Recipe: Speculoos Carrot Cake

speculoos, carrot, cake, speculaas

When lacking in inspiration its always good to take a step back, go back to basics or even to have a short break. Sometimes the never ending amount of talent on my social media feeds can be a little overwhelming and off-putting. How do people even manage a full time job and to post several times through the week?

I can't remember the last time I baked a cake just to enjoy it. Rather than thinking, how can I make it different? How will I photograph it? What ideas can I get from Pinterest? In all honesty, I can't even remember the last cake I did make. 

For each family birthday I try to make a cake, something they'd like and something different each time. With work responsibilities and my brother's wedding in Finland, I've been a little delayed with these birthday bakes. So, with a little time off over the weekend, I set out to make one. I didn't worry about presentation, photographing, just on making something my Mum would love; her favourite carrot cake. 

speculoos, carrot, cake, spice, speculaas

Forgetting we're 'meant' to be in the height of summer. This weekend called for warming comfort food. For Sunday lunch we enjoyed baked red pesto chicken, roasted marrow and to finish, bread and butter pudding. A slice of this cake also went down a treat...

It was only fitting that I used Signe Johansen's Scandilicious carrot cake recipe as a base. Omitted the cinnamon and nutmeg for a speculoos spice mix to create a cake that I knew my Mum would love...even if it was a little belated.

Fuss-free with no frills, this is a good, honest, back to basics cake. No coloured frosting, layers or fiddly steps. I think this was exactly what I needed to get back in the kitchen!

speculoos, spice, carrot, cake, speculaas

Speculoos carrot cake with cream cheese speculoos frosting and walnut crumb

N.b. I used a sample of speculaas spice mix (from Amsterdam), but Dan Lepard has a recipe here.

(9" cake, serves 12, recipe adapted from Signe Johansen's Scandilicious Baking)

4 eggs
125g caster sugar
125g soft light brown sugar
200ml vegetable oil
250g plain flour
2 tsp speculoos spice mix
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
350g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated


125g butter, softened
150g icing sugar, sifted
150g full fat cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp speculoos spice mix

Handful of crushed walnuts for decoration
  1. Heat the oven to 170 degrees and grease a 9" springform cake tin. Alternatively, use a 20 x 30cm rectangular tin.
  2. Gently mix together the egg and sugar in a mixer until the egg is broken up.
  3. Set the mixer to a medium-high speed and pour in the oil as slow as possible. It is important to pour in as slow as you can so as not to split the mix.
  4. Fold in the flour, spices, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  5. Add the carrots and mix just a few times until just about incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf. When cooked, a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean.
  7. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  8. To make the frosting, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, vanilla and speculaas and continue to mix until smooth.
  9. Whilst the cake is cooling, pop the frosting in the fridge to firm up.
  10. To frost the cake, use a palette knife to smooth over the top and finish with a scattering of walnuts.

And for a little more inspiration:

How about Kate's carrot cake protein balls? Or in fact any recipe from her blog - yep, who knew you could make a cake out of cauliflower or peas?

Zucchini/courgettes laying around after making some zoodles/courgetti? Try Diana's zucchini bread.

Or some snack friendly, healthy berry and carrot muffins from Grace.

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Review: Afternoon Tea at St Paul's Cathedral

Its not often that you go for Afternoon Tea and take more photos of the surroundings than the food itself. Unless, you go to St Paul's Cathedral where the views are breathtaking. 

The Cathedral sits up on the highest point of the City of London, on the top of Ludgate Hill. St Paul's as we see it today is the product of a complete rebuild to its 17th Century Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. 

Until the '60's, St Paul's was the highest building in London's skyline, reaching a whopping 365 feet and is still, to this day, one of the highest domes in the world.

When you step inside, look up. An interior dome, archways and mosaics span across the whole site. Everywhere you turn there's something else to look at. 

Down in the crypt you'll find more than 200 memorials and crypts including the Duke of Wellington, Lord Nelson, Alexander Fleming and Florence Nightingale. 

As you stroll around feeling like you're in the middle of Hogwarts, you'll find in the south-west bell tower you really are. This is the staircase featured in the Prisoner of Azkaban. 

Being super fans, both Katy and I squealed a little and took our time photographing absolutely every single step to savour every moment of being so close to Harry and co. 

And, after all that exploring you'll need to take a seat beneath the cathedral, collect your thoughts and enjoy finger sandwiches and scones.

In the restaurant, head chef Chris Terry uses local suppliers and seasonal produce in his menu; breakfast, mains, sharing platters and afternoon tea. 

A selection of finger sandwiches including smoked salmon, egg & cress, cucumber & cream cheese and ham & mustard. Freshly baked scones with Cornish clotted cream and chef's homemade rhubarb jam. 

And for sweets, lemon meringue pie, chocolate delice, rhubarb & ginger cheesecake and my favourite, cherry bakewell battenberg. 

Plenty of tea and English sparkling wine with russet apple.

I think chef knew we were about to embark on some more exploring and needed some fuel for the road!

30-ish feet above ground, now feeling like a giant, we set off to explore the cathedral from above. See the ground here...

...and the window in the ceiling?

Just a 'few' steps and now we were on top of the cathedral, almost...

Climbing 300-ish steps up, the top of St Paul's Dome offers spectacular views of London's skyline. Definitely worth it. 

And, if you want to experience even more of what St Paul's has to offer, don't miss the 5pm choral Evensong. Pretty impressive how a seemingly small choir can fill the entire cathedral.

Afternoon Tea is served in the cathedral restaurant Monday to Saturday, 3.00pm - 4.15pm. For £21.25 you'll get the full tea with sparkling wine, just £15.95 without or £9.95 for cream tea.

Buy tickets and book online here.

Huge thanks to the lovely Ed from the press team who spent the day before moving house giving us lady bloggers an expert guided tour. 

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Review: Galvin at Windows, Mayfair

Up on the 28th floor of the Hilton on Park Lane, Galvin at Windows offers awesome views of our fair city.  The contemporary style French menu from chef Chris Galvin is also as picture pretty as the views.

Both Neelam and Deena celebrate their birthday's within a few days of each other so we decided to book a table and celebrate. To start, we enjoyed Galvin's summer spritzer made with watermelon juice and Prosecco. 

Once seated we were offered some postcards to send to friends and family 'to make them envious of our view'. A nice touch from the hotel, who will send any postcard worldwide.

To start, I opted for a salad of heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, goats curd, black olive caramel and stem ginger. Light and refreshing, just what I needed after sitting in the park during the hottest day of the year.

Both N and D went for the fillet of sea trout 'mi-cut', peas, heritage radish and smoked trout pâté. Gorgeously presented, delicate fish with a scattering of pea shoots.

For mains, N went for the saddle of rabbit, pancetta, sweetcorn, liver, truffle and Madeira jus. Succulent, tender and perfectly balanced with the crunch of popcorn and the sweetness of the creamed sweetcorn. 

D enjoyed the roasted fillet of Cornish cod, brandade, samphire and red pepper ketchup. I'm already looking forward to recreating this ketchup at home, Heinz will never be the same again! Large white flakes of cod and crisp, salty samphire are the perfect pair.

And, in order to cover as much of the menu as possible, I had the tarte fine of summer vegetables, gorgonzola and basil pesto. The seasonal vegetables were perfectly presented on a thin square of pastry. It was perfectly crisp and buttery, but as a pastry lover, there could have been a little more. The pesto was a little on the rich side, but nothing another glass of wine couldn't balance!

For dessert, N had the apricot and cherry almond tart with verbena ice cream. A light sponge with baked in cherries and apricot dotted around the plate.

And my favourite, equatorial chocolate ganache, mint chantilly and earl grey tea ice cream. I'd have been more than happy to have taken a gallon of the ice cream home, such a great flavour with the rich chocolate ganache. 

To finish, our waiter bought over a selection of homemade marshmallows and chocolate truffles. Both N and D had never tried 'proper' marshmallows before and were well impressed with the strawberry and passionfruit flavours.

We all enjoyed our experience at Galvin at Windows, the impressive views and food. Although I do feel that prices were a little pricey, especially on the drinks front. We arrived early and was ushered to the bar to wait for our table to be ready. Most cocktails on the menu were around £17 so felt a little out of place not ordering anything whilst waiting for the table, however impressive they looked. A bottle of Pinot Grigio started at £34 too.

Our meal was part of a set menu for a Groupon voucher, two courses and a summer spritzer for £37. With dessert, water and service charge it was bumped up to £52 a head, with no extra wine/cocktails.

I look forward to trying a few things at home: the red pepper ketchup, earl grey ice cream and passionfruit marshmallows.

Click to add a blog post for Galvin at Windows - London Hilton on Park Lane Hotel on Zomato

As mentioned, we paid for our meal and were not guests of the restaurant. All opinions are my own.

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Review: Ninth Ward, Farringdon

Ward's Hurricane
Another to add to the list of London's best burgers, in true New Orleans style Farringdon's newest opening offers a hearty slice of Americana. Ninth Ward is the closest you can get to the real, Louisiana deal in our fair City. 

Think buttermilk fried chicken, crayfish, Slap ya Mama hot wings, fried pickles, mac n cheese, braised beef brisket and dirty fries. Prosecco, flaming cocktails and the longest list of draft beers you can imagine.

Braised beef brisket burger
The brisket burger; 12 hour braised, soaked in gravy and homemade dill pickles. Tender, juicy and messy. The finger licking kind!

The Ninth Ward burger
The Ninth Ward burger; 8oz chuck burger, brioche, chunky dill pickles and cheese. If you're going to do pickles, then this is exactly how you do it, chunky.

Dirty fries
Dirty fries; smothered in beef chilli, cheese, mustard and a generous sprinkling of jalapeños. There's no delicate, lady like way to eat these, just get stuck in, no cutlery needed.

Just a small late lunch spread...

Blueberry pie with homemade ice cream
Each day, a different dessert special is served. In true Southern style, we had a slice of humble blueberry pie and a scoop of homemade ice cream: milk and salted caramel. Crammed full of blueberries and crisp golden pastry. This is exactly how Mama would make it.

And for the decor, you could loose an hour or two browsing every nook and cranny filled with authentic New Orleans charm: voodoo, shutters and stained glass windows.

Other than the burgers, everything comes designed to share. That's if you're a sharer...!

Pop down and take a look for yourself. I can't wait to go back and try the curried okra, fried pickles and mac n cheese!

You can find Ninth Ward at 99-101 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3BN.

Fancy popping down before 31st July? Pocket Highstreet have some special deals on...

Fried chicken and any portion of wings for a tenner

Thank you to the friendly fellas at Ninth Ward for inviting me down to try some New Orleans magic. 

Click to add a blog post for Ninth Ward on Zomato

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Review: June Degustabox & Healthy Brownie Bites

We all like receiving surprises in the post. And this is exactly what the Degustabox* food subscription box is. Each month, a selection of carefully selected new and innovative products will be sent out to you.

For the next three months I shall be trialling the products and reporting back. I'm hoping to try lots of new products and to try and come up with some different recipes and serving suggestions.

If you fancy trying your own box in July, then keep reading for your chance to win one.

Let's get started with the drinks.

I like the idea of these Zeo soft drinks; zesty lime and peach and grapefruit were included to try. They are promoted as being lightly carbonated water blended with natural fruit extracts, coming in at under 30 calories per bottle. Not bad for a soft drink, although personally, I feel these are a little too carbonated and could do with more flavour.

Next up, my favourite, Rekorderlig. I wouldn't say that this is a new product, it's certainly quite well known. Even so, I love the flavour and its brilliant served in  a glass packed full of ice, a squeeze of lime and some mint leaves. So refreshing!

Vybe natural coconut water is not something I've spotted in the shops before so was curious to try. Certainly very hydrating, but I'm not a fan of unflavoured coconut waters, however healthy they are. Instead, I use them to add into smoothies instead of using milk or yogurt. My favourite being, frozen pineapple blitzed with this coconut water to make a slushie!

And, somewhere in the middle, Icycl, a fruity frozen vodka ice lolly. With 6.4% of vodka and a blend of natural fruits, these will definitely get the party started. I will most definitely be purchasing these to stash in my freezer!

Now onto snacks and food items...

Coconom is an organic coconut sugar, something I've always wanted to try. So on the morning I received the box I powered up the oven and tried out the recipe that was included with the box. As a healthier alternative to sugar, this can be substituted 1:1 for regular sugar. There's no overpowering coconut taste, just natural unrefined sweetness. I've also been enjoying it in coffees and sprinkled over my porridge.

I'll leave the recipe at the bottom if you're curious.

I'd like to say that a balanced diet includes everything in moderation, but that most certainly does not happen in my kitchen. Two packs of Brioche Pasquier in two days for one person is quite the achievement. Throw one in your bag for the train, open one up after a gym session or fill up your desk drawer with them for emergencies. Most definitely not the healthiest of snacks, but they are free from added nasties.

Something I was the least excited for, Melba Thins, so I took it upon myself to try a few different options for lunch. When you think of it, just like ryvita, the combinations of toppings are truly endless. My favourite was peanut butter, banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 

I'm still to try the Love Chin Chin (crunchy biscuit snacks) and the Kallo rice snacks (salt & vinegar snacks and chocolate & caramel rice cake thins). Although I'm pretty sure I'll be relying on them to give me a boost at the desk post-3pm. 

print recipe

Coconom Healthy Brownie Bites
Brownie bites made with coconut sugar, cacao and ground almonds.
  • 170g dark chocolate chips
  • 100g coconut oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 120g Coconom coconut sugar
  • 60g raw cacao powder
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 30g white chocolate chips (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and fill a cupcake tray with paper cases.
2. Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil together in a pan over a low heat. Whisk together the eggs and sugar. Slowly pour the melted chocolate over the sugar and eggs. Stir in the cacao, almonds, salt and vanilla extract. 3. Gently fold in the chocolate chips (if using). Divide evenly between the cases and bake for 10-12 minutes on the middle shelf.
4. Brownies will keep for a few days stored in an airtight container.

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 16 brownie bites

For your chance to win a July box of your very own...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Otherise, use my discount code for £3 off which will last until the end of October - 98VWM

The lovely people at Degustabox kindly sent me a trial to be able to share some recipes and serving suggestions with my readers and their box subscribers. I hope this helps you to try something different!

The giveaway will be open for a week, afterwards the winner will be contacted and details sent onto the lovely Degustabox folk. UK entrants only please.

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