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Celebrate Good Times!

At the end of last month I had the privilege of celebrating another year being added to my life (or as I like to call it, the Second Christmas- no blasphemy intended!) In my previous post Ooooh Lola! I paid homage to the amazing LOLA’s Kitchen who baked me one hella’va cake on my last birthday. Today I want to show my appreciation and love for my close friend and partner in crime J aka J-Bird!

As a good judge of cake I only wanted the very best for my tastebuds so I called on one of the best bakers I know, my former Uni housemate of two years, J. A month before my birthday I phoned J and asked if she would do me the honour of baking my cake. She willingly accepted and within minutes of being on the phone she had sketched numerous cake designs. (This is the point where I brag and say how blessed I am to have such a creative friend *Aaah* I love my life!) Just as last year I requested a fusion of chocolate and vanilla cake, but without being too restrictive and demanding on J’s artistic mind I left the design and frosting flavour to her discretion. In some instances the average person may have planned their cake down to the very plate it’s served on, but I wholly trsuted J to deliver the best. After our phone call I didn’t hear anything more about the cake until the day of my party…

It arrived in my kitchen in a rectangular-form, wrapped tightly in a protective bag. A few holes had been poked in the bag to allow the masterpiece to breathe, but there was no way I was allowed to peak. The aroma of the cake wafted through the kitchen and overtook the smell of baked wedges and spicy chicken wings. Every time I walked past the mystery cake I attempted to decipher its ingredients like a hound dog: ‘It’s got nuts in hasn’t in J? Almonds right?’ She shook her head and I remained puzzled. (Now at this point I imagine you want me to cut to the chase and reveal the cake in its full splendour, but I’m afraid I can’t do that. You need to experience the very same suspense I felt that day too).

As I looked around the kitchen I saw J hard at work crafting brightly coloured fondant Calla Lillies (one of my favourite flowers) …An hour or so later I found myself spying on the baker once again; by now she had joined forces with another close friend A, and together they were putting the finishing touches to my cake by mixing a thick, creamy, chocolate frosting. (There’s no deying that at this point I was tempting to dive face-first into the bowl of sugary goodness- but I resisted. I know that I’m a cake-a-holic but goodness me I have class!)

The time finally came to reveal the masterpiece and it’s safe to say that I was more than satisfied. I grinned from ear to ear as I feasted my eyes upon the biggest birthday cake that I’ve ever received. A large rectangular block of vanilla and chocolate sponge, smothered in a rich chocolatey frosting, and laden with the fondant Calla Lillies. The only word that I managed to muster was ‘WOW’. I cut into the cake to reveal three layers- chocolate on the bottom, vanilla sandwiched in the middle and another chocolate-lid on top. If ever there were a taste I could liken to Paradise, this would be it.

The cake was so soft and moist that it crumbled on my fork. The frosting so smooth and rich that I couldn’t help but close my eyes with every bite. The cocoa flavoured cake was smooth and rich, and the vanilla was light and buttery. As if I wasn’t already having heart palpitations, J suggested that I warm the cake in the microwave. Four words:Free.Running.Chocolate.River. The frosting melted under the heat of the microwave and glided along my plate, surrounding my slice of cake like a moat around a castle. Dare I say that I was in my cake element and a C.A.M. (Cake Addicts Meeting) would have done me a hella good that day!

I wish it was my birthday every week!

I make no exaggeration when I say that this was one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. J-Bird, thank you once again :) You made my tastebuds dance, and set a mighty high standard for my next birthday cake! To say that you made me proud is an understatement, to say that you’re my baking-hero may be a starting point.

 

 

Love & Chocolate frosting,

Tracey xoxo

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Ooooh Lola!

So it’s officially my birthday and I’m extremely excited, but also slightly nauseous, no seriously I’m nauseous; I’ve been sick for the past two weeks and in the wee hours of my birthday-eve morning I made a turn for the worse. (If you follow me on Twitter @trace_cupcake89 you would have read my rants for the day. But now is not the time, nor place.) As I prepare for my birthday festivities I’ve been fondly looking back on last year’s photos. I thought this would be a good place to pause and show some appreciation for last year’s birthday cake.

The creative genius who baked my birthday cake was none other than the London-based perfectionists, LOLA’s Kitchen. LOLA’s is a well known bakery based in Mayfair, London and run by business partners Victoria and Romy. Victoria and Romy joined forces in 2007 to run one of London’s most successful bakeries, with concessions in top high street and department stores such as Topshop, Selfridges and Harrods. LOLA’s have made a name for themselves by creating beautifully hand-crafted cupcakes, moulded to perfection and topped with mounds of creamy frosting. Their flavours range from Vanilla milk chocolate to Carrot cake, and even Vanilla coconut. Believe me when I say there is nothing LOLA’s can’t do!

What a beauty! The cake I'll never forget!

Prior to purchasing my birthday cake from LOLA’s I hadn’t even tasted a crumb of their delectable bakes; it was not until two weeks before my birthday that I began the mad panic to find a high-end baker. (Yes, in my mind two weeks is last minute for party planning) A fellow cake lovin’ friend recommended LOLA’s and although I had heard of the bakery before, and walked past it a number of times I couldn’t justify treating myself to so much frosting. However, my birthday was more than a great excuse.

So without further a-do let me introduce to you my very special birthday cake (February 2011): Buttery vanilla sponge cake, smothered with chocolate butter cream frosting, and topped with mini vanilla, chocolate and coconut cupcakes. Oooh Lola you make me melt! Thank you once again *raises virtual cupcake* and here’s to many more cupcakingly delicious birthdays ahead!

Love & Birthday cake,

Tracey xoxo

P.S. Check out LOLA’s online to see just how genius they are:

http://lolas-kitchen.co.uk/

Last year's festivities... Looking forward to this weekend!

 I highly recommend you try LOLA’s, I mean look at the pics, why wouldn’t you?

The remains of a beautiful treat <3

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Leaning Tower of Pancakes!

It turns out that we had another exciting Tuesday in the month of February, last week V-Day and yesterday Shrove Tuesday aka Pancake Day. (If you ask me February is turning out to be a baker’s haven!) All day on Twitter and Facebook people were updating their status about what they were going to drown their pancakes in, what trimmings they would have, and how excited they were to leave work and re-ignite their love with that sacred frying pan.

Flip it. Fold it. Roll it.

Now correct me if I’m wrong but surely eggs, flour, sugar and butter are available to purchase all year round? There are a handful of nations that truly appreciate the beauty of a pancake: A well known delicacy from France, famously known as the Crepe is eaten often, dusted lightly with sugar and spread with a thin layer of chocolate spread. Another famous pancake is the wafer thin Chinese pancake, wrapped around a spoonful of Peking duck, a sprinkling of cucumber and spring onion, and a few droplets of Hoi Sin sauce. Both of these delicacies are regularly devoured in their respective cultures. In fact, even places such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Korea have their own sweet and savoury adaptations of the pancake. (Note to self, learn how to make at least two of these pancakes in time for next year!)

During my last two years of University pancakes were a regular ‘necessity’ in the staple diet for my housemates and I. It is certainly no exaggeration to say that we had freshly made pancakes for breakfast or as a snack at least once a week. Our pancakes were nearly always smothered in ‘Aunt Jemima’s Maple Syrup’, chocolate sauce and a side of strawberries for the healthy kick! Even in my fragile-detoxing-state I’m dreaming ahead to the end of the week when I can treat myself to a well deserved birthday-breakfast, full of treats that soothe and massage my sweet tooth.

Behold, the leaning tower of pancakes!

Despite my week of discipline I still managed to rustle up a stack of ‘leaning pancakes’ for my friends (and I’m proud to say that I didn’t eat a single one!) I delivered them to a friend’s house yesterday evening only to find even more temptation surrounding me, (B’s famous ginger and nut cookies, not pictured). Again, I resisted the urge (I think an applause can be inserted here) and happily watched my friends inhale the pancakes!

Some six years ago on my first visit to NYC I got hooked on the American style pancakes, and I’ve haven’t looked back since. So I guess this wouldn’t be a post worthy of uploading if I didn’t supply the recipe. Bon Appétit.

Love & Pancakes,

Tracey xoxo

 

American Style Pancakes

140g/5oz plain flour

2tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2tbsp caster sugar

3tbsp butter melted

225ml/8fl oz buttermilk/semi-skimmed milk

1 large egg

Optional: sunflower oil for oiling pan

Instructions: Pour the sugar and crack the egg into a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Meanwhile, melt the butter on a low heat and add to the pancake batter once melted. Place the flour, baking powder and salt into one bowl and sieve half of it over the batter. Whisk the entire batter and gradually add the milk and remaining flour in parts. If the batter appears too runny, then sieve in a little extra flour until it is a thicker consistency.

Grease the frying pan with a small drop of sunflower oil or butter, and use a ladle to pour a small amount of batter into the centre of the frying pan. Flip over the pancake when it begins to brown, or to your liking.

Serve with crispy bacon and scrambled eggs for the All-American feel; with a side a ripe and juicy berries for a healthy twist, or you can opt for the sugar-holics menu and serve with chocolate chips and maple syrup.

The foundations of the 'leaning masterpiece'

My work is done!

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It’s That Day… V-Day

It’s that day again- Tuesday. For besotted among you it’s Valentine’s Day, and for the romantically liberated it’s Singles Awareness Day! Rest assured I’m not anti-love and neither am I bitter; on the contraire, this particular day had me writing romantic and thought provoking tweets from dusk til dawn!

Do you want to know what I’ve been earnestly craving to do all day! Bake! All day I day-dreamed of devishly sinful chocolate fudge recipes, and sickly sweet jam delights. The only thing that prevented me from doing so is the fact that I’m a ‘grown-up’ and I had to work *sigh* (Apparently trading in a day’s wage for hours of frivolous baking is not ideal) So I decided to bake after work instead, only to come home and remember that I had baked a batch of dark chocolate brownies the night before. As a cake-a-holic I had to ask myself, ‘do I really need to bake again?’ If I was at my parents’ house I would have whipped up a storm, with the reassurance that it would take less than 48hrs for any baked treat to be devoured. But as I was in my own flat, I thought it wise not to consume a plate of brownies to myself, washed down with a batch of cinnamon cupcakes. It was a hard choice, but I made the right choice and backed away from the flour!

In the past year I’ve seen this day as an excuse to bake to my heart’s content, and as much as I try not to portray myself as the crazy bachelorette who eats excessive amounts of cake, I’m starting to believe that’s who I am! But hey, if I’m enjoying it then why not? Being single is a choice and not a curse, you gotta enjoy it while you can. Love life. Love cake.

Happy Valentines Day!

Tracey xoxo

Enjoying one of the finer things in life: Hot Chocolate!

Another developing addiction.

‘Keep smiling because life is a beautiful thing, and there’s so much to smile about’ -Marilyn Monroe.

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My Cake Origins

A few weeks ago my sisters and I went to visit some old friends for dinner- My Mother has always told me never to go to someone’s house empty handed, so I did what I did best and asked my friend ‘A’ what his wife (I’s) favourite cake was- lemon cupcakes with a buttercream frosting. As we all sat nibbling nachos and playing Irish snap, I naturally began talking about my blog. ‘I’ stopped me mid-sentence and asked when and how I started baking. We’ve known each other for years and she claimed to have no recollection of me being such a cake-a-holic. Reflecting on this conversation I thought this would make a brilliant blog topic: My Cake Origins.

My earliest memory of home-made cakes was when I was no more than 7yrs old. Society often paints a quaint, picturesque scene of the Mother as Susie-Homemaker, but in my household Daddy could do one thing Mum hadn’t quite mastered- baking. (Yep, my Dad is a DIY-fixing-Accountant-Preacher that can bake!)

One of Dad’s specialities was vanilla sponge cake with a twist. This cake was not your ordinary sponge: the outside was a sandy-brown colour with firm crisp corners, but when served a bright pink or green colour illuminated from the inside! (There’s nothing like a splash of food colouring to keep the kids excited eh!) And there was always the lingering mystery as to what Dad’s secret ingredient was. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a vanilla cake, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on the unidentifiable taste. Was it nutmeg, cinnamon? The mystery remains unsolved…

Another one of Dad’s specialities is Ghanaian meat pies, oooh my mouth waters at the thought of it! Meat pies are a traditional Ghanaian snack, oftens sold by street vendors (and according to my Mum, best washed down with a glass of milk). Whenever Dad gets a ‘free weekend’ he either spends it sleeping, watching sports or at the gym. Or if our household is very lucky we’re blessed with meat pies! Made completely from scratch, a flaky brown pastry is folded over a fistful of seasoned corned beef. Every bite is sacred and every crumb is savoured. Pure perfection to my tastebuds. All other words escape me. You would have to be fortunate to even nibble at this delicacy to understand my love for it.

Ghanaian meat pies

Birdseye view: Ghanaian meat pies

Then there was the summer of ’98 when my Grandparents came to visit from Ghana along with my Aunt, Uncle and cousin from NYC. My Grandma, like many Grandmas is brilliant at everything. But one of the areas she excels in the most is the kitchen. That summer the family were treated to fresh, weekly batches of Ghanaian doughnuts. (Again, nothing is ordinary when it’s a Ghanaian recipe) The doughnuts were small, round, deep-fried balls of gluttony. They were deceptive in their appearance because when consumed they actually sat like rocks at the bottom of my stomach! But my oh my, they were gluttony in the most delicious form. And not forgetting AuntyA who is a pastry chef in Manhattan NYC, surely that says it all. The summer of ’98 was not only a cupcakingly delicious time, but I grew a few inches too, sadly not in height!

The handful of baking influences in my family in my family was only the beginning of my baking habits. It was not until I moved out of the family home for University that I adopted a cake obsession. In my second and third year I lived with two fantastic bakers ‘A’ and ‘J’. When the mood struck them these girls would whip up the nuttiest choc chip and macademia cookies, madeira/chocolate cake, Cornish scones, or even a tropical flavoured sorbet. My word, this household was a cake-a-holics dream come true. If you came for dinner at our house wearing skinny jeans, you would be certain to leave wearing borrowed sweats! ‘A’ and ‘J’ were wizards in the kitchen and I longed to be just like them.

Unfortunately my baking skills did not come naturally and it took me at least a year’s practice to stop my cakes from falling, let alone looking and tasting as the recipe books described. But with a pinch of perseverance and a sprinkle of determination I learnt how to bake some pretty awesome cakes, and developed a love and passion for baking.

Home is where is the heart is, and home is where the baked goodies are too!

Love & Cupcakes,

Tracey xoxo

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You can’t buy their Love… But you can bake them Cake!

Marbled Chocolate Mud Cakes: gifts of love I baked for my colleagues.

Marbled Chocolate Mud cakes (Keep an eye on the 'Recipes page' for the how-to)

Have you ever struggled to find the ‘perfect gift’ for someone? There’s no denying we have all been there- birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, just-because-gifts; they can all be a pain in the derriere, especially when you don’t know exactly what the person loves. The key to providing a jaw-dropping gift lies in your listening and visual skills. What is the person passionate about, and where do their hobbies lie? If you pay enough attention to these things then you’ll have no problem whatsoever. I always thought I was the master of gifts, sensei if you wish, well that was until one particular friend knocked me off the top spot!

It was last year on my birthday that I received a new revelation of gift-giving: I was handed a sparkly gift bag with a picture of a giant cupcake on. I grinned from ear to ear and peeped inside the bag to see a lavishly scented, hand-crafted, cupcake-shaped candle. But wait, she didn’t stop there, the biggest and best birthday gift- two gift wrapped bags containing freshly baked, rich, and nutty chocolate brownies. OMW! (Oh My Word) If ever you were blessed with the gift of these brownies you would know the utmost joy I felt that day…

You can’t gobble down these brownies in 2mins, no, no, no. These brownies are so moreish that you can’t help but nibble them, just so that they last that little while longer. The top was flakey and the inside so soft, it felt as though it were melting on my tongue. Rest assured these ‘Killer Brownies’ are not the gooey kind but baked to perfection. And the finely chopped nuts, oooh they were just the right amount of crunch that was needed. (There’s no denying that was one of my best gifts that day, and I had obtained some pretty awesome gifts. ) It was that particular gift, from that very special person which spurred me on to bake my way to people’s hearts ; )

But isn’t this a gift only females would appreciate you ask? No, everyone loves cake, yes everyone. There’s a saying that goes, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ Follow up any hearty meal with a freshly baked treat, or present a bag full of cake-shaped-sin and they’ll be singing your praises all day! So dust off those recipe books and whip yourself into action because I have a feeling that it’s going to be a cupcakingly delicious year.

Love & Cupcakes,

Tracey xoxo