Friday, 31 August 2012

Review: Betty Marshmallow

If you go down to Ely today... You will be sure of a big surprise... well, I was in shock anyway hehe... If, like me, you like cupcakes and all things good and naughty rolled into one, then you will also be pleased to hear that Ely city centre is finally home to a fabulous new cupcakery to rival the more traditional offerings of Peacocks Tea Room on the riverside : ) 

Betty Marshmallow opened in February 2012 and is tucked away just off the High Street on Chequers Lane in the cutest little building which just lends itself perfectly to the retro feel of the inside of the shop. Only closing on a Monday, it’s a rare treat locally to see such a great place open both days over the weekend, so ensure that you take advantage of this!

The shop, owned by the equally fun, lovely and crazy hair-coloured Jenny Laird, has been recommended to me by various people over the last month or two and I decided that whilst I was visiting the area it would be rude not to pop in and take advantage of a recent Facebook offer Jenny had been shouting about, which allowed me to treat my best friends to some stunning melt in the mouth cupcakes for dinner later that day. Needless to say, my friends loved me for them and due to the heat of the night, we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the garden drinking wine and sharing these beauties around the table.

Having a chat with Jenny, she was happily nattering away to me, telling me that she had done equally as much cake-based research lately (it’s a hard life, but some of us have to do it ; ) 
She decided to leave her management position with the worst company in the world (I could tackle that one with her, but I get where she is coming from haha) and go to work doing what she loves doing the most... baking

Jenny is so proud of her hard work and so she should be, this is the perfect fresh sandwich kitchen, offering a selection of fillings as well as healthier salads and other savouries, thick milkshakes, ice cream & cakes, cupcakes (individual, boxed or even in a bouquet!) & tray bakes. 
You can also sit outside in the shade of the building whilst enjoying a cuppa and a bite to eat. 
In fact, Jenny labels Betty Marshmallow as Ely's alternative to The Hummingbird Bakery and to be completely honest with you, it’s ten times better in my humble opinion!

Betty Marshmallow is quickly becoming famous for it’s cupcakes, with fillings such as rocky road, rainbow cupcakes, orange & almond, bubblegum, oreo, nutella, cherry bakewell, amaretto, vanilla & black cherry, cupcakes with pretty icing & vintage inspired decorations and my personal favourite - Jam & Peanut Butter, which is just the most delicious cupcake I have ever tried. 
The eggs used in Jenny’s baking are all free range eggs, as her own hens lay from time to time too, ex battery hens to be precise. If you go to their website, you will find a whole page dedicated to her beloved hens and how she came to home them : ) 
Jenny is very passionate about these hens and her vow to only use free range eggs actually gives you another reason to believe just how genuine she is and how she intends to run her business, I really respect her for this. 

They also stock a large range of cake and craft supplies, as well as small gifts and cake stands. I did in fact pick up some gorgeous recipe cards and a small shopping list pad for my fridge at a great price - who says food shopping has to be dull?!
Jenny is very much like myself in some ways, not only in bright hair colour choices, but also in supporting local business. She holds local cake makers cards and artwork for cakes that she might not be able to offer their customers herself, including my lovely friend Cakes by Cat who is deserving of the promotion for her beautifully hand made and individually designed creations. 

What I also love about Jenny and Betty Marshmallow is that there is no fakery. It’s friendly, yet polite and I don’t feel like I am being watched whilst I wander around and decide what I want to buy and this is the sign of a great cake eatery, as I detest being stared at whilst trying to decide. There is no pressure and that goes a long way, especially when the shop is busy and the girls are rushed off their feet... nothing is too much effort for them.

And remember, Betty Marshmallow isn’t all about the cupcakes... they also offer chocolate brownies, peanut butter blondies and celebration cakes from time to time, so just ask or pop in for a chat to find out what they are up to each week. Or keep updated on new creations through their fab Facebook or Twitter pages, which are regularly (and rather cruelly ; ) updated whilst I am at work and craving the sweet stuff. 

What are you waiting for?... 

Get your bum off that seat and drop into Betty Marshmallow to enjoy a sugar rush, like, now! 

Miss Sue Flay

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Baking On A Diet - I Need Your Support

I am about to say something that I'm very scared of making public, for some unknown reason.... So please be kind to me... I know you will...

I have always been a big girl... from school age really to being the chubby Maid of Honour or Bridesmaid (I am ashamed to say I am embarrased when I look back at the last few years especially : ( 
 My weight has always fluctuated, as you can see from the photos I'm going to share with you from the last 9 or 10 years.
(Some of which I never want to see myself anywhere near again and some others I aim to get back into shape in similar piccies for the future... It's going to happen this time, with some lengthy support from my friends, family & followers!

As you may or may not know, I have lived my life as Miss Sue Flay (Read it aloud if you haven’t yet got the name hehe ; ) for the last 2 years now. TWO YEARS!... Wow... I am shocked at myself for sticking at something for as long as this, as I am notorious for being the QUEEN of moving on quickly in everything I do...

I am beyond proud of what I have achieved with The Secluded Tea Party and the LOVELY people I have met and the friends I have made along the way (And still am meeting!) – it’s been beyond fun and I am having an absolute ball.

I have even challenged myself way beyond my own comfort zones the last few months and have filmed a couple of bits and bobs for television, it’s been so exciting, I could burst!... More to follow on those appearances shortly I hope, I just have to continue my little secrets a little bit longer, it’s killing me not being able to share it all with you  : )

The other thing that I have been fairly low key about over the last month or so is the fact that I am now admitting cake-based defeat and am currently doing the WeightWatchers plan in my local village. I am officially losing the 2 years worth of cake research I have piled on as my alter ego and I need a little more support to egg me on.

This is where you, my lovely blog and tea party followers come in.

I am on a mission to work off every single scone, cupcake, biscuit, tart, finger sandwich, meringue, swiss roll, layer cake, brownie, flapjack, tiffin, trifle, cookie and the endless list of other naughty treats that I have baked and sampled throughout my afternoon tea adventures for hosting and writing/blogging purposes.

My colleagues in my day job are predominantly men, with a love of doughnuts and I have a staff tuck shop literally sat on my desk, which I help to tempt people to fundraise for our chosen charity. I really don’t mind, in fact it’s potentially helping me to see it all day so I don’t crave it, but I fear I may crumble one of these days if I forget my little packed lunch of healthier treats...

I have been one naughty girl over the last couple of years, taste testing all my beautiful afternoon tea menus (all gorgeous, naturally ; ) and I have finally admitted it and reached the cakey wall.
I have vowed to only sample a piece of cake in all its naughtiness once a month for research purposes, for my magazine columns or blog reviews (I will have to see how that goes, but currently on track in doing just this... ; )

I have started baking more healthy desserts & sweet treats and enjoyed the summer excuse for sorbets, frozen yoghurts and healthier versions of cheesecakes, even a summer fruits terrine with jelly to make me feel like a kid again... they were all delicious recipes and didn’t make me feel that I was on a strict diet at the events I made them for. 

In fact, who knows, one day I may even look to host a weightwatchers afternoon tea party hehe... now that would be a great little challenge! I wonder if my weightwatchers meeting would be game for coming along to a one-off event in which I bake low pro-point foods but still taste and look amazing... now there is a challenge in itself, to actually ask them!...

... I haven't actually discussed with my fellow groups members exactly what I do... I feel as though If I tell them that all I do is surround myself with temptation, it may either go very badly for me and their thoughts towards me... or it may well go the other way and get them craving the sweet stuff if they like cake and afternoon tea as much as I do ; ) 
So I haven't yet admitted to them who I am in the shadows of my life, or what I make behind those secret closed doors... Not yet anyway. 


... I think this through every week and my one goal (apart from being fitter and healthier of course) is to watch myself on the television in the winter, when my Afternoon Tea expertise (*Cough Cough, Ahem* ; )  will be shown on BBC2's "Escape to the Country". 
The reason, other than this being my first real TV debut, is that I will be watching myself on this show at my heaviest set. I am a big girl, made of cake and scones (quite literally lately). HOWEVER, whilst I am sat, perched nervously on the edge of my sofa at that point, I will be slimmer and even more beautiful and I will be able to say *Gosh, Wasn't I big?!* instead of *Gosh, AREN'T I big?!"

That will be the proudest moment of 2012.... and I cannot wait to see what 2013 will bring, in all my skinnier glory... And, believe it or not, I am actually ENJOYING my diet. I am eating lots of healthy food, more food in fact than I would usually be eating, just the right stuff (NOT rocket science) and getting outside to exercise more, be it a bike ride, a game of squash or walking my lively pup, which I just adore doing - It all makes a world of difference : )
Even just adding a few terrible dance moves to my baking routine, instead of standing still, I rock out to the dulcet tones of AC/DC or The Foo Fighters whilst baking my Victoria Sponge - My neighbors must think I'm barmy hehe.

Please do support me, mostly by not getting upset if I turn down a slice of cake and only seen to be sipping politely on a cup of Earl Grey, it's NOTHING personal and I will personally be going through some tough decisions when turning down a delicious treat in exchange for another banana or Pink Lady apple.... but trust me, when you see me at The Secluded Tea Party next year, you will not recognise me, thinking only that your afternoon tea Hostess has been chopped in for a younger and even more stunning model ; ) 

I have to say, between starting off this blog post & finishing it, I have found out that my baking idols, The Hairy Bikers (Who got me baking in the first place with their STUNNING scone recipes - no lie!) are now also on a weight loss challenge themselves, their book is on it's way in the post to me as I type and I cannot wait to get cooking some of their skinnier versions of British classics, including their pasta-free lasagne which is on tonight's menu in the Flay household. 
I have seen photos of their success so far & they look incredible!.... 
Si & Dave, I salute you - Keep up the GREAT WORK xx

If you fancy supporting me, then don't be afraid to drop me a line, I am open to ideas, challenges, ideas and just a chat over a slimline drink if you fancy helping me on my weight loss journey... Just leave me a message below or contact me in the many different ways at the top of this blog...

Miss Sue Flay

Monday, 6 August 2012

Recipe: Strawberry Shortbread Dessert

After seeing some inspiration for pastels and strawberry desserts online over the weekend, I was craving a little pick me up that was easy to make, yet BEYOND delicious to satisfy my sweet cravings. So this little afternoon tea treat was just the ticket.

I had been having a good old poke around through my new baking books, of which I have many that I haven’t yet used, feeling more and more inspired (and hungry for sugar!) the deeper I delved. However, In the end, I just couldn’t resist this simple all butter shortbread recipe from the Good Food website, good old BBC as always : )

I did think to myself that after all these ridiculously fancy recipes I had been flicking through they just didn’t match this perhaps, too simple recipe, of which did slightly bore me on this particular day. Sometimes a biscuit is just that, a biscuit... am I right?!

So I decided to turn my shortbread biscuits into fun heart shapes and make them the base for a beautiful and summery dessert instead...

I added a sweet whipped cream and fresh strawberries to the biscuits and layered them to make a dessert to rival most simple supermarket sweet fixes, it is perfect as a show stopper for a dinner party, even as a pudding for a BBQ (come rain or shine, come on, this IS England!) or just to store in the fridge and nibble on as and when you fancy a quick sweet fix in front of the TV with your fave show or a quick *healthy*- ahem!... and filling treat whilst cheering on our beloved Olympians for the next week or so...! It lasts a couple of days at most, due to the fresh cream in the mix, however I am pretty sure if your household is anything like mine, they won’t last past the day you make them hehe.

Shortbread Recipe: 

125g Unsalted Butter (at room temp works best)
55g Caster Sugar
180g Plain Flour (sifted) 
300ml Double Cream
4* Tablespoons Icing Sugar *(Approx) 
200g Fresh Strawberries


Heat the oven to 190*c/Gas Mark 5 (Does anybody still use Gas Marks?!...) 

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth, then stir in the flour to get a smooth paste (this doesn’t take too long or too much work to achieve). Turn on to a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is 1cm/Half inch thick. 

Cut into good sized rounds or any shape of your choice (I went for hearts : ) and place onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with icing sugar or granulated sugar and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes until firm. (If you have any leftover, you could make mini shortbreads instead of throwing away the excess... I added a few choc chips to mine to try and they were delicious!)

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (Mine took only 15 and still were a little more browner than I would have liked so my advice would be to check after 10 minutes, especially for smaller shapes) and then allow to cool on a wire rack. 

Once cool, you can take 3 biscuits per serving and make your Strawberry & cream filling. 

Simply whip the Double Cream (you want a soft peak to your cream, not too stiff) and add a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar to the cream, to sweeten it to your taste.

Get hold of one biscuit and spread a generous layer of the cream mix to the top.
Finely slice a punnet of strawberries and add a generous layer of slices to the cream layer on the biscuit. Add a thin spreading of cream to the underside of the next biscuit and place it cream-side down on top of the strawberries to sandwich them inside. 

Then for another messy bit... add a little more cream onto the top of the second biscuit, and some more strawberries, then finally a thin layer on the underside of the third biscuit which you can then press lightly onto the very top for the third (and last) layer. 

If you want to be vain for photographic purposes (like me ; ), perhaps dust a little icing sugar on the very top and add a sliced strawberry, fanned across the top of your dessert for your viewing pleasure. 

Now stop faffing and go and enjoy eating this gorgeous, yet simple afternoon tea treat...

Miss Sue Flay 

NB. This shortbread recipe found at BBC Good Food website (the Strawberries & Cream filling has been made up by myself and added to make this more than just a biscuit : )