Afternoon Tea at Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Visiting Blackpool always gives me a lot of Nostalgia. While it wasn’t somewhere my family visited as frequently, I have very specific memories of the place. Getting stuck on top of the big wheel on the pleasure beach in the pouring rain with my mum, windy games of crazy golf and going on a school trip to the tower as a very little girl. Part of the school trip involved us eating our packed lunches in the ballroom so you can understand why I jumped at the chance of reviewing their afternoon teas on here.

I brought my lovely friend Mrs E with me for this trip. As as being a fellow Yorkshire resident; she also comes from Lancashire, so she also has memories of the place. We both wholeheartedly enjoyed eating sandwiches and cake watching different couples dancing. As somebody who has never properly learned how to dance with a partner apart from the odd waltz around the living room with her father, I was impressed by the couples gliding gracefully across the dance floor. Forget Strictly, I was imagining a time when young couples met up in that very ballroom in the not too distant past.

While this wasn’t the most luxurious afternoon tea I have ever eaten, it ranks pretty highly in both taste and atmosphere. The ballroom itself is beautiful and the music from the Wurlitzer organ was very pleasant (and no, there was no rendition of “I do like to be beside the seaside). In fact, we were so distracted by the scones and tea we stropped noticing the music being quite as loud. I think its good to note that while most of the visitors were older, it is something that is lovely for all younger people too and is especially suitable for families (you can buy Slush Puppies at the bar which are a personal favourite!) For those of you who don’t know; in the Tower at Blackpool there are several attractions including the Blackpool Tower Dungeon, the Circus and the Eye at Blackpool so the Ballroom afternoon tea is an ideal place to chill out in between these and would also make a more tranquil setting for an afternoon tea for those of you considering a girls day out in Blackpool (as we were).

For those amongst you wanting finer details of the food – you could tell everything was freshly made. I don’t know what brand the tea was but we both liked it. The sandwiches were made with a pleasant variety of fillings. The scones were sultana scones and were pleasantly soft rather than crumbly. The jam provided was in those little jars and was a high quality conserve and the clotted cream was also excellent. I particularly liked the variety of little cakes (although we saved these for later as we were both too full to properly enjoy them). We had tiffin, a fruit meringue, a freshly baked miniature apple pie and a miniature cheesecake. The cheesecake was so creamy! (D’s reviews of the cakes were also very positive).

I think from this post you can tell we really did have a wonderful time and appreciate being invited to visit so much. The staff were very kind and boxed up uneaten cake for me to take home (which D enjoyed later). The only downside of the entire trip was that I happened to pick a Saturday when the weather was so horrible and stormy we were completely soaked by the time we reached the Tower. (That’s weather in the North West for you!)

For full details of Afternoon Tea and the Blackpool Tower click here.

For further details of the attractions of Blackpool Tower visit here.

We followed this visit with a trip to the Sea Life Centre and a game of crazy gold. Which I lost. Spectacularly.

Our visit to Afternoon Tea in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom was a press trip so everything was complimentary, but all views are my own. Thank you for inviting me!

Rice Krispy Treats (Marshmallow Squares)

There’s something about cobbling a recipe together based on something you’ve been in a cartoon vaguely therapeutic. While throwing together ingredients for this I couldn’t help thinking back to an old episode of the Simpsons. You know the one where Marge is sent to jail and the town riots because they can’t get her rice krispy treats. While I can’t claim I need a statue erecting in my honour for making these, I do concede that they were delicious and they were very well received by the people I made them for (the cast of a play D is going to be in). Another plus is that they take barely any time to make, they’re not messy to eat and you don’t need an oven to make them. Probably perfect for a harrassed mother of 3 (or perhaps somebody who has promised his or her services helping with a bake sale and then promptly forgotten).

To make approximately 20 rice krispy treats you will need:

200-250g rice krispies

400g marshmallows

180g milk chocolate

 

Line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper. Break up the chocolate and put in a large microwave proof bowl with the marshmallows. Heat on high for 1 minute. Check and stir. Repeat every 30 seconds until the mixture is melted. Stir vigorously.

Add the rice krispies and keep stirring until all the cereal is coated in the chocolate marshmallow mix. Spread this into the brownie tin in a thick layer. Set aside to cool for half an hour. Once the rice krispy mix is cool and everything has set; cut into squares (you decide the portion size).

Now if anyone is looking for me I’ll be dying my hair blue and styling it into a beehive.

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Mars Bar Crispy cakes

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Just a quick recipe before I head out to a cake sale later. Today I’m helping raise money for my theatre group doing what they refer to as a refreshment day in Harrogate to give us a boost in income before our production of Fiddler on the roof. As d and I are both members of this group I was something of an overachiever last night and I made 3 things. Seems a tad excessive but with a bit of organisation I managed to get everything done in 2 and a half hours.

This was the quickest of the recipes and the one I made last, while I was waiting for my cupcakes to become cool enough for me to be able to decorate them. This is also a brilliant recipe if you don’t bake and you feel obliged to do so when your workplace, or child school (or similar) is doing a cake stall and you have no time or great enthusiasm to make anything. It also takes about 10 minutes to make from start to finish which makes it a nice recipe in my book.

My mum actually used to make us brilliant crispy cakes when I was little, however I don’t actually remember what she used. Despite these not using the same ingredients they’re a pretty close second when it comes to the syrupy texture (so much better than just chocolate).

Anyway, to make 14 generously sized crispy cakes you will need:

2 1/2 mugs of rice crispy cereal

4 Mars Bars

Just over 1/4 of a 250g block of butter

Line cupcake trays with cupcake cases. Measure your rice crispies into a large mixing bowl. Slice your Mars bars and melt with the butter over a low heat stirring all the time. The melted mixture should take on a creamy texture. When it has got to this stage pour it into the rice crispies and stir vigourously until all of them are coated with the mix.

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Separate the mix into the cake cases and allow to cool so they firm up. Store in a cool airtight container.

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White chocolate truffles

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While I am very much in the “Calm down it’s November” camp when it comes to Christmas excitement, it is good to get some things organised in advance. One of those things is Christmas food (obviously I think this is important as I write a lot of food related posts). Anyway, these white chocolate truffles are stupidly easy to make and are lovely to pass around during any sort of Christmassy event. (Plus if you really want to add to festive cheer you can call them snowball truffles or something!)

Anyway, to make white chocolate truffles you will need:

For the truffles

300g white chocolate

100ml double cream

To decorate

Approx 200g white chocolate (you may need more)

 

Heat the double cream in a heavy pan to a gentle simmer. Break up the chocolate and melt into the cream. Take the truffle mix off the heat, place in a glass bowl, cover and place in the freezer for a couple of hours to harden.

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Using a teaspoon to gouge out the chocolate mix, shape the truffles into balls with your hands. The heat from your hands should melt the truffles into shape.

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Melt (ideally you will have time to temper it, for a lovely shine) the white chocolate and dip the truffles in the chocolate to decorate. Leave to cool and store in a cool airtight container.

Serve with a nice cup of tea, or a festive glass of mulled wine.

Vanilla sponge 2 ways – Dr Who cupcakes and Sprinkle Cake

I think when it comes to cake simple is definitely underrated. As it was D’s birthday this I obviously made him a cake. Not one to usually do cake making by halves I also made cupcakes to have at his birthday party. Simple vanilla cake is a big favourite with D (and his friends) so I thought I’d use the opportunity to sing the praises of the most versatile cake mix in my repertoire. The techniques for making this are exactly the same for the cupcakes and the full cake, just scaled up for the cupcakes.

IMG_0577DSC_0063To make the full cake you will need

170g self raising flour

170g butter

170g caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling

Good quality jam

To decorate

160g soft butter

320g icing sugar

1 tbsp milk (or as we ran out of milk, i used apple juice)

Sugar strands

Candles!

For 12-14 cupcakes you will need

225g self raising flour

225g butter

225g caster sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To decorate

140g butter, softened

280g icing sugar

1 teaspoons milk

Food colouring (I used blue for a Dr Who theme)

Silver balls/other cake decorations

To make your sponge mix preheat your oven to 180°C. Sift the caster sugar into a large bowl, crack in your eggs and add your vanilla essence. Whisk this mix until thick and foamy. Sift in your flour. Melt your butter and gradually whisk this into the mixture until smooth.

DSC_0051DSC_0052DSC_0053Depending upon whether you’re making a cake or several cupcakes either split your cake mix between two larger cake tins lined with baking paper, or between several cupcake cases in a muffin tin. Bake for around 15 minutes or until the cake is golden.

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I added sprinkles to the cake mix to make the cake a bit multicoloured

To decorate the cake sandwich together the 2 cakes with the jam.

DSC_0056DSC_0057Whisk together the butter, milk and icing sugar together to make buttercream. If you whisk the buttercream enough it goes a lovely pale colour. I always like to add the buttercream to cakes in excess and then smooth the whole thing over taking buttercream off as I go until its in a smooth even layer.

DSC_0058DSC_0060To finish off add sprinkles and candles.

DSC_0062Serve with an enthusiastic round of “Happy birthday to you”

DSC_0063To decorate the cupcakes just do the same thing but add food colouring to the buttercream (I have just discovered gel colouring and I am a fan, although my nails are now pretty blue). Decorate the cupcakes with a swirl using a flat knife, if like we you’re in a hurry and have no time to pipe. I topped my cakes with silver balls and some Dr Who decorations (we might be 27 now but we’re both big fans).

DSC_0070DSC_0074The only thing left to do under the circumstances is to eat the cake.

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Nutella and Hazelnut Rolls

Sometimes, a new take on a tried and tested recipe produces some great results, especially where Nutella is involved. After quite a strenuous day at work on Wednesday all I really wanted to do with my evening was bake and eat Nutella, so I combined both of these wants into Nutella rolls, a recipe that combined the sweet bread dough of cinnamon rolls minus the glaze and my lifelong love of Nutella. Part of the magic of this recipe is waiting for the dough to rise, kneading the dough de-stresses you and works up an appetite and this makes enough to share these with others. As it is well documented that baked goods make everybody happy I urge you to give these a try.

To make approximately 20 Nutella rolls you will need

For the dough

25g caster sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons

300ml lukewarm milk (I actually used coconut milk)

500g strong white flour

85g butter

1 tsp salt

For the filling

Nutella, slightly warmed

Hazelnuts, chopped

To make the dough dissolve the sugar in the milk. To this add the yeast and leave for 15-20 minutes until the yeast has started to froth. Meanwhile rub the butter into the flour and salt to make breadcrumbs. Make a well in the flour mix and add the milk and combine with your hands to make a rough dough.

DSC_0034DSC_0035DSC_0036DSC_0037On a lightly floured surface, knead this dough for 10-20 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (pretend you’re working on your “guns”). Put the dough ball in a large bowl and leave to rise for around 40 minutes in a warm place.

DSC_0038While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, I would use this time to chop your nuts if you have whole ones. Whole nuts are way cheaper than the chopped ones (I checked this in my local supermarket) and any you don’t use can be used to top cereal, ice cream, salads or toast as desired.

DSC_0039Once your dough has more or less doubled in size knock back the dough and roll it out into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Spread over your Nutella and sprinkle over the hazelnuts. Then roll into a sausage shape and slice into what you think are appropriately sized rolls. Lay these out onto a lined baking tray and allow to rise for 15 minutes.

DSC_0040DSC_0042DSC_0043While your rolls are rising preheat your oven to 180°C. If you want to glaze them brush them with a beaten egg before baking (I had run out of eggs that night so didn’t other). Bake the rolls for 10-15 minutes or until the dough is slightly golden.

DSC_0046DSC_0047These are perfect to eat at any time of day, but we especially enjoyed them for breakfast.

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Chocolate orange cookies

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So this recipe is a simple adaptation of a cookie recipe I have previously written about making during my formative years. Still, sometimes its nice to add a twist to an old favourite – I use less butter in this version as the dough can be quite sticky with the chocolate not being spread through the dough. Terry’s chocolate orange is something I traditionally associate with Christmas, however I made up a batch of these for my birthday gathering as they look wonderful and take hardly any time to make.

In this recipe everything is measured with mugs as it is one from a time before I owned a set of scales – I could weigh it out but to be honest its nice having a few recipes in my head that I can make without having to follow a set of instructions. I like to think if I really, really needed cookies at 3 am I could pull this recipe from my head with no bother.

For chocolate orange cookies you will need:

1 mug of soft brown sugar

110g softened butter

1 egg

1 and 1/2 mugs self raising flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 chocolate orange (eg. Terry’s)

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line 2 or more baking trays with baking paper or thoroughly grease them. Use a wooden spoon to cream together your butter and sugar. To this add your vanilla and egg making sure your beat the mix well.

DSC_1318To this mix add your flour. Once the flour is nearly incorporated into your mix bring everything together with your hands. Roll the cookie dough into balls. Flatten each cookie dough ball and place on your lined baking tray. Take care each cookie has room to spread as they will do so whilst baking.DSC_1319DSC_1320Break apart your chocolate orange into segments. Press a segment firmly on top of each cookie. Bake each cookie for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly on the baking tray as the cookies will be sort fresh from the oven.

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What could be better than a delicious chocolatey orangey cookie on a slightly damp May day?

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