How was your 2013? This is how it went for me....
- I joined a choir, as I loved singing in the choir at school and thought it would be fun to do again. I sing soprano in Barts choir, London's largest amateur choir; we rehearse on Monday nights and one Saturday a month and performed three concerts over the year.
- While January is often a time for healthy eating it didn't stop me making this awesome deep-dish pizza, though I have also made plenty of Slimming World recipes over the year.
- I also posted this dog basket cake on my blog, which I had made the year before in a cake decorating class.
- I arranged a surprise afternoon tea at the Langham hotel in London for a friend's birthday. She only knew that I had invited her and her daughter to lunch and was given the hotel address at the last minute; when she arrived she found two of our other friends who had travelled up from Cheltenham and Hampshire as well. I chose the Langham because the birthday girl is vegan and the hotel offered an entire vegan afternoon tea menu, which was amazing, though I had the regular afternoon tea menu.
- I spent Valentine's Day at home with my boyfriend and cooked us dinner, including this lovely dessert - chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup with an edible spoon!
- I also made these Elvis cupcakes with banana, peanut butter and bacon, which tasted a lot better than you might think!
- My boyfriend and I had a wonderful few days in Lapland, husky sledding, snow mobiling and staying in a glass igloo, though unfortunately we didn't get to see the northern lights (which had been the main aim of the trip!). The food in the half board lodge where we were staying left a lot to be desired but it was a fabulous holiday, albeit a short one.
- I made this pistachio, strawberry and rosewater cake for Mothers' Day which tasted delicious.
- I also made this "pigs in mud" cake which went down very well at work and was featured on our company intranet, and has also proved my most popular blog post to date, with over 23,300 hits, which is amazing!
- The month began with my boyfriend's birthday; we went to the top of the Shard which had only just opened, and I made him a giant hamburger birthday cake.
- My own birthday was later in the month and I turned 34; I had a Russian doll themed party and made a cake, cupcakes, cookies and savoury food around that theme.
- I spent my birthday mucking out the animals at London Zoo! My boyfriend got me the "be a zookeeper for a day" experience at London Zoo for Christmas and as I wanted to wait until the weather was nicer, I decided to do it on my birthday. I shovelled straw in the giraffe enclosure, scrubbed down the penguin pool and hand-fed several animals including giraffes, anteaters and lemurs!
- My choir performed its first concert of the year; we sang Faure's Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank.
- My boyfriend and I took a cookery class at the Atelier des Chefs in London and made burgers, potato wedges and onion rings and ate the meal we had prepared afterwards. By chance nobody else had booked the same class so we had a private lesson, which was brilliant!
- For her birthday my sister wanted to see the Rocky Horror Show so as well as going along in fancy dress as Magenta, I made her this themed birthday cake.
- My boyfriend's cousin got married and asked me to make some cupcakes for her wedding reception. I tried out a few techniques including making a cupcake bouquet and different types of sugar flowers, and was really pleased with the way they turned out.
- I'd struggled with making cake pops for a while so in June I took a class at the Make Lounge and finally got the hang of how to make them. We decorated them in different styles - I particularly liked the animal ones.
- I was sent a book to review called Cooking with Flowers, and made this wonderful cardamom layer cake with raspberry and rose mascarpone from the book for my mum's birthday.
- I met Ms Cupcake, author and proprietor of a successful vegan bakery in Brixton, at an event in June. It was a vegan potluck so we were all asked to make a sweet or savoury dish. I made the chocolate mint cupcakes from Ms Cupcake (Melissa Morgan)'s book, which had just been released. I was very nervous when she said it was the first time she had ever eaten a cake someone else (other than her staff) had made from her recipe - but luckily she thought it was very good!
- I felt like I'd finally mastered macarons, albeit with a little help from a packet mix!
- I was also quite pleased with these cake pops that I decorated to look like characters from the Chronicles of Narnia:
- I'm interested in photography and love animals so the zoo photography lesson that my boyfriend and I took together was brilliant. We had professional tuition and got up close to lots of the animals.
- My choir gave its second concert of the year; we performed Bach's Magnificat and Vivaldi's Gloria in Cadogan Hall in London's Sloane Square.
- I attended my first Clandestine Cake Club. The theme was vintage so I made a retro Battenburg cake as I remembered eating it as a child.
- I was also invited to my first blogger event, and celebrated Christmas in July with the Dot Com Gift Shop.
- To celebrate the 100th birthday of Aston Martin my boyfriend and I took part in the centenary rally, with 100 cars driving 100 miles. It was great to be a part of it and see vintage vehicles and modern Aston Martins all driving along in a line. We started at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire, and ended by coincidence at Wilton House, the stately home in the village I grew up in. We had afternoon tea there, then stayed with my parents who came to the Wilton House car show the next day.
- I also did a llama trek - a walk through the woods with a llama on a lead!
- In the spirit of summer I made these sex on the beach cocktail cupcakes:
- I guest hosted the Food 'n' Flix blog challenge for the first time and chose When Harry Met Sally as the movie.
- The best thing that happened this month though was the fact that my boyfriend finally moved in with me :-) We are living in my house at the moment and planning to buy a much bigger place together next year.
- My boyfriend had just started a new job so couldn't take any time off work, but I had a lot of annual leave to use up. I decided to make the most of the fact that I was going on holiday without him by going somewhere he didn't want to visit, so I spent a week in Cambodia, seeing the Angkor Wat temples, and on the way home stopped off in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, where I went up the Petronas towers.
- I also went back to Cambridge for my 15 year university reunion. It was great catching up with old friends and revisiting our old haunts, and we had a black tie dinner in the formal dining hall.
- Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker asked me to make a cake for her pink princess themed birthday party and this is what I came up with - what's more, it's vegan:
- I was thrilled to discover that a recipe for toffee popcorn cupcakes that I had submitted to a competition earlier in the year had been chosen for inclusion in a charity cookbook. My recipe was published in Macmillan's Little Book of Treats, alongside recipes from Mary Berry, Rachel Khoo, Gizzi Erskine, Antonio Carluccio and others.
- Caroline Makes was also chosen as best food blog for October in a monthly competition run by Capricorn. My prize was a year's supply of goat's cheese! It was almost Christmas before I received the vouchers - it turns out that a year's supply equates to 100g every two weeks, which is pretty good. I've yet to find somewhere that stocks Capricorn goat's cheese where I can use the vouchers, though as soon as I do, I'm looking forward to trying out some recipes!
- I sent this gift box of get well cookies to a friend who had an operation on her foot
- I finally had the chance to visit my company's head office in Baltimore, USA. I spent an enjoyable but busy week meeting colleagues, then took the following week as holiday. My boyfriend flew out to join me and we did some sightseeing in Baltimore, including a visit to Charm City Cakes from the TV show Ace of Cakes, and then hired a car and drove to Richmond in Virginia, followed by North Carolina. There we had a behind the scenes tour of a Nascar racetrack and visited one of the locations from the Hunger Games film as well as America's largest house, the Biltmore estate. Finally we spent a few days in Washington DC visiting lots of monuments and museums and of course a lot of restaurants!
- My choir gave its final concert of the year, Brahms' German Requiem, in the Royal Albert Hall. It was a fantastic venue and an amazing experience to sing there in front of thousands of people, including my parents, my boyfriend and his mum.
- I went to my second Clandestine Cake Club meeting, which had a bonfire night theme, so I made this toffee apple bonfire cake.
- This opera gateau is worth highlighting as it tasted absolutely gorgeous, though it was a bit fiddly to make!
- I threw a Doctor Who themed party when we gathered to watch the 50th anniversary episode. My menu included K9 hot dogs, fishfingers in "custard", adipose made of marshmallows, dalek cupcakes, cybermen cookies and sonic screwdriver cocktails.
- It's been an eventful month at work for one reason and another; I was the co-organiser of the children's Christmas party and also helped organise the main staff Christmas party, and there have been a few other things happening as well that I will talk more about in the new year.
- I did a lot of baking for Christmas, including chocolate chip biscotti, Hershey's kisses thumbprint cookies,a chocolate yule log, reindeer cake pops, and a Baileys chocolate cheesecake.
I also made some bath fizzers for my boyfriend's Secret Santa at work; they were surprisingly easy to make and worked really well!
Finally I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker, who is my co-host of Alphabakes, and of course to thank everyone who has taken part this year. Hosting the challenge has been great fun and it's been fascinating seeing what you have all come up with. There are a few more letters of the alphabet to come, which include U, Y and Z, so that should be interesting!