Summer Baking: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Is it an ice cream? Is it a cupcake? It’s a celebration that The Great British Bake Off is back. That’s what it is.

Paul Hollywood’s steely stare is back and Mary Berry’s delightful way of saying ‘layers’ (watch out for it). Mel and Sue’s innuendos, union jack bunting, blue plasters and an entire batch of new contestants who will inevitably get teary over tarts. I can’t wait.

Most important of all though, you can’t watch an episode of the Bake Off without some kind of baked treat to hand. When I discovered that Martha from a few series back had teamed up with Waitrose, I was immediately lured in by the recipe cards showing off her incredible baked creations. And believe it or not, they aren’t that impossible to recreate at home. Hallelujah! 

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These ice cream cone cupcakes are simply an ice cream cone filled with fluffy vanilla sponge and a dollop of whipped meringue on top, complete with chocolate flake. One word against them – they aren’t that easy to actually eat. Prepare to have meringue on your nose.

YOU WILL NEED:

For the cones

  • 12 flat bottomed ice cream cones
  • 12 squares of dark chocolate
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 5 tbsp milk

For the icing and topping

  • 120g caster sugar
  • 80g golden syrup
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 Cadbury flakes, halved
  • Coloured sprinkles

TO MAKE:

Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4.

Place each cone into a muffin tray. Place a square of chocolate in the bottom of each and put in preheated oven for 5 mins.

Beat the butter and the sugar. Add eggs one a time and the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add to mixture gradually until it is a thick batter. Pour in the milk. Distribute between cones, make sure you don’t overfill them. Bake for 20-25 mins.

For the icing, place sugar, syrup and 2 tbsp water in a pan. Cook on a medium-high heat until it reaches 118C on a sugar thermometer). Beat eggs whites until soft peaks form then, with the mixer on a slow speed, pour in the hot sugar. Increase to high speed and whip until mixture is thick and glossy. Add the vanilla extract.

Using a piping bag, pipe and swirl and decorate with half a flake and sprinkles.

Thoughts on Being a Runner

A few months ago I confessed that I’d signed up to the British 10k. I’d spent the day watching the London Marathon and if the London Marathon doesn’t inspire you to put on a pair of trainers, then nothing will. Watching those many thousands of people of all ages, shapes and walks of life running that incredible distance, you can’t help thinking “maybe I could do that too…”.

Well, in my blogging absence I did it. I didn’t run a marathon (God forbid!), but I did run 10k. Ten whole k’s. I used to only run for the bus. Then I met my boyfriend – my Strava-addicted, trainer-obsessed, marathon nut of a boyfriend – and in my attempts to hold an intelligent running conversation with him, I got a bit interested. Now look at me! I’m a changed woman.

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Going from the sofa to a 10k finish line is not impossible. Far from it. Most people have run at some point in their lives (even if, like me, it was only for the bus). For a 10k that just needs little refining. If I can do it, you can too.

*Sign up for a race: Give yourself something to aim for, it’s the easiest way to keep motivation high. I’d recommend a local race but with as many participants as possible so you have the excitement of a large event but without all the stress of travelling. Don’t be put off if the entry fee is a bit steep – it usually means you’ll get a good t-shirt and medal at the end.

*Get the kit: Everyone knows that a new hobby opens up a whole world of shopping opportunities. Embrace it. You don’t need to buy huge amounts, and running kit can get very pricey, but I would recommend a few items. First and foremost, a good pair of trainers. Did you know that some trainers are ‘fashion trainers’ and not meant for any proper physical activity? AVOID those trainers. Places like Sweatshop analyse your running style so they can recommend the best trainers for you. This is quite scary, but definitely worth it. Secondly, proper running socks. Seems silly but normal socks will rub your feet. And lastly, if you’re a girl, a sports bra. A great one is truly life-changing.

*Get a running buddy: Talk one of your friends into signing up with you and then support each other through the whole process. Go shopping together, drag each other out for runs in the rain and hold hands over the start line. It’s the best way to keep motivation high. Preferably, find someone to run with who is better than you. If they really know their stuff they’ll be able to pace you properly, recommend the perfect pair of trainers and encourage a little healthy competition – noone likes being left behind.

*Remember that it’s OK to hate your running buddy: The aforementioned marathon nut of a boyfriend was my running buddy. We had some tough runs. He lied about distance, tricking me into running 2k further. I told him I wanted to punch him in the face. He ran off without me. Expletives were hurled. He quoted Muhammad Ali at me (irritating), he didn’t need a post-run shower (devastating) and he foam rollered my legs until I screamed in pain (entirely unnecessary). Just remember that running you and rational you are two entirely different beasts. And know when to say you’re sorry.

*Create a running plan: Draw up a plan of all the runs you want to do leading up to the race. Remember to taper the week before the race. This is the best week where you don’t have to run and, instead, eat as much pasta as you want (apparently it’s good for you). Include some interval sessions, long runs and short, easy runs. Think about what you want to achieve from each run – for the longer distance ones forget about time, they are just about upping the kilometers. You don’t need to do the full 10k before the race, but if it’ll reassure you that you can actually go the distance then do it.

*Don’t stress out too much about said plan: Sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes you’ve had a bad day. Sometimes it’s raining and you’ve had a bad day and there’s a pizza in the oven and a new PLL episode on Netflix. Treat your running plan as a guide rather than strict commandment. Missing a couple of runs won’t kill you. If your running buddy refuses to get on board with this attitude, see above point that it’s OK to hate your running buddy.

*Get involved with Parkrun:  Parkrun is the absolute best. Granted, the 9am Saturday morning start time doesn’t feel so wonderful but the fun, community atmosphere and encouragement does make it all worth it. Parkrun is all over the country and is simply a free, timed 5k. There are the super-keen fast runners but the huge majority are just there to have a good time and run the best time they can. And a volunteer runs at the back so you will never come last. Genius.

*Enjoy it: Running can be fun. It’s so good to get outside after a long day in the office, feeling yourself improve and getting involved with the sportswear obsession. And to run a proper 10k race and have a proper medal at the end does feel like a huge achievement. Just remember, the day after the race, that noone has ever died from a pulled muscle. And that you’re entitled to not take the stairs for at least a week.

The Classic White Shirt

Hello everyone – remember me?! I accidently took a bit of a blogging break. Not for any particular reason, I was just being busy (and lazy). Thank you so much to everyone who has still been viewing my blog (I know you are out there!) and to those who have commented and followed in my absence. Please do leave your links in the comments section so I can come and view your pages too!

But anyway, down to business. I took these photos a while ago, on a particuarly blustery day in Brighton, but I’m still so in love with this shirt that I had to share it with you.

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I am not a ‘shirt person’ at all. I think they’re uncomfortable, a bit boring and just so frumpy. But then, according to fashion law, a white shirt is a wardrobe staple and I look on enviously to all those who pull them off. I have searched long and hard for one that I actually like and I think I have finally found it.

It’s this little baby from Topshop. Very simple, not too expensive and even if you don’t like this style, they’ve got hundreds of variations on the Chambray Shirt. It’s so soft and looks great tucked in for a slightly smarter look or just loose and casual. If you are worried about looking a little frumpy in a shirt, opt for something with big pockets and distinctive buttons in a more utility style. It just adds a little more interest and, in my opinon, doesn’t make you look like you are office-bound.

Plus this shirt will carry me straight into autumn. And on a side note, am I the only one quite excited about the prospect of pumpkin spiced lattes, cable knits and Halloween?!

New on the Block: Farmacy, Notting Hill

There’s a new kid on the block in Notting Hill, and it’s one of my favourite recent discoveries.

Farmacy opened just last month on Westbourne Grove. It is open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and already causing a bit of a stir. Their philosophy is ‘clean indulgence’ – something I’m very willing to get on board with.

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Their menus are all about healthy choice comfort foods, no rabbit leaves here. It is incredibly rare that I look up a health restaurant’s menu online and decide I’d rather go for dinner than brunch. I’m all about the healthy brunches – homemade granola, smoothies and (if all else fails) avo on toast – but Farmacy’s evening menu was unmissable.

The menu is still a little small and rather pricey, but with delicious options such spelt sourdough pizzas, a clean curry and the Farmacy “burger”, I was willing to forgive those drawbacks. I opted for the porcini mushroom spelt pasta, which was delicious. If you’ve never tried spelt pasta before, then definitely do. It doesn’t have the grainy texture of other wholewheat pastas, but remains all the health benefits.

They also have a really interesting drinks menu (again, I’m never particularly fascinated by drinks menus, my interest can only be slightly piqued by cocktails). I went for the lemon-aid, an alkalising lemon juice, apple syrup and coconut water. It was amazing. I’m normally a bit scared of those kind of lemon drinks, as often they are too sharp. This was nice and sweet, but not sugary, as well as being healthy.

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If you’re in the area be sure to swing by (and don’t under any circumstances miss the lemon-aid!).

London’s Farm Shop: Daylesford

Being in a city doesn’t mean you can’t have farm fresh food.

Last Saturday the sun put in a very decent appearance in London (hallelujah!) so to bask in the warmth and find a delicious breakfast, Tiarnan and I took to the streets of Notting Hill.

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Westbourne Grove is a little like the Portobello Road’s big sister. Slightly more refined and much less crowded, it offers an escape from the never ending throng of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, wandering down the Portobello Road is one of my favourite activities but sometimes you don’t want to fight the crowds. Westbourne Grove has plenty of delicious breakfast options, but we settled for Daylesford.

Daylesford is essentially a farm shop given the London makeover. You won’t see any muddy wellies there, but plenty of farm fresh food. It began as an organic farm in Staffordshire and is now one of the most sustainable farms in the UK, with another one in the Cotswolds as well as various London greengrocers and restaurants. They also have a cookery school and hold various events throughout the year including supper clubs, masterclasses and a summer festival.

Daylesford’s menu is made up of fresh, seasonal produce from the farm’s market garden, cheese and bread from the creamery and bakery and meat from their animals. And if you eat something you really love, it’s pretty likely you can pop into the farmshop and buy it to take home with you.

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How to Spend… May

We’ve had our first sunny snap – summer is finally on it’s way!

I love how the sun instantly lifts everyone’s mood. Suddenly we’re planning BBQ evenings, sharing round the Pimm’s and remembering what it feels like to sunbathe. Of course it won’t last, but the promise that summer is coming is more than enough to keep me smiling throughout May. And I’ve got plenty of suggestions for when the rain inevitably returns and we have to put away the sunglasses again…

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*Go for a bike ride: When it’s nice out, it’s really nice out. There are still some lambs frolicking in the fields, but otherwise there’s a real sense of summer. The parks are filled with picnickers, flower beds are blooming and the unmistakable scent of BBQs fill the evening air. Now is such a lovely time to go for a bike ride. You can explore so much with relatively little effort, and always stop off for a sunbathe halfway round. If you’re in London definitely set a date to explore the parks on the Santander bikes – there’s no better way to spend a sunny May day.

*Make rainy day plans: But, May is a bit unpredictable and sadly the sunny weather will not be a constant. Rather than mope around inside when it’s miserable, make plans specifically for a rainy day and save them for when the weather turns. There are so many good things on at the cinema (cannot wait to see The Jungle Book!), but you don’t even need to leave the house to have fun on a rainy day. Bake up a storm in the kitchen, soak in the bath with a good read or do some of that spring cleaning you meant to do in spring (if you feel really productive). Miserable days really don’t have to be miserable.

*Set a summer fitness goal: By this I do not mean to get bikini-body ready. But summer does mean clothing gets skimpier, so set yourself a fitness goal and start to dedicate some real time to it. It doesn’t have to be anything major. From signing up for a marathon to deciding to take the stairs, making a conscious effort to get moving will have you feeling so much more confident when summer rolls around.

A May Reading List

This month’s reading list is quite a mixed bag. What with all the commuting I’m doing, I’m getting through roughly a book a week (it’s becoming a very expensive pastime!) With the amount of time I now have for reading, I’ve been making myself pick up books that I would never usually consider. It’s such a great way to discover new favourites and the variety means you can never get bored. Here are my latest discoveries.

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*For a read that feels like a chat: Wildflower, Drew Barrymore. I never, ever read memoirs. But Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower did the rounds on Instagram (with that gorgeous cover) and my attention was caught. This is not a tell-all autobiography, but that’s why I loved it so much. Each chapter tells a different anecdote, fronted by a relevant snap. Some are funny, such as her skydiving experience with Cameron Diaz, some are touching, such as the chapters dedicated to her two daughters and some are quite tragic, such as the stories from her childhood. I’m not a particular Drew Barrymore fan, but you don’t need to be to enjoy her memoir. Curling up with this book feels like catching up with an old friend.

*For a real surprise: We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. This is a Young Adult read, another genre I rarely dip into. I didn’t expect much from this (unfortunately, I’m always a little snobby about YA)  and was proven completely and entirely wrong. I loved it. We Were Liars centers around the beautiful, blonde and very rich Sinclair family. They put up a perfect front but as the narrator, eldest Sinclair grandchild Cady, tries to piece together an accident that she cannot remember and her family refuses to discuss, the cracks start to form. The general confusion builds into an explosive twist which will have you immediately flip back to the beginning to work out how the author had you so fooled.

*For a much needed sweet fix: Life is Sweet, The Hummingbird Bakery. If you’re ever in London, don’t miss The Hummingbird Bakery. Famed for their red velvet cupcakes and rainbow layer slices, this American-style bakery always hits the spot. My sister and I always turn to their original cookbook when we want to whip up something sweet, but Life is Sweet is the newest addition to our collection. With red velvet brownies and pancakes (!), a tunnel of fudge cake and pink champagne cupcakes, it’ll be keeping us very busy over the May bank holiday weekends.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Is there anything better than sunshine and flowers?

Columbia Road Flower Market is the place to be in East London on a Sunday. The street comes alive with an endless stream of florists and the crowd packs itself in, all in search of the perfect bunch. From teeny tiny succulents, to enormous house plants and romantic blooms, they have everything – and all at incredible prices!

The market absolutely bursts with atmosphere, with stall holders crying their wares as you squeeze through to grab the best bunch. The street also has some amazing independent shops, with plenty of gardening tools, home accessories, artwork and cafes to keep you busy once you’ve found your blooms. And all of this in the sunshine makes for a pretty perfect Sunday.

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How to Spend… April

My Instagram feed is filled with blossom and blue skies, the showers are pouring, Starbucks have floral cups and it’s light past 5pm – it can only be April!

Easter came and went far too early this year. One minute we were taking down the Christmas decorations, and the next the clocks had gone forward and the Easter bunny had been. I normally don’t take too much notice of Easter, but I was a bit disappointed to not enjoy it more this year (although chocolate eggs and a long weekend will never go unappreciated). I’ll be spending this month consuming the vast quantities of chocolate the Easter bunny oh so kindly sent my way and dreaming of the May bank holiday weekends. Happy April everyone!

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*Have a ‘colour only’ rule: The shops are bringing out their summer clothes and the urge to spend gets greater every day. I have really noticed lately how stuck in a rut I can get with my clothing – black, grey or white (with a hint of navy for good measure) is about as exciting as it gets. Zara may be a beautiful masterclass in monochrome minimalism, but the sun is out and we need to leave those bleak colours behind. From now on, I’m only buying colour (I’ll also be buying white because I just can’t part with it…), and I think you should give it a go as well.

*Spring clean your desk: I’ve never been that enthused by spring cleaning. Cleaning is dull enough, why must we do more just because it’s spring? However, I’ve recently moved offices and was forced to clean out my desk. I’m now at a beautiful new desk with only the bare essentials cluttering it, and my goodness does it make you feel productive! Suddenly everything has a ‘place’, it’s a lovely place to be and just gleams. So rather than dusting, hoovering and scrubbing your house from top to bottom – just start with your desk. And if that’s all you get around to doing, then that’s more than enough.

*Make evening plans: Now it is actually light in the evenings, making plans is so much more fun. Start investigating roof top bars (perhaps preempting summer a little, but just wrap up warm), go for evening runs or just take a walk. We’re finally done with the winter hibernation, so round up the troops and have fun!

Bank Holiday Brunching: 26 Grains

It’s been a little while since I last ventured into London on the blog, but today I’m making up for it with a great recommendation.

With the bank holiday weekend happily freeing up a sunny Friday, I decided it was about time I started ticking off some of my London bucket list. Neal’s Yard is a colourful corner of Covent Garden, tightly packed with health food eateries and, of course, Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s only small, but there’s more than enough to keep you occupied.

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For this trip though, we had to sample London’s prettiest porridge. Absolutely dominating Instagram, 26 Grains is a teeny tiny little health cafe serving wholesome, grain based dishes. Don’t be put off by the health side though, everything they serve is ridiculously delicious.

They aren’t limited to enormous bowls of steaming porridge either. As they source their fruit and veg from local producers, their menu changes seasonally. Currently they have an enormous array of porridges (sweet and savoury) as well as bircher muesli, a winter smoothie bowl and lunch bowls if you’ve already had breakfast. They aren’t preachy about health either, and will enquire whether you want almond or whole milk in your coffee (a nice touch, I thought). Definitely worth skipping the main drag of Covent Garden for.

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