February 21, 2015

Saying farewell to winter skin with JoeSCRUB

Spring is fast approaching and if you've wrapped yourself up in layers of clothing for the past few months, it might be worth preparing your skin now. It always evokes mixed emotions when you leave the tights at home and expose your legs to the (hopefully sunny) elements for the first time that year, reminding you that soon you'll be basked in summer heat, on a glorious beach, in a bikini. In a bikini. Whilst glowing, sun kissed skin may take some time, giving your skin a wealth of goodness that will leave you looking and feeling refreshed and pampered is something that can (and should) be done right now!

The reason behind my newly-found glow comes from sharing my showers with my new love; Joe. JoeSCRUB* is an invigorating coffee scrub, comprised of just 9 natural, vegan and cruelty-free ingredients that know exactly how to love your skin. I've been trying to reduce the number of chemicals I'm using on my skin after making a conscious effort to read the ingredients on every beauty product I use, from shampoo to foundation. It's a real eye-opener! One of the reasons I love JoeSCRUB is because of it's beauty ethics, everything is cruelty free and some ingredients are organic or fair trade. Such a positive and responsible attitude to the beauty industry is as refreshing as the scrub itself. 
It is clear that the 9 ingredients have been chosen with care and thought, as every single one is packed with skin benefits;

1. Fair trade organic coffee - reduces inflammation, increases blood circulation and releases toxins to help tighten skin leaving skin toned and even and reduces cellulite.
2. Organic Cacao - Improves skin hydration and complexion, firms skin and reduces puffiness and provides UV protection.
3. Himalayan pink salt - detoxifies skin and alleviates psoriasis.
4. Brown Sugar - acts as an effective exfoliant helping to scrub away toxins and dead skin cells as well as promoting younger and fresher skin.
5. Organic coconut oil - hydrates the skin, rich in vitamin E and minerals, Soothes eszma and reduces premature ageing.
6. Grape seed oil - cleanses the skin and prevents breakouts whilst firming and improving skin elasticity.
7. Sweet almond oil - protects the skin against the elements such as harmful UV rays or harsh, cold winds and is high in vitamins.
8. Jasmine oil - contains anti-bacterial properties and acts an aphrodisiac with a blissful fragrance.
The smell is one of my favourite things about it. As soon as I open up the pouch an energising aroma of coffee beans wakes me up, which is why I love to use this in the morning - especially on a Monday!   

I pour a little into a pot to take into the shower as the pouch cannot come in contact with moisture. I recommend using JoeSCRUB in the shower or in the bath as it can get a bit messy, but thankfully a quick wash with the shower hose and everything is washed away.  The scrub itself is rather crumbly and initially I thought it would be a little tricky to attach the scrub onto my skin, assuming much of it would fall out of my hands and be wasted on the shower floor. But once I made sure my skin was wet, the scrub attached itself with ease and I was able to scrub away without wasting much product. Using the scrub was a revitalising and energising experience that charmed the senses with warming aromas and radiating sensations that left me feeling utterly pampered.

I was surprised at how little I had to use for a full body, neck and face application and how easily it scrubbed onto my skin. I have always found scrubs to be somewhat disappointing, either being far to harsh on my skin or containing scrubbing particles that are to gentle, such as the widely used microbeads that are also damaging the environment by polluting lakes and killing marine life. Because JoeSCRUB contains natural abrasives such as pink Himalayan salt, brown sugar, coffee grinds and cacao I found it to be far more invigorating then any scrub I've used in the past, plus there's the added bonus that I'm not washing thousands of non-degradable plastic beads down the plug. It is recommended that JoeSCRUB is left on the skin for 5-10 minutes so all the vitamins can be absorbed. 

I was amazed at what was revealed underneath, once I'd quickly washed off the scrub. My skin was baby soft and sensuously smooth, with a delicate jasmine scented residue that was neither greasy, nor oily. Even once my skin had dried, it felt incredibly nourished and well moisturised. I didn't want to get dressed. In contrast to the powerful fragrance experienced in the shower, my skin was left with a subtle hint of coffee and a heavenly aroma of jasmine oil. 

Having used this several times now, I've noticed my skin is far more radiant then before and the addictivly silky smoothness lasts a while after use. JoeSCRUB is an unexpectedly stupendous concoction of goodness in so many ways and a fantastic way to give your skin the very best start to the year!

February 12, 2015

Valentines Day Rose flavoured cupcake recipe

You would be right in assuming that I am dreaming of red roses this Valentines day, to the extent that my Valentine's themed cupcakes taste and look like the romantic flowers themselves. Flavoured with rose water and emblazoned with uncurling red petals these cupcakes are perfect for Valentines day, especially as a gift or used to decorate the dining table. The cupcake and buttercream recipes come from 'Cupcakes' by the Primrose Bakery. 

Rose water cupcakes

110g unsalted butter (room temperature)

225g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour, sifted
125g plain flour, sifted
½ teaspoon rosewater (or to taste)
120ml semi-skimmed milk (room temperature)

1. Preheat oven to 160C (fan) or 180C (regular). Line a 12 hole muffin tray with cases

2. Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each one.
3. Combine the flours in a separate bowl.
4. In a separate jug mix the rosewater and the milk, testing the strength as you go.
5. Add a third of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat. Pour in one third of the milk and beat again. Repeat until all ingredients are combined
6. Spoon the mixture into the cases, to about 2/3rds full and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown
7. Leave to cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Rose buttercream

115g unsalted butter (room temperature)
4 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g icing sugar, sifted
½ tsp rosewater
pink food colouring

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, milk, vanilla extract and half the icing sugar until smooth. 
2. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and beat again until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. 
3. Add the rosewater at the end and beat thoroughly. If you want pink icing, add a tiny drop of pink food colouring.
4. Fill a piping bag with the icing and using a 2D nozzle, create an icing rose effect by starting in the centre and squeezing the icing around the cupcake.
Fondant icing roses

This is certainly a time consuming way to decorate cakes, but I think the end result is worth the extra effort. For these Valentines cakes, I rather ambitiously made large roses, with several uncurling petals but to speed things up you can always make them much smaller and less intricate. To make an icing rose roll out some red fondant icing and cut out several small circles, I used the end of a piping nozzle as a cutter which worked a treat. Roll up one of the circles to create the centre rose bud and put to one side. Next, roll out one of the sides of each of the circles, so that it is slightly thinner and elongated, this will form the tips of the petals. Carefully fold each petal around the rose bud, overlapping as you go until you've reached the desired size. Towards the end, I end to space my petals out a bit more so the rose seems larger. Finally, slice off any surplus icing from underneath the rose and ensemble onto the cake with the help of edible glue if need be. 
They are delicious and extremely pretty, and a perfectly sweet way to say 'I love you'
What lovely things have you baked this Valentines?

February 08, 2015

Valentines Recipe: Red Velvet Heart Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Raspberry Flakes

Red velvet cake is a necessity for Valentines day, especially when it's baked in a heart shaped cake tin and smothered in dreamy pink frosting and sprinkled with raspberry flakes. It's also an incredibly quick and simple recipe that impresses through it's vibrant red centre so theres no need to fuss over flamboyant decorations - it's a beauty as it is. 

The red velvet cake recipe is from Lily Vanilli's book Sweet Tooth, my go-to baking bible.
To make the red velvet cake:

115g unsalted butter, room temperature
280g caster sugar
2 eggs 
1½ tbsp red liquid food colouring
275g plain four, sifted
30g cocoa powder, sifted
250ml buttermilk
1 tsp bcaronate of soda
1 tsp cider vinegar 

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan assisted/gas mark 6 and line and grease two cake tins.
2. Mix together the butter and the sugar in a mixer on a medium speed, graduallly increasing until the mixture is light and fluffy, and has increased in volume. 
3. Add the eggs and the food colouring and beat until it is just incorporated.
4. Add half the flour and cocoa powder to the mixture and mix on a medium speed until it is incorporated. Then mix in the buttermilk, and then the rest of the dry ingredients.
5. In a separate small bowl, mix together the bicarbonate of soda and the cider vinegar, and as it begins to fizz quickly fold it into the batter with a spatular.
6. Evenly divide the mixture between the two tins and tap them firmly on a surface to reduce the air bubbles. Bake them in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out dry and clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tins for ten minutes, before turning out on to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before decorating. 
To make the cream cheese frosting:

50g of good quality white chocolate
200g of full fat cream cheese, drained and at room temperature
100g of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
 500g of icing sugar, sifted
Sugarflair colouring paste in 'Pink'
Waitrose freeze dried raspberry flakes 

1. Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie and set aside to cool at room temperature.
2. Beat the butter on a high speed for several minutes, until it is notably lighter
3. Mix in the cream cheese and mix for several minutes until smooth
4. Add the vanilla extract and the white chocolate, mixing well on a medium speed until all combined
5. Sift in half of the icing sugar, mix and then sift in the remainder.
6. Add a tiny scraping of the colouring gel and mix until the desired colour is achieved. To get the light pink shade, I used a minuscule amount, so build it up gradually.
7. Spread the frosting in-between the two cake layers and on the outside until there is an even coating of frosting.
8. Finish with a scattering of raspberry flakes around the edges


February 04, 2015

Valentines Day Gift Guide for Her 2015 - 47 Chic Ideas!

Valentines day is fast approaching so Gentlemen, if you haven't already found the perfect present for your beau, then this gift guide may just put you on the right path. There are a multitude of ways to show your love for someone, be it splurging on something dream-worthy, or channeling your personal experiences with your love into a budget friendly but deeply romantic treasure. The most important thing is that you've put some effort into making valentines a memorable day for both of you. Thoughtfulness and a little planning can go very, very far. 

Please, please don't be one of those many chaps filling petrol station queues with their male counterparts, armed with a feeble bouquet of deep pink (but definitely not red) carnations and a hideously, over embossed card that features a nauseating heart patten and a taxidermy creature that could be a hamster, or maybe a bear. Either way it doesn't matter because you know the added embellishment of goggly eyes - shudders - will make your ladies heart melt. You feel accomplished by your natural awareness of what women want and you high five all the other queuing Casanovas on the way out. Then, you realise there's actually something sprawled across the front, so you scan the card for the word 'mum' during the entire drive to meet your special, special girl, enough to reassure yourself that the generic, italic, sweet nothings written in the swirliest font known to man will guarantee you brownie points. Oh, you old romantic you. 

Whilst the list below features a mixture of high end and bargain gifts, I definitely don't think Valentines day is about material items. My favourite gifts have, and always will be the thoughtful, precious things that cost very little but shout 'I love you' louder then any diamond necklace. So if you are able to make it more personal, then definitely do it! 

Ladies, if you're also lusting after one or two gifts below why not drop some hints to your Valentine by leaving this on your screen. You're welcome!

A little indulgence
If the words 'Valentines day present' conjures up ideas of glamorous luxury and intimate adoration, then fragrance, silk fabrics and sumptuous shades of red should be at the top of your list. 

 Letter press love
Never underestimate the printed word. Flowing typography, embossed illustrations and textured paper that your fingertips lust after bring warmth to the heart with every turn of the page.

Home is where the heart is
Shower her surroundings with heartwarming gifts that will not only remind her of how much you love her, but will be deeply treasured.

For your sweetheart
Whilst everyone loves sweet gifts that last forever, sweet gifts that last 5 minutes are also greatly appreciated! For me, food plays a big role in romance. Everything from the extravagant eight course dinner at the restaurant of your dreams, to the series of culinary mishaps that have you both in fits of laughter. Food has a habit of creating special memories. Valentines day is a great excuse to indulge in your favourite delectable treats and you really can't go wrong with a chocolaty concoction.