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Guilty Pleasure: cakes that make you go “oooohh!”

31 Jan

Crack Fox Cake

It is not exactly a secret that I love cake.  I think the news may just –  just – have slipped out.  But this is not a shameful confession, this is no love behind-closed doors, this blog post shouldn’t really be titled “Guilty Pleasure”…  because we can all love cake.  Whether it’s the shop-bought Jamaican Ginger cakes that I used to scoff with lashings of Birds custard or the first fairy cakes that I baked with my granny, birthday cakes with candles I found impossible to blow out, or a hefty slice of victoria sponge and a piping hot cup of tea on a tiring day out, cake, for me, is kind of a big deal.

But not all cakes are baked equal.  Whilst I love them all, pretty much, there are some that inspire the same cooing noises as bonfire night fireworks and the same longing stares as a picture of Robert Pattison biting his lip and looking moody.  These are cakes that practically force you to go “oooooooh” and I adore them.

Here are three examples of cakes that made me gasp, one of which, excuse me for blowing my own trumpet, I baked myself.  The first cake was baked by friend and natural-born-foodie Laura, for a birthday bonanza and is of course, the crack fox from Mighty Boosh. And just who wouldn’t love a crack-fox for their special day? It is hard to explain quite how big this cake was, just how gorgeous it smelled or how perfect the sugar craft is.  Laura, I applaud you, you are a chef-extraordinaire.

These woolly little cakes may not taste entirely amazing but WOW!  They are so cute and so inviting.  They were knitted for me by Mother-in-Law-to-be, Leonie, and every single time I see them they make me smile.  Each cake is different and perfect in it’s own way – complete with a knitted cherry and knitted hundreds and thousands.  Utter, wonderful, knitted yumminess.

Woolly cakes

The only possible downside of having these woolly cupcakes in my lounge is that they remind me, on a daily basis, that I am a shockingly bad knitter and it has taken me two years and counting and I still haven’t finished knitting my fiancé’s scarf.  Not that he’d ever want to wear such an itchy, holey old rag, but still!

And finally, this tower of chocolate psychedelia is a cake I baked for my boss’s leaving do last Friday.  It was pretty tall, a bit odd and covered in all manner of chocolate drops, sprinkles and giant buttons and once cut revealed rainbow layers of e-number ridden sponge.  From carrying it into work and hearing passers-by yell: “nice cake love!” to the grinning school boy who sat next to me on the bus and gave me a would-you-mind-awfully-if-I-had-a-teeny-bite-smile the cake was giving off oooh and aaaahhh vibes all day long.  It even helped spawn a new word – a cake-o-tunity: an oppurtunity to eat cake – a wonderful word if ever there was one.

Have you got a cake that always makes you swoon? Have you been baked a cake as trippy as the crack fox?  Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t love Jamaican Ginger Cakes? Seriously?

ker-razy cake.

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Guilty Pleasures – Arctic Roll

17 Aug

You gotta roll with it.

I am not sure if it’s because I keep hankering after a soda-stream, or if it’s down to me eating fondue for dinner, or maybe because bands like Yeasayer and Ariel Pink keep filling my ears with luscious 80s sounds, heck, perhaps all this talk of Tory cuts and union strikes is to blame, but I am feeling curiously nostalgic. I have been recreating meals at home of the kind I ate when I was but a slip of a girl and making retro sarnies to take to work which could have come straight from my mum’s fair hands.  I have been rendered zombie-like in shops and supermarkets when thinking of exciting meals to cook and the impulse-buys have been getting out of hand. My basket now heaves with Angel Delight, a rainbow of jellies, pounds of sweeties and stacks of crumpets. Retro-tastic. Comfort-food-o-rama. It can’t get any sillier. But wait, last Friday, hungry and petulant, dazed and confused, I bought an Arctic Roll. Yes. You read that right, an Arctic Roll.

It was axed cruelly for slumping sales, but reappeared riding the wave of nostalgia, in the 1970s and 1980s – you know, the good old days – more than 25 miles of Arctic Roll were sold each month.  I think I can say with some confidence that about a mile of which was snapped up by the Sierp household.

Despite the lack of 80s packaging, one look at the box and I was hooked. It had me at Bird’s Eye.  Into my sweaty paws it went, £1 later, it was coming home with me. Hours later I whipped it back out of the freezer and unpeeled the wrapper.  It looked the same. Pale sponge, yellow ice-cream with that bright pink swirl. And it smelt comfortingly familiar. There was only one thing for it though, to tuck in. And… and… well, the taste troubled me. My memories had clearly built the Arctic Roll into a colossus of a dessert. But, years later, like uncovering a poster of your teenage crush,  it was well, crushing. The flavour that seemed so vivid had been turned down to mute, the sponge was oddly dry. Had it always been this way? It was, I am afraid, a slice of disappointment.

Are there any other desserts I should be sampling? Any childhood puddings which I need to get scoffing? Anything which will be sure to put the Pleasure into guilty pleasure? I think  should make it clear that I will do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G for a tub of Gino Ginelli’s. Rum and Raisin or Tutti-Frutti flavours preferably. 

Oh and one final thought, I noticed that production of the Arctic Roll was halted in 1997, the same year as the landslide Labour election. Bought back to assuage the recession weary, our food habits clearly reflect what’s happening in the papers and what’s in our wallets. Are there any economists reading this blog – no, thought not – who could please plot the rise and fall of the British economy against the sales of Arctic Roll. I think I could be onto something here..

Bring it back,bring it back,bring it back to me.

Guilty Pleasures: Holiday Food

10 Jun

Smorgasboard of yum

It’s holiday season. Which means I’ve had a week away (and the knee-knocking pleasure of steamy evenings feasting out and sunshining days exploring markets and supermarkets) and that every other colleague seems to be coming back from sunnier climbs armed with edible gifts and curious liquors. 

They’re dotted around the office – on desks and tucked behind the fax machine – ready to be discovered for tes bon elevenses and wunderbar afternoon teas.

Friends and family give tasty souvenirs – odd coloured booze, strong coffee, cheap wine, pork fluff, pots of honey and preserves, endless packs of biscuits and chocolate dips – wrapped in zany packets, complete with unintelligible directions, sometimes, still encased in their airport duty-free shopping bags.

I love holiday food. And dudes, I am sure you do too.  For me, the best would have to be the GIANT toblerones my Dad used to bring home after skiing in the alps. Although the day I had my first ever humongous pack of jelly-belly jelly beans, all the way from the U S of A was a bit of an epoch.  

What is the best holiday food you’ve even had (home or away)? x

Guilty Pleasures: Summer Barbecues

24 May

Sizzlin'

Dr Dre once rapped about making it large, about driving fancy cars and no more living hard. He rapped about having barbecues every day. And wow. When I make it I am going to have a Barbecue every day. Every day.  Every day I will wake up and the air will smell of sweet blossom, the sky will be a blistering azure and pretty girls will be cycling in their summer dresses.*

Until then, a barbeque is a fantastically rare and insanely exciting event. Whether it’s an illicit tesco-burgers-and-cans-of-cider-bbq-in-the-park, the soggy blitz spirit & brollies-out get-up or the full-on family affair, highly professional, replete with salad(!) and all of the neighbourhood Dads competing to see who can be most manly and master the flames, I love them. The smell of smoke in your hair and the smeared ketchup on your fingers. Nostalgic and silly, just wonderful.

With all of this balmy weather in London I leapt at the chance to cook, nay burn, my dinner outside. Rum and coke on ice? Check. Boom boom beef burgers ready to griddle? Check. Naughty cheesy coleslaw ready to scoff? Check. Halloumi kebabs (spiked with courgette and red onion, drizzled in a thyme, lemon and mustard glaze) assembled? Check. New freckles busily growing in the blistering sunshine? Check. Awesome summer playlist (we’re talking Paul Simon, Modest Mouse and a slice of Vampire Weekend..) on my iphone for some happy beats? Check.

Rock and roll! This was textbook BBQing. It was a little tipsy, I was a smite sunburnt, dare I say it the burgers were a tad overdone. I, perchance, ate more than I should have. Ahem. Yes, yes. This is how you do it. And isn’t it just the best. Maybe not for every day. I am no Dr Dre. But in the meantime even just once in a while is amazing. x

*Incidentally, when I make it large, in my fantasy, ALL men will keep their tops on in public – outside a lido – no matter if they have a real or imaginary gym hardbody. Ok fellas, just keep your shirts on yeah? Thanks.

Guilty Pleasures: KFC Buckets

2 May

Finger lickin' good?

When trying to figure out what we should have for dinner whilst we watched the final Leader’s debate (I’m so Rock and Roll it hurts)  my friends were gobsmacked that I had never “done” a bucket.

It’s not that I’m above eating grim food. Far from it. There’s been the drunk and woozy kebabs, the greasy hungover Dominos, the chicken kievs drowned in mayo… and even though I try and avoid fast-food, whenever I sneak a bite of my boyfriend’s cheese-burgers, I have to admit they do taste good. Terrible, disgusting…  but tasty. Horrendously tasty.

But buckets, buckets, those mythical buckets – packed with deep-fried delights, the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, giant bottles of pop, sides of coleslaw, beans and who’d have known: gravy?! – for all these years, I had avoided the allure of the bucket.

And so it came to pass, we ordered two buckets: a boneless and variety box, and there were highs and lows. The detractors were that we were faced with more soggy chips than we could ever possibly hope to eat. The popcorn chicken tasted so synthetic it is hard to imagine it had any naturally occurring produce in it at all and my hands were so greasy from – like an animal – ripping flesh off the bones that I was literally unable to hold things without them slipping out of my grasp. And I was under the impression, mistaken clearly, that all buckets come with that dessert of my (retro) dreams: the Viennetta? No? Why ever not?

But the highs, oh the highs. The bucket itself was so huge, so gaudy, so exciting. The secret blend of herbs and spices makes the chicken taste unbelievably good: hot, spicy, sweet, salty and crisp, the white flesh beneath it is succulent and juicy. The very act of eating endless wings and legs makes you feel like you’re in some kind of warped medieval banquet, tossing the bones aside and calling for more mead (or in my case, chilled rose, natch) and really how fun is it to eat something utterly filthy, without any redeeming health or nutritional benefits, once in a while.

This may have been the most guilty of my guilty pleasures yet. Is there anything out there more disgustingly filthy than a bucket? I truly doubt it.

Guilty Pleasures: Whippy Ice Cream

24 Apr

I got 99 problems but this whippy aint one

As soon as I saw this icecream van I knew it would come to this. A whippy ice-cream, flake (I love the way the top half of the chocolate is soft and the other end in the ice-cream goes all cold and hard) and a healthy drizzle of sauce. What is it they put in the sauce: human-catnip? I just love it so so much.  But then there was the temptation to have a screwball: my icecream of choice when I was a nipper. I love every kind of whippy ice cream and the naff and kitsch vans that they’re dispensed from. And then there’s the icecream van jingle: the second I hear greensleeves I’m thrown into a childish frenzy.

Really, is there anything finer in life than a whippy ice-cream on a summer’s day? The cream dripping onto your sticky fingers and the flake crumbly and just-so. The licks and the nibbles. The last bit of the wafer filled with icecream. Yummy.

  A little known fact is that one of the members of the British chemical research team who discovered a method of doubling the amount of air in ice cream – the humble Whippy was born – which allowed manufacturers to use less of the actual ingredients, was Margaret Thatcher. But don’t let that put you off!

Guilty Pleasures: Shop-bought Coleslaw

18 Apr

nom nom nom nom

As someone who has very recently started baking and cooking properly I know all too well that home-made food is almost always superior. Nothing tastes better than a cake still-hot from the oven, or a bowl full of pasta that you’ve kneaded and cooked from scratch. I know that I am meant to make my own stock (and yes I KNOW that it gives meals a new depth that know amount of knorr-how can compete with). I know that home-made bread makes your home smell divine.  I know that home-made coleslaw is crunchy and fresh and gosh-darn healthy. That it takes a few minutes to make and costs very little…

…but I don’t care. I love shop-bought coleslaw. The deli pack from M&S or my goodness, the cheesy coleslaw from Sainsburys. It has about as much fat in one pack as I should eat in a week and it is nigh on impossible for me to see it without buying it and running home to scoff it.. but blimey, as Loreal would say, I’m worth it.

Guilty Pleasures: Cocos Ball aka Chocolate Clouds

11 Apr

Clouds of Joy

I freaking love cocos balls. Marshmallow balls enveloped in silky chocolate and dipped in coconut. Soft and gooey, crisp and moreish. They are amazing. Although as I discovered with flushed-cheeks today, difficult to eat – politely – in public.

Popular across the world in one way or another, Britain’s nearest cousin is the amazing Tunnocks tea-cake (which avid readers will know I have waxed lyrically about previously) and I have eaten these in Sweden and Finland and Denmark where they’re called flødebolle.

Having bought a giant pack from Ikea a few weeks ago, I reprimanded my boyfriend, “I’m eating a cloud, shut up!” and so we now refer to them as chocolate clouds. Which I think sums up their fluffiness and wispiness well.

I cannot understate my love for chocolate-clouds. And so it was that I went on an epic journey across London – involving tube, bus, tram AND train to go to Ikea, yesterday, and pick up 3 boxes of these puppies. A box of 10 big balls can be picked up for £1.70 whereas 6 little balls will set you back £1.05. I expect they will remain in this house less than a month. They are the perfect little pudding after a huge dinner or a just-got-back-from-work-and-peering-in-the-fridge-for-something-quick-to-eat-to-take-the-edge-of-your-hunger treat. Is there anything else in the Ikea Food market that’s better than this? I mean I doubt it, but remain to be convinced!

Guilty Pleasures: Kitsch Party Food

8 Apr
So bad it’s brill?

I have a confession to make. Yes, another one.  I love, beyond rhyme or reason, terrible terrible party food. I acknowledge that they are crimes against both decency and the palate, but I adore awful party platters.

For me there’s little finer in the world than a flimsy paper plate, bedecked with a jolly napkin, and adorned with cucumber sandwiches, the edges curling in the afternoon warmth, or a plate of slightly soft crisps, perhaps teamed with a cocktail sausage skewered on a stick.

Every time I throw a party I insist on putting on a “good spread” and every single time the desire to cook-up kitsch and often entirely beige food overwhelms me.

In the picture taken – held during one of my famed Eurovision parties – I insisted on making a hedgehog with pineapple-and-cheese sticks as the spikes. At my last birthday party I just had to buy Blue Nun and cheap mini scotch-eggs. They were dire. But I loved them. There have been fondus and terrible punch. Home-made bunting and natty table-cloths oh and disconcertingly soggy mini-pizzas.  So there, I admit it. I lay my confession bare for you to pour scorn and heap derision.

Or maybe, just maybe. You love naff party-food too? Yeah?

Guilty Pleasures: K Cider

24 Mar

Strong, refreshing, different, trampy.

Oh no it isn’t. Oh yes it is. It’s a WouldLikeToEat 2010 Budget-Day special.

In news that was hard for some to swallow, that some said was rotten to the core and which I found perry distressing (no more awful puns, I promise) Darling shocked and appalled all sides of the Commons when he declared: “”There is a long-standing anomaly which has meant cider has been under-taxed in comparison to other alcoholic drinks. I intend to correct this. So duty on cider will increase by 10% above inflation from midnight on Sunday.”

Brits are famed for their love of cider. We make and drink the most in all of the world. Drinking scrumpy with barbeques on the beach is unadulterated bliss. There is simply nothing finer in life…

…well, almost. For there is K. The cult-drink that is filthier than even your frosty jacks, your white lightnings and your diamond whites. Four cans of K (which would set you back no more than about £3.50) contain more units than women are supposed to drink in a whole WEEK.

Filthy filthy filth. It is unashamedly grim and whenever I see anyone drinking it – I once saw a sharp-dressed man sipping it at about 7am! – I have to smirk a wry smile. I have heard crazed reports of K-cocktails (K and Tennets Super or K and Special Brew) but I fear that this would induce hysteria/death… no a can or two of K is more than I can handle these days.

So there we have it. We have until Sunday to stock up on K. Or as I like to call it “Good times in a tin”.