Friday 30 May 2014


All images / Mike Ahern

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Cookies & Cream Birthday Cake

What to do when your somewhat picky Dad needs a birthday cake? My initial reaction, in true Mike-style, was to panic before eventually calming down to contemplate the task ahead. My awesome Dad has always liked his sweet treats and I have long suspected that my own sweet tooth is inherited from him, so I began thinking along the lines of 'the sweeter the better'.

I have always been a fan of Häagen-Dazs cookies and cream flavoured ice-cream and its contrasting textures of silky smooth creaminess fused with crumbly Oreo cookies; one moment please whilst I compose myself...So I then set to work on baking up a triple (because it was my Dad's Birthday) layer  sponge cake with some rather indulgent mascarpone frosting, not forgetting the all important ingredient; cookies!

Needless to say, the cake went down a storm although we all felt just a tiny bit over-indulged by the end of the perfect evening. Happy Birthday Dad.

Ingredients: (For the Sponge)
300g Caster sugar
320g Plain flour
100g Unsalted butter
3x Large eggs
1tsp Salt
4tsp Baking powder
310ml Whole milk
154g Oreo Cookies (keep 4 spare for the frosting)

500g Mascarpone
900g Icing sugar
300g Unsalted butter
4 Oreo cookies

How to make the sponges:
Grease 3x 20cm cake tins and preheat your oven to 170oc. Using an electric mixer, combine the sugar, butter, flour, baking powder and salt until smooth and sandy. Separately, mix together the milk and eggs before adding to the flour mixture - keep mixing until smooth and creamy (now is great for one of those cheeky lick the spoon moments).

Then loosely crumble the Oreo cookies into the mixture and blend together using a fork to lightly fold in the cookie chunks. Pour the mixture evenly into the three tins and then place in your oven to bake for approximately 25-30 mins.

Now for the frosting:
Slowly and carefully mix the softened butter together with the icing sugar using an electric mixer. Once the mixture is smooth, gradually add the mascarpone and increase the speed until you have a light and fluffy consistency.

And finally:
Remove the cakes from their tins once completely cooled and then assemble into a tower formation with a layer of frosting on top of each sponge - use a palette knife to smooth as you go along. Then ice the sides and top of the cake before finally crumbling the remaining cookies over the top and sides for that gorgeous light and dark contrasting colour.

Friday 16 May 2014

Brit Decor Bakes/ Doughnut Cupcakes!

All images / Mike Ahern

Well hello weekend! The sun has been shining brightly here in many parts of the UK this week and there seems to be that very typical feverish feeling amongst the masses, which drives us to take to the outdoors. Bars and restaurants with outdoor seating are suddenly transformed into hives of excited chatter.  Is this exclusively a British thing?

Here at the cottage, the sun has brought the garden on a treat and everything is now bursting with life, including my creativity! So for today's bake, it could only go one way; fast, bright, sweet and absolutely delicious.

I do have a 'thing' for doughnuts but this time around I fancied something a little lighter but with the same sweetness and pretty glazed coating, so there was only one thing to do - create my own hybrid!
I chose a sweet raspberry jam filling but this recipe will work with any flavour and the same goes for the colouring of the glaze. Like many of my recipes, these were oh-so easy to make with minimal ingredients and time required, plus they look great when grouped together on a plate.

I feel an afternoon tea party in the garden coming on...

150g Unsalted butter
150g Caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
Raspberry jam
3 Large eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:
50g Icing sugar
2-3 Tea spoons milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
Pink food colouring
Stardust (yes really!)

How to make:
Line a 12 case cake tray and preheat your oven to 1800c. Mix together all of the cake ingredients, apart from the jam, using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Spoon half of the mixture into the cases and then place a tea spoon of jam on top of each one. Finally add the remaining cake batter on top of the jam. Place in the oven for around 15-18 minutes.

Now onto the glaze. Mix together the icing sugar, vanilla essence, and milk until you have a light and runny syrup, then add the food colouring and create a shade that you are happy with. Once the cakes have cooled, remove from their paper cases and dip each one into the glaze mixture. Finally, sprinkle over some silver 'star dust' which gives a pearlescent-type finish.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Brit Decor: Shoestring Style

So here's the thing; we are officially out of recession and moods are generally more upbeat as city bankers begin to regain some of the colour in their cheeks. However, before we go breaking into those champagne cocktails it is still worth taking a look at the budget-end of the interiors market for some surprisingly high-end finds.

Whatever the financial climate, I have always enjoyed a little savviness when it comes to my own purse strings. It's great to splash out and treat myself on the occasional luxury item for the cottage but I also get a strong sense of satisfaction from sourcing some bargains. In reality I tend to save my hard-earned cash for investment or statement pieces and mix these with more affordable accessories, which also applies to my wardrobe. Either way, some clever sourcing can leave your home looking like a million dollars, even if you spent a whole lot less. 

This week I have been quietly impressed my finds during an online trawl of interiors goodies, and despite being a low-cost range, there is actually a wealth of style on offer from, in particular, some of the British Supermarket chains, with Tesco coming out on top. So here is Brit Decor's very own round-up of some of this season's hottest colours and trends - shoestring style.

1. Glass star pendant £25 George at Asda 
2. Happy Vase Sunshine £8 Wilko
3. Blue Rain porcelain mug £5 Tesco Direct
4. Whale cushion £8 Tesco Direct
5. Oversized navy vase £25 Tesco Direct
6. Framed NYC print £12 Tesco Direct
7. Large Pillar candle in Grey £3.50 Tesco Direct
8.  Dragonfly vase £10 George at Asda
9. Pastel paddle board £15 Tesco Direct
10. Pink Ombre vase £8 Tesco Direct
11. Set of 4 Dip Dye side plates £12.50 Tesco Direct
12. Kafe desk lamp in Surf £30 Wilko

Friday 2 May 2014

Brit Decor Bakes: Chocolate Gelato (Gelato Al Cioccolato)

All images / Mike Ahern

My over-active sweet tooth still pangs for the taste of delicious Italian gelato, scooped into cute little cardboard cups and served with neon coloured plastic spoons. In fact, this little treat became quite the indulgent staple of my diet whilst I was holidaying in Venice last year, but it has taken me this long to attempt to recreate some of that iced-Italian magic back here in Somerset.

The great thing about gelato is that it contains less fat than regular ice cream due to the absence of any cream in the ingredients, which makes for a more intense flavour and boy can you taste the chocolate in this particular recipe.

I just couldn't resist a few wickedly indulgent spoonfuls whilst writing this post, which has led me to the conclusion that there will definitely have to me more gelato recipes featured on Brit Decor throughout the Summer months. Even with the predicted downturn in temperatures here in the UK this Bank Holiday weekend, I simply won't be able to leave this batch alone. So come on friends, let's transport our taste buds to Italy!

(Ideally you will need an ice-cream maker for this recipe - I used a Panasonic model but there are heaps of choices on Amazon).

750ml Milk (full fat)
6 Egg yolks
120g Caster sugar
100 Plain chocolate

How to make:
Begin by boiling the milk in a saucepan before removing from the heat and placing to one side. Break the chocolate into pieces and then gently melt this in a heatproof bowl over boiling water, adding a couple of spoonfuls of the milk. Once completely melted, pour the chocolate into the boiled milk and stir well.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until you have a light and fluffy consistency. Gradually whisk this into the chocolate mixture and place on a low heat, repeatedly stir until this resembles a thick chocolatey mixture.

Leave to cool before adding to an ice-cream maker to freeze as per the manufacturer's instructions.

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