Monday, 16 December 2013

Book signing and gingerbread decorating at Waterstones this week

Last week I was at Waterstones for a Christmassy author evening decorating gingerbread and signing copies of trEATs. It was great fun, we made lots of mess with icing and sprinkles and even Darcey (who was also signing copies of her book) iced some gingerbread snowflakes with me. 

This week, on Thursday 19th, I'm over at Waterstones Covent Garden for their Christmas evening from 6pm (check out the link for the full list of authors who will be there). Come and pick up a Christmas present or two and decorate your own gingerbread decorations!   

Thursday, 28 November 2013

House Beautiful feature

It's been so exciting to see trEATs being featured in magazines and online over the last few weeks. Here is my mince pies recipe in this month's edition of House Beautiful (photos by Danielle Wood). This feature is part of a baking special so I'm in good company with Mary Berry and Annie Rigg a few pages away.

Salted caramel trEATs

Some salted caramel trEATs from my book. I made these for kind friends that lent me their backpack for my big trip to South America and Mexico this summer. I made salted caramel brownies paired with extra sauce to warm up and pour over ice cream - a cosy Autumnal treat. The cute jar is from Le Parfait

Nine Cakes, Brooklyn: Not just a pretty cake

The shop front in Brooklyn
Betsy Thorleifson is the owner of Brooklyn based cake studio Nine Cakes. Her seasonal flavour pairings and handmade decorations have earned her praise from the likes of Martha Stewart, Brides magazine and Design Sponge. On a recent trip to New York I caught up with Betsy to find out how she developed her company and where she gets her culinary inspiration from.

The Nine Cakes studio is tucked away on Columbia Street in Brooklyn not too far from Smith Street with its trendy cafes and boutiques and just across the water from downtown Manhattan. Betsy is in good company with so many other young food businesses in the neighbourhood “There’s a little coffee shop that I love called Cafe Pedlar and a really yummy foodie shop called Stinky Brooklyn filled with all sorts of cheeses”. 
Betsy's team create beautiful hand made sugar decorations
Sketched designs waiting to be made up
In an industry once dominated by formal fondant covered wedding cakes and more recently, the cupcake, Nine Cakes offers a modern aesthetic. Betsy takes her favourite flavours of the season and translates them into nine (of course) signature cakes “I love pumpkin in the fall and one of my favourites is the almond pear cake. In the spring I like doing lots of raspberries and strawberries and then summery things.” For the icing, Betsy uses Swiss meringue buttercream instead of its sweeter and heavier butter and sugar cousin. Each cake tier has four layers and is finished with graphic style piped borders and sugar decorations that are coloured to reflect the cake flavour beneath the icing. Betsy describes the look as “Cake that looks like cake”. 

The inspiration for naming her business came from the cakes themselves. “When I first started, I came up with a list of my favourite cakes. I was sitting around with a group of friends and we were trying to figure out some name ideas. Someone said, ‘well, how many cakes do you have?’” There is also link to Betsy’s fondness for numbers (her dad was a maths teacher). “I came across this book of logic puzzles for kids. Lewis Carroll’s Alice character is tasked with arranging nine cakes in a specific order so I thought, yeah, it’s going to be Nine Cakes!”
Vintage scales in the cake studio
After settling on a name and starting to develop the idea, it didn’t take long for the business to outgrow her apartment. “I very first started in my apartment and then pretty quickly realised that I needed more space. I was making 200 little cupcakes and they were on cooling racks all over”. Shared kitchen space found on the website Craig’s List offered a low risk solution to expanding the business. “It was somebody else’s kitchen and they were looking to rent space to someone. Eventually I took over the space and the lease and it’s been perfect – I was able to start doing my thing and it’s just grown by word of mouth”.

On starting a cake business Betsy says “just jump right in”. Thinking back to her first year she says “It felt like raising a kid in a way. It takes a lot of your attention and as it gets older each year there’s a real difference. By the second year I realised it was better to offer a range of signature flavours for each season. By the third year it felt more like a working machine. I wish I would have known to hire people sooner – there were times where I literally worked around the clock.” 

On delegating she says that it’s best to prioritise. “Find what you want to do and make that happen instead of thinking that you’re going to do everything - in that first year I quickly realised that I have a business, I’m not just a baker anymore.”

It’s too difficult to choose just one of Betsy’s cake flavours so I head back to our friend’s Manhattan apartment via a Smith Street coffee with two single tier six inch cakes from her fall menu – one Pumpkin Walnut and one Chocolate Caramel Cloud. 

Nine Cakes
155 Columbia Street Brooklyn 11231

Pumpkin walnut cake
The studio
Ghost pumpkin display in the shop front
Simple paper decoration in the shop front display
The studio

Thursday, 31 October 2013

trEATs is here!

It's finally here! My new book 'trEATs: Delicious food gifts to make at home' was released today and I'm very excited to start seeing it in shops. There are lots of gift-friendly recipes like salted caramel sauce and white chocolate dipped pistachio and apricot cookies and really beautiful photography from the very clever Danielle Wood. I'm looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks over the next few weeks. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Salon du Chocolat

Last night me and fellow chocolate fan Jess went along to the opening night of Salon du Chocolat at Olympia. Salon du Chocolat is an established chocolate show from France to Tokyo but this weekend is the first time that it's come to London. 

There was plenty of spectacle with a 'chocolate fashion show' (totally bonkers!) and one brave lady having a bath in hot chocolate. 

Although the show is famous for it's  fashion show we were mostly looking forward to the tasting opportunities. First up was a tart and sweet passion fruit caramel from Rococo which was a firm favourite. We stopped ourselves from having a nibble of a handsome white chocolate stag from The Highland Chocolatier and had a nice chat with Mighty Fine about their giant graffiti chocolate bar designed to show off their limited edition art bars. We also loved the Turkish delight style rose and cinnamon hot chocolate from Jaz and Juls.

As well as chocolate there was lots of caramel to try and even the odd stack of nougat. Lots of companies had incorporated rose and caramel flavours into their products and on the aesthetic side of things chocolate printing and old school packaging were popular.

The show isn't massive this year so it didn't take long to wander round and sample a few things. I think the main draw will be the chocolate demos that are happening over the weekend from people like Paul A YoungAndrew Gravett from Valrhona and Like a Strawberry Milk.

Salon du Chocolat is open from 18th-20th October and you can buy tickets here.

A model shows off the English Rose chocolate dress
The hot chocolate bath!
Choccy stag
Hot chocolate from Jaz and Juls
Art bars from Mighty Fine
...and the giant chocolate grafitti version
Amazing caramel
Printed chocolate
Old school packaging
Rusty chocolate scissors

Friday, 18 October 2013

Eight layer chocolate wedding cake with blueberries

Photo: Anna Clarke Photography
This is one of my tallest wedding cakes yet - an eight layer rich chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream and chocolate ganache topped with fresh blueberries. The cake flags are made from a vintage style map to tie in with the rest of the wedding decor. There is some hidden structure inside to keep those layers in order too. See the rest of Anna and James's pretty travel themed wedding here.   

Photo: Anna Clarke Photography

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cake & Bake Show 2013: Highlights

In good company on the bill with GBBO stars Edd Kimber and James Morton
This weekend saw the second annual London Cake & Bake show and I was back to demo cake pops in one of the classroom sessions. This time, to promote my new book, trEATs! It was great to meet up with some fellow bakers and I also got to have a look around the show and see some other demos and stalls. Here are some of my highlights.

Talking candy melts and cake pops in the classroom
My favourite thing about the show is getting to see established chefs and bakers in action. Richard Bertinet kept the audience entertained with his apple peeling skills and showed us how to make a classic French apple tart. The off cuts were made into an impressive but economical strawberry croustillant (a new one for me - it's a bit like a mille feuille). Also at Richard's demo were half of this year's Great British Bake Off stars - I couldn't resist getting a photo with them (kindly taken by Richard)!
Andrew Webb and Richard Bertinet
Posing with some of this year's GBBO stars - they were lovely!
GBBO winners John Whaite & Edd Kimber
I also caught a bit of Edd Kimber and John Whaite's cookie bake off at the competition stage. We heard about what's keeping them busy and life on the Great British Bake Off - it sounds tough! 

The other great thing about the Cake & Bake show is getting to see some of the new trends in baking coming through. It was good to see more market stalls this year too. Some of the highlights for me were the colourful display from the Meringue Girls, my local favourites Outsider Tart with their over the top brownies, crystallised flowers from Eat My Flowers and Meadowsweet, creative biscuits from Cinnamon Tree Bakery, beautiful painted macarons from Nevie Pie Cakes, classic (and vegan) cupcakes from one of the original London cupcakers, Ms Cupcake and crazy colourful biscuits from Bee's Bakery.

Meringue Girls
Outsider Tart Billionaire Bars
Meadowsweet edible flowers
Eat My Flowers
Crystallised roses from Eat My Flowers
Cinnamon Tree Bakery embossed biscuits
Painted macarons by Nevie Pie Cakes
English Rose cupcakes from Ms Cupcake
Colourful biscuits from Bee's Bakery

Friday, 6 September 2013

Competition: Cake & Bake Show tickets!

One week to go until the Cake & Bake Show at Earl's Court! I had a great time demonstrating cake pops last year and I'm really looking forward to hosting another classroom session on Saturday to promote my new book, trEATs (very excited about that - more later!). 

The good news is that I have a pair of tickets to give away which will get you into the show on any day you chose. 

To enter, simply:
1) Follow me on twitter @rhubarbandrose and
2) tweet the information below:
@rhubarbandrose get me to the @CakeandBakeShow #trEATsbook

The winner will be picked at random at 2pm on Monday 9th September.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Sweet Argentina

Argentina's alfajor cookies
Fresh from my 3 month journey through South America and Mexico this summer, I'd love to share a few more photos and findings from the sweeter side of the trip. 

After Brazil, we headed over the border via the Iguazu Falls to Argentina. As well as their famous steak and wine, I was hoping for plenty of dulce de leche (sweet caramelised milk) and I wasn't disappointed. It could be found everywhere from big plastic tubs of spread to eat on toast for breakfast to biscuits, cakes, ice cream and even as a version of the Oreo cookie.

Dulce de leche and chocolate chip ice cream
My favourite use of the ubiquitous caramel though was the alfajor, pronounced in English as the far from pretty 'alpha-hore' and made by sandwiching two shortbread style cookies together with dulce de leche, then coating the edges in shredded coconut

In their mass produced form, alfajores come coated in chocolate and are more like a sickly British wagonwheel but freshly baked they are crumbly, light, gooey and satisfying. These could be found in shops, cafes and bakeries everywhere and were even handed out for breakfast on the long overnight bus journeys. 

Buenos Aires was great for food and guided by blogs like Pick Up The Fork we managed to fit in French style brunch at Oui Oui, afternoon tea with modern cakes and pretty decor at Pierina Tea House and beautifully presented Asian food at closed door restaurant ('supper club' to Londoners) Cocina Sunae. Thanks to it's Italian influence, BA also has some amazing icecream with lots of dulce de leche based flavours to snack on as you wander around pretty neighbourhoods like Palermo and Recoleta.
Jam cookies in an Argentinian bakery
After the very European-feeling Buenos Aires and a few cities in between we reached Salta in the north of Argentina. I loved it's pastel coloured colonial buildings and street vendors cooking up steak over smokey charcoal ovens. On one of their fiesta days I tried bright red candied kumquats like miniature toffee apples, hand shaped donuts which were stretched out thinly and puffed up when they were deep fried and sweet empanandas (which are usually filled with meat and onion) filled with jam and coated with sugar.

Fortified with steak, wine and sugar we continued north and spent the next month in a very cold Bolivia and beautiful Peru. By then I was ready for a bit of sunshine and interesting food and was very excited about getting to Mexico. More on Mexico's sweet things coming up...

Colonial buildings in Salta
Candied apples and kumquats in Salta
Sweet empanadas and dulce deleche cookies
Nice choripan (sausage sandwich) street vendor lady in Salta
Salta doughnuts with caramel sauce

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