Halloween Challenge

So on October 22nd Miss Snare from The Magic Square Foundation siddled over to my deak at work and informed me of this awesome challenge she had come up with – Can you really create things that appear on Pinterest – so I created a baking board on Pinterest and the picture that jumped out to me was the Brain Cake! Something truly greusome to look at but amazing to eat! Add into the mix, today is my birthday and I am have made the Brain Cake for all the ace cool kids I work with.

This is the image from Pinterest that I was working from

So here is how I did it!

If you want my advice, buy a boxed cake mix, I love baking, I did it for a living but these cakes are perfect for a quick and means there is no excuse for throwing together a gory yummy cake.

So these are the things that you need…

To go into a basic cake, you need 3 eggs, 75ml of vegetable oil and 250ml of cold water. Then you can add whatever else you wish, I went for glacier cherries, mini marshmallows, and oreo cookies.

Set your oven to 180 degrees. Add the dry mix, eggs, oil and water to together and whisk, you can use a stand mixer like a Kitchen Aid or just use some brute force and a hand whisk. If you are adding extra bits them this is the time to add them. I chopped up the oreo cookies, and cherries and mixed them in with the marshmallows.

I then added a little red food colouring, gives the chocolate colour something a little more. Then grease and line the cake tin and pour in the tin and into the oven for 40 mins.

Once a skewer comes out of the middle of the cake clean your cake is done! So out of the oven and onto the side for 10 minutes to cool. Then once 10 minutes has passed take the cake out of the tin and leave to completely cool.

Then the fun bit! Making the brain! You need cocoa powder, red food colouring butter and icing sugar. Add 500g icing sugar, to 200g of softened butter and mix, then slowly add a teaspoon of red foo colouring at a time until you have a pink shade, then finally add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to darken and flavour the icing. A final mix to blend it all.

Then comes the icing! I suggest a narrow nozzle and a bit of patience!

And hey presto! Here is the finished result….

Then as a cheeky extra, I had my halloween birthday party, so I decided to recreate one of my favourite make up artists Sam Chapman did, Marla Singer from Fight Club, one of my favourite film characters of all times.

Happy Halloween!

E x

Yorkshire Sourced….Scandinavian Inspired

I have a coffee addiction, quite shocking really! I can easily drink 8 cups a day – I know this is shocking, but I don’t smoke and I don’t drink often, so please world allow me my coffee adoration.

As you can imagine I am a picky bugger about my coffee, hence when I opened my shop Bespoke I had a bespoke blend made for me and prided myself on the sharp crisp and fresh taste. Even now I am eternally on the search for the ultimate coffee. But I must tell you that is not just down to the taste of the coffee, I am picky about the type of cup it comes in, the milk temperature and standard of their espresso. Then I have to take into account the seating, the music and the general ambiance in the coffee shop.

So imagine my utter delight when I saw the boards go up around a slightly dilapidated shop in Harrogate, I wandered past every week or so to see how they were getting along, nosy as ever at what new shop would be opening, and I have to tell you I was a little skeptical about a new clothes shop, or worse another cheap and nasty shop.

However, on a random sunny Sunday morning in town mum and I decided that we would pop into the new shop.

Image by Colin Murdoch Studio

Baltzersen’s is located on Oxford Street, a pedestrianised busy street, with a number of independent shops and the internationally known Harrogate Theatre.

When approached Baltzersen’s is incredibly striking, with its blue grey exterior and the neon outside seating create a wonderfully trendy welcome, the branding is stunning, striking and very individual and I must tell you they already had me on side. They had clearly thought this through, there was a theme, a process and most of all it was clearly owned by people who not only cared about their products but about their whole brand.

Then as you step through the dark and inviting door you are welcomed by the most beautiful crisp white tiling and wide array of the most incredible looking cakes, from the Cinnamon Buns to the Fat Free Fruit Cake. The staff really make the independent coffee shop, I have never, no matter where I have been in a large scale multi site coffee shop have I ever found staff who really care about the brand, who really represent the company the are working for. My immediate reaction when I was confronted with the Baltzersen’s staff was sheer joy, sincere smiles and genuine knowledge about the coffee and baked products left both my mum and I thrilled.

We both had a Flat White, it is a real skill to make these perfectly, it requires not only skill but practice and care. We also indulged in their apple cake, and if mum had allowed me to I would have had the whole damn cake, but no we shared a piece. Although you order at the counter, you are welcomed to find somewhere to sit and the rest is table service.

Now I am going to really gush, the seating in this joint is perfect, from the benches that are perfect for lunch goers and families, then the lovely neatly arranged couples tables, with a long bench and beautifully upholstered chairs, follow it round and you are met with a ‘living room’ set up, vintage leather chairs all beaten up and loved, big curl up in chairs and a few gorgeous retro sofas. There is somewhere for everyone here, over my 4 visits in the last 2 weeks I have sat in all the areas and think I am the biggest fan of the beautiful vintage, aged chocolate leather chair.

 Image by Colin Murdoch Studio

Image by Colin Murdoch Studio

So whilst I was in having a flat white, I got chatting to Paul the owner and he talked me through the history of the name and the concept and here is what he said……

“Liv Esther Baltzersen was born in Sauda, Norway on 17th April 1923.  She grew up in Norway and in 1948 she visited England, attended the London Olympics and through a mutual acquaintance met her future Husband.  She was a fantastic cook and baker, spoke 7 languages, loved knitting and gardening, but most importantly to me she was my Grandma.

During my childhood, without realising it, I grew up eating Norwegian food whenever we’d visit Grandma.  There was always a battered old Wall’s ice cream tub of serinakaker or mandelskiver biscuits and waffles were a regular snack on a Sunday afternoon – I never really wondered why other people didn’t eat them.  As we grew older Baltzersen’s was a concept often discussed in our family.

When I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, with the aid of a tatty copy of The Financial Times’ ‘Guide to Business Start Up’, I wrote a document that described what I thought Baltzersen’s could be and what it should mean to the people who worked there and to those who visited.

On my return I married Katie and we decided that life in the Army was no longer for us and I handed in my notice.  I began applying for jobs but I found myself talking about Baltzersen’s during interviews and explaining that this was what I really wanted to do.  After some long discussions we came to the decision that we had to give Baltzersen’s a go, or we’d regret it for the rest of our lives…..roughly 18 months later on 1st October 2012 we opened the doors and the rest is history.”

When I asked what the concept behind Baltzersen’s this is what he said

“Food made from scratch on site using the best produce Yorkshire can offer. Friendly staff who care about what they do and are good at doing it. Coffee done right – whatever that means to you. Clean, functional and comfortable design.” If you want to read more about the concept and the business going forward Paul writes a great blog about it, he talks about the sourcing of the furniture and the wonderful coffee they serve.

I have never been anywhere that whole heartedly embodies its concept from the staff uniforms, to the beautiful etched table numbers.

This is now my go to place.

They also were amazing when I asked about them making something gluten and wheat free for my coeliac friend, not only did they make something with 24 hours notice, they made something so tasty even me a wheat lover really enjoyed it.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough, the coffee, the green tea with jasmine, the deep filled sandwiches and the yummy sweets.

Let me know what you think?!

You can also find Baltzersen’s on Facebook and twitter