Really special red velvet cake

This deep red vanilla cake with a light taste of chocolate, topped with cream cheese frosting is certainly a showstopper. I made this sweet treat recently for my husband’s birthday and it did’t hang around long!The buttermilk in this recipe makes it so incredibly moist and light.

Red velvet cake is also known as devil’s food cake as it’s so luxurious and rich it must be sinful! Personally I don’t know about that but helping yourself to a piece of this delicious cake , with luxurious creamy frosting lavishly spread between each layer is sure to put you into your own little piece of heaven.

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Ingredients

120g unsalted butter at room temperature
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
20g cocoa powder
4 tbsp red food colouring (I found that 40g of Dr Oetker Gel Food Colouring in Bright Red worked well)
1 tsp vanilla extract
240ml buttermilk
300g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp white wine vinegar

For the icing:
600g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g cream cheese, cold

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Put the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy and well mixed. You can use an electric mixer for this, in which case, use it on the medium speed setting. Once it’s all mixed together, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Then slowly pour in half the buttermilk.

Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added then beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Now fold in the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and beat until well mixed. (I like to add a small pinch of salt as it brings out the flavour of the cake, I promise it doesn’t taste salty at all!)

Meanwhile, make the icing by beating the icing sugar the remaining 20g of the unsalted butter together until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat it until it is light and fluffy.  Do not over-beat, as it can quickly become runny.

Spoon the mixture equally between three 20-cm cake tins and bake for 25 minutes and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cooled, sandwich the layers together using the cream cheese icing, and top with the remaining icing.

I like to decorate my red velvet cakes with gypsophila, berries, freeze dried raspberry crumb and a gentle dusting of icing sugar.

Tip: With the food colouring, I’ve heard that there are a few around that work well. Just make sure that you avoid any ‘natural’ colours and check it is bake stable otherwise it will turn brown when cooked.

Places to eat: Pete’s Eats, Llanberis

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Every now and again I do love a big greasy fry up and there is none better than Pete’s Eats in Llanberis. Sat at the foot of the Snowdonia mountain range, I’ve been coming to Pete’s with my parents ever since they first marched me up a Welsh mountain. After a day spent running away from my sister, who was armed and dangerous with skilfully crafted snowballs that would inevitably end up down my top and all over my face, we would bumble back down the mountain. Rosy cheeked and ravenous. Pete’s would be there waiting with it’s famous pints of steaming hot tea, ready for us to reintroduce our bones to the concept of warmth.

Now I love fine dining in restaurants that use fancy words like ballotine and cover their dishes in decorative micro-herbs, but sometimes that kind of food just doesn’t hit the spot. I know for the health conscious, a plate piled high with deep fried potatoes is not on the top of their list but after a brisk walk half way up Snowdon I think it’s perfect.

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The outside of the building is painted an eye catching deep blue which really stands out against the stunning natural beauty of Snowdonia. Inside sit groups of climbers (or walkers in our case) huddled over newspapers or maps planning their next route up the mountain range. There is a really relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Staff walk through the cafe shouting out order numbers, being greeted by a sea of wishful faces, scrambling to find their order ticket. As we search for a table I notice that some of the walls are covered in photos of seemingly relaxed climbers in impossibly risky positions on the sides of sheer cliff faces. Upstairs there are showers, beds and a cosy back room and library for keen climbers to plan their routes.

A child on the table next to us has a look of delight spread across his face (and a look of dismay across the parents) when he sees the size of his chip sandwich. The portions here are generous. Understandable really when you look at the photos on the wall. I doubt you could really justify eating here unless you had at least the intention to walk up a mountain.

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Our food arrives fairly quickly considering that every other table is full and there’s a queue gathering at the door. It’s simple, tasty and plentiful. It’s well cooked, and whilst the quality might not be of michelin standard, there is plenty of it, the eggs are all free range and the chips, oh the chips.

Pete’s has really hit the nail on the head. It caters exactly for what its customers want. Good food and lots of it. This place is really buzzing. Everyone seems to know each other, there’s a notice board on the back wall sighing under the amount of notices and local advertisements. In a quiet town, tucked away in the Welsh mountains, it feels like a real community. Serving traditional grub, straight to the point, Pete’s is a welcome sight for any hungry climber.

Zesty Lemon and Raspberry Cupcakes

 After a quick break to sit my final year law exams at university I’m back! Seeing as it’s now officially summer time and raspberries are in season, I thought I’d upload my recipe for raspberry and lemon cupcakes. These cupcakes were inspired by the Hummingbird Bakery recipe but I’ve adapted it a little and made them my own way. I baked these cupcakes originally for my husband’s birthday and they turned out a treat! The sweet, juicy raspberries are a perfect pairing to the zesty lemon and together they add a yummy twist to the usual vanilla cupcake. They’re most certainly at the top of my list of favourite things to eat and they stayed moist for ages, not that they lasted very long with my husband around! You could also make this recipe into a large cake but I thought that cupcakes were more fun and less messy! Enjoy!

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Ingredients

110g softened butter or margarine
110g caster sugar (or xylitol for a sugar free version)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
110g sifted self raising flour
1-2 tbsp milk
the zest of 1 lemon

For the Icing:

140g softened butter
280g sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
a few spoonfuls of raspberry jam
fresh raspberries or dried raspberries to decorate

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and fill your cupcake tin with cupcake cases.
Mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time and add in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Fold in the flour. Then little by little, pour in the milk until the mixture is of a dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture evenly into the cupcake cases until they are half full.
Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a knife or skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

For the buttercream lemon icing, melt the butter and milk in a sauce pan. Once melted pour the mixture little by little, stirring continuously into a bowl with the icing sugar in it and beat until smooth.
Then fold in the lemon juice, adding more milk or icing sugar if necessary, until the mix is silky and creamy.
Once the cakes have cooled, cut a small hole in the tops of the cakes, and add some raspberry jam!
Spoon the icing into a piping bag and pipe onto the cakes using a spiralling motion. I decided to colour half of my icing with blue food colouring but you can use any colour icing you like or just leave it as it is!
I then decorated half of the cupcakes with fresh raspberries and the other with dried raspberries.

These are perfect for a summer garden party or for an afternoon tea sat outside in the sunshine.

Gluten and Dairy Free Pancakes

Lately this pancake has turned into somewhat of a craze in the health world as a super yummy, protein packed meal! They’re stupidly easy to make and taste exactly like normal pancakes (honestly!) with a hint of banana. This year I’ve had to give up having wheat and dairy in my diet and one of the worst parts was the thought of missing out on pancake day. Luckily a lovely friend of ours gave us this recipe and suddenly the world seemed a brighter place! I have tried a lot of substitute recipes in the past for different meals but this one has by far been the most impressive. I like to add a sprinkling of cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla essence to really make these pancakes stand out, but if I’m honest they’re perfection even without these extras.

I like to serve these the traditional way, with a sharp squeeze of lemon and a pinch of sugar, but they’d be great with a drizzle of maple syrup and hot, crispy bacon or anything else you may fancy!

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 Serves 2-3 

Ingredients
1 mashed, super ripe banana
2 eggs

Method

Use a fork to mash the banana. In a separate bowl, whisk up the eggs then mix the two ingredients together (if you’re pushed for time you can use an electric whisk). If your want to add in any extras, such as cinnamon or vanilla, mix these in too! Next, prepare your pan by pouring in a little oil of your choice and putting it on a low/medium heat. Add your pancake mixture in your desired amount to the pan,then let it set for around 30 seconds (or when the middle starts to bubble) then flip it and fry for another 30(ish) seconds! Repeat until you have no mixture left. Serve with your favourite toppings and don’t be surprised if you decide to make some more for seconds!