May 30, 2016

summer berries chocolate birthday cake

chocolate birthday cake

With my mum's birthday coming up, I decided to take on the yearly task of baking up a special birthday cake. I say yearly, but in fact it only became a tradition after I spent an entire day making a rainbow cake for her 50th last year. As we usually have family over to celebrate, it always feels like the prime time to roll up my sleeves and attempt to create a masterpiece. I'm comfortably familiar with the ins and outs of a classic vanilla sponge recipe, so this time opted for a rich and fudgy chocolate cake as oddly enough I've never once given one a go. I nabbed the recipe from bbc good food, except I made the slight alteration of making it two layers instead of three and I added summer fruits as a topping as they're bang in season. I also decided to make a raspberry coulis (fancy huh) to pour over the slices of cake too, but it really is just as delicious on it's own. I picked up the golden cake board and Happy Birthday cake topper from Hobbycraft, and the candles from Waitrose.
METHOD

- Butter a 20cm round cake tin (7.5cm deep) and line the base. Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3. Break 200g good quality dark chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan. Cut 200g butter into pieces and tip in with the chocolate, then mix 1 tbsp instant coffee granules into 125ml cold water and pour into the pan. Warm through over a low heat just until everything is melted – don’t overheat. Or melt in the microwave on Medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.

- While the chocolate is melting, mix 85g self-raising flour, 85g plain flour, ¼ bicarbonate of soda, 200g light muscovado sugar, 200g golden caster sugar and 25g cocoa powder in a big bowl, mixing with your hands to get rid of any lumps. Beat 3 medium eggs in a bowl and stir in 75ml (5 tbsp) buttermilk.

- Now pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25-30 minutes – if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don’t worry if it cracks a bit). Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

- When the cake is cold, cut it horizontally into two/three. Make the ganache: chop 200g good quality dark chocolate into small pieces and tip into a bowl. Pour a 284ml carton of double cream into a pan, add 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, and heat until it is about to boil . Take off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

- Sandwich the layers together with just a little of the ganache. Pour the rest over the cake letting it fall down the sides and smoothing to cover with a palette knife. Decorate with fruit whilst chocolate is still unset. The cake keeps moist and gooey for 3-4 days.

If you want your cake to have an expert finish, I'd say first make a batch of 2/3 of the chocolate ganache recipe, cover the cake and leave to set, then add on a final layer to smooth out any imperfections. I was more than happy for my cake to have a homemade feel so wasn't overly fussed about attempting something that resembled a bake off showstopper. All in all the cake turned out to be a real success and was surprisingly easy to make, making it both super pretty to look at, delicious to eat and doable to bake. 


May 29, 2016

norway fjords cruise: bergen and flåm

Our first port of call in Norway was Bergen, the second largest city in the country. It's also said to typically be one of the wettest cities in Europe, but luckily the sun was shining for us and the day felt similar to mid-summer. Bergen seemed to have a mixture of every element of Norway itself, with sharp looking business buildings, along with dainty houses blending into the hillsides and masses of trees and manicured flowerbeds everywhere you looked. If you're on the hunt for super cool independent clothing stores and chilled places to eat then this a city well worth a visit. As the day was so warm we decided upon a picnic by the lake, of which monster sized juicy strawberries were the highlight.

Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O

A day later and the Britannia had made it's way through the fjords and had docked in Flåm, a tiny yet beautiful village overlooking the snow capped mountains. The weather was still on our side by this point so we were able to spend most of the day sat by the water and wandering around without feeling chilly. Sadly we had just missed out on being able to hop on a train ride as the trips had all sold out, but there are also speed boat tours and kayaks for hire if you're in the mood for adventure. I always think there's something captivating about playing it low-key and turning up to a new destination with zero plans whatsoever and seeing where it takes you. 

Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O
Norway Fjords Cruise P&O

P&O Cruises offer a 7 night Norway Fjords cruise on the Britannia from £649 per person for an inside cabin. The price includes full board meals and entertainment on board. Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call include Stavanger, Olden, Andalsnes and Bergen. To book, visit www.pocruises.com.

May 21, 2016

norway fjords cruise: the britannia

Recently I set sail on my second ever cruise (my first was a trip to the Caribbean on the Ventura around six years ago) and this time hopped on board for a journey

to Norway. I've been bordering on desperate to visit Scandinavia for as long as I can remember, and as I'm already familiar with just how convenient cruises are to visit lots of places all at once, I was beyond excited for weeks in advance. The Britannia is the newest ship in the fleet and as it only took to the waters for the first time just over a year ago, it still has the feeling of being ultra fresh and modern. The ship carries around 4,000 passengers which is a pretty insane thought to think when you're all tucked up in your cabin. Although there's an abundance of places to discover on the ship, it rarely ever felt overly busy or too overwhelming. Apart from the fun of getting lost on the first day or two, you soon get to know each of the 17(!) decks and where everything is.

P&O Britannia
P&O Britannia
P&O Britannia
P&O Britannia

For places to eat, there's a main buffet area on the top floor where you can grab whatever you fancy for breakfast, lunch or dinner along with freedom dining options (restaurants with menus) and another three fancier versions that come with a cover charge, Sindhu, the Live Lounge and Epicurean. There's also a huge amount of smaller cafes and places to grab a bite to eat around the ship, my personal favourites of which were the Pizzeria (obvs) and Market Cafe for cakes and treats. 

P&O Britannia
P&O Britannia

If you're at all familiar with cruise ships then you will know just how much of a luxury it is to be in a decent sized room, with both a living space area and bedroom. Not only is having enough space a rarity but also to be in a cabin that had such a high standard of simplistic yet tasteful decor was an absolute joy. Every inch of space in the cabin was put to good use and one of my favourite touches were the curtains that you could draw between the bedroom and living area at night. There's a TV in each room, a bath, a sofa that can be turned into a bed, a mini fridge and a dressing table area, all of which go far and beyond what you expect to see in a cabin. As it was a Superior Deluxe version, guests are treated to a free bottle of Champagne and box of chocolates on arrival too, winner!

P&O Britannia Cabin
P&O Britannia Cabin
P&O Britannia Cabin

Should you be heading on the Britannia any time soon, booking in for a cookery class is an absolute must. For me this was one of the highlights of the whole trip and I found the fact you get a two hour lesson along with getting to eat the meals you've cooked up an absolute bargain at £45 per person. You can also be part of a class with a celebrity chef as the host if you choose certain dates when booking your cruise. The class I attended was a lesson on Thai dishes, and for someone who considers themselves to be a keen cook, I ended up learning far more than I initially anticipated. 


P&O Britannia Cookery Class
P&O Britannia Cookery Class

A few other things to keep you occupied whilst on board are the gym (which has full length windows looking out onto the sea), the spa, live shows, outdoor pools and jacuzzis, the casino and of course all of the duty free shops. Though if you fancy a night in then there's round the clock free room service and a huge amount of films to watch in your room.

P&O Cruises offer a 7 night Norway Fjords cruise on the Britannia from £649 per person for an inside cabin. The price includes full board meals and entertainment on board. Departing from and returning to Southampton, ports of call include Stavanger, Olden, Andalsnes and Bergen. To book, visit www.pocruises.com.

May 05, 2016

blog sale (beauty)


1. Miss Dior Eau Fraiche EDP 100ml / Tested once / RRP: £73 | £42
2. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in "Bronze" / Tested once / RRP: £21 | £12
3. Bliss Lemon+Sage Body Butter 200ml / Tested once / RRP: £22 | £10
4. Chanel Illusion D'Ombre in "93 Impulsion" / Tested once / RRP: £25 | £12


 5. Clarins The Essentials Eye Make-Up Palette / Tested once / RRP: £35 | £14
6. Nars Contour Blush in "Gienah" / Tested once / RRP: £30 | £16
7. Burberry Kisses Gloss in "Coral" / Tested once / RRP: £21 | £10
8. Alien Aqua Chic 60ml EDT / Tested once / RRP: £40 | £18


9. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse 50ml / Tested once / RRP: £17 | £8
10. Nars Highlighting Blush in "New Order" / Tested once / RRP: £23 | £14
11. Clarins Instant Light Radiance Boosting Complexion Base in "04 Apricot"  / Tested once / RRP: £26.50 | £14
12. Clarins Eau des Jardins Fragrance / Tested once / RRP: £32 | £16


13. Sensationail Gel Color in "Coral Sunset" / Brand new / RRP: £15 | £8
14. Nars Highlighting Blush in "Miss Liberty" / Tested once / RRP: £23 | £14

If you fancy anything above please leave a comment with:
- the number and description of the item(s)
- your PayPal email 

UK postage is set at £2.80 and free for each additional item that you buy.
If you require international postage, just let me know and I will get back to you with a quote.