November 20, 2014

Sprinkles and Sweeties Rainbow Cake Recipe.

It is a cake that would make most dentists grimace, but to my boyfriend who turned 26 last month, it was a glorious sight to behold. It would seem that a sweet tooth never fades with age, and whilst this cake would go down a treat at a children's birthday party, the vivid colours and sugary toppings wouldn't be lost on a 'big kid' either. 

I can happily make a box of chocolates disappear in minutes, but when it comes to sweets and hundreds and thousands, I am not interested at all. Which was good news for my boyfriend, who normally has to fend off my relentlessly greedy fork. 

I have seen quite a few ombre, or rainbow cakes on Pinterest and always assumed they were tricky, but in fact it requires minimal extra effort and just a little more time. I used my old reliable 'Ultimate Pillow-soft Vanilla Sponge Cake' for the sponge recipe, which is taken from Lily Vanilli's rather appropriately titled book, 'Sweet Tooth'. I simply added in the food colourings and divided the cake batter into four tins rather than two. The buttercream recipe is also from 'Sweet Tooth' and I got the hundreds & thousands inspiration from The Cake Blog, but I definitely didn't find it as easy as they made it look, but more on that in the recipe.

Recipe notes & variations
I purchased the sweets from a pick 'n' mix shop, along with small bags of strawberry laces and a giant lollipop that was the perfect topping for the cake. You can use whatever sweets you want on top of the cake, but I went for as many different sweets as I could find so there were lots of colours and variety. Some of the sweets I used included love hearts, fizzy cola bottles, candy necklaces and jelly babies. 

I always use Sugarflair colouring paste, which come in a large variety of colours and last for a long time. I cannot emphasise enough how little you need to use, so when it comes to getting a desired shade, start off with the thinnest scraping and add more.

Of course you can bake more layers and use whatever colours you fancy. You could stick to just two shades and create stripes, or create a full rainbow using lots of layers. It was probably a little cheeky of me to slip in some pink sponge when the recipient would have preferred any colour but!
For the sponge:
330g of plain flour, sifted
320g of caster sugar
1½ tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
175g of unsalted butter, room temperature (I recommend Stork) 
3 free-range eggs
190ml whole milk
1½ tsp good vanilla extract 
Sugarflair colouring pastes in 'Ice Blue', 'Pink', 'Mint Green' and 'Primrose' 
For the vanilla buttercream:
100g unsalted butter, softened 
300g of icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
75ml double cream
Sugarflair colouring paste in 'Ice Blue' 
For the decoration:
Hundreds and thousands
A collection of sweeties.
A giant lollipop (optional) 
Edible glitter 

The Recipe: makes four layers. 
1. Preheat oven to 180°C fan assisted / gas mark 6 and grease and line four 23cm cake tins 
2. In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients then beat in the butter until it is incoperated and the mixture resembles a fine crumble mix. Start of on a low speed before whisking on a medium speed for 2-3 minutes. 
3. Add the eggs and whisk, first on a medium, then on a high. Don't over-beat it or you'll burst the air pockets that allow the batter to rise in the oven, keep it on a medium speed. 
4. Add the milk and vanilla and beat, on a medium and then on a high, until the mixture is smooth and combined; it will appear a bit lighter in colour - 2-3 minutes. 
5. Split the batter into four bowls, adding a spoonful into each bowl at a time so the batter is divided evenly. 
6. Add a very small amount of colouring paste to one of the bowls of batter, mixing and adding more until you have reached the desired colour. Repeat with the remaining three bowls and chosen colouring pastes
7. Pour the four mixtures into a cake tin each and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean and dry.
8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten minutes in the cake tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Whilst the sponge is cooling, prepare the buttercream.
9. Beat the butter alone for 4-5 minutes on a high speed, the butter should appear lighter and creamier.
10. Add the sugar, vanilla and cream and beat on a low speed to incorporate it all together
11. Add a very small amount of the sugar paste and beat on a high speed until the desired colour is achieved. 

Finishing touches
12. Trim and level out each sponge if needed and spread some buttercream in-between each layer, stacking in the desired colour order. Leave the top of the cake bare. 
13. Spread the buttercream around the edges of the cake, smoothing out with a scraper. 
14. Leave the buttercream to harden slightly.
14. Spread out the hundreds and thousands onto a baking tray and carefully turn the cake on its side and rolling it across the baking tray. I struggled with this as I put far to much butter cream in-between and around the sponge, whilst it was still a little warm and didn't leave the buttercream to harden, resulting in the layers moving around far to freely. 
15. Place the cake back onto a cake stand and use a flat knife to transfer hundreds and thousands to any gaps on the cake.
16. Add the last of the buttercream to the top and decorate with sweets
17. Sprinkle on gold crunch and edible glitter, or any other sparkling additions. I also coated the lollypop in glitter to give it even more sparkle!
Hope you enjoy indulging your sweet tooth!
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November 12, 2014

Travelling Memoirs with Smythson

Red leather smythson panama notebook with gold palm tree's
Red leather smythson panama notebook with gold palm tree's
Everyone knows the best things come in blue boxes, but my favourite shade of blue is that of Smythson. The exquisite luxury goods label has been mentioned more than a few times on my blog, and I've been lusting after one of their iconic notebooks for quite some time now! So when the postman stood at my door, holding a bag in my very favourite shade of blue, the biggest smile grew across my face and comfortably settled there for the rest of the day. 

The lovely team at Smythson kindly sent me a Panama notebook in the most sumptuous venetian red shade. Perfect to write my travel memoirs in, it is personalised with palm trees embossed with gold leaf so I can take a little bit of paradise where ever I go. The exceptional quality of Smythson notebook's also means I can treasure this notebook for years to come, reading about my adventures throughout my life and sharing them with future generations. The notebook is made of the finest quality, soft lambskin and I'm told by the Smythson team that it's exceptionally durable, with the ability to be rolled back and still not end up misshapen. For precious moments that need jotting down,  no other notebook will do! The pages are also faultlessly elegant with gold gilt-edges, so sophisticated luxury is quite literally, at my fingertips. 

The timeless Panama notebook is inspired by Frank Smythson's original diary design from 1908 and the sun-kissed palm trees celebrate discovery and travel, two pleasures that are highly valued by Smythson. British artist Billie Achilleos used the beauty of Panama notebooks to create a magnificent piece of artwork at their renowned Bond Street boutique. The artwork, which is entirely made of the luxurious notebooks is a stunning visualisation of the plane that was drawn on a 1932 invitation designed for the Maharaja of Jodhpur. The work combines both the colonial grandeur of Smythson's history with it's esteemed range of luxury leather travel goods. 

The notebooks are available here in a range of colours, motifs and quotes, and there is also the option of getting them personalised too. Without a doubt they would make the most charming Christmas presents, providing a paper escape to document, imagine, discover and treasure.

With globe trotting on the cards for me, I am holding off writing in the Panama until I am seated on a plane, watching the breathtaking views of a new horizon approaching.
Then, my pen will be a constant flutter.
Red leather smythson panama notebook with gold palm tree's
Red leather smythson panama notebook with gold palm tree's

Find me else where (:

November 09, 2014

A trip to see the Moscow City Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Theatre Royal

Recently the ladies in my family were treated to the most unforgettable day by my Grandma. My mum, Auntie Jane, sister Zoe, Grandma and myself headed to the beautiful city of Bath to watch the Moscow City Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Theatre Royal. I've always dreamt of seeing Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Everything from the haunting violins and songbird notes of the flutes to the decadent, feathered costumes that adorn angelic ballerinas, Swan Lake is one of the most enchanting performances ever created. There is something so fascinating about ballerina's, perhaps not just because of their envious poise and delicacy, but also because of the dedication and years of training it takes to perform at such a level. Having done ballet throughout most of my childhood and winning my first medal at the age of 4, I regrettably abandoned ballet class as I approached my 'tween' years, trading my leotard and little pink ballet slippers for tammy girl sweaters and sparkly silver trainers. I gave up far to easily, and with no valid reason and I can only watch in absolute awe for the women who persevered and dedicated much of their lives to becoming ballerinas.
I've often written about Bath on my blog, as it is by far my favourite city and simply wandering through cobbled streets surrounded by elegant, Georgian architecture is a joy in itself. During this particular trip we stopped to admire some of the buildings, in particular the magnificent Bath Abbey. 
Prior to the ballet we headed to Raphaels, a charming restaurant situated across the road from the theatre. I enjoyed breaded brie with a home-made chutney for starter, a pasta dish for main and an irreproachable creme brûlée.
Feeling well-fed and excited for the performance ahead we headed to the theatre and got comfortable in our seats. Theatre Royal is one of the oldest theatres in Britain and its heritage and classic, Georgian architecture is apparent from the foyer to the royal circle, where we were seated.
The ballet was simply mesmerising. Each movement was poised, disciplined and graceful, and the magic of the story was depicted with the help of the dramatically poetic music. One moment the ballerinas were still, silent and ornamental, then in a heart beat they would franticly fleet across the stage as though their feathers had given them flight. To watch a story being told, without words, is a beautiful thing indeed, and at times I was so drawn into the performance I completely forgot my surroundings, lost in the intricate formations and mellifluous notes. The ballerinas were both harmoniously delicate and strong, and each dance was full of passion and pride. There were two costume changes, the first comprising of grand, medieval apparel and the second saw the female dancers adorn the iconic white, feathered tutu's. Designed to represent the swans they were graceful, feminine and straight out of a fairytale. When the curtains opened, they took my breath away. Needless to say, there was an incredible atmosphere in the theatre throughout and when the dancers returned to the stage after the ballet the audience erupted with applause.

Here are some photos courtesy of the Moscow City Ballet website which can be found here, along with a film preview of the performance.

A big thank you to my amazing Grandma for a wonderful day and a memory I will treasure for ever.
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