With the clocks going forward this weekend, I thought it fitting to look forward to some spring sunshine with the most yummy lemon cupcakes to fit!
They were insanely soft and squidgy, perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack!
I found the recipe online, but tweaked it to fit my ingredients and what I fancied!
You can’t really taste the ground almond, so don’t worry if you are not a fan. They just provide a great texture! The addition of oil in the recipe is also brilliant, as it makes the muffins last a little bit longer.
If, for some weird reason, you haven’t eaten them all by the time they start to go a bit stale, you can pop them in the microwave for a few seconds until they go soft again. As good as new!
You don’t have to use lemon! The recipe would be really good with any flavourings. For example, orange and milk chocolate would be a good alternative!
For the muffins:
275g plain flour
225g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
Zest of 2 lemons
20g white chocolate (grated) plus white chocolate chips
150ml semi-skimmed milk
100g unsalted butter (melted)
50ml sunflower or vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 vanilla extract
2 tbsp lemon juice
For the glaze:
4 tbsp lemon juice
50g golden caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6 and line a 12-hole tray with large cupcake or muffin cases.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl – sifted flour, caster sugar, almond, baking powder, lemon zest and white chocolate (or alternative flavours)
3. Beat the oil, eggs, vanilla extract, melted butter, milk and lemon juice (if using) together in a jug or bowl and pour over the previously combined dry ingredients.
4. Mix together until fully combined (be careful not the over-work the mixture)
5. Spoon equal quantities of the mixture into each of the 12 cake cases.
6. *Leave some batter in the bowl to eat while cakes are cooking* (optional, but in my opinion, vital)
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
8. Mix the golden caster sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and brush onto the tops of the cakes when they are warm and fresh out of the oven.
This is the best part.
The lemon juice absorbs into the sponge and the sugar crystallises to provide a sweet, almost glittery finish.
Wait for the muffins to cool a little and then enjoy!!
Needless to say, the world feels weird right now. It is full of a kind of uncertainty that I am pretty sure is new to all of us.
For me, the idea of being alone with my thoughts during this time is not one that excites me.
So, I thought I would share some things that I have found are helping to keep me occupied. Things that I am doing to “keep the Goblins away”, as my wonderful Grandpa used to say.
Keep a Diary
Something I have recently starting doing is keeping a daily diary. It is a really good way to wind down before going to bed and I have found that I no longer carry as many negative thoughts and feelings into the next day.
“Journalism is the first rough draft of history”
Philip L. Graham
This sums up perfectly one of the reasons that journalism is very important and is a field that I am very passionate about.
What a reporter documents today, becomes history tomorrow.
We are living through the biggest crisis of our generation. The number of people I have spoken to who, despite their varying ages, have all said that they have never experienced anything like this before is extraordinary.
As a result, another benefit of keeping a diary or journal during this time is that we are all have the power to document history. Whether you just decide to keep it private for you to show to your Grandchildren or you choose to write a book about your experiences and share it with the world at a later date, having your experiences during these days documented would be invaluable.
Now is the perfect time to do those things and learn those skills that you haven’t had the time to do.
I am using it to write more blog posts (hi!), to expand on my baking and cooking skills and to get some more exercise by doing videos and going for a walk each day. OH, and beat my Mum at a serious game of monopoly.
As much as I love journalists, and believe that their work is vital, I also think that there is such a thing as too much news. Obviously it is important to stay informed, but try to limit the time spent watching the news and looking at your phone. It will do wonders for your mind, believe me.
It’s also easy to stay in your PJ’s all day because you won’t be seeing anyone. However, I have found it effective to keep doing my hair and makeup putting on my nice clothes each day.
So, put the Spotify playlist on loud, dance around and make a fool of yourself whilst getting ready and I can guarantee an improvement in your mood – even if it’s only temporary. (Please be careful with the mascara wand though!!)
Friends and Family
Another inevitable symptom of this self-isolation is desperately missing family and friends. I usually see my family much more than I am doing now, but we are staying apart in an effort to keep everybody safe.
Our family Whatsapp group has become very active of late. We have been taking part in a daily, very competitive ‘Kahoot’ quiz and daily phone calls, which are compensating for not being able to see each other.
It is also hard not being able to see your friends as often as usual, but use this time to reconnect with those you may have lost contact with and you will feel a lot less alone, and so will they.
I saw a advert by mental health charity CALM yesterday, that I thought was important to share. They teamed up with television channel Dave to deliver their #BeTheMateYoudWant campaign.
Although the charity aims are to bring attention to male mental health, this message is important for everyone.
Reach out to someone in the way you would want them to reach out to you. It doesn’t take long to just send them a text even, just to let them know that you’re there.
I spent the night before last on FaceTime with my best friend Khadijah who has just arrived home from travelling.
Although we have kept in touch, we haven’t had a proper catchup in ages.
So, we ‘met up for a drink’ the way we would in person, which just ended up being water as we were both very thirsty (hardcore, I know).
Before I knew it, a day that started off as being quite lonely ended with a long conversation that had heartfelt words and laughter in equal measure.
But even if you don’t get the response from someone that you were hoping for.
Before this lockdown, I spent 3 weeks at home alone with Scarlet Fever and really needed people. These tough times really make you assess your relationships, work out what is important and has definitely shown who I can rely on.
During this time, it is important to stay positive, stay grateful, abide by the rules and a time that we can all get together again will arrive sooner than we think.
I have had the pleasure of being able to travel to this wonderful city, with wonderful people, food and architecture on 3 occasions over the past few years.
Unfortunately, I have had my planned trip for April cancelled due to the Coronavirus – forcing me to sit and reminisce sadly.
Looking to the future with optimism, I thought I would do an ultimate travel guide for anyone contemplating heading to Barcelona when this period of uncertainty comes to an end.
The things that I love:
All of the SIGHTS
The first thing that I would definitely recommend during your time in Barcelona is to do a hop-on hop-off bus tour. These take you to all of the must-see sightseeing spots of the city.
Whether you want to listen to the audio guide that comes along with the tour, or just absorb the sights and sounds – the choice is yours.
The tours start from Plaza de Catalunya in the heart of the city and you can ride the bus as many times as you like during your ticket’s validity – including at night after it has gone dark.
One of my highlights during my last trip to Barcelona with the girls was getting the bus as the sun was setting and travelling around the city, witnessing the floodlit ‘Sagrada Famillia’ against the jet black sky.
The famous main street of La Rambla does not disappoint. It is a bustling place that leads from the main square all the way to the marina and beach.
The middle of the wide street is full of wonderful market stalls and street performers. However, for me, the highlight has to be the trees that line it. A top tip would be to look out for the faces carved into the trunks. Each artistically makes use of the unique features of each of the trees, which make them the simplest, yet humourous and unexpected sight.
If you are prepared for quite a walk, you must check out Parc Guell, another of Gaudi’s masterpieces. The tour bus drops you off at the bottom of a steep backstreet, at the end of which, you will reach the most beautiful park.
You can purchase tickets to tour Gaudi’s house and museum, but there are many areas of the attraction that can be accessed for free.
As you walk through beautiful arches, you can hear musicians playing traditional Spanish music, really getting you into that holiday spirit. From the highest point, views of the entire city are exquisite, even the iconic Arts Hotel on the coast can be seen.
One of the best aspects of Barcelona is that you can transform your holiday from city to beach in no longer than 10 minutes.
Barcelona’s stretches of sandy coastline are beautiful, with the modern and stylish W Barcelona Hotel can be seen from every angle.
Just a word of warning if you don’t already know, the beaches of Barcelona are often frequented by nudists. (An unexpected surprise I wish we had been made aware of!)
This one is on my to-do list.
By far the highest point in the city, Mount Tibidabo is a prominent feature of Barcelona’s skyline.
The beautiful ‘Disney Princess Castle’ can be seen sitting in the distance at the end of every street in the city centre. Accessible by tram, bus or by foot, you can visit the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with relative ease.
Tibidabo is also home to an amusement park at an altitude of 500 metres above sea level. In operation for over 100 years, it has 25 rides for the whole family to enjoy.
2. All of the FOOD
The best waffle I have ever had came from Goofretti’s, a small dessert shop with several locations across the city. Bubble waffles, chocolate taps, strawberries…divine!
The marina is a dream. A holiday to Barcelona isn’t complete without visiting one of the of beautiful seafood restaurants along the harbour, where I had the most amazing seafood paella.
In view of the devastating coronavirus which is sadly going to stop anyone from visiting those wonderful restaurants in the near future, I have spent some of my time at home this week attempting to recreate the dish for my family. It was by no means as good as eating it in bustling Barcelona – but it was fun to make and very tasty!
Look out for my paella recipe that I will be uploading soon to help you bring some Barcelona into your home!
3. All of the SHOPS
If you have seen my previous blog about my favourite beauty products, you will already know the love I have for Sephora – the ultimate beauty store. I visited 4 Sephora stores in the centre of Barcelona (as you can imagine, I was in heaven), but the most wonderful store of them all in my opinion is the one in El Triangle shopping centre on Placa de Catalunya.
You enter the store via a slide (need I say more?), plummeted into a huge store full of all your favourite makeup and beauty brands! There is also the conventional escalator (but why would you?!)
My second trip to this Sephora store was Halloween, and I was amazed to see all of the people who work in the store in fancy dress as ‘Game of Thrones’ characters. Their makeup and costumes were magnificent and really added to the atmosphere in the store – especially when they all got together to perform a dance to ‘Thriller‘.
The Gothic Quarter is a beautiful area of the city. The streets surrounding the Gothic Cathedral are lined with smaller, more quaint, local shops where you can really find something different to take home.
Finally, Happy Pills! The most incredible pick ‘n’ mix you will ever see! Situated in a tiny, clinically white and fluorescent store, Happy Pills allows you to fill little medicine jars or cones with your favourite sweets (all arranged according to colour, may I add) and choose a cute label and picture for the front.
The novelty of ‘Happy Pills’ is just perfection!
Wherever you are, please keep safe and hopefully we can all get to a healthy and happy Barcelona soon 🙂
Baking has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. As a child I must admit I was drawn to it mainly because it involved eating a lot of the ingredients along the way!
Now, I’d been lying if I said that was a habit I’d grown out of! However, baking and cooking means so much more to me today. There is something so therapeutic about being in the kitchen after a stressful week, watching back-to-back episodes of ‘Friends‘ while pretending you’re Mary Berry.
Some of my most treasured memories are of making cakes for my family members for their birthdays and celebrations and due to my cousin’s gluten intolerance, I started to use a Gluten Free recipe. However, I have found that it has stood the test of time and it is now the recipe I use most often, regardless of who I am making a cake for.
It is super simple and easy to follow, and very versatile. You can use it to make one big cake or each batch will make around 12 cupcakes.
125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
125g Gluten-Free self raising flour
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon glycerine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius and either line a 12-hole cupcake tray or grease a cake tin.
2. Weigh the butter and place in the microwave until melted
3. This recipe uses the all-the-one method, so then all you need to do is mix all the weighed ingredients together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
4. Once mixed, transfer the mixture evenly into the cupcake cases or as desired into your cake tin.
5. Place in the preheated oven for 18 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
You can have a little bit of fun with the recipe!
To make chocolate cakes you can substitute 20g of flour for cocoa powder.
Add a generous amount of food colouring to the mixture to make rainbow cake!
Any type of frosting suits these Vanilla cakes well. For simplicity, I often used whipped cream mixed with a little bit of icing sugar.
But you can use buttercream, cream cheese frosting or whatever is your favourite!