Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake

Martha Mondays is back and instead of being a weekly affair, its now taking place monthly with the results shown on the first Monday of the month.  Fancy joining us?  Just head to Brette’s blog.

Megan of Megan’s Cookin’ had the honour of picking the first choice and went with a Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake.

I had high hopes for this.   I had never made buttercream with egg whites or with the addition of caramel and I was excited.  I found the cake didn’t have much taste and kept checking to see if I should have added cocoa powder to the melted chocolate.

The buttercream for my taste had far too much butter.  I don’t see the point in the egg whites either and have found normal buttercream to be more tasty and of a better consistency.  Also, I could barely taste the caramel and ended up modifying it slightly with some powdered sugar and orange food colouring to make it a bit more exciting.

This cake wasn’t for us, but it has given me an idea for a Halloween cake which I will have to get on and make and then tell you about (if it works out okay of course!)

 

~ Pru

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Elephant Ear Cookies

Following my decision to book a safari to celebrate my 30th birthday in February, I could suggest that I hunted for a safari-themed baking recipe.  But in this case I had seen the recipe in the August issue of Martha Stewart Living and the Singer family quickly decided that these had to be made.  Right now.

Two days later (after I had time to get more pastry after the pastry which I had frozen had gone off) I made them.  I didn’t use two packs of pastry and have to tell you that if they have the pre-rolled puff pastry then this is so much easier to use.  I also didn’t cut the into 1 inch pieces but halfed this and made more.  We were all happy.

These are pretty much a palmier but they have the addition of toasted pecans which adds a whole new dimension to the cookie.  We ate these hot from the baking tray and then the next day with ice cream.  They were very, very good and I’m tempted to make another batch right now despite the temperature hitting 30c today.

Recipe can be found here:  Elephant Ear Cookies

~ Pru

Review of The Cumberland Hotel

When mum and I took part in the Moonwalk last year we stayed up in town that night at the Cumberland Hotel at Marble Arch.  I barely mention the hotel in my post about that day.  The stay wasn’t great, we didn’t receive the room that I had booked and the service was pretty poor absolutely disgraceful.  Mum and I have a bit of a habit of not wanting to complain and ruin our trip away (happened when we were in New York too) but I did ask for us to be moved and they couldn’t and afterwards I reviewed the hotel on the Tripadvisor website. 

Fast forward a year, and after speaking with the manager about my previous complaint (which was not dealt with despite contacting the hotel), we struck a deal.  An executive twin room, including VAT and breakfast for £119 (the price of a standard twin minus, tax and breakfast). 

This stay was a lot better.  The room was huge, and it had a view Marble Arch (and a very big pink tent).

That bit of curtain hanging down really annoyed me. 

I assume I was blinded by the light – please excuse the blurry photo!

 The bathroom was wonderful and there is nothing better than starting the day under a power shower – I don’t think I have felt that squeaky clean for a very long time! 

This may show how many times mum and I stay in an executive room.  There was a bottle of chilled wine awaiting us in the room but we couldn’t work out if it was ours to drink for free or whether we would find a HUGE bill for room service.  So we asked, and it turned out that it was complimentary, and as I type this I’m drinking a large glass of the rose and it is very, very good. 

I didn’t take photos at breakfast, but let me tell you that a place that offers strong coffee, nearly every type of juice I can think of, yoghurt, fruit, cereal, toast, muffins, every item for an English breakfast (every type of egg, bacon, sausages, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and hash browns), pancakes, omlettes and continental breakfast, gets my vote.  I confess to going up three times for breakfast, first for yoghurt with fruit (I was being virtuous), then for the English breakfast (I was hungry) and then for tiny pancakes with maple syrup (I saw this as dessert). 

We checked out early as we wanted to get home to enjoy the unexpected sunshine, but I could have happily stayed at the hotel for longer (maybe in the executive lounge where there were bottles of coke – and champagne – on tap). 

Would I stay here again?  Yes I would but I think I would still be slightly hesitant about full-heartedly suggesting that a friend stayed there.  I was worried after my first stay but everything was ironed out this time, and although I think the hotel is pretty expensive, it is fun for a treat (and we very much appreciated the free breakfast)!

~ Pru

My money.  My review.

Action Aid Bloggers Party

I took the day off of work, well actually, I took the whole week off, and the reason I took the week of was because I had plans for the Wednesday.  Slap in the middle of a week.  Oh, and I desperately needed to escape work, and I knew that a day wasn’t going to do it.

So Wednesday came around and I took a respite from a trip to Ikea, cleaning and sorting to head to Farringdon (still kicking myself that I walked past Exmouth Market but didn’t go and have a look) to meet up with the Action Aid team and the Action Aid Bloggers.  I am so pleased that my blog is able to speak on an important subject, and help others (for I hear that Action Aid are directing people who sponsor to this post I did about writing to the child you sponsor).

As a lot of you know, I sponsor Gift who is ten years old and lives in Malawi.  The thing about sponsoring is that it makes you think differently.  I think more about countries in Africa than I used to and I want to know about the charity which I am supporting.  When Action Aid contacted me about their new projects in Myanmar I was excited to learn more.

The afternoon spent with Action Aid highlighted the work that they are beginning to do in that country.  The fact that they are not interested in quick fixes and being a higher authority but enabling the people who live in the villages, towns and cities to work through what they need to make their lives better.  I like this.  This reminded me of Undercover Boss (that programme on Channel Four).  Sometimes the CEO of a company doesn’t have the answer but the person on the front line knows exactly what would make day to day better.

I was going to list the problems that Myanmar faces on a day to day basis, but I reckon you know most of them already.  We see the adverts on TV and the news specials, and whilst these adverts and programmes either make me feel really sad I think its best to think about the changes that can be made.  Action Aid are there to help.

Penny and Gemma did a wonderful bloggers brainstorming session and we all came up with some great ideas which I can’t wait to see developed in the future.  I confess that I even said a few words about sponsoring Gift and finding ways to blog although I think it was more of a mumble/ramble!

It was great sharing the afternoon with old friends and new friends.  More details on the afternoon can be found on Action Aid’s blogger page..

I am proud to sponsor Gift through Action Aid and I pay £15 per month (which means I give up a few cups of Starbucks each month).  If you want to look at sponsoring click the link Sponsor A Child With Action Aid.  If you are a blogger and want to be involved in the next Action Aid event, then contact them at bloggers (at) actionaid (dot) org.

~ Pru

Day Trip to the Coast

It shames me to tell you that I have only seen the sea twice this year, the first time was in March for a Hen Weekend.  I have withdrawl symptoms if I don’t hear the waves crashing in on a regular basis.  It was March when I last saw the sea and there is a good reason why I don’t see the coast more often – my dog Violet.  See, most beaches won’t allow you to take a dog on the beach from May to the end of September and so it makes it very difficult to find a nice day to venture down for the day.

But after a summer of bad weather this past Saturday was going to be nice (read: not wet) and I hunted for a beach to take Violet.  And of course I had criteria: I wanted sand, and somewhere to get something for lunch.  This website is wonderful for finding a suitable beach for a dog in the UK.

We chose Highcliffe on the south coast, and this was a lovely beach.  The sea was calm and it was quiet too.  It wasn’t the clearest of days but you can make out The Needles on the coast of the Isle of Wight.

A long walk along the promenade and up a zig-zaggy path and we stopped for tea and cake at Highcliffe Castle.  This is such a pretty 18th Century Castle and the next time we visit I want to spend more time exploring.

We went for a little drive to nowhere and then went to Mudeford which may be my favourite beach (although my heart will always belong to summer holidays as a kid at Burton Bradstock in Dorset).  Mudeford was busier than Highcliffe but not in an arcade and bucket and spade way.  There were beach huts (Mudeford is famous for selling a beach hut for £170,000) with couples sitting with cups of tea or Pimms and sunbathing, and a great little cafe where we had toasted sandwiches and chips.  The ice cream was also very, very good too.

This was a wonderful day out, and I didn’t take many photos as I was having too much fun!

~ Pru

Proms and Palaces

Following a wonderful day at the Paralympics on Friday, we continued the ‘P’ theme with mum and I attending Proms in the Park on Saturday night and then a tour of state rooms at Buckingham Palace on Sunday.

We were graced with gorgeous hot weather and enjoyed the Indian summer weekend (whilst I continued to slap on SPF50!)  First there was Proms in the Park in Hyde Park which I treated mum to for her birthday.  We picked up lots of picnic food and headed into the park with 40,000 people to enjoy a night of great music (Il Divo, Alfie Boe, Bjorn Again and the wonderful Kylie) before we went live to the Royal Albert Hall for the final songs of the Proms.  Mum and I loved every moment of the flag waving and dancing.  It was a fantastic celebration of Britain and there were videos from the Olympics and Paralympics and moments were we remembered the Queen’s jubilee.  I’m already thinking about getting tickets for next year.

And then today mum and I were up early and at Buckingham Palace for a state rooms visit of the palace.  I went about eight years ago with a friend and since then I have been suggesting that my parents attend.  The state rooms are stunning.  Merely the fact of walking around the palace and seeing where the Kate and William had arrived at the palace folowing their wedding, where people recieve Knighthoods and OBEs and the splendour of the palace I don’t think can be matched.  The great thing about the tour is that everyone wheres headphones with audio descriptions given in great detail of every room that you tour.  It is incredible.

Apple juice (from the Sandringham Estate) and cheesecake sitting in the Buckingham Palace tearoom after the tour was pretty special.

And the gardens were spectacular.  There are some places in London where its hard to remember that you are in the middle of a busy city, but this garden was one of those rare tranquil places.

Following the tour we walked up to Hyde Park Corner and looked at the new war memorial which commemorates the Bombers, and was a labour of love for the supporters who campaigned for years for this memorial.  It is beautiful, and although the largest war memorial I have seen, it is understated and blends in so well with its surroundings.  It was sad too though, as floral tributes had been left and continued to be left by families as we stood in awe at the monument.

Its been a busy weekend and most the time I’ve felt like a tourist in my own hometime, but it has been the best weekend too.

How was your weekend?

~ Pru

A day at the Paralympic Swimming

I hadn’t been that enthusiastic for the Olympics until about a week before when I realised that I had been mad not to apply for tickets. I hunted for tickets on the most annoying ticket website I’ve ever encountered and finally struck gold.

Today, mum, dad and I made the easy journey from home to the Olympic stadium for swimming heats. I cannot fault the day at all.

From the moment we stepped out at Stratford Station there were friendly helpers who are called GameMakers guiding us to the right places, giving advice and they were incredibly helpful.

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The Aquatics Centre was impressive and so much bigger than I had appreciated.

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We had lunch in the (barely there) shadow of The Orbit which I’ve decided I like after seeing it up close.

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And then we went for a wander. We walked to the Veledrome which is fitted with beautiful wood paneling and then we sat down on the grass and watched the basketball on the big screen.

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If it hadn’t been for needing to collect Violet then I’d still be there now. The security check was thorough but quick and we encountered no queues when purchasing drinks, although £10 for a bottle of sunscreen is extortionate.

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But I wouldn’t change today for anything. I was so proud of everyone there and of London for putting on a wonderful event day in, day out for weeks.

~ Pru