Gravity Cakes! by Jakki Friedman & Francesca Librae

I was sent Gravity Cakes! to review! It's a book for beginners and master bakers and cake decorators alike! There is literally something for everyone! Each project has step-by-step instructions and photos to guide you through! Gravity cakes are fun and give the wow factor to any cake!

It gives you everything you need to make these amazing cakes! It tells you the types of equipment and ingredients you will need as well as the recipes to make the base cakes and frosting and/or icings for said cakes. 

Then it's broken down into easy, medium, and advanced level of cakes so you can work your way through! Building your way up or give yourself a challenge either way the book has so much for you to choose from! 

Here is an inside look: 

*I was given a copy of Gravity Cakes! by Jakki Friedman & Francesca Librae to review by the publisher, Robert Rose. Retails at £18.95 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Vanilla Pound Cake {an expat story}

My first visit to the UK I was staying in Oxford and to get to the bus station you had to walk through the market. I had never really experienced a market like that and now it's a common thing after having lived in the UK for so long. However, I stopped at this place in the market that was selling cherries soaked in blueberry juice and then dried or maybe it was the other way around I don't really remember because of what happened when I ordered.

I asked for about a pound. The guy was a bit confused and confirmed my request with an "are you sure" look. Having realised my blunder, but not knowing what to say or how to explain, I just stuck by what I said and was like yup! He then continued to weigh it out so it only cost one Great Britain Pound (GBP).

What I had really wanted was a pound in weight - lb. Which in hindsight is like 450g so I probably didn't actually want that much.

It's not very often I have slip up's like that now after 12 years; so, when I was making this pound cake for my friend I hadn't really thought about the different definitions of the word "pound." It can also mean a place where dogs go to die, the dog pound. Anyway in this instance it was the difference between weight and money! I had to explain that the cake had indeed cost me more then one pound to make and that in American a pound cake refers to a type of cake made with a pound of flour, butter, eggs, and sugar.

This pound cake isn't traditional in the use of a pound of each ingredient, but it still uses pretty much equal measures of all the ingredients. It is more like half a pound cake really. The equivalent here is what the British call a Madeira Cake. Basically the same thing.

Vanilla Pound Cake 

260g plain flour
225g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
225g butter
5 eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract

All the ingredients should be at room temperature before starting and grease or line a 2lb loaf tin (23x13) When your are ready heat the oven to 160C.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter together until combined. I used my hand mixer and so it might look a bit like crumbs, but should come together when pressed as seen in the picture below.
In another bowl beat the eggs and vanilla together. Add about 1/3 of the egg mixture slowly to the dry mixture, beating well in-between additions.
Scrape down the sides before giving it one last good mix and scrape into your prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 60 minutes, test it by using the skewer test. It shouldn't leave any crumbs or batter on the skewer or butter knife - which is what I use and it should be a nice golden color as seen in the pictures.

Serve with ice cream and fresh berries if you are feeling like an American or jam and custard if you feeling British. Either way it's a great cake that can be paired with pretty much anything! It's a blank canvas cake so to speak and it's super easy to make!

Dear Blog (6) - {reflections over the last year}

Dear Blog,

You're 6 years old today. How do you feel?

I haven't been blogging like I used to. In the past I was at home with my children. Now I work part-time, volunteer, and keep busy with other hobbies. Reading being one of them, which is why I have been trying to fit it into the blog as of late. Check out my instagram as I am currently doing a daily book challenge and I'm loving it! I recently took a refresher life drawing workshop, which just taught me I already know stuff, I just have to be more confident in my abilities!

I am sorry if you've been feeling neglected.

So, that's the update on life stuff.... nothing as dramatic going on as the last couple years have been. It's a bit of a lull and I'm taking full advantage of that, because you never know what life will throw at you next!

Having a look back at last year here is a baker's dozen of bakes and events that have appeared here on the blog and are worth having another look at!

  1. Having just moved into my flat this time last year I experimented with my new oven and made these gorgeous Orangey Orange Cupcakes with Raspberries. My flat is located above an office and I shared with them, on my way out I heard a guy in the back say "These are the best cupcakes I've ever had!" To say the least it made my day! 
  2. There is literally only one brownie recipe I use these days and I am continually adding all sorts of stuff to them. The hottest day last August my friend and I went to London to check out some of the museums and to keep the cost down we packed ourselves lunch. I brought brownies made with double chocolate oreos and since they came with us I titled them "Traveling Oreo Brownies!"
  3. The post that I wrote with all the things I had been baking lately
  4. My visit to the Panasonic Idea's Kitchen! Saw a few familiar blogger faces and had a great time learning about their beauty products as well as having a play in their kitchen! 
  5. Making cocktails and learning how to salsa at Revolución De Cuba with my friend Jacob! 
  6. I gave my blog a new look and made MnM Cookies
  7. Lemon Cake and review of the Lunar Chronicle series is the start of my second attempt to incorporate my love of baking and books... I'm still working at it! 
  8. Publicly announcing my happily single status by post a list of 7 movies I think single people should watch on Valentine's Day
  9. Blueberry scones inspired by my rewatching all 7 series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, proving that inspiration can come from anywhere! 
  10. The treats we had as kids are even better as adults because of the nostalgia and these Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes are just that for me! Minus the Oreo Creme Easter eggs of course. 
  11. My second attempt at mixing my love of books and baking was with these Blackberry Custard Tarts inspired by a young adult novel that goes by My Lady Jane
  12. Finally wanting to get use out of my juicer I asked fellow bloggers to share with me their juice and smoothie recipes
  13. Learning that if you make anything by Mary Berry and give her the proper credit you get more views. 

There used to be more posts to choose from, but it's not always about quantity and I feel like the quality of my posts have changed as I have found my voice and have worked on my photography. Not to toot my own horn .... actually I am tooting my own horn. I am proud of the work and time and how far I have come as a blogger. Why do we live in a world where we aren't allowed to show any pride in ourselves and what we have achieved? So, I am ending this post with this: Be proud of what you achieve in any aspect of your life! 

My Summer Reading List - United Cakedom

We've had glorious weather for the end of spring and in England that may be it for us until August. In this country you can never tell what the weather might do and it's a constant topic for discussion. At some point if you live in England you just have to say whatever the weather will be, will be.

Summer however is the time for travel and holiday's and books are generally apart of any adventure or for those of us staying at home who need books and stories to pretend we are away on holiday!


Anyhow, I have an excessive stack of "to read" books and I have narrowed it down to the ones I like to get through by the end of summer. This is also my list of books I need to read before I allow myself to buy any more books new or used. Because the stack is getting ridiculous.

Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evens
synopsis - There are no accidents. There is only fate. 
1981. Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she is all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Di's wedding all her certainties are suddenly blown aside by events she cannot control. 
Finding herself in hospital, unable to speak, she must write everything down. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she beings to draw places she's never been to, people from another time. Rory Brandon, Jesse's neurologist, is intrigued. He knows the place she is drawing - Hundredfield, a castle in the Scottish Borders - and Jesse demands to see it. 
Unbeknown to them all, Jesse carries ancient knowledge that Hundredfield unlocks. She is key to the mystery that haunts this wild place, and she has a place in the legend of the lady who walks the forests …

- To be honest the cover of this book didn't draw me in. I won it in a twitter giveaway and it was part of a big box of books from the publishers Simon & Schuster. That was a good year or two ago and it's sat on my shelf since. It wasn't until I was looking for something to read that I picked it up and read the back again and became intrigued. I love a good historical mystery!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Smith
synopsis - Love isn't an exact science - but no one told Don Tillman. A thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don's never had a second date. So he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie - 'the world's most incompatible woman' - throwing Don's safe, ordered life into chaos. But what is this unsettling, alien emotion he's feeling?

- This is one of those best sellers I have been meaning to get around to reading. I picked it up at a charity shop, Age UK, for less then 99p! My good friend couldn't recommend it enough!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
synopsis - Long before she was the Queen of Hearts, Catherine Pinkerton was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.
Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

- I am a sucker for twists on classic fairy tales and as I enjoyed the author's Lunar Chronicle series I couldn't wait to get my hands on this title! I bought it from Amazon and if you want to know more about the Lunar Chronicles check out my post here!

The Dead Zone by Stephen King
synopsis - The two things that conjured up that horrible night, were his run of luck at the Wheel of Fortune, and the mask . . .
Meet Johnny Smith. A young man whose streak of luck ends dramatically in a major car crash. Followed by blackness. A long, long time in cold limbo.
When he wakes up life has been turned upside down. His fiancée has met someone else. And Johnny is cursed with the power to perceive evil in men's souls. He's had these hunches since he had an ice-skating accident as a child. Now he has an ability to see into the future. An ability which will bring him into a terrifying confrontation with a charismatic, power-hungry and dangerous man . . .

- Gotta love a good Stephen King book and to be honest I haven't read loads, but I have read enough to know I need to read more! This one I picked up at work there was a book shelf of like leave a book take a book policy and I commandeered this one!

This I Know by Susannah Conway
synopsis - Part memoir, part creative journal, This I Know chronicles Susannah's journey through bereavement and healing, taking the reader on a ride into the possibilities of unravelling - and healing - her own life too. It's a guidebook of sorts, a collection of thoughts and theories, with creative exercises for you to try, and dreamy light-filled Polaroids dotted throughout the text. It's a cosy blanket for your heart.

- I have followed Susannah's blog for years now and I have been coveting this book for ages and I finally bought it used from amazon marketplace.

Happy by Fearne Cotton
synopsis - For many of us, life can feel like it's moving too fast with pressure bearing down on us from all sides - whether that's from school or work, family or social media. As a result, we find ourselves frazzled, lost and - too often - feeling blue.
It's a subject close to Fearne's heart. Drawing on her own experiences and including expert advice, HAPPY offers practical ways of finding joy each and every day. Happiness isn't a mountain to climb, it's just one foot in front of the other on the path of life, and here you'll find little steps that will help make the differences that count. With workbook elements to help you start and end the day well; get in touch with your creative side; and find peace through written exercises, simple practical ideas and visualisations, these are daily tricks and reminders to help you unlock that inner happiness.

- Mindfulness and happiness is a trendy thing at the moment. I do think it a bit sad that we are having to read books and seek advice on how to be happy, however my curiosity on what the hype is has me drawn in! I was given this as a gift from one of my best friends.

Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin
synopsis - Tips and techniques for making food look good before it tastes good! 
Takes you through the art and techniques of appetizing food photography for everyone from foodies to food bloggers to small business owners looking to photograph their food themselves
Whets your appetite with delicious advice on food styling, lighting, arrangement, and more
Author is a successful food blogger who has become a well–known resource for fellow bloggers who are struggling with capturing appetizing images of their creations
So, have the cheese say, "Cheese!" with this invaluable resource on appetizing food photography.

- This book is no longer in publication and all my fellow bloggers have always raved about this book so when it showed up on the amazon marketplace for a reasonable price I snagged it right away! It's something as a food blogger I am always looking to improve. So, this is my educational book for the summer!

What are you reading this summer? I love a good recommendation please leave them below in the comments!!! 

*I was not sent or given any of these titles in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own; please see my contact/policy page above for further information.

Japanese Patisserie by James Campbell {book review}

Exploring the beautiful and delicious fusion of East meets West

When one thinks of patisserie you think French or Belgian, but it isn't unknown in Korea and Japan. After taking a trip out there to experience the food and culture and the combination of the two James has been obsessed with Japan and experimenting with Japanese ingredients. James Campbell combined his passion for classic French patisserie and contemporary Japanese flavors and it shows in this book!

He takes us through the ingredients and equipment that we should consider if we are going attempt his recipes with the added bonus of a flavour wheel. The ingredients list isn't that long and is all stuff we can easily source these days in our supermarkets! The equipment list is even shorter and are more extra things to give the recipes the extra touch. Not only does he give us the basic recipes of choux and sweet shortcrust pastry and creme patisserie, but he also gives us some basic techniques before moving on to his sweet treats!

The first chapter gives us small cakes and individual patisserie for treats like - Matcha, Pink Peppercorn & Wild Strawberry Madeleines, Tonka Bean, Milk Chocolate & Raspberry desserts, Lemon & Yuzu Eclairs, and Glazed Buttermilk Scones with Kumquat & Kinkan Marmalade.

The next chapter covers Sweet Tarts and he introduces us to recipe such as - Matcha Creme Brûlée Tarts with Fresh Raspberries & White Chocolate Cream, Yuzu Meringue Pies with Sesame Tuiles, and Miso & Butterscotch Tarts.

Smoked Chocolate Pave with Yuzu Ganache, Miso & Peanut Butter Crunch and Matcha, White Chocolate & Cherry Trench with Hazelnut Sponge are just a few of the recipes in the following chapter of Large Cakes & Gateaux.

It couldn't get any better with the next chapter of Desserts filled with recipes like Layered Panna Cotta with Sake Jelly Fruit Compote & Cherry Blossom, Vanilla Panna Cotta with Boozy Cherry Jelly & Matcha Micro Sponge. 

Cookies & Confectionery is the title of the next chapter and it doesn't disappoint with recipes for Sweet Miso, Sato Nishiki Cherry & Yuzu Fruit Macarons, Matcha 'Kit Kat', and Hot Sake Jelly Shots with Ginger Spherification.

Last but not least is a chapter dedicated to Savouries! Gyoza Chicken Wings Karate-Style, Hirata Steamed Pork Buns, and Panko Doughnuts stuffed with Pork Katsu are just a few of the amazing recipes he has shared with us!

This is just a small look into this exciting culinary journey! As the sub title says it's a "beautiful and delicious fusion of East meets West" and it isn't wrong. There are the traditional classic treats we all know and love with inspiring Japanese flavours. If you are looking for something new and different I would tell you to grab yourself a copy of James' book!

*I was given a copy of Japanese Patisserie: Exploring the beautiful and delicious fusion of East meets West by James Campbell to review by the publisher, Ryland Peters & Small. Retails at £16.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

The Botanist - Reading, Berkshire {restaurant review}

If you live in Reading and haven't heard of The Botanist opening up soon you are probably away on holiday or something. They are every where on social media at the moment. I was invited to check it out before it opens.

It's been 7 odd years since I have been in the old Barclay's building. A time when on every Thursday morning if you were to walk in the floor was covered in boxes and boxes of books. Free books, needless to say I was a frequent visitor. So, I can say with all authority that they have transformed the building and it is beautiful inside! 

Before we were seated we went to the bar and had a look through extensive list of cocktails; some of them classics with a Botanist twist and some original concoctions. We decided to try their signature cocktail: The Botanist - Ketel One Vodka, rum, and elderflower liqueur. It was refreshing, perfect for the warm summer night, and a great way to start the evening! If you aren't a cocktail drinker do not fear for they had a lovely list of wines and an Anthology of Ales to choose from! 

Throughout the night we also tried their homemade lemonade, perfect combination of sweet and tart, the strawberry and elderflower bellini and the raspberry Amaretto sour all perfectly mixed and delicious! 

The atmosphere was relaxed with the hum of conversation and live music. We were seated and were given time to peruse the menu with a lot of amazing choices! We didn't know where to start, but finally decided to start with the basket of piri piri chicken wings and the homemade scotch egg which was amazing! For our mains we both went with their famous hanging kebabs, it was a lot of fun drizzling the sauce down them from the top and we finished the night with desserts toffee pudding and the baked chocolate chip cookie dough! 

Overall the atmosphere and decor were great, the cocktails were great, and the food was amazing. My friend and I had a great night catching up and had a great experience! The doors will be opening soon and I definitely will be visiting again! 

Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a three course meal for two at The Botanist in Reading here! T&C's apply!! 

Opening this June! 


*I was invited by the PR for The Botanist to visit and check it out, I was not compensated in a monetary way for my review, all opinions are my own, please see my contact/policy page above for more information. 

Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars {Curse Worker Trilogy: White Cat, Red Glove, and Black Heart by Holly Black}

"You're Only a Finger Tip Away from Another World." ~ The Curse Workers

My friend Missie and I have known each other some time and we've always liked the same things. We've always enjoyed the same TV shows, movies, and of course books. So, I was thrilled when she contacted me and asked me to be a part of her Bookies to Foodies week a couple years ago. I loved this recipe and I have been wanting to share it here with you now! 

I recently finished reading Holly Black’s Curse Worker Trilogy, having read White Cat a few years ago it was about time I read Red Glove and Black Heart. My only disappointment was not reading them sooner!

The Curse Worker Trilogy is about a young man named Cassel Sharpe. By-the-way I love Cassel!! He’s really an anti-hero, which is why I love him so much. He’s not the typical “good guy” even though he does try.

See he comes from a family of curse workers. People who can manipulate people’s emotions, change/steal memories, break people’s bones by just touching them and so on. There is a wide range of talent - some only being able to work little charms so to speak and those who have a talent that only comes along once in a generation like transformation. There are also those who do not have any talent at all. Cassel is one of those people. In a powerful family such as his he really is an odd one out.

With his mom in jail, his dad gone, and his brothers working for a big crime lord it only made sense for him to go away to a private school. It was the school food and more specifically school desserts that inspired these Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars!

In the Red Glove Cassel eats Cherry Crumble for dessert while dining in the school cafeteria. When I was at school and the rare occasions that I had a school dinner, I favored a packed lunch, I remember having dessert bars. So, a combination of the book and my experience so here is how I made them:

Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars

300g (2 cups) plain flour
100g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
228g (2 sticks) butter, softened
360g (12-ounces) packages cream cheese
120g (1/2 cup) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 425g can of black cherries, pitted – 213g/7oz of fresh cherries, chopped
crumble topping (recipe follows) 

Heat the oven to 180C/350F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 9x9in square pan or a 13x 9in baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and the sugar until combined. Then add the eggs 1 at a time and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust. Evenly spread out the chopped cherries before sprinkling the crumble mixture over the top. Bake for 40 minutes or 30 minutes if using a bigger pan. Leave to cool in the fridge and serve it up!

Crumble Topping:
200g (1 cup) brown sugar
150g (1 cup) flour
60g (1/2 cup) rolled or quick cooking oats
114g (1 stick) butter, softened

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Yield: approximately 3 cups

If you use a can of cherries don’t waste the juice reduce it in a saucepan with a tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of cornflour/cornstarch, and a tsp of vanilla extract until thick and jelly like. Use it as a dip or drizzle on top!

I cannot recommend these Cherry Crumble Cheesecake Bars enough! The same goes for this series! I loved reading about Cassel and I wish I could read more about him! Thinking a re-read is in store sooner then later!

*Check out my post over on Missie's blog! 


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