Thursday, 30 January 2014

been to: afternoon tea at W Hotel

Yesterday Stacey and I dipped into the W Hotel in Leicester Square for afternoon tea.  W Hotel has been on our 'to-do' list for an age so it was great to finally go.  The cakes arrived on a gold disk cake stand and each one was seriously delicious, my favourite was the blueberry Battenberg which I'll be trying to replicate at home sometime soon.  

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

been baking: Layered Rainbow Cake

Rainbow coloured layer cakes always look impressive but are actually relatively easy in terms of baking, the base recipe is just a simple Victoria Sponge.  That's not to say that we haven't had any disasters with it; the first time we tried it was more cement coloured than rainbow and the icing curdled from over-mixing.  You live and learn.  This time, instead of standard food colouring we used gel colouring, which was far more vibrant and instead of the usual six small layers we made four larger layers; it is far more manageable making only four cakes.  I also find it a too rich with icing in-between each layer so we swapped the icing with jam.

The Cake
400g caster sugar 
400g butter
400g eggs (or roughly 6 large eggs)
400g self-raising flour
4 tsp baking powder  
4 tsp vanilla extract
400g raspberry jam
4 gel food colouring

Cream the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla and give the mixture a last blitz until smooth.  Finally fold in the baking powder and flour with a spatula.  Split the mixture into four equal parts and add a different colour to each bowl.  Cook each of the four cakes for about 25 minutes.  Once cooled, spread jam over the top of three of the layers and build up the cake, the fourth layer should go on the top.  

The Icing
200g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
250g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter and vanilla, then add the cream cheese and icing sugar a bit at a time until thick but spreadable.  Cover the whole cake with a thin layer of icing and then put in the fridge for 20 minutes, this should harden the icing slightly and allow you to slather on the rest of the icing without the jam or any crumbs seeping through.  

Sunday, 26 January 2014

been seeing: Blurred Lines, The Body of an American

In a short 70 minutes Blurred Lines (The Shed, 20th January) brilliantly weaves a collage of brief sketches detailing everyday sexism. Largely devised by the cast, it ends up sounding unnervingly accurate and meshes the less obvious, throwaway sexist remarks found in the workplace with the truly horrific reality of violent assaults, showing them to all be endemic of the same problem. The real stand-out scene is at the end; an outrageous, staged Q&A with a dominant male director and timid female cast member that perfectly puts it all into perspective.

Another short play that lithely explores a myriad of ideas is The Body of an American (The Gate, 25th January, matinee). On the surface it is a conversation between playwright Dan O'Brien and Photojournalist Paul Watson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his photo of the body of an American soldier and is left haunted by the soldier in every sense. A three year email exchange culminates in an Arctic meeting and Dan and Paul find an unexpected commonality. The result is a complex play full with the idea of guilt, consequence, loneliness, family, duty, and otherness.

Monday, 20 January 2014

been to: bowling

At the top of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre you'll find a delightfully old bowling alley. This isn't one of those deliberately designed retro bowling alleys, this is the real thing; a relic from the 90s that has somehow survived redevelopment (I still haven't recovered from my local Megabowl closing down). It's one of my favourite places in London and it still only costs £4.50 for a game. See CE, who totally blitzed all other opponents.  That's me.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

been seeing: American Psycho

Headlong's new musical American Psycho (Almeida, 17th January) is icy slick; brash 80s synth soundtrack, sharp movement and sudden flashes of shocking red light all create a soullessness that is chillingly disturbing.  Any violence is represented through choreography and adds to the a feeling of detachment from reality that is brilliantly realised in Matt Smith's hollow and darkly funny Patrick Bateman.  What makes American Psycho all the better is the movement, crisp and precise and oddly mechanical, it sets the tone for everything else to come.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

been baking: Chocolate Cake

This is an old cake recipe I borrowed from my mum; it's very, very simple and delightfully 70s (the piping is a little nod to this). Originally it had a pure, double cream sandwich filling but I updated it a bit with a light chocolate butter cream icing.

The Cake
160g caster sugar
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp cocoa powder
75ml milk
100g butter
2 eggs, separated
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

Add 3tbsp of the sugar to a pan and heat gently, adding all the cocoa powder and water. Once the mixture has thickened and looks slightly silky take it off the heat, whisk in the milk and cool.

Mix the butter and the rest of sugar until creamy, then beat in the egg yolks and the cooled chocolate mixture.  Once the mixture is smooth add the baking powder and flour.  Finally beat the egg whites until they are thick and fold into the mixture.

The Icing
300g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
3 tbsp cocoa powder
40ml milk
20ml double cream

This is the easiest and most satisfying bit; pour all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add extra milk if the icing is looking a bit sad and dry, it'll soon pick up.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

been reading: 36 Hours

One of my favourite Christmas presents this year was 36 Hours. I love its pink, cloth-bound, flexible cover and pastel coloured divider ribbons, I love reading about and reminiscing over all the places I've been to, but most of I love delving into its pages and plotting my next adventure. But can you blame me, it's been raining for nigh-on six weeks flat.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Sunday, 5 January 2014

been seeing: Coriolanus, Strangers on a Train

I'm lucky enough to get to see a lot of theatre so I thought a little thing I would try this year is a one paragraph summary at the end of the week covering what I've seen, something like a little theatre diary of the year. I find watching performances a very unique and personal experience so it feels instinctively weird to commit my thoughts on it to type (I mean, who am I to comment) but what-ho, here goes, I even made a little photo thing to go with the post, things are getting serious...

Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse, 2nd Jan 2014, matinee) to start the New Year. A great, loud and angry way to return back to work, this one. Coriolanus is difficult, heavy for Shakespeare, bitter and unforgiving. Josie Rourke's version simmers, it feels modern but yet remains undeniably ancient, there’s a juxtaposing of age and time; fighting with swords and helicopters, we never change. Tom Hiddleston, in the title role, gives a huge, bloody, powerhouse of a performance.

Strangers on a Train (Gielgud, 4th Jan 2014, matinee) was a minor blip on the otherwise great theatre run that I’ve been having of late. Almost like a metaphor for the production itself, a huge, grey, revolving stage creaks, moans and slides its way through the performance. Background noise of driving cars and trains, along with moving images projected onto the back wall, presumably there to hide the scene changes, only emphasise the confusion. There is no discernible chemistry between Laurence Fox and Jack Huston and no real drama to speak of. It’s all sadly lacklustre.