Christmas is fast approaching … and my December diary is getting pretty hectic. I love Christmas, not just because I get two weeks break from my day job but I get to spend more time with family and friends. Pretty much just eating and having a giggle with some of the most awesome people on this planet. That is the best bit about Christmas. My Christmases are usually quiet … a couple of Christmas dinners here and there but most of the time just relaxing at home with a cup of tea and the tv guide. This year however, I seem to be a busy social bumblebee … my diary is jam packed with dinners, birthdays, more dinners, social gatherings and nights out. I’m just tired thinking about it. I don’t even know how it got so busy!
So, to kick of my festive season, I organised a little christmas dinner with some work friends last Thursday. I’ve worked with so many different people in my office over the years and some I have forged some life long friendships with some. So we decided to get together and have a little dinner after work. We chose a lovely local Indian restaurant called Saffron Kitchen which is in East London – Lea Bridge Road to be exact.
It’s quite a large restaurant, bright and spacious. The staff were very friendly and accomodating. We were given a little side room which was great … we could have a little giggle in peace. After settling down and ordering our food, we settled in to banter, laughter and general smiles all around.
The first thing I ordered for starters was DAHI PURI … I was a little scpetical of these … they were sweet yoghurt balls deep fried with a tamarind sauce. When you bite into the crispy batter, the yoghurt bursts into your mouth and then you get a hit of that tamarind sauce which has a slightly sweet note. It is meant to be eaten as a snack or a starter, but I can’t help but confuse my taste buds … they seem more like a dessert. They were an aquired taste, and I can’t say I enoyed them very much.
For my main I ordered my favourite LAMB BIRIYANI with a side of NAAN.
I just love lamb biryani. I’m not a spicy kind of gal so I can’t take to too much chillis in my food. I have a very sensitive tongue. So for me, lamb biryani just hits the spot as it’s not too spicy. I find that different restuarants make the biryani differently (as does all food I guess). I found this lamb biryani on the dry side. Some places that I have ordered biriyani from, they serve the dish with a side of sauce. Not here, they served it with a little raita, so I didn’t enjoy it very much.
What I found really surprising, was that they didn’t have any traditional Indian desserts on their menu. They had things like sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream … I really wanted to eat something like gulab jamun or a lovely kulfi. No such luck. It was a bit disappointing so I skipped dessert and had a hot chocolate instead (which was lacking a squirt or two of whipped cream or marshmallows). So all in all, the verdict for this restuarant? I’d give it a 6/10.
Set aside the meal, the evening with my ladies was lovely. It was great to catch up with people. Although we work in the same building we don’t get to sit and talk to each other very often … we pass each other in the corridor and just manage a quick “hi” before rushing off to get back to work. It was lovely to reconnect again.
Onward to the weekend …
There is one thing that I look forward to so much during the festive season … and that is my annual karaoke reunion with some of my best buddies. Every Christmas me and my dear friends get together to enjoy some food, drinks, merriment and of course some karaoke. To be honest, my friends just indulge me and let me sing the night away because I love it so much. They become my audience. By the way … in case you were wondering, no I do not have a good singing voice. Our venue of choice is the Sichuan restuarant in Greenwich, London. The food there is lovely and service is great. They have about half a dozen private karaoke rooms that can be hired for private little parties..
So this particular year, our annual reunion falls on my friends birthday. So I decided to make him a birthday cake to celebrate. The theme of this cake is poker as he loves a bit of card action. He’s actually going to Las Vegas soon to play the tables so the theme of this cake is perfect.
Firstly, I covered my cake board using a wood patterned embosser. This gave the cake board a lovely ‘wood’ effect.
I baked my vanilla sponges and made my chocolate ganache and allowed them to cool.
After making my Swiss meringue buttercream, I stacked, filled and covered my sponges. I added some strawberry jam in between each layer for an extra bit of yumminess.
The next step is to ganache my cake to ensure nice smooth sides and sharp edge ready for it to be covered in fondant.
I coloured some fondant with some green and brown food colour paste. I used the panelling method to cover my cake. I prefer the panelling method over the traditional method as it’s alot easier, faster and gives a clean and smoother finish.
I made some poker chips by rolling out some coloured fondant, then using a round cutter (I used a piping nozzle here) to cut out some round disks – these will be the poker chips.
I made poker chips in various different colours: white, black, red, green and blue. I then used a smaller piping nozzled to make a smaller indent in the middle of the poker chip.
With some white fondant, I rolled it out as thin as possible and cut little rectangles. Six of these are then evenly stuck to the poker chips as shown in the picture above.
With the same white fondant, I rolled it out to about 2mm thick, then using an actual playing card, I used it as a template and cut around it to make some fondant card shapes. I then used some red edible paint to paint on the numbers and shapes of the playing cards. In this cake, I used Aces with the four playing card shapes: heart, diamond, spades and clubs. I used a very fine brush to do this as it had to be meticulously done.
Using edible glue, I carefully stuck the fondant cards together … I had to do this really carefully as I didn’t want to break the fondant.
I also used the edible glue to stick the poker chips in place on the cake and to stick the birthday boys name onto the cake too.
Such a simple, yet effect decorated cake. I made sure that I concentrated on perfecting the main features of the cake and not drown it in unnecessary decorations. I totally love it … and so did the birthday boy.
Hope you enjoy the rest of your week.
~ The Cake Lady xxx