What a Year! {My Word for 2017}

Sometimes a year passes by without you noticing. They breeze by - easy. Other years take forever. They are hard. I knew I was due a couple of hard years considering how easy my life seemed to be prior.

I have been taking part in Susannah Conway's December Reflections on Instagram and today's prompt is My Word for 2017. This isn't the first year I have thought of a word I want to describe my up coming year. Most of the time I don't want to think of the year ahead at all. This year needs to be different and so it's a good time to reflect and pick a word.

This year I want to find a part of that has been missing for a while. My creative side has been but to the sidelines for too long. I have an art degree and I think it's about time I put it to use. My word for this year is "create." To create something amazing. It's probably about time.

I am still baking just not as much as I used to. I hope to keep this blog up - just with a few changes. 

Here is a video I made reflecting 2016 and the things I did with United Cakedom!

Revolución De Cuba - Reading, Berkshire

Revolución De Cuba has it all! When I say it has it all I mean it has everything you could ask for to have a great night out: Cocktails, food, and dancing! The atmosphere was sophisticated yet it was very chilled.

For you old Reading-ers it's located in the old HMV on Friar street and it's huge inside! It looks amazing with great front seating and a place to dance in the back. The upstairs, where we were taught how to make some great cocktails, is the room they rent out for events and it's gorgeous with an outside patio that can be covered if need be!

We started the night with Strawberry Daiquiri's before taking one of their Cocktail Masterclasses! We were taught how to make a classic Mojito and told a bit about the mojito. The very lovely lady who was showing us explain that all cocktails have two straws because in probation times cocktails were expensive and therefore were shared between a husband and wife. The bent straw is for the lady and the sticky up straw is for the man.

Then we were taught how to make the Zombie with their own secret Zombie mix topped with pineapple and orange juice.  I volunteered to make this one as it meant I got to use a torch to light it on fire! It was a lot of fun to make and it had an interesting flavor that makes it stand out from other cocktails!

The last cocktail we were shown how to make was the Pornstar Rumtini - made with rum instead of vodka. If you have never had one I suggest you do! It comes with a shot of Prosecco to use as a palate  cleanser although some people pour it in or just drink it as a shot. Weirdos.

It was a lot of fun learning how to make cocktails and hearing the stories behind them! If this sounds like a great night out to you check out their website, linked below, for the different Masterclass's you can book for you and your friends! Best bit is that you get to drink everything you make!

For me the night wasn't over we were offered a variety of their tapas before learning how to salsa! It was a bit daunting, but the instructor was good at telling us what to do! I felt I caught on okay towards the end!

If you haven't checked it out yet, I suggest you do!

Revolución De Cuba - 138-141 Friar St, Reading RG1 1EX

*I was invited to visit and review - all opinions are my own - no other compensation was given.

Cake. Crumb Cake {an international cake of mystery}

The question everyone is asking is what is a crumb cake? Well, it's a cake with crumbs on top. Mystery solved. Well, I suppose not 100% solved as the next question is - is it any good? and the answer is yes. Yes, it is an amazing cake!

I was craving cinnamon the other day. Yup, not really sure where it came from, but I thought I wonder what that means if I'm craving cinnamon and according to the internet it means that I am going to die.

I know an over done joke, but it did say that craving cinnamon might be a sign that my body needs help regulating insulin and then further said it might be a sign of bigger health problems like diabetes and/or liver or kidney failure. Nothing to really joke about, but kind of feel this was a one off thing. I suppose if I start craving cinnamon on a regular basis I will pay a bit of attention.

It's not one of those things you can just eat. Cinnamon is best in baked in cake or cookies. It's a fact. Not that it's good if my body is trying to regulate insulin..... anyway!

Now, this crumb cake isn't the most cinnamon-y baked good out there, but it served it's purpose and fulfilled my craving of cinnamon. Now I have practically a whole cake left... I am sure I can find people to help me eat it!

As you aren't close by to have a slice here is how you can make it at home! Thanks to the boys at Outsider Tart... I've made very little changes to their recipe, but I did things the way I know how to do them.

Crumb Cake

225g unsalted butter, melted
380g plain flour
225g dark brown sugar
115g light brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a free standing mixer and using the paddle attachment beat until they form crumbs of all sizes. Don't over beat; it makes the crumbs tough. Set aside.

525g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
340g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
340g natural yogurt

Heat the oven to 180C and line a tray bake tin (30x23cm) with grease proof or baking paper. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda, and salt. Leave to the side while you beat the butter and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. I tend to beat the eggs in with a whisk as it gives it a less chance of separating the batter. Fold in the vanilla. Pour in a third of the flour and beat until just combined, follow with half the yogurt again beat until just combined. Follow with flour, yogurt, and last the rest of the flour. Spoon into the prepared pan and spread flat and fill in the corners before sprinkling half the crumb topping on top and gently press down into the batter before sprinkling the rest on top.
Bake for 45-60 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Towards the last few minutes place foil over the top to stop the crumbs from getting too dark and over cooked.
Use a skewer to test if the cake is done.
Cool in the tin before eating.

last notes: As mentioned this recipe was adapted from Baked in America by the David's at Outsider Tart! But in no way sponsored by them please see my contact/policy tab above! I got to meet them once I wrote about it here and if you ever want to know what it's like at their baker then check out this post! My friend made this cake too and shared it here!

Nostalgic Delights by William Curley {a book review}

I am an American, as it says in my blog tag line, so one could argue that some of these treats aren't necessarily nostalgic to me, but that's not so. I believe that I have lived here long enough now to have a history with some of the sweet treats in this book.

There was this time, in the early days of me living here, that I was craving chocolate. Just a solid bar. I didn't want any nuts or nougat or cereal or raisins or anything just one solid bar of chocolate. I was recommended a Yorkie, as they are the solidest solid bar of chocolate out there. I went to the till to pay and the guy says to me "Yorkies aren't for birds." I stared at him and asked why anyone would feed chocolate to a bird?

Yeah in this country birds are women. Oh and it was a marketing thing and it said right on the wrapper that they weren't for birds. Anyway, Mr Curley knows his stuff. I have his Patisserie book and it's amazing and this book is amazing.

It's broken down into 7 sections starting with Chocolate Confectionery followed by Bakery Favourites, Patisserie Modern Classics, Ice Cream & Gateau, Afternoon Treats, Frivolities, and basic recipes that you will need for the recipes in the rest of the chapters.

The instructions for each recipe is very precise and clear. It's like the most interesting text book I have ever read in my life. It's also beautifully photographed. There are some recipes that show you in pictures what each step should look like and with a book like this it is great to have that information.

There are so many recipes I'd like to try out! There isn't one for a Yorkie specifically, but there are recipes for other great chocolate bars! Here is a condensed list of recipes I'd like to try!!

Okay before I list the recipes I want to try there is a recipe for Hazelnut Rochers. It's not included in my list because I don't like them, but I know a lot of people do and if you ever wanted to make your own there is a recipe in this book! Just so you know! Now back to the list.

Alpine Chocolates (inspired by Toblerone)
Cartwheel (Wagonwheel)
Walnut Whip
Matcha & Yuzu Teacakes
Cinder Toffee
Caramel Bar
Chocolate Mint Bar
Fudge Bar
Peanut Nougat Bar (Snickers/Marathon)
Curly Wurly
Chocolate Cherry Bakewells
Jam Tarts
Custard Tart
Eccles Cakes
Bee Sting
Fudge Doughnuts
Tropical Snowball (based off of a patisserie marshmallow confection in Scotland)
Black Forest Gateau
Moka (gateau)
Jaffa Cake Tarts
Bounty Ice Cream Bar
Pecan & Banana Cake
Empire Biscuits
Viennese Whirls
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Hob Nobs
Pate De Fruits (Fruit Pastilles)
Whiskey Tablet

That was a lot longer then anticipated! Not sure when I will find the time to make all those things, will need to shorten the list.....

There is so much in here for keen bakers and those who like to experiment in the kitchen! If you have either of those people in your life this book would make an amazing gift!!

last notes: I was given a copy of Nostalgic Delights: Classic Confections & Timeless Treats by William Curly to review by the publisher, jacqui small. Retails at £25.99 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.

Want a closer look inside? Here is a short video I made as I looked through the book....


Adventures in the Kitchen - with Panasonic!

If you had invited me over for a meal and told me that you were going to cook all of it in a microwave I would have assumed you were cooking me beans on toast.

And if you only owned a basic microwave I am sure that is exactly what I would have gotten, but there are so many different kinds of microwaves these days! Maybe they always existed and I have just been enlightened by the existence of the variety of microwaves out there? It now is clear of why they are sometimes called microwave ovens.

Either way I went for lunch at the Panasonic Ideas Kitchen and I was served a meal prepped by us and cooked in microwaves.

We had roast beef, focaccia, chopped salad, lemon drizzle cake, dulce de leche brownies and freshly juiced juice all cooked in microwaves except the juice and salad of course.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good the beef turned out. To be completely honest I was extremely skeptical of the beef. I needn't have been because it was perfectly cooked and tasted great! The bread dough was proved in a bread machine and then rolled out and proved a second time in a microwave oven at a low heat before being baked in the same microwave oven.

Salad was chopped using a food processor and had a gorgeous basic dressing of olive oil, mustard, and seasoning. The juice was very experimentally made and had a bit too much ginger. We whipped up the lemon drizzle cake and chocolate brownies and both were cooked in the microwave ovens as we had lunch.

Especially in England where space is crucial I wouldn't mind having a multi functioning microwave ovens. It would be nice for no thinking cooking after a busy day and it would especially be useful when making a big meal like Christmas dinner.

Learn more about the products here!
Microwave Oven: NN-DS596B
Food Processor: MK-F800SXE
Slow Juicer: MJ-L500
Hair Dryer: EH-NA65
Hair Straightener: EH-HS95

I listed two none foodie gadgets because before we went into the kitchen I had my hair washed and blow dried in the salon across the hall .... I know right? This place is amazing. Think I might just move in! My hair always looks great when someone else straightens it. I have sort of given up on straightening my hair, but now I remember how great it looks!

And a last last note before I go, we were given goodie bags and mine contained my very own slow juicer!! So, stay tuned for more on that as I get my juice on!

*I was invited out for the day, all opinions are my own!

Junction Bar & Brasserie in Windsor {review}

It was a Tuesday night when my friend and I ventured out to Windsor to visit Junction Bar & Brasserie. I had been invited to check it out as it's just opened in the last month and they were looking for people to check it out! I said of course as if I hadn't I would be writing this post.

Junction aspire to be the place that people go to have a great time and a place where memories can be created. A place where people get together.

Junction literally means a point where two or more things are joined. 

It's located right in the middle of Windsor just down from the castle. It doesn't look like much from the outside, in fact it sort of blends into the rest of the shops on the street. It doesn't help that right now there is construction going on outside (as seen in the picture to the right).

However, once inside you can tell that some thought has been put into the decor. It is interesting and well thought out. A bit hip with the string lights and pictures half painted blue.

What is most important is the food! The food though is what always matters most and then service. It was quiet that night so we were pretty well taken care of. 

We started with the Thai style fish cakes and pan fried scallops with parsley puree, tomato relish and pickled radish. Both were presented nicely and both were very good. 

We then spent a bit of time deciding what to get as our main because everything looked so good! I settled on the Shepherd’s pie with glazed seasonal vegetables, because as the weather has been chillier I have been craving more comfort food! I wasn't disappointed! It was a nice rich sauce with very buttery mashed potatoes. My friend ordered the Duo of pork with Macédoine potatoes and pork jus and she was very impressed with it! 

We were pretty full after a starter and a main, but we could resist trying something off the dessert menu!! My friend went for the Belgium chocolate brownie with vanilla ice-cream and I went for the Baked cheese cake, fruit salsa & Roseberry sauce. Both were delicious and rich! 

We had a good night and the food was really good! I would recommend it if you live in or around or planning to visit Windsor! Definitely worth a visit and find out for yourself!

Junction Bar & Brasserie: 51, Peascod Street, Windsor, England

These pictures and more can be found on my Instagram! If you are interested in my adventures follow me there @unitedcakedom

notes: As mentioned above I was invited to visit Junction, I was not asked to give a positive review. All opinions are my own check out my contact/policy page/tab above for more information. 

Peanut Butter and Banana Milkshake

So, my good friend loves milkshakes. We talked forever about making one of those popular monster milkshakes ... you know the ones with the cups covered in chocolate and sprinkles and has cookies or doughnuts sticking out the top? We were totally pumped for it and we were like yay let's definitely do it! 

However, in the end it looked like a lot of effort for a milkshake. We weren't in the mood for all the faff and to be honest all the sugar. So, we made just what we wanted a simple peanut butter and banana milkshake. 

For this milkshake I literally blended some peanut butter, a banana, vanilla ice cream, and a dash or so of milk. Topped it with whipped cream and some dry roasted peanuts. Dry roasted because that is what was in the cupboard! I couldn't tell you how much I used of each ingredient and let's face it for a milkshake do you need to know? 

I believe you can use as much of or as little of each that you want and once it's blended it will still taste great! 

Do you have to have a recipe to follow? Let me know in the comments below! 

Baking Lately - the adventures and happenings at United Cakedom

I wouldn't say I loved my job at Sainsbury's, as an online shopper, but I didn't hate it either. I loved being a witness to the sun rising and to scenes like the one above. I loved having my whole day ahead of me, but most of all I loved my co-workers. It was a comfortable environment and we were a great team of people. The only thing that made me want to change my job is that I was tired of dragging myself out of bed at 3:30am for a 4pm start. Picture below was taken on my last day and you can see how tired I am. 

I have found another part time job that suits my lifestyle better. It's just another change in a year of changes. I am looking forward to a new challenge, but sad about leaving behind two years of essentially some really great friendships. There are a handful of people I will be keeping in touch with, and the rest well let's just say thank goodness for Facebook!

One of things I did before I left is bake this Coffee and Walnut Cake for a charity bake sale going to BIBS, the local charity that our branch is currently supporting. Recipe can be found in Nigella's Kitchen on online here! 

I was told it was big hit and I got pictures of people eating it and the empty plate! The bake sale it's self was a big hit and it raised money for a great cause! BIBS (Babies in Buscot Support) is a registered charity that supports babies and their families in the special care baby unit (Buscot Ward) at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. 

This cake is one of many things I have baked lately, but haven't shared with you all! A lot of what I have been baking is stuff I not only have baked before, but also blogged. Here are a few of the things I've been Baking Lately

Banana Bread 
(I haven't actually blogged this, but the recipe comes from the hummingbird bakery cookbook.) 

So, that's a quick update on what I've been up to lately! I am still baking, but not as frequently nor as experimental as I used to be. I have also been a terrible baking supporter and have missed most of the Great British Bake Off this year. Think I will spend the rest of my Sunday trying to catch up with it as it is the semi-finals this week! 

It is my hope that once I've settled into my new job and I get a new routine set I will have more time to not only bake, but blog and get back into the blogging world! I have missed it as I have been dealing with real life stuff. 

I was all ready to get my Jamberry business off the ground and running and I've literally done nothing in regards to running it as a business, but I am still buying and using them! My latest manicure is called Ribbon Dance and I'm very pleased with it! 

United Jamdom
A link to my sight if you want to check them out! 
There are a lot of new styles for Autumn/Winter! 

Thanks for reading! Do you have a favorite cake or cookie or pastry or bread and so on recipe that you bake over and over again? Leave a comment below I would love to know! 

notes: This post has not been sponsored in any shape or form by any of above mentioned people/places/things! Please see my contact/policy page above for more information! 

Fluffernuffer Blondies (one pot)

I know it's Fluffernutter not Fluffernuffer, but see I heard wrong the first time I ever had anyone say Fluffernutter to me and I have never gotten it right since.

If you know me, I talk funny. And I don't think I talk funny just because I have an American accent in a foreign country kinda way. I mean I say words wrong and I make up words without even thinking about it. It's just that sometimes my brain is on fast forward and my mouth doesn't always keep up with changes in wordage.

These blondies are a very good example of my thought process. First I wanted to make banana brownies. Then I thought that bananas would be good with peanut butter. Then I was like you know what's good with peanut butter? Marshmallows!! Then I was like ooooooo fluffernuffers! Then the bananas were completely dropped from the ingredient list.

It's a mess living in my head!

If you are know asking yourself what the heck is a fluffernutter? I will tell you it's a sandwich. Specifically a sandwich with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. According to what I have read it has to be on white bread as well. I myself have never had a fluffernutter sandwich, but I love the combo of peanut butter and marshmallows.

So, I made peanut butter and marshmallow blondies and called them Fluffnuffer Blondies! One last thing the best thing about these blondies is that they can be made in one pot! I am always 100% in favor of less dishes.

Fluffernuffer Blondies

100g unsalted butter
225g white chocolate, broken up
175g light muscovado sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
200g crunchy peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
80-100g mini marshmallows

Heat the oven to 180C and line the sides of an 8 in/20cm square cake pan.
Melt the butter and white chocolate together in a medium/large saucepan over a very low heat. When the butter has melted remove from the heat and stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Beat in the sugar, egg, peanut butter, and vanilla until combined. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt over the mixture and fold in until just combined. Gently pour/spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Then scatter the mini marshmallows all over the top until completely covered.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Since you can't see the top of the blondies, due to all the marshmallows, you won't be able to tell if they are golden brown. If you are unsure give them an extra few minutes it won't hurt. Also if the marshmallows start to brown too quickly just place a loose sheet of aluminium foil on top.
Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares and then eat them!

notes: Read more about Fluffernutters here! Recipe is loosely based on one from Rachel Allen's Cake book. 

Your 5 Must Haves this Season with The Oracle {Reading, Berkshire}

I read somewhere that we only wear 20% of our wardrobes and it got me to thinking about what I wear out of my wardrobe and I would have to say that it's a probably fairly accurate percentage. I wear the same two or three pairs of jeans and the same handful of t-shirts and/or sweat shirts that depends on the season. The rest sits there and I keep saying yeah I'll wear that one day.

Therefore it's very important to take the time to pick out those items that one can and will wear over and over again. This is the idea behind The Oracle's "Your 5" campaign. I was invited along as a blogger guest to check out what it was all about. 

One of the professional stylist's took me through the must have coats, knitwear, trousers, boots, and skirts before having a quick makeover with MAC makeup.

At each station we discussed the different looks and colours of the season and I couldn't resist the military style coats especially the black one pictured above in my 5 must haves! Knitwear is always a must when the weather starts to change! Sweaters are my favorite because they can be dressed up  and down depending on where you are going.

One can never go wrong with a great pair of black wide legged trousers. It's a must for any and every occasion. Because it's such an important piece of clothing it's in my general opinion to pay a bit more for them. I have bought many of cheap pairs that only ever made it through a few wears.

Boots. I personally have been in search for a pair of boots for ages and I found a pair from New Look that I just had to have! As seen in the picture below. The heal is a bit taller then I'm used too so I will have to practice walking in them.... but I am in love with them!

Last must have item was a skirt, but I am not a big skirt person. I did fall in love with this long black leather skirt and I have been thinking about it since yesterday. It might be that item I go back to buy sooner then later! I will keep you posted!

And before I left I had a quick stop at the make-up counter and had a mini-makeover! She asked what colour I wanted to go with for my lips and I said lets go crazy! Crazy for me anyway! Lately all over histogram I have been seeing people with purple lips so that's what we went for! It was MAC Instigator! I had compliments on it all night!

Today is the last day they will be in The Oracle so if you have moment go see them! Everyone was super nice and informative!!

notes: I was invited along to the event and was compensated for my time. I was not asked to give a positive review. Please see my contact/policy page for more information. 

Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser {book review}

Mason Jars have an interesting history and in recent years have become widely popular for it's variety and numerous uses. For food bloggers like myself they make great props and are great to bake cupcakes in!

However, JoAnn Moser shows us that that's not all they are good for! She gives us 50 different ways to use mason jars and I'm sure her ideas will inspire you to do much more with them! The chapters break down by Crafts, In the Garden, In the Kitchen, Inspired Storage, and Lighting and Lanterns.

I'd love to try and make -

From Crafts: 

  • Lucky Bamboo Water Garden
  • Tissue Paper Tumblers

From In the Garden:

  • Mason Jar Bird Feeder
  • Jar Band Wind Chime

From In the Kitchen:

  • Dark Forest Trail Mix
  • Pineapple-Infused Vodka
  • Homemade Butter in a Jar
  • Fruit smoothie in a Jar
  • Night-Before Granola
  • Yogurt Breakfast Sundaes

From Inspired Storage:

  • Swizzle Stick Pop-up Holder
  • Wine-Not Desk Organiser
  • Clip and Binder Holder

From Lighting and Lanterns:

  • Moonbeam Stakes
  • Vintage Firefly Lantern

I am not much of a crafter so the projects I would be most interested in are probably on the easy side, but there are more challenging projects for the craft inclined!

Overall the book was very well researched and I thought the projects weren't just cute, but actual things people would want to try out!!

notes: I was given a copy of Mason Jar Nation by JoAnn Moser to review by the publisher, Cool Springs Press. Retails at £11.99 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.