Monday, 20 October 2014

The Hummingbird Bakery: Red Velvet Cupcakes

When I'm at uni I don't get chance to bake, and so whilst I was home this weekend I decided that I needed to get in the kitchen and cook/bake some good food. After scanning our recipe books for far longer than I needed (the usual life of the indecisive), I thought that I would have a go at these Red Velvet cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery's cook book.

Even though it took a while, it was definitely worth it and I would highly recommend it. So here's the recipe (with a few little extra hints that I found out the hard way):

ingredients :
120g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring (I would highly recommend using more than this as mine definitely don't have the distinctive red colour)
1tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
1tsp salt
240ml buttermilk
1tbsp white wine vinegar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g unsalted butter
600g icing sugar
250g full fat cream cheese
things to decorate (I used pink edible glitter)

method :
1. pre-heat oven to 190°C and line muffin tin with cases (it says it'll make 12-14 but somehow I managed to get 23, so I'd just play it by ear)
2. beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. 
3. add eggs one at a time, mixing between each one. 
4. in separate bowl mix together cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla essence, once combined add this to the mixture and mix. 
5. sift flour and salt in to separate bowl and add half to mixture, mix. 
6. add half of the buttermilk to mixture and stir in. 
7. add remainder of flour and mix, then add remaining buttermilk, ensuring mixture is well combined. 
8. in another bowl add the white wine vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, once combined add to mixture and stir. 
9. spoon batter in to cases (about 2/3's full) and pop in the oven for about 20mins - keep checking on it though as mine took closer to 30mins. You know they're cooked when they're springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
10. leave to cool in tins for about 10mins and then move to wire rack to cool completely. 

1. beat butter and icing sugar together in a bowl - I would recommend adding the icing sugar bit by bit as it is pretty messy. I added water to help combine mine together but honestly I would resist from doing this or if you do then use the smallest amount ever as I had a nightmare trying to get it thick enough after adding too much water. 
2. once all combined add the cream cheese and mix until all combined and evenly distributed. 
3. once cupcakes are totally cooled, cover them using the bluntest knife you can find and then add whatever decorations you want to. I had lots of cream cheese icing left over (due to the water 'incident') and so I put it in to a small container and put it in the freezer to defrost so that I can use it another time. 
4. (optional) after icing them I put my cakes in the fridge for a little while just to stop the frosting from running anywhere - you don't have to do this obviously, but I just think it's a great idea if the buttercream looks a little untrustworthy.

I could not recommend this recipe enough - the cakes are so light and springy, they're delicious. They're obviously not something to have everyday, but every other day should be okay, right? Let me know if you've tried this recipe, or if you have any others you think I'd enjoy.   

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The art of sleep

I'm writing this from my desk at 2.25am. I should be sleeping, but I'm not. Sleep is such a beautiful, natural thing - yet so hard to get right. As babies we learn to sleep, and as we grow we are taught of how important those hours with our head against the pillow truly are for our development.

I wish I had a good sleeping routine, really I do. I want to be able to go to bed at 10pm and wake up at around 8am feeling totally refreshed and ready to start my day. Does that ever happen? Not a chance. Even with all the good will and intentions in the world I just cannot seem to do it. In fact, I could not tell you the last time that I went to sleep before 12am.

Maybe it's all the distractions that i harbour within the confines of my bedroom. Should I try a technology ban and turn everything off at 10pm - go back to the good old days with a mug of decaffeinated tea and read page after page of a new book until I my eyes become weary. Then blow out the zen-like candles and cocoon myself in my floral printed duvet?

Everyone says how good sleep is for you, and I do not doubt them for a second. I have lost track of all the times I've said "I need to get my sleeping pattern sorted". Do I ever get around to it? Shock horror, I don't.

It's not even that my brain goes in to overdrive and I have thoughts racing around my head, because I really don't. I just have an aversion to early nights. It's like I'm programmed a little bit wonky, surely I just need some re-wiring though? A few early nights to get me in to a good habit.

I am prepared to do whatever it takes to actually fall asleep at a decent hour and not waking up with the realisation that in fact the whole morning has disappeared and it is now 1pm. Yes, that's happened on multiple occasions. Could it be that I'm a student? Possibly, yes. But in 1.5 years I will no longer be a student and will be entering the wide world. I'll have early starts and busy, filled days - 2.38am (currently) sleeps will not allow me to function well with a 7am start.

So body, mind, sleeping fairy - whichever it is that controls my inability to sleep. Buck your ideas up, because this just won't do.

Okay. Let's give this whole sleeping thing another shot for tonight shall we? It's not as if I have to be up at 7am anyway. Oh wait. I do. Terrific.

Friday, 17 October 2014

An evening to relax

Everyone has those days where it all just goes wrong and we just want to get home and curl up in a ball and wish the world away, until the next day that is. I have these days far too often, and so I've found some of the greatest ways to de-stress on the most stressful of days.

1. Sleep - napping is fabulous and really can just make you feel so refreshed afterwards and in such a better mood. That being said, if you can hold on just a few hours then get an early night. I have to say that I am awful at doing this though and I need to definitely try harder.

2. Fairy lights - creating the perfect ambience to relax is possibly the most important, and I love fairy lights in the evening to just make everything look a lot nicer and calmer.

3. Candles - similarly to fairy lights, candles enhance the calm atmosphere and make everything smell sweeter and even more beautiful.

4. Warm baths - get some bath bombs and some sweet smelling bubble bath and just indulge. Do I need to say more? I don't think so.

5. Eat - something indulgent and comforting, I like to order takeaway pizza and just eat whatever takes your fancy. Treat yourself!

6. Read - whether it's a magazine, a blog (my blog?), or a good book. I love to escape in a book whilst tucked up in bed with some candles, fairy lights and a little something to snack on. I have SO many good books that I need to read so I need to get on it!

7. Make tea/coffee/hot chocolate - drinking a hot drink and feeling all snuggly is perfect. I don't think anything is better than a hot chocolate with squirty cream and some mini marshmallows. Mmmn

8. Last but not least, and possibly the most important PYJAMA'S - my god, if I could live in them then I totally would. Every time I'm not going anywhere I will just put them on. I have fleecy ones from Primark and they (I kid you not) are the best things ev.

If you're having a stressful day then you really need to do some, if not all, of these. They will make your day 100x better. In fact, I'm going to be indulging in most of these over the weekend. 

Are there any other things you like to do at home to de-stress? Let me know xx

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Our alter-ego's

Excuse the picture, this is the sassy part of her saying "You don't care what people think"...

I like to think that everyone has an alter-ego, some part of them that likes to escape in to their real-life personality from time to time. For example, my alter-ego is sassy, smart and sophisticated (she's also very good with alliteration...). When things are getting tough, or I find myself getting a bit down, she always seems to have a chat with me and perk me up - remind of the inner strength that I have. She encourages my humour and honesty, my passion and drive. I find comfort in this little part of me, because when all is said and done, I know that she'll always be here. 

It's almost like a little imaginary friend from within our souls that pops up from time to time with some food for thought. They know us inside and out, how we work and what makes us tick - equally what ticks us off. I feel like we all need to acknowledge these little parts of us, our alter-ego's, because they're still an important part of us and can quite often be our saving grace. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Beautifully unfinished

There's a song on Ella Henderson's new album called "Beautifully Unfinished" and it's really made me think. I'm always working towards being the perfect version of myself. I try to show only the good parts of me to people and that often leaves out the real pieces of who I am. Everyone always seems to be striving for this unrealistic view of perfection, and it just doesn't exist. We try, and try, and then when we inevitably fail we beat ourselves up. We wonder if we should have tried harder, or worked for a little longer. Truth is, perfection isn't real and neither is beauty. It's all conceptualised differently by different people. 

I'm finally starting to realise just what beauty means to me. I think that beauty is those moments in life where you laugh so hard that snort, then laugh even more because you just snorted. When you slap your hand against your wobbly thigh and make a seal-sounding laugh. Those moments when you just feel free and that you can smile your cheesiest smile and not care if anyone thinks you look stupid. 

But I think that the most beautiful thing is seeing the positive in the negative and the sunshine on the greyest of days. Because that isn't perfect, nothing ever is. The second you start seeing the perfect things in imperfection is the day that I think you fully understand the beauty in the unfinished. We are unfinished, and that is okay - I promise.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Dearest Autumn,

As the days grow shorter, and the nights become longer I am reminded of the complexities of our relationship. At first glance, I love you. You bring the cold crisp days, with sunshine filling the skies and create the natural flush against my bitter cold cheeks. You allow the days spent at my windowsill admiring the beauty of each raindrop as it falls gently against the pane of glass separating us. The typically British phrase, "shall we have a cup of tea?" becomes somewhat of a right of passage. And pyjama days are far more acceptable.

But with the cold air that you bring, there is something of a bittersweetness. For the past few years things have gotten somewhat 'tricky' around this time of year. I've been sad, and melancholy. It's been a catalyst in to a deep winter depression, and that's not okay.

This year though something feels different. I feel like I have the control over you and the away you affect me. I want to enjoy your company, not wallow in the sadness. Our time together is so short, and before we know it the spring dew will have appeared before our eyes.

So this year, lets make it count. You are a thing of beauty and you need to be enjoyed. I want to look back fondly with only happy memories, not the scars of pain you have left.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Creating creativity

Living in student accommodation there isn't that much you can do to personalise your room, but I found myself being so uninspired to do my work, writing or anything at my desk. It was far too cluttered and I just couldn't concentrate. So, the other day I was a bit bored and decided that it was the perfect excuse to make my desk a place where I wanted to be and work efficiently and effectively.   Granted it's not the neatest, or perfect place for everyone, but it's perfect for me.

I wanted there to be colour and quotes, and pictures - things that make me happy or have memories associated with them, or that make me feel inspired. Now my desk consists of colourful post-it note quotes, cards from people I love and care about, pictures of me and Caitlin (obviously), and the tweet she sent me too!

It's just somewhere that makes me feel both inspired and peaceful at the same time. All my notes and university work is around me, my favourite films and books, fairy lights and no snacks! Honestly I used to have all my snacks near my desk, and for someone with a very sweet tooth it was very distracting.

As a writer I wanted to find somewhere that really sparked my creative flare and this really does, I'm so thankful for that. In other news, I've really been enjoying my sporadic blogging - I hope you are too!