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Thursday 28 March 2013

MaltEaster Cupcakes

As Mini Mouse reported last Friday, for the last couple of weeks I've been confined to my sickbed with only Season 5 of Gossip Girl and extra strong pain killers for company... When I finally managed to remove my onesie and leave the flat for some fresh air, I decided an exciting excursion to the supermarket was in order. En route to the healthy, immune system boosting section, I happened to pass the Easter chocolate and bam! - all thoughts of vitamins and good stuff out of the window - my MaltEaster addiction was reignited...

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you really haven't lived, get yourself to a shop immediately and pick yourself up an Easter bunny shaped slab of Malteser amazingness... 

The thing about seasonal chocolate is that you know that it's only going to be about for a short time. This incites in me a deranged need to eat as much of it as I possibly can before it's taken away from me for another year (not ideal just before my Easter beach break). Fellow addicts, you'll probably have already cottoned onto the fact that Maltesers have now also added some teeny, tiny, baby bunnies to the MaltEaster range - yup, whole bags of them! Too sweet not to snap up, I popped a pack into my basket and let's just say they didn't last much beyond the till...

Another downside of being sick was the fact that I was tucked up in bed all last weekend which meant missing out on the biggest party weekend in the Hong Kong calendar - the Rugby Sevens. Despite the fact that I wasn't planning to head to the rugby, I had big plans for a big boozy brunch with all my favourite girls and I was super sad to miss out.

Feeling very sorry for myself and figuring that I was saving thousands of calories by not drinking six bottles of champagne and twenty five cocktails with the girls, I decided that a bit of baking might cheer me up. Having had MaltEasters on the brain for a couple of days, I thought that a bit of Easter baking with mini MaltEasters as the star of the show would be a fantastic idea (and a great excuse for nibbling a few stray bunnies while I baked...).

After a little scoot around Pinterest, a few baking blogs and a couple of recipe books I concocted a little recipe, compiled a shopping list and headed back to the supermarket. An hour later and I was back home with a ridiculous amount of malty chocolatey things... 

This was just a fraction of my loot. 

Ingredients bagged, I began to lay everything out before having a little panic as I realised that I hadn't really got much clue what to do next. The last time I'd baked cakes, they were butterfly cakes, I was seven, and I was strictly on icing duty... Grabbing a restorative MaltEaster I steadied myself before having a little laugh about what I'd have said two years ago if someone had told me I'd be baking Easter cupcakes over Sevens weekend rather than drinking Pimms in the South Stand while wearing fancy dress...

But I have to say that I actually thoroughly enjoyed it! A couple of hours later I'd successfully managed to produce twenty seven mini cupcakes all ready to bundle up and send out as little Easter gifts. 

If you fancy making yourself a batch this weekend, you will need...

For the Cupcakes
90g pack of Maltesers
75g of chocolate Ovaltine (or other malted milk powder)
300g plain flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
375g of unsalted butter (make sure you whip this out of the fridge in advance so that it's room temperature)
200g muscavado sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
240ml single cream

For the Icing
440g of unsalted butter
900g of icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
4-6 tablespoons of double cream
90g pack of Maltesers

For the Final Touch
6 packs of Mini MaltEasters (probably advisable to buy a couple of extra bags too just in case...)

And here's what you do with all that lovely butter, sugar and malty chocolate...

First up the cupcakes:

Get your oven on and getting nice and toasty at around 180C. The first step's great if you're feeling a little stressed - grab a ziplock bag, empty your Maltesers in (that's Maltesers, NOT MaltEasters), seal the top of the bag and find yourself something bashy... 

Bashy thing in hand, set about smashing the Maltesers into smithereens...

Tip the Maltesers' dust into a bowl together with the Ovaltine, the flour, the baking powder and the salt - set aside.

Next up, cream your butter and sugar together. This step is much easier if you have a electric whisk, sadly I don't, cue very achey arms... If you're stupid like me, you'll have forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge before you start and you'll be faced with an even more Herculean task. Panic not, you can save your arms a little by grating the butter into your mixing bowl.

Once the butter and sugar is light and fluffy add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture well after you add each one. Add the vanilla and beat the mixture a bit more. Now alternately add spoonfuls of the dry ingredients that you set aside earlier and spoonfuls of the single cream while all the while beating the mixture. By now your arms should be ready to fall off, but give the mixture one last stir just to make sure that its nice and smooth. 

Grab a baking tray and lay out your paper cupcake cases. Fill each case just a little over half full and pop the tray in the oven for 20 minutes (or until you can skewer the middle of a cake without any mixture sticking).  

Cakes done? Pull your baking tray out of the oven and put them on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile time to get your whipping arm at the ready again, it's time to make the icing... 

Put the butter and little pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and cream it until its light and fluffy. Now add the icing sugar about a cup at a time (make sure you sieve it to get rid of any lumps) and beat it into the butter. Once you've whipped in all the sugar, add the vanilla essence and beat some more... Now add the cream (start with four tablespoons and add more if the consistency isn't right) and you guessed it... beat your icing a little bit more!

Now it's time for a bit more bashing action. Grab your second pack of Maltesers and repeat the bashy ziplock bag trick (we're still talking Maltesers - do NOT bash your MaltEasters that would be very cruel). Add the decimated Maltesers to the icing and beat the lot once more - I promise this is the last of the beating, so give it all you've got...

Now for the fun part! You can either spoon the icing onto each cupcake and smooth it down with the back of your spoon or you can pipe it on. If you haven't got nozzles and piping bags and other clever baking kit, don't worry, grab another ziplock bag, spoon your icing in, zip it up and then snip off one of the corners - et voila the perfect icing piping bag!

Pipe swirls of icing onto each cake. The cupcakes I've seen on Pinterest are always super neat, mine were less so...

If your icing also falls into the messy camp, this is where your little MaltEaster buds come in... Free them from their little red packets and pop one on top of each iced cake.

And that's it! MaltEaster Cupcakes ready to yum up... ahem... I mean, to put in boxes all tied up with pretty ribbon ready to give to all your favourite people! 

And if these don't take your fancy (then you probably need to get your head checked but...), here are some other delicious looking Easter recipes that I've spotted around the blogosphere...

Image via:

Image via:

Image via:

And that's it for this week! 

We're all away for the long weekend so we're taking a little blog break. The London Mice are donning their Barbours and flat caps and heading down to Devon for the long weekend. I'm branching out beyond the supermarket and zipping off to Koh Samui for some recuperation in the sun (I may well be smuggling a few packs of MaltEaster mini bunnies...). Whatever your plans are, we hope you have a lovely long weekend and a very, very happy Easter!

The Mice

Wednesday 27 March 2013

New Shop Alert: '& Other Stories'...

If, like me, it's starting to get a little embarrassing answering every 'Where is your top from?' question with 'Zara', then '& other stories' might just be the answer to all your worries! 

Brought to us from the people behind H&M and COS, this new brand aims to provide lasting fashion at an affordable price. More luxurious than H&M, but with more variety than COS...sounds like a winning combination to us Mice! And for once we aren't years or even months delayed to receive it in London, along with the other fashion capitals of the world - Barcelona, Berlin, Milan, Paris and Stockholm, '& other stories' is just setting it's mark on the fashion scene with it's first seven stores. 

The 45 designers of this new creation are based in Stockholm with a secondary workshop in Paris, providing a wide variety of style...dainty, floaty and pretty mixed with bold, simplistic and clean. The design team includes former APC and Acne designers and with such reputable fashion minds I have a feeling '& other stories' will go from strength to strength, especially in London. 

I scurried on down to explore last week, located at the Topshop end of Regent's street with another entrance on Argyll Street, it is perfectly accessible from Oxford Circus tube. Set over two floors with a cool stripped back interior, the setting is airy and open creating a stress-free shopping experience, despite the many people cramming themselves in to get a look at this new fashion baby! 

On this occasion I walked away purchase-less, however I did like what I saw, lots of open knits, clean over sized shapes, eye catching prints, luxe fabrics, simplistic basics and statement jewellery. Pricing is set in the mid range between H&M and COS, a common price point is £39...I found myself sometimes a little confused picking up pieces surprised at how reasonable the price was and then at other times quickly putting a £49 teeny tiny cami back on the rail! I tried on some great pieces and if my shopping trip had been in closer proximity to pay day I would have definitely have left with multiple bags of fashion deliciousness, this only means I must return very soon after the 10th...!

To give you a better idea of what to expect I have pulled a flavour from the website, go on try resisting clicking through and adding a few sneaky bits to your basket...!

Linen Blend Maxi Dress, £39

Open Knit Mesh Jumper, £39

Cut Out Leather Dress, £145

Silk Cami, £39

Zip up Cotton Cardigan, £39

Double Breasted Blazer, £79

Leather Print Dress, £195

Slim Fit Jeans, £45

Cut Out Back Top, £29

Peplum Dress, £55

Twisted Box Chain Necklace, £25

Stacking Rings, £12

Rhinestone Ring, £12

Rope and Ring Statement Necklace, £39

How can I forgot to mention that there is also a huge focus on beauty and lingerie, you can literally pick up everything you need here bar your lunch and dinner! The lingerie is beautiful, lots of lace crop top styles with thin straps and pretty skinny backs in gorgeous pastel hues.....

Spearmint Lace Bra, £17

Padded Simple Bra, £19

Soft Lace Trim Bra, £17

Fishnet Crop Bra, £25

New shopping destination're welcome!!

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Shanghai: The Paris of the East...?

The perfect city mini break is the holiday equivalent of a brief but torrid affair.

A couple of days enjoying the very best bits of someone elses's city. Enough time to fall hopelessly and utterly in lust, but not enough time to see any of its bad habits. Days starting with blissful lie-ins wrapped in expensive bed linen, sipping strong coffee and nibbling on buttery, flaky croissants. Indulgent breakfasts running lazily into gentle strolls around pretty streets, ducking into a boutique here, a gallery there and refuelling every now and then with coffee, cocktails and morsels of all your most favourite foods. Drinking champagne at 11am and taking hour-long soaks in bath tubs big enough for swimming lengths are virtually mandatory. Leaving with whispered promises of future adventures exploring those as yet undiscovered delights is essential.

For me Paris has always been my holiday bit on the side. When I lived in London, a short hop across the Channel and winding cobbled streets unfurled before me offering up gothic Cathedrals, museums stuffed with Renoirs and Monets and hours of languid wandering along the banks of the moody Seine. A city made for lust, love and everything in between; picture perfection even down to the swirling Art Deco wrought iron Metro signs.

But then, Four years ago I moved to Hong Kong and as I'm not a believer in long-distance relationships, I've been casting around for an Asian replacement with very little success ever since. I've flirted with Singapore, been on several dates with Bangkok and fluttered my eyelashes at Tokyo, but nothing's ever quite lived up to Paris. And then, without warning, a city came along that swept me off my feet and left me wondering whether what I had with Paris was ever really that special in the first place - Shanghai.

Often feted as the Paris of the East, I'd always scoffed a little at the idea that Shanghai's skyscraper studded skyline and soupy dumplings could even come close to the Eiffel Tower and stacks of pastel-hued macarons. How wrong preconceptions can be.

After a swift two hour flight from Hong Kong, we touched down in Shanghai to be greeted by brooding grey skies and a veil of drizzle. The journey in from the airport was a fairly uninspiring, verging on depressing trip along grey highways zipping past a dirge of factories, electricity pylons and anemic looking housing blocks. But then bam, the taxi drew up to the door of the hotel - the brand sparkly new Banyan Tree, and the butterflies began.

Sweeping into the huge white marble lobby, an army of uniformed staff trailed in our wake efficiently toting our luggage. Check-in breezed by and we were whisked up to the room. Not just any room though, the Alpha male of rooms.

From the second I walked through the door, the view through floor to ceiling wrap-around windows smacked me between the eyes and set my heart aflutter. Postcard perfect vistas across the river - boats gracefully gliding along its silvery waters reflecting the forest of skyscrapers on its opposite bank. Dragging my eyes from the view, I was dazzled again by a bed bigger than my whole flat in Hong Kong, a walk-in wardrobe that would make Carrie Bradshaw green with envy and the bathroom to top all bathrooms. I’d gladly have spent the rest of the weekend in that bathroom. A huge circular bath tub big enough to fit a rugby team was set right next to the window and despite the fact that those views would provide all the entertainment any normal person would need, a waterproof remote control sat on the side of the tub hinting at a TV but with no set to be seen (I later discovered it lurked behind a glossy black wall panel).

 Resisting the urge to have Tom Cruise moment and start jumping on the bed whilst simultaneously shouting about being hopelessly in love, I suddenly realized that the hollow feeling in my stomach had less to do with love sickness, and much more to do with the fact that I’d eaten nothing since nibbling on the pretty abysmal plane breakfast. Cue a hasty retreat to Oceans, the hotel’s main dining spot, where we spent a heavenly couple of hours grazing on tuna tartare, seared seabass and huge juicy steaks. The way to my heart is most definitely through my stomach and the Banyan Tree clearly had that sussed from the start.

Groaningly full, I was en route back to the Ryan Gosling of a room for an indulgent afternoon snooze, when I wandered past a couple of tealight lit steps leading up to the spa. One short chat with the super friendly therapists at the front desk later, and I was curled up in an enormous fluffy robe agonizing over which incense to choose to have burning during my treatment. Opting for the amber, my therapist washed my feet in a bowlful of rose-petal strewn water before massaging and kneading away every last bit of travel weariness from every inch of my body. An hour later, I floated out of the spa ready to tear myself from the cocoon of the hotel and venture out into the glittering Shanghai evening.

 First stop, the Long Bar at the Waldorf Astoria on the Bund for champagne cocktails in a 1930s time capsule. As I’m a complete sucker for old school, colonial glamour, the 39 foot mahogany bar with ceiling fans swirling overhead and jazz humming gently in the background had me at “hello”. 

Feeling peckish again, we drained our cocktails and headed a hop, skip and a jump from the Bund for a Yunnan feast at Lost Heaven. With sultry scarlet and dark wood interiors and a buzzy, lively atmosphere this was the perfect refuel before heading back to the Bund for a little bar hopping.

Top of the bars on the Bund for us were the Glamour Bar for art deco glam and killer martinis and new Latino lovely, Unico where we sipped Pisco Sours and listened to an incredible live trumpet set. 

As the clock struck 2am, we realized it had been a very long day and we still had a weekend of exploring ahead of us. Luckily the hotel and the most comfortable bed in China, were just a short cab ride back along the river.

As a result of a cocktail soaked, late night, Saturday started slowly with a lie-in so lazy that we missed breakfast. When the hangover hunger bit, we taxied double quick across town to the French Concession where we found the ideal spot to soak up the excesses of the night before – laid-back, loungey-chic Australian restaurant, Mr Willis. This high-ceilinged industrial style space is cosied up with lots of warm wood, bright artwork and homey touches. We promptly devoured huge hunks of ciabatta, a delicious salad and an enormous pizza before rolling back out onto the street for an afternoon of strolling it all off (and a little light shopping…). 

As dusk fell we whipped across to Pudong, Shanghai’s chief financial district and home to a thicket of cloud-scraping, towering buildings. Zipping up to the observation deck at the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center (the current tallest of the bunch), a neon toy-town sprawled before us - a complete contrast to the pretty tree-lined streets and crumbling colonial architecture of the French Concession. Eiffel Tower eat your heart out…

Next up a brief pitstop back at the hotel where I managed to fit in a blissful, bubbly soak in that bathtub of all bathtubs, sipping a gin & tonic while being further bewitched by the breathtaking view. Revived and ready to hit the city for Saturday night, we headed for aperitifs and live jazz at the Peace Hotel before more Bund-based fun at the evening’s dinner spot, Mr & Mrs Bund. Recommended to us by a host of food-lovers we’d booked our table well in advance and were rewarded with a plum of a table set right next to the window overlooking the lights of the Bund. 

This modern French restaurant boasts a War & Peace of a menu so long and complicated that it made our heads spin. Luckily our amazing waiter asked a few questions and then recommended a whole host of dishes each more delicious than the last. From the amuse bouche- a tuna mousse served whimsically in a peeled back tuna can, to black cod in the bag served, you guessed it, in a bag which the waiter snips open at the table and topped off with quite possibly the best dessert that I’ve eaten, lemon & lemon tart – a hollowed out, candied lemon skin filled with lemon mousse, lemon curd, Chantilly cream and fresh orange and grapefruit segments. After dinner we headed upstairs to Bar Rouge where we rounded off the evening with far too many cocktails and a few ill-advised shots.

Sunday dawned and it was fuzzy heads all round again, but the promise of a boozy brunch at M on the Bund had us up and moving before you could say Bloody Mary. A feast of a brunch was washed down with Mimosas and topped off with an enormous piece of very naughty pavlova. 

With a couple of hours left before it was time to say goodbye, we went for a mosey around the warren of lanes in Boho-chic Tianzifang. After ducking in and out of sweet little boutiques and galleries we happened across tablefuls of beautiful people sipping coffees and chatting over late lunches at courtyard café Kommune. Bagging a sun-soaked spot we slurped down iced banana lattes before reluctantly admitting that it was time to tearfully bid farewell to Shanghai and set-off back to the airport.

On the flight back to Hong Kong I pondered whether this was a mere holiday romance or whether Shanghai and I had found something truly special. I find with these things that it’s best to be sure, so I’m thinking a couple more dates are probably wise. Luckily there are a few public holidays coming up and after all, Shanghai in Spring has a very nice ring to it…

The 3BM Shanghai Address Book

Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund
19 Gong Ping Road,
Hong Kou District Shanghai 200082
+86 21 25091188

Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund
19 Gong Ping Road,
Hong Kou District Shanghai 200082
+86 21 25091188

Lost Heaven (The Bund)
17, Yan'an Dong Lu,
near Sichuan Nan Lu,
Shanghai, 200002
+86 21 6330 0967

Mr Willis
3/F No. 195 Anfu Road, 
Xuhui, Shanghai, 200233
+86 21 5404 0200

Mr & Mrs Bund
Bund 18, 6/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu (near Nanjing Dong Lu)
Shanghai 200002
+86 21 6323 9898

M on the Bund
7/F, No.5 The Bund ( corner of Guangdong Lu )
Shanghai 200002
+86 21 6350 9988

No 7, Lane 210, Taikang Lu, 
near Sinan Lu, Huangpu district, Shanghai.
+86 21 6466 2416

The Long Bar
Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund
2 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu, Huangpu district
+86 21 6322 9988

The Glamour Bar
Sixth Floor, Five on the Bund, 20 Guangdong Lu, 
near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, Huangpu district
+86 21 6329 3751

Second Floor, Three on the Bund 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, 
near Guangdong Lu, Huangpu district
+86 21 5308 5399

The Jazz Bar
The Peace Hotel
First Floor, Fairmont Peace Hotel 20 Nanjing Dong Lu, 
near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, Huangpu district
+86 21 6321 6888

Bar Rouge
Seventh Floor, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, 
near Nanjing Dong Lu, Huangpu district
+86 21 6339 1199

Banyan Tree Spa
Banyan Tree Shanghai on the Bund
19 Gong Ping Road,
Hong Kou District Shanghai 200082
+86 21 25091188