A free Hummingbird (or three)

This time last year I compiled a post in which I waxed lyrical about my love of high quality cupcakes and the Hummingbird Bakery, so it seemed appropriate that last night I should enjoy an evening’s free champagne drinking and cupcake eating courtesy of them.

It’s all thanks – rather randomly – to Twitter. God bless Twitter!
At some point last week the Hummingbird Twitter account invited its followers to share their dream cupcake flavour, to which I replied:
Devil’s food chocolate cake (with white & dark choc chips), soft meringue frosting & just a touch of silver glitter. Mmmmmm.

Mmmmmmm indeed. Some may recognise that this flavour had a certain amount of inspiration from my all-time favourite Magnolia Bakery creation (honestly, sometimes I do dream about that cake), albeit with added chocolate chips and sparkle. 
Anyway, my tweet worked and I was given two invitations to their Christmas preview evening at their new Spitalfields branch (I have now officially been to all the Hummingbirds, what an achievement!). Also thanks to Twitter, I acquired a wonderful friend’s company for the evening – someone I don’t get to see often – so it was a great combination of cake, friends and champagne. 
On to the cakes… Hummingbird have seasonal daily specials and what we were getting to sample were their Christmas season. On offer were the following: 
Photo from here. (Click to view larger.) 

I was doubly pleased to be part of the experience as last year I managed to epically fail to get hold of any of the specials – having now sampled three of them, I’ve got a head-start on this year’s! We had a Chocolate Orange and Candy Cane between the pair of us – the Candy Cane one winning the prize for appearance. The Chocolate Orange had an uncanny ability to make a mess, getting frosting all over my face and half-way down my arm. It seems that there is no lady-like way to consume a cupcake when holding a glass of champers in one hand and cake in the other, while stood in a crowded shop. (Pleasingly, there are no photos of my chocolate covered face.) 
 From top left: Chocolate Orange, Candy Cane, Christmas Pudding, Snowflake
In addition to the special flavours, there were also some incredibly sweetly decorated vanilla and chocolate cupcakes – our particular favourite being the aquamarine confection with sparkly snowflakes above. We consumed a special each, did some catching up in the evening sun outside the shop (I was amused to spot staff from the nearby Fitness First handing out leaflets encouraging the cupcake eaters to join the gym) and then noticed that we could take some cakes home too. 
The Christmas Pudding and Snowflake cupcakes were shared at work this morning and made me a popular lady (well, except for the colleague who was in a meeting at the point at which they were circulated). I’m happy to report that the pudding cupcake was nothing like I thought it would be – I’m not the biggest fan of the festive dessert – instead, it turned out to be a light fruitcake with frosting that didn’t overwhelm it. There was nothing but good things said about the chocolate snowflake cupcake either. My colleagues are really going to miss me… 
Continuing this week’s Hummingbird theme, tonight and tomorrow I will be baking two varieties of their cupcakes with which to feed friends at Saturday’s birthday tea party. It seems only appropriate that the week of a big birthday has seen a lot of cake consumption! 

Making noise (and cake) on a Friday

As I am back at work, there is no escaping the fact that today should be the first Friday Fun day of 2011. My Friday revolves around two things (ok, three – if you include work) – firstly, that this weekend’s the London A Cappella Festival and I’m off to see the Office Choirs of the Year (including my singing chum Annabelle) perform with the fabulous Swingle Singers tonight. Secondly, Friday is cake eating day.

So, the first bit of fun is something to watch, listen to and try out for yourself. It could become a bit of a new year’s project for you. In the previously mentioned T Mobile ‘Welcome Home’ advert, the Swingles (and other similarly talented a cappella people) demonstrated a variety of their skills. Subsequently, the producers of the ad decided to produce a few videos showing these skilled people trying to pass on their talent to (of all people) The Hoff.

First up, we have Jo demonstrating a vocal violin:

Then we have Tobi teaching The Hoff how to sound like a muted trumpet:

There are a few other (non Swingle) lessons, including ‘gorilla bass’, and beatboxing. There’s got to be one of those that captures your attention – surely?

If you’re really not interested in making weird noises with your vocal chords, could I interest you in some cake? Over the holidays I discovered a considerable number of new blogs (it’s amazing what you’ll read when lying in bed with only your laptop for company). One that’s proved to be a mouth watering hit is The Caked Crusader, a blog of recipes for all levels and palettes. Its most recent post tickled me so much that I figured it could count as fun enough for Friday.

Yes, the recipe in question is for a prune cake, but I was less interested in the cake and more intrigued by the recipe book it had been found in. Entitled What’s Cookin’?: A Teen Age Cookery Book, it appears to be something of a 1940s gem, combining Enid Blyton escapades with Mrs Beeton and etiquette lessons. The photo below gives something of an indication of the book’s content, but do check out the original post to hear more gems from its pages.

One final cake tip, faithful friend the Hummingbird Bakery launched a new daily specials range last week – reviving some old favourites. As I’ve been on a post-flu recovery diet I felt entitled to two cupcakes in five days, and can therefore recommend both Friday’s Pumpkin Spice and Tuesday’s Nutella – especially the latter, as it has a gooey Nutella centre. Yum.

What’s better than one large cupcake?

Several small ones of course!

From left to right: 
Vanilla with Coconut frosting; Peanut Butter & Jelly; Oreo; and Double Chocolate

I may love cupcakes, but I have a small confession to make. Sometimes a whole normal sized one is just a little too much – especially in the frosting department. Also, when confronted with an array of choice in a bakery, one looks a little like a pig (ok, a lot like a pig) if you’re on your own and buy more than one, without looking as if you’re bestowing a bountiful gift upon someone.

This is where Lola’s bakery scores extra brownie points. All its cupcakes are available in miniature (and at half the price) meaning you can taste two cupcakes for the price of one and not look like a greedy farm animal. Personally, it also gains an advantage by having a branch within walking distance of the office, in Selfridge’s Food Hall.

Half a vanilla coconut – check out the sparkles! 

Purchasing four of these beauties was a ‘friend coming to stay for a sleepover’ treat on Friday. Unfortunately friend’s train was delayed by over two and a half hours, so the cakes got left at the office until after we’d finished a meeting there on Saturday afternoon. (Yes, I spent my Saturday at my office and no, I wasn’t getting paid for it.) Unfortunately, by this time we were joined by two other friends, so we felt obliged to share. On the plus side, it meant we ate the equivalent of one small cupcake yet got to taste two flavours.

Post-cupcake carnage

In other cupcake news (given as it’s still National Cupcake Week), Hummingbird have this evening announced their new daily specials range, based on American sodas. I now have an additional excuse to take a walk along Wardour Street in the near future… 

Wax on – wax off

The other day Facebook friends may have been bemused/intrigued to see the following message from Annabelle on my wall: “Roll on Sunday’s ‘Strip’!”
It gave the slightly misleading impression that I might be getting naked on the Sabbath – not something I’d generally consider, even on non-Sabbath days – when in fact all we were doing was crossing off another item on the original 2010 Firsts list.

Yesterday I got waxed for the first time.
Fear not – there will be no graphic descriptions and it was legs only. A was off on holiday (to an actual hot country, jealous!) and invited me along to her pre-vacation stripping of unnecessary hair. If that’s not a fun way to spend a Sunday morning, I don’t know what is…

Worst thing about waxing? No, not the pain – yes, it hurt a bit but really wasn’t that bad and my therapist (is it just me, or does that word seem slightly odd in this context?) kept me amused with conversation while the TV played ‘Top 10 Geeky Rock Tunes’. [A niche musical genre I think you’ll agree. Wheezer’s Teenage Dirtbag was #1, in case you were wondering.] The worst thing is the pre-waxing purgatory of hairy legs…

I know having hair-free legs is total vanity and it really shouldn’t matter whether we de-fuzz or not, but in current society it is totally unacceptable to be furry. Leggings were something of a saviour, though I realised that they finished a good inch or two above where my follicles stopped. [Note from my waxing therapist: Dorothy Perkins do really long ones that are excellent for this purpose.] Wearing long jogging bottoms at the gym was a total pain, given the fact that exercise is generally rather warming. Ahhhhh, the trials of womanhood.

Am I converted? I’m not sure, it’s an expensive way to keep fur-free, though massively time saving. Twenty minutes every few weeks instead of 10mins every other day? That’s a good exchange. Just not sure I can justify the price-tag that goes with it!

After our experience at Strip (the aptly named location of our waxing fun) we rewarded ourselves in the only logical fashion – with cupcakes from the Hummingbird branch down the road. Perfection.

The ‘after’ shot – not so plucked chicken…
(Be grateful I’m sparing you a ‘before’ shot. Gross!)

Black Bottom cupcakes on the street. It’s not classy, but it is yummy. 

Things I like: Cupcakes

Yes, this is a bit of an obvious one. But this particular post is a shout-out [did I actually just say ‘shout-out’? ho hum…] to the Hummingbird Bakery*.

On last year’s trip stateside, I got a bit of a taste for the gourmet cupcake. Back home I imagined I wouldn’t manage to taste anything like as good as Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet or Devil’s Foodcake (with meringue frosting) creations. I was proved wrong once I’d finally located Hummingbird. Now it’s become a dangerous obsession and I increasingly find myself in the vicinity of its Soho branch and, if in the vicinity, it would be a shame not pay a visit – wouldn’t it?

Thanks to Mim giving me the gift of cupcakes (i.e. the recipe book) at Easter, I can now bake pretty decent red velvets myself – but if I want decent frosting I still have to go to the store. Plus, who doesn’t want a gorgeous cupcake in an equally beautiful package? (Single cupcakes come in a lovely little box with a metal handle, aesthetic and functional.)

They’re also the ultimate feel better treat. On a couple of occasions in recent months when I’ve gone on very long, introspective walks through central London, popping in for a cake has cheered me up. [Classic moment on one of these walks: walking back along Wardour Street with a single cupcake box swinging from my hand and tears drying on eyelashes, a goth sat on the wall of a churchyard yells out to me “cheer up! I’m the goth – you should be smiling”. Smile I did. Bless him.]

Plus, their range changes regularly. Red Velvets and the awesome Black Bottom cupcakes are usually in stock, but their daily specials change seasonally. At the moment it’s a floral theme, which may sound unappetising, but I can assure you that the Jasmine one I sampled a couple of weeks ago was exceedingly yummy.

Oh, and the final great thing about Hummingbird? I get to introduce my friends and family to it whenever they’re in town…

Jules was simply delighted by her first taste of a Black Bottom cupcake

One more thing: cupcakes are great for birthdays as I intend to demonstrate at my belated and extremely civilised birthday afternoon tea on Sunday. Did I mention that my birthday’s coming up?

*Other cupcake manufacturers are available!