Vanilla cake balls with hand-made chocolate roses

These little beauties are made of vanilla sponge, rolled into balls with some Hummingbird frosting and dipped in white chocolate.

They’re finished with chocolate roses, hand-modelled from white chocolate modelling paste and dusted with gold lustre.

I’m rather proud of them.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been editing the text for a cake-decorating book. So feeling very inspired, I decided to have a bash at some hand modelling.

I’ve also, for ages, been meaning to make cake pops – and in fact that’s what these were originally intended to be, but I somehow forgot to order the sticks. Duh. But it didn’t matter really because they were still divine and in the end much smaller and simpler to transport.

Here’s how they’re made… Continue reading

Sweet Argentina

Argentinians have a very sweet tooth. Correction: a whole mouthful of them. Never have I known a nation more in love with sugar, caramel, chocolate, cake, pastries, icing and anything syrupy, sticky or sickly sweet. Their famous Dulce de Leche caramel sauce can be found in the UK only in the premium aisle at Waitrose, high-end delicatessens and Borough market. But here in Argentina, super-size tubs of it are sold in every supermarket.

If you like sweet things, you needn´t go far here to find them. There´s a confituria on every corner, every third shop is a kiosco brimming with bars of sweetened chocolate and candy, street vendors offer sugar-roasted peanuts, salesmen pace up and down the markets with baskets of churros, and on every long-distance bus ride you´re given complimentary sweets, biscuits and cakes. And meet the Alfajor, a snack consisting of two big fat sweet crumbly biscuits, sandwiched together with gooey Dulce de Leche, before being dipped in chocolate, allowed to harden and then sometimes decorated or dipped again. It´s a beast alright.

The trouble comes when you’ve had enough sugar and you´re craving something — anything — savoury or plain. Bad news, the sweet stuff just cannot be avoided. Order a black coffee and a hefty sugar lump gets dropped in as standard. The French would be horrified by the way their croissants are doused in thick gloopy syrup. A loaf of bread tastes suspiciously saccharine. I was served chicken and tuna empanadas with a bizarre frosting of what could only be icing sugar.

So it´s a sweet way of life here (especially for dentists, I imagine). If you want to rid yourself of the sticky residue of Argentinian cuisine, wetwipes and a toothbrush are essential.

A rather modest alfajor…they get far crazier

Afternoon tea at the Landmark

A tiny bit of me wonders why afternoon tea is considered so cool. Despite the fact that London is caught up in patisserie frenzy – artisan bakeries all over the place, cupcakes the new Prozac, macaroons sacrosanct as diamonds – there’s something depressingly old-fashioned about the image that afternoon tea conjures up: tablecloths and chintz, china teapots, piddly little sandwiches, pastel-coloured sponge and sickly marzipan. Some of London’s tea-rooms are a hundred years old or more, salons where Victorian ladies whiled away afternoons with cross-stitch and idle tittle-tattle. Their fad for ‘low tea’ was a fresh and exciting culinary experience back then. But compared with today’s exhilarating foodie scene – liquid nitrogen, Mexican market food, hefty slabs of meat with a view of St Paul’s, red-velvet whoopie pies the size of your head – the classic afternoon tea should seem faded, demure and terribly clichéd. Yet, here we are in 2010 and most of London’s iconic tea-rooms have three-month waiting lists. Afternoon tea still oozes cool. (And yes, I’m shaking my head in wonder, but also I’m jumping up and down with glee.)

So why, in a recession, are so many of us queuing up to blow £40 on tea and cake, when we could get a steaming mug of Tetley and a Mr Kipling for a matter of pence? Equipped with two girlfriends, I went to find out.

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