, ,

Halloween at Sponge & Cream

Autumn ushers in a host of childish joys: a carpet of crisp golden leaves made for jumping about in, a drop in temperature that just calls for hot chocolate and an exciting 'back to school' wardrobe of knitwear and coats. And...dare I say it...my favourite holiday. Maybe it's because I'm a December baby (and thus have the terrible first world problem of having any birthday thunder stolen by Christmas), but I've always had a soft spot for Halloween...

I love the creativity that goes into thinking up costumes, reading up the history of the holiday, and consuming as many scary books, TV shows and films as I possibly can. If you've been following me for a while you'll know that I had a mini Halloween reading challenge last year and it's become a bit of a tradition for me since - this year's poisons of choice have been the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV show, The Turn Of The Screw, N0S4R2 and World War Z, in case you were wondering! So when I was invited to a Halloween-themed ZoMeeto masterclass at Sponge & Cream, I fully admit I jumped up and down like a little kid in anticipation.

Owner and former Hummingbird head baker Paulina Byrne welcomed us into her charming kitchen in Brixton Market with a combo that sat firmly within the 'treat' spectrum of trick-or-treat: bubbly and a gigantic slice of cake! I plumped for a slice of the banana cake, another childhood fave (I sense a theme of regression here) which was at once moist and rich, topped with chocolate brownie frosting...! Ridiculously delicious. I also had a taste of my fellow ZoMeeto attendees' choices, particularly enjoying the unique butternut squash cake. 

Full up on cake already, we gathered around the kitchen worktop for Paulina's speedy masterclass in how to assemble, frost and decorate a multi-tiered lemon and coconut cake packed with lemon curd, sprinkled with desiccated coconut and topped with candied slices of lemon. It looked absolutely scrummy and luckily for me, we got to take home our own mini lemon and coconut cupcakes as part of the next stage of the workshop!

Next the Halloween element of the evening came into play, as Paulina brought out little packets of coloured fondant icing, cutting, snipping and rolling little pieces with great dexterity to create three possible cupcake toppers: a ghost, a pumpkin and a witch's hat. 

And then...it was our turn to have a go!

Making fondant sculptures was very much like playing with Play-Doh. So at this point of the evening I'd actually regressed to person in a sandpit level. Especially where it came to my fine motor skills. Paulina made the process of making the little critters look incredibly quick and easy. The harsh reality? I spent a good ten minutes rolling out my witch's hat (which ended up more of a misshapen, Sorting Hat monster). Shh, art was never my strong point...

After making our fondant models it was time to put them in pride of place on top of some delicious Sponge & Cream cupcakes. Paulina taught us how to frost the cupcakes appropriately: lemon and coconut daubed on rustically for the ghost, ribbons of orange for the witch's hat and green grass-like spikes of frosting for the pumpkin to sit on. I personally had the most fun with the grass, and now I have more of an idea of how to ice properly (though I'll definitely need a lot more practice!) 

My pièce de resistance: Casper the Friendly Ghost.

So yeah. Thanks to my greedy inner child, I scoffed all my cupcakes within 24 hours. Thank you very much to Paulina for the wonderful cake, for teaching us how to make the three-tiered cake and the fondant sculptures and most of all, for being so tirelessly patient with me and my sad lack of icing knowledge! And thanks so much to Zomato for organising another incredibly fun event! Paulina hosts similarly fabulous workshops and baking classes currently at Fair Cake (there's one on tomorrow if you're that keen!) so if you're looking to improve your cake skills, keep an eye on the Sponge & Cream Facebook and Twitter pages for news on the next one.

I'm even more pumped for Halloween than I was already and am planning recipes to use up pumpkin from the jack-o'-lanterns I'll invariably be carving next week! Do you have any plans for Halloween this year?

Hungry for more? Continue the adventure on Bloglovin' | Twitter | Instagram!
Sponge & Cream Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

, , ,

Alex's 25th at Duck & Waffle

So I got thrown in the deep end when I started law school last week (for anyone who doesn't know, I'm doing the GDL this year!) and have already disappeared under a mountain of books and prep work. The summer's already a distant dream - it's felt particularly chilly these last few mornings - but the memory of the delicious dinner I had at Duck & Waffle to celebrate Alex's birthday remains fresh in my mind. 

But hold on, let's backtrack a little to the morning. A's birthday started as all good birthdays should: with generous brunches at Curators Coffee. I really liked this place - it's bright and airy with great food and interesting modern art on the walls. 

Next was a thought-provoking wander around the Barbican Centre and its summer exhibition (told you this was ages ago!) - a 'happening' that had taken over several portions of the space, from an immersive experience in the dark with lasers and a crunchy texture underfoot, to a luminous yurt out on the tiles overlooking the lake. Later I realised that we'd actually spent some of A's last birthday in the Barbican as well (visiting the Museum of London). An inadvertent tradition has been established!

I always love visiting the Barbican as I spent seven (mostly) happy years at the school opposite the Centre. The sound of those splashing fountains never fails to bring back memories...c

We spent the rest of our daylight hours settling into the M by Montcalm near Old Street, where I'd booked a night as a present for Al - chosen because A never fails to express his astonishment at the architectural illusion the hotel presents as you drive past it. We had a swim in the beautiful pool, (which we had all to ourselves!) got slightly over-excited about our room, which featured such modern niceties as remote-controlled curtains, remote-controlled lights and a Nespresso machine, and watched the sun go down. Later we wandered down to Tonic & Remedy, the hotel bar, for some excellent cocktails, before walking over to the Heron Tower. 

We got into the glass elevator and whizzed up 40 floors to the restaurant (the highest in London, apparently), the City sparkling below us as it geared up for Saturday night. Duck & Waffle makes the most of its excellent views with its full-length glass windows - not a restaurant for the acrophobics among us! Fortunately, neither of us have a fear of heights, and I felt extremely lucky indeed when we were shown to a table in the corner, a position allowing both of us skyline views. 

You're not strictly allowed to take pictures in Duck & Waffle, but as I saw a few cameras around I decided to be very sneaky and whip out my own to snap a few photos of the food when I thought people weren't looking. Sadly, most of my pictures ended up slightly blurred thanks to my not-so-covert operations, so I apologise in advance! We started with the classic BBQ-spiced crispy pig's ears in a brown paper bag. Salty with a generous kick of umami, I found these addictive. 

Pollock meatballs buried under a layer of breadcrumbs. Alex absolutely loved these.

Alex is totally a bread man - as in, when we go out for dinner he'll always order a bread dish, which I usually complain about as I find them so boring! This time, I wasn't complaining - this 'nduja and gruyère bread was freshly baked, pillowy soft and darn delicious. 

Less of a hit was the foie gras crème brûlée. I really wanted to like this one and ordered it because Alex is usually such a classic crème brûlée fan - but unfortunately for both of us, the dish was way too rich, the caramelised topping and foie gras flavour combining in an overwhelming fashion. I've heard that some people love this dish, but on this occasion it just wasn't for me. All credit to the restaurant, though - our wonderful waitress noticed that we hadn't really touched this one and took it off our bill immediately without even being asked (not that I would have anyway!) Incredibly good service. 

And finally, the eponymous dish: a savoury confit duck leg perched on top of the fluffiest waffle I've ever had, topped with a fried duck egg, sweetened with lashings of mustard maple syrup. I can see why so many people rave about this - it's truly special. 

A truly magical evening, where we were made to feel special with the attentive service, amazing views and delicious food. I know Alex really enjoyed it, and I'd personally definitely recommend Duck & Waffle as a place to celebrate a birthday or occasion. The restaurant is one of those legendary beasts, open 24 hours. Just imagine seeing the sunrise from this place (check out Jaime's post on a 6AM breakfast complete with scarlet-tinged skies!) Duck & Waffle, I'll definitely be back soon. 

If you're interested, you can see what we did for A's 24th here! Scary how time flies...

Hungry for more? Continue the adventure on Bloglovin' | Twitter | Instagram!
Duck & Waffle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato