviews and recommendations are all my own.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Chocolate Eclairs : GBBO Technical Challenge

Last week after watching the Great Comic Relief Bake Off, I set myself the challenge of attempting the four technical challenges at home. My unwritten rule to myself was to use the recipe from the show (either Paul or Mary's) and follow it to the letter, rather than falling into my usual habit of substituting ingredients.
So... the four challenges are;
Episode One: Custard Slices - Paul Hollywood's Recipe
Episode Two: Bakewell Tart - Mary Berry's Recipe
Episode Three: Chocolate Éclairs - Paul Hollywood's Recipe
Episode Four: Lemon Meringue Pie - Mary Berry's Recipe

I'm not tackling these in order, but over the next few weeks I will test and publish each recipe and my comments.

Chocolate Eclairs

Chocolate Eclairs
So, this is the recipe that has the most riding on it, as they are Gary's absolute favourites. I have never made choux pastry before in my life, it has always appeared to be one of those witch-crafty type things that no normal person could ever achieve. After watching the celebrity bakers tackle it on GBBO however I was determined to give it a go.

As per my unwritten rule for this challenge, I used the recipe from the programme. I followed this one to the absolute letter, as I had a feeling if I deviated at all, something would go horribly wrong.

Making the actual pastry was surprisingly simple. Because I was a little afraid of this recipe, I weighed out all the ingredients beforehand, so that everything was ready to go, and I would definitely say this is the key to the pastry, as everything came together very fast. There are two points, firstly when you add the flour to the water and butter mix, and secondly when you combine the eggs with the dough, that it all looks like it's going wrong, and the mixture separates and goes lumpy, however power through, and it all comes back together perfectly just as the recipe states.

When cooking the choux pastry shells, again I followed the recipe method to the letter, even going so far as to set the stopwatch on my phone to time the intervals at each temperature. The next time I make them I am going to trust my instinct a little more, as if I am being over-critical the shells were about 1 minute over-cooked. When I cut the shells to make the slit for the cream to fill, a couple cracked as I eased them open. Filling with the cream was simple and straight-forward, however I would emit the vanilla extract from the recipe, as Gary and I both found the taste a little over-powering and unnecessary.

My only hiccough with the whole process was that I tried to short-cut on the chocolate and microwaved it to melt it down. I slightly burnt it at the edge, and the little crystallised bits of chocolate clogged up my piping nozzle making it really difficult to pipe evenly. Overall though, really pleased with my first attempt, and would definitely recommend this recipe to anyone wanting to give éclairs a go!
 The Recipe (from Paul Hollywood - BBC Food)
For the choux pastry
  • 65g/2½oz plain flour, sifted
  • pinch salt
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten
For the filling
  • 200ml/7fl oz whipping cream
  • 5 tsp icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the icing
  • 100g/3½oz milk chocolate, chopped
Preparation method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Generously grease a baking tray with butter.
  2. Sift the flour onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.
  3. Put 120ml/4fl oz water into a medium-sized pan with the salt and butter and heat gently until the butter has completely melted – don’t let the water boil and begin to evaporate. Quickly bring the mixture to the boil and tip in all the flour in one go. Remove the pan from the heat and beat furiously with a wooden spoon – don’t worry, the mixture will look messy at first but will soon come together to make a smooth heavy dough.
  4. Put the pan back on a low heat and beat the dough for about a minute to slightly cook the dough – it should come away from the sides of the pan to make a smooth, glossy ball. Tip the dough into a large mixing bowl and leave to cool until tepid.
  5. Beat the eggs in a bowl until combined, then gradually beat them into the dough with an electric whisk or mixer, or a wooden spoon, beating well after each addition. (You may not need all the egg.) The dough should be very shiny and paste-like, and fall from a spoon when lightly shaken.
  6. Spoon the pastry into a piping bag fitted with a 1.25cm/½in plain nozzle and pipe 12 x 10cm/4in lengths onto the greased baking tray.
  7. Sprinkle the tray, not the pastry, with a few drops of water, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then, without opening the door, reduce the oven temperature to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden-brown and crisp.
  8. Remove the tray from the oven and carefully make a small hole in the side of each éclair to allow steam to escape. Return to the oven and bake for a further five minutes, or until the pastry is completely crisp. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  9. For the filling, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until just stiff.
  10. Once the éclairs have cooled, cut down the length of one side of each éclair and pipe in the whipped cream.
  11. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water) and allow it to cool slightly. Dip the tops of the éclairs in the chocolate and let the chocolate set before serving.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Marmalade Loaf Cake

Don't you just love it when everything falls into place! Ok, I'm not talking about the big things today, but a few things of little consequence that have just aligned perfectly for a Sunday lunchtime. 

Firstly, I have spent the morning cleaning and cooking, as any good Stepford Wife (I wish!) does on a Sunday morning. I prepped several lasagnas for tonight's dinner and the freezer, and then started to clear out the little collection of half used jars from the fridge. Most have been discarded, but I found a nearly full jar of marmalade, still in date. Now we barely ever eat marmalade, however it would be a shame for this to go to waste... the cakey part of my brain kicked in... and I started to google marmalade cake recipes.

I found plenty. I assessed each of them against the contents of my kitchen cupboards and fridge. All of them called for orange zest and juice. I had no oranges. No problem, I assured myself, I'm just going to have to do this 'pantry door style'! (My 'kick at the pantry door' cooking philosophy comes from an old saying of my parents, and basically involves changing recipes and substituting ingredients based on what I have in the house.) 

So after playing with recipes, ingredients and quantities, this is the recipe that was born. It's a simple, tasty tea-loaf, and the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea on a Sunday afternoon! 

  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g good quality marmalade
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 100g icing 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, and line a standard loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs, and whisk into the mixture a little at a time to prevent it from curdling. Add the marmalade, and whisk again until fully combined. Sift the flour into the bowl, and fold together with a spatula until evenly distributed. 

Transfer the mixture to the loaf tin, and place in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes at 180 degrees, then turn the oven down to 150 degrees and bake for a further 20 - 25 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Check on the cake after the first 30 minutes have passed, and if it looks like it's going a little too dark on the top place a greaseproof paper lid over the top to prevent it from burning. 

Remove the cake from the oven, and place on a cooling rack in the tin to cool. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice to form a syrup. Prick holes all over the cake whilst still warm, and pour the syrup over. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then remove and serve. 

The final piece of the puzzle is that I have been getting more involved in the blogging hemisphere over the last few weeks, and have been immersing myself in the wonderful foodie blogs of others. I have noticed several blogging challenges, and have been deliberating over which recipes to enter into which challenges. This Marmalade Tea Loaf has leaped out of nowhere, and fits the criteria for this month's Tea Time Treats challenge's theme of Citrus. 

Tea Time Treat's is run monthly by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and Kate at What Kate Bakes. This month it's being hosted by Karen. And the entry cut-off date is the 28th of each month... guess what - it's the 27th! See -it's all come together perfectly! 

So I give you my first ever blogging challenge entry - Marmalade Loaf Cake! Happy Sunday Everyone!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

My Favourite Chocolate Cake Recipe

The last few days have been a bit of a whirl of baking ideas, tips and inspirations, and I suddenly have so much I want to share with you all, that I have actually started seven new blog posts, which I am going to have to ration out over the next few weeks! Not least of all has been the wonderful, albeit short lived return of the Great British Bake Off to our screens this week - my mission this weekend is to attempt at least two of the technical challenges from the week - standby for photos!
This week's run of GBBO has been every bit as entertaining, inspiring, and memorable as the three main series - my personal highlights have to be Warwick Davies goliath of a gateaux, Bob Mortimer's 'Baker St' cake, and Claudia Winkleman's... well just everything.
Let's not forget though that the run has all been about raising awareness and funds for Comic Relief - I for one will be buying an apron this weekend (and definitely will not be prancing around my kitchen pretending I have just been awarded Star Baker!) All the details are here - please take a moment to get involved.
Anyway - back to the main title of this post - I wanted to share my absolute go-to Chocolate Cake recipe - it's one I stumbled upon after years of experimenting and never being totally satisfied, and now I can safely say that this is THE ONE! I'm also going interject a few of my own baking essentials - this is by no way an endorsement or sponsored promotion - just my honest opinion on which products work best for me.
The Recipe
Ingredients (the following quantities make 12 cupcakes or one 8' cake layer - double the batter up to make a two tier cake, or a larger batch of cupcakes)
  •  50g dark muscovado sugar
  •  25g quality cocoa powder
  •  125 ml boiling water
  •  62g unsalted butter
  •  75g golden caster sugar
  •  112g plain flour
  •  1/4 tsp baking powder
  •  1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  •  1 tsp vanilla extract
  •  1 large egg 
Step One: Weigh out the muscovado sugar and cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl. I always always always use Green and Black's cocoa powder. I find that the flavour is far superior to any other brand I have tried before, and it gives a really rich but not too sweet chocolate flavour to any bake. It is a little pricey, and this recipe calls for quite a high quantity - especially if you are doubling up the mixture for a tiered cake, but it really is worth it. Anyway, pour the boiling water over the sugar and cocoa powder, and whisk until fully combined. Set this bowl to one side.
Step Two: In a larger bowl, add the butter and golden caster sugar and cream together. Most cake recipes specify softened butter, which helps make the creaming process quicker and easier. I stumbled upon the Willow brand of butter when it was on offer once in my local supermarket, and it is wonderfully soft, even straight from the fridge. I have used this ever since, and it saves so much time - especially considering I never remember to take my butter out of the fridge in time and then have to mess with the microwave trying to soften it in 2 second bursts. I also only ever use golden caster sugar in my bakes, it's unrefined, and I really prefer the taste. 

Step Three: Add the vanilla extract and the egg to the creamed butter and sugar, and whisk well to combine. It is important here to use vanilla extract rather than essence, as the flavour is far better. You need to whisk the egg in well to combine to a smooth batter (above top right).
Step Four: Add the plain flour, baking powder and bicarb of soda, and mix well again. You will end up with quite a stiff mixture (above bottom right)
Step Five: Add the cocoa and water mixture from step one - use a spatula to get all the mixture out of the bowl, trust me you want every last drop! Mix well, until you achieve a smooth, glossy batter as above. The batter should be of an easy dropping consistency.
Step Six: Divide the mixture into cupcake cases or greased cake tins, and bake at 180 degrees until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. For cupcakes this is about 15 - 20 minutes, and for a cake 30 - 35 mins.

And that's it - my favourite chocolate cake recipe in six easy steps! The cake is light in texture, firm in structure, and incredibly chocolaty without being too sweet, which means it can take a really sweet frosting without being too sickly. For the cupcakes in the picture I chose a Salted Caramel frosting. A dark chocolate ganache works just as well, and you can always add a dash of cherry brandy or orange liqueur for something a little more adult... Just perfect! I've also found that this cake keeps really well for up to a week.
Enjoy! V x

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Microphone Cupcakes: A How To Guide

Microphone Cupcakes

Yesterday I uploaded a post about my cousin's birthday party, where I made her a One Direction cake, and a batch of these microphone design cupcakes. I mentioned that I had a few troubles along the way, and I wanted to share with you all a step by step how I made these, and a few things I would do differently next time. 

To make these sparkly little treats, you will need the following;

- A good quality sponge cake batter
- Ice cream cup cones (the ones with the flat bottoms)
- Edible silver spray - I used Dt Oetker's Shimmer Spray in silver, from Tesco
- Plenty of kitchen roll
- Buttercream frosting
- Coloured sugar crystals - I used silver and pink here, but would have preferred black (my local shop was out of stock)
- Liquorice and/or strawberry laces
- A skewer
- A small amount of royal icing in a piping bag

So, to start, we bake the cupcakes in the ice cream cones. I love this method for two reasons, one because you don't need to use a muffin or bun tin, because they stand up by themselves, and two, because the sponge bakes really even inside, without forming a crust on the edges, so it is really soft and light to eat. 
Based on a sponge recipe that calls for equal parts butter, sugar, egg and flour, I found that one egg (approx 54g) and equal of the rest of the ingredients filled 4 cones. For the party, I used 6 eggs, and 330g of the additional ingredients to fill 24 cones. 

Divide the mixture equally between the cones, place on a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking parchment, and bake in the oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are firm to touch. 

Remove from the oven, and set to cool on a cooling rack. At this point use a small pallet knife to remove any overspill or edges from the sponge, so that all the cones are even ready for the microphone top to be iced.
Once the cones are cool, the next step is to make them appear metallic. I used here a Shimmer Spray from Dr Oetker. I found this product easy to use, however you need to make sure that you have covered every available surface with kitchen roll, as the glitter gets everywhere. I used two cans of the spray to cover 24 cones, but to be honest, they would have looked better if they had a third coat as well - you can still see the cone colour through the silver. The cans are quite expensive (£3.99 each) so I would have hoped that they would have stretched further. I also found that once they are coated the silver comes off on your fingers so keep handling to a minimum.

Once the cones are dry to touch, then we ice the top of them. Pipe or spoon buttercream frosting onto the top of the sponge. We will be making a dome shape, but the buttercream can just be applied like the picture. 

Empty the sugar crystals into a bowl and dip the buttercream portion of the cone in. I have to apologise here, I had too many hands full and couldn't photograph the process. 

Anyway, rotate the cone so that the buttercream is completely covered in the sugar crystals. Remove, and use the palm of your hand to to gently cup the top, moulding the frosting and crystals into a dome shape as per the photo. 

I had some issues here getting hold of black sugar crystals. My local cake shop explained that they could order in for me, however I didn't have the luxury of time, so had to settle for silver. Again, I bought two pots, yet they didn't stretch anywhere near as far as I had hoped. I made 12 silver, and then had to make 12 in pink as I had some in my cupboard. 

I also added some black edible glitter to the tops of the domes to darken the colour slightly. 

Next step is to create the band around the base of the dome. I used black liquorice on the silver topped cones, and red strawberry laces on the pink topped cones. For the liquorice bands, as I was using quite a thick liquorice so cut shorter lengths, and fixed two bands around each of the cones. You need a small amount of royal icing to 'glue' the liquorice into place. Personally I didn't have time to make up a batch of proper royal icing, so used one on my emergency Dr Oetker Designer Writing Icing bags... ;-)

For the red strawberry laces, because they are a lot thinner, I was able to stick the start of the lace in place and then wind the lace around the cone several times to create a thicker band. 
The final step is to create a 'wire' from the base of the microphone leading to the amp. For this step, we need a skewer, the royal icing, and some short pieces of the liquorice and strawberry laces. 

Using the skewer, carefully make a small hole at the base of the cone. Try to hold the cupcake by the liquorice band here to stop too much of the silver spray rubbing off onto your hands. For the strawberry laces, a single hole from the skewer is perfect, with the thicker liquorice I had to insert the skewer twice to make a wider hole. 

Pipe a small amount of icing into the hole as a glue, and then insert the liquorice into the centre of the cone. This forms the amp wire from the bottom of the microphone. I chose to secure the liquorice up in a slight twist as per the picture with a little blob of icing, but you could equally leave it loose. 

And that's it! A batch of cute little microphone cupcakes, perfect for any music themed party! 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The One Direction Themed Party

Oh my goodness, I'm exhausted! I spent this afternoon at my cousin's 11th birthday party, surrounded by seventeen 10 and 11 year olds in a crowded function room at The Three Merry Lads in Cutthorpe, Barlow. Not having kids of my own yet, I haven't been to a kid's birthday party in a long long time - to be honest, the last time I did, I was a kid myself. So after today's crash course in kid's birthday parties, I realise now that these events are loud, brash, hyperactive, borderline hysterical, and I love them!

My super little cousin is totally obsessed with One Direction (aren't all young girls at the moment?) and I don't think anyone hesitated in deciding how to theme her party. The team at The Three Merry Lads have to be commended for the effort they put into decorating the function room; helium balloons, One Direction posters plastering every available square inch of wall space, beautifully laid tables and elaborate virgin cocktails for the guests. It was a really great effort from the team, and they were incredibly accommodating in the face of so many kids running around their rooms (and so many parents hiding out in the bar!). 

For my part, my cousin and I had long ago established that she wanted a One Direction cake for her birthday. I had part designed it in my mind already, and when I sat down to work out the detail it came together quite well. The cake is a rich chocolate Devil's Food Cake, filled with a milk chocolate ganache. After covering in navy blue fondant, I iced the names of the band-mates around the side, and punctuated them with pink and red sugarpaste hearts. For the 1D logo on the top of the cake, I googled and printed a copy of the logo, and then cut a stencil out of baking parchment. After gently pinning the stencil to the top of the cake, I used Dr Oetker's Shimmer Spray in silver to graffiti the logo onto the surface of the cake. 

One Direction Cake

Since there was going to be a party, I decided to supplement the cake with a batch of cupcakes, but I wanted to make them fit the theme. I decided to try out these cute microphone cupcakes, baked in ice cream cup cones. I had a few issues executing these, mostly due to the lack of supplies from my local cake shop at the last minute (I could not find black sugar crystals anywhere), and the fact that the silver crystals I had, and the silver shimmer spray did not stretch anywhere near as far as I expected, however I was really pleased with how they came out, and they were an absolute hit at the party. I am going to post up some step by step photos tomorrow and show you how I made them. 

Microphone Cupcakes

All in all, when the cake and cupcakes were laid out on the table they looked pretty good, and the kids approved, which I am holding as a personal achievement - pre-teens being a notoriously tough crowd! As I mentioned at the top of this post - I'm exhausted, so I'm off to bed with a well-deserved hot chocolate and a hot water bottle. Night All! x

One Direction Cake and Microphone Cupcakes

Blowing out the candles! 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Where There Is Cake, There Is Hope...

“Where there is cake, there is hope. And there is always cake.” 
― Dean Koontz

I love this quote - I find it so warming, and now I've found my 'calling' so to speak, it rings even more true to me. I studied Dance at university, and have spent the eight years since trying to carve a path for myself in the business world, before realising that I just didn't care enough about what I did. I wish I could say that I went on some long journey of self discovery to decide finally to start taking classes for cake decorating and tentatively try and forge a career in this field, but I didn't. What happened was I woke one Saturday morning, turned on the TV to watch Saturday Kitchen, questioned why all cookery shows seem to compete on using the most far out ingredients and techniques (even the ones that claim to be 'Quick', 'Fast' and 'Easy' use things that no normal person keeps in their store cupboard) and literally within 3 hours I had formed an idea, decided on a name, and started to type out ideas for a book. 

I've been writing this little blog for just over four months now, and I'm just about starting to realise both the joys of sharing, and just how how much inspiration can be found online. I love reading other people's blogs, seeing little glimpses into their lives (I have seen more ways to refer to 'him indoors' than I thought were possible!), and above all seeing the absolutely infinite possibilities when it comes to creating a recipe, decorating a cake, or putting a home-spun feel to a gift.

And not just blogs, but Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest all hold a wealth of images and ideas, that, particularly for a baker and cake decorator are limitless. I have tagged, saved, pinned, and re-tweeted so many ideas that I honestly don't think I will ever get chance to re-create them all even if I bake every day until I am 100! 

A few blogs that I have found myself drawn to recently I am going to list here, because I think if you like mine at all, you will enjoy these;

http://birdonacake.blogspot.co.uk/ - Jam packed with amazing decorating ideas and some really easy to read tutorials - I found this blog through a few pictures on Pinterest and signed up straight away.

http://thebakingexplorer.blogspot.co.uk/ - I love this blog - I stumbled upon it looking at posts about the last series of The Great British Bake Off, and I find it really honest and easy to identify with.

http://royalcakesla.com/ - OK, so not quite a blog, but these guys are INCREDIBLE! If I ever get half as good at this in my designs I will be one happy lady! Check them out on Facebook or Instagram when you have ten minutes.

My last quote of the night - another internet find, and a perfect one at that!

“A slice of cake never made anyone fat. You don't eat the whole cake. You don't eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that's safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what is served on the happiest days of your life.” 
― Jeanne RayEat Cake

Friday, 11 January 2013

Jumping on the Healthy Eating Bandwagon

Ok... I'm going to start this post by confessing that a) I haven't actually made any New Year's resolutions this year through a crippling fear of the disappointment that will follow when I inevitably break them, and b) I have a terrible tendency to yo-yo diet. These things do not make me the best person to come to for any kind of healthy eating / diet tips, however I do have a few recipes for those of you with a little more motivation than me! 

When I have successfully lost weight in the past, it hasn't been through any celebrity fad, crash diet, or intensive exercise regime. I generally follow a few golden rules, and with a little determination they give me the results that I want...
  1. Try to cut out alcohol, but don't ban yourself. If you are having a drink, try white wine and soda, or vodka and slimline tonic or cranberry, and have a small glass of water between drinks. 
  2. An absolute unbreakable rule is to drink between one and a half and two litres of water per day. I always keep a sports bottle of water with me when I'm on a weight loss mission.
  3. Make time for three meals a day. It doesn't even matter what they are. My weight suffers when I fall out of that routine, when I convince myself I don't have time for breakfast. One day I will learn that three square meals a day is the only way!?

Any-way. I'm a foodie blogger, not a diet expert, so here are a few of my go-to recipes as promised...

Vegetable Soup

I blogged about soup a few months ago - the full recipe is here. The beauty of this is you can use absolutely anything in it, and season it however you like. I like to make a big batch at the weekend with the leftovers from a Sunday roast, and then freeze in individual containers - they make a perfect low-fat low-cal lunch either at home or the office. These ones are Sweet Potato with a few Chillies for spice...

Vegetable Soup Freezer Pots
Chicken Wraps

As a sales rep by day, I spend a lot of time in the car, with no kitchen or microwave, and the constant lure of fast food at the services. I find chicken wraps ideal to take in the car when I know I'm going to be out at lunchtime, however they get bland and boring very quickly. I use these few quick fix marinades to add some excitement to my chicken breasts;
  • Chinese Style: 5tbsp Dark Soy Sauce, 3tbsp Brown Sugar and 1tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • Tikka Style: 1tsp of Masala (or any other) Curry Paste in 200g Crème Fraiche 
  • Mediterranean: 3tbsp Honey plus the juice of 1 lemon
Marinade overnight, and then grill and slice for tasty, high protein, low calorie wraps, salads or sandwiches.


Because my worst food habit is skipping breakfast, these little beauties are my morning saviours! The full recipe is in my blog post here, and again it is one of those amazingly adaptable recipes that has unlimited possibilities. I made a quick batch tonight using some frozen blueberries and a teaspoon of lemon extract. You can make them even more healthy by using wholemeal self raising flour, and skimmed milk. The recipe makes a batch of 12, and they are perfect for freezing once cool, and then popping in the oven one-by-one to warm through. 

Lemon and Blueberry Muffin
Good luck to everyone out there who has made resolutions for 2013 - I'd love to hear everyone else's diet tips and healthy eating recipes - please comment below! 

V x

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Useful Tips for Party Planning

Before Christmas I had a call from a very dear friend of mine, who asked if I would cater for his 30th birthday party. Needless to say, with my usual over-exuberance and refusal to say no to anyone I agreed on the spot. He explained he was expecting about 50 people, and left the rest to me. I have to say I found the whole process incredibly rewarding. I spoke to a few people I know who had catered officially in the past, picked up a few tips, and set about planning. 

For someone totally new to the game, these are the best tips I picked up, and are the definite rules I would apply if I were to do a similar event again.

1. Start with a basic calculation of 8 items per person to decide how much food to make.
2. Create a long list of possible items to include. Discuss with the party host, and narrow down to 6 - 8 items.
3. Take into consideration how much storage space you have, whether it is possible to keep food hot or if you need to provide a cold selection. Ensure if you are including cold meats such as chicken that you have the facility to keep refrigerated until as close to the event as possible.
4. Check your figures. I used Tesco online to search for an make a note of the prices of all the ingredients I would need for the event to make sure that everything came within budget. 
5. Plan ahead. Before you start cooking and baking on the day, make a list of everything that needs to be done, and prioritise. For example, I marinaded my chicken and wrapped my pigs in blankets the night before to get a head start on the big day. 
6. If you are including sandwiches, leave these until the absolute last minute possible, so that they stay as fresh as possible.
7. A little garnish goes a long way, sprinkle a little roughly chopped flat leaf parsley across all dishes gives it a professional flourish!

I have to say I was really pleased with the end result. Everything was ready on time, I came in within budget, and there was plenty of food to serve all the party guests - success methinks! 

What are your experiences with party planning? I'd love to hear any tips or examples from you all? 

The Menu:

Brie and Cranberry Tartlets
Feta and Pepper Tartlets
Parmesan and Poppy Seed Twists
Sausage Rolls
Mini Cheese and Mustard Scones
Chicken Skewer Selection (Tikka, Chinese Style and Roasted)
Selection of Sandwiches
Tortilla Chips and Salsa

There was of course, an obligatory cake as well! I made this as a special extra, and it was huge! The shirt is 18 inches in depth! I took great care in getting this as accurate as possible, especially as it is the back of the shirt, and doesn't have the Man Utd logo. I was particularly proud of the hand painted Red Devil, and Premiership lions...

Manchester United Football Shirt Cake

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all!!

I am so excited about 2013! I've decided I'm not making any specific New Year's resolutions this year, but at the same time I plan on making some big changes in my life over the next 12 months. I can't wait to see what 2013 brings for The Pantry Door, I've signed up for another block of lessons for sugarcraft and cake decorating, and I've already got a 30th birthday party to cater for this week, and two wedding cakes to deliver this summer.

Last night I went to an amazing New Year's house party, and took a batch of these rather decadent Champagne and Raspberry Cupcakes, decorated with chocolate stars. I found the recipe online, and they were absolutely scrumptious - I have copied the link below.

Champagne and Raspberry New Year's Eve Cupcakes

Thank you all for reading in 2012, I can't wait to share more cake designs and recipes with you in 2013...

Love V x