Friday 30 September 2022

The best Christmas cake recipe for beginners

This Christmas cake recipe is so good, that I was asked which posh London shop I had bought it from – which was nice because it was only the second Christmas cake I’ve ever made! The recipe is from BBC Good Food:  it’s so easy, I would recommend it for beginners. And if you are new to making Christmas cakes there might be one thing you don’t realise – yes it’s still a couple of months until Christmas, but you should make it now!

Christmas cakes are traditionally soaked in booze and you ‘feed’ the cake regularly over an extended period – so making it in October, or even earlier, is ideal. Of course, you don’t have to use alcohol and a good alternative is tea – I am also tempted this year to experiment with a flavoured tea of some kind, so that my four year old can have some of the cake. Though I am also tempted to make this recipe the same way that I did last year and just keep it out of her way, because it was amazing!

Instead of sherry, brandy or rum, I used amaretto – because I already had a bottle bought on a whim, and it’s not something I really drink. It gave the cake a lovely flavour – even though I made it quite late in the year, on 1 December (though it didn’t get eaten until January, as most of our Christmas plans in 2021 were cancelled due to our first (and only, touch wood) bout of Covid!

When it came to decorating, time was once again an issue. I had made it in a square tin so covered the cake with fondant that I then coloured gold with a packet of gold dust that came with the icing, and then cut out white fondant snowflakes using a plunger cutter to decorate the top. Everyone who tried the cake thought it was very good – myself included, and I don’t really like Christmas cake – though the best comment was from my sister, who said it was so good she assumed I had bought it, from an expensive London shop. So I think from now on this might have to be my go-to Christmas cake recipe, even if I switch up what I feed it with and how I decorate it!

Friday 2 September 2022

Cherish Finden's Shiok - Expensive but worth it

Beautiful presentation, fantastic flavours but you will get a ‘shiok’ from the prices!

I had a £16 individual dessert in Bake Off Professionals star Cherish Finden’s new patisserie… and was it worth it? Find out what I thought of the Apple Tin below!

Cherish Finden is a celebrity chef known for her appearances as a judge on Great British Bake Off: The Professionals and as the pastry chef at London’s luxury Langham hotel. Her formidable demeanour combined with fabulous outfits and comments to the contestants that have launched countless memes have made her something of an icon, so when I read that she had opened a new patisserie just up the street from my office I decided to pay a visit.

Part of the Pan Pacific hotel but in a standalone building with its own entrance (so you don’t go into the hotel itself), Shiok! looks fairly unassuming from a distance, but as you get closer you can see rows and rows of perfectly formed sweet treats on the counter. There’s a seating area that gave off a peaceful, tranquil vibe - possibly because there was only one other couple in there on the weekday lunchtime when l visited. 

There are comfy chairs at the back and more formal hard chairs and little tables at the front, and the three staff hovering at the counter were friendly if a little intimidating - I watched one line up desserts in the display and check the distance between them with precision that the GBBO judges would have loved.

I spent some time admiring the display of treats, as much for their finesse and beauty as deciding which one I wanted to order. I have to admit having a bit of a ‘Shiok’ when I saw the price tags (this is not where the name comes from, and it apparently means ‘very tasty’, but perhaps it should be). Most of the patisserie was priced around the £15 mark and the one I chose was £16. Obviously aimed at the luxury market (I would say mainly tourists and business travellers) it is nonetheless an afternoon tea lover’s heaven. From traditional Singaporean biscuits to what looked like a chocolate tea pot, this is a feast for the eyes.

Cherish has revealed that the Apple Tin was inspired by her childhood where she would open a tin of lychees and eat them straight from the tin. Here, the tin itself is edible too- white chocolate printed with a design. Inside is caramel sponge, apple compote, apple slices and cinnamon crumble. Each mouthful was delicious, a perfect combination of flavours and textures, and at £16 it probably does scale up consistently from when you pay £50 for an afternoon tea for similar bite size patisserie (as the sandwiches and scones aren’t exactly the expensive part). Even do it was definitely a one off treat and not something I would spend that much on every week!

If you do get a chance to check out Shiok I recommend it - but don’t expect it to be cheap!