Exploring Britain | Wales: Ogmore-by-Sea

If you live in South Wales, then chances are you have been to Ogmore-by-Sea at least once.  I used to come here with my family when I was a little girl, and my siblings and I would have hours of fun playing in the little rock pools and building sandcastles.  Ogmore-by-Sea is a wonderful place to explore, and as you can see, I had quite a bit of fun fiddling around with the settings on the DSLR to try and capture some of the dramatic scenery that day.  As beaches and sea fronts tend to go, it was a little more chilly than it was in Cardiff, even in summer, so make sure to wear an extra layer or two!  If you have never been to Ogmore before, there are quite a few craggy rocks about before you reach the sand so sensible footwear is also a good idea (and not flip flops like I was wearing!).

IMG_5709

 IMG_5816

 IMG_5785

 IMG_5719

 IMG_5722

 IMG_5720

 IMG_5745

 IMG_5714

 If you couldn’t already tell, it was a VERY windy day at Ogmore.

IMG_5754

 IMG_5788

 IMG_5839

 IMG_5854

 IMG_5852

Although the pictures I took that day concentrate on the beach, there are actually quite a few different activities you could do in the area such as trails and walks, pony trekking (check out Ride on the Beach) and if you’re brave enough – swimming!  There are also two castles in the area to explore, Ogmore Castle and Candleston Castle.  There are also a few places to eat, namely a lovely little country pub called The Pelican in her Piety which offers up hearty home cooked food – just what you need after a long day exploring.  However, nothing beats watching the sun slowly sinking in the horizon whilst you’re wrapped up in warm layers a few blankets and a little picnic.  A great day out for all the family (and the dogs!).

More information can be found on the following websites:

Have you ever been to Ogmore-by-Sea?  What are your favourite beaches/sea fronts that you like to visit around Britain and why?  Do let me know in the comments below 🙂

Until next time! x

Food | Baking: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Before I begin, I did some research into copyright laws about me posting recipes/methods from cookbooks (I don’t really fancy getting into trouble!) – from what I have read and have understood on a common sense basis, it’s ok for me to write about the recipe/method as long as I don’t copy the cookbook word for word.  Additionally, I will always make a mention of where the original recipe came from (with links if I can find them) as I have done so below.

Red Velvet is one of those classic cake recipes that I’ve always wanted to try making.  The recipe I used was from The Hummingbird Bakery‘s Cake Days cookbook.  What I like about this cookbook is that the quantities are for muffin-sized cakes rather than cupcakes (which are smaller) – so essentially these recipes allowed me to make bigger cakes, which is always a good thing!

IMG_3784

This is actually my second attempt at making Red Velvet; the first time I made a cake and it didn’t go as planned.  After using 40ml of red food colouring (which is more or a less a whole bottle) into my cake batter, after adding the cocoa powder, I found that it totally ruined the brilliant red colour I managed to achieve in my batter and it turned it…well, brown!  So that really disappointed me.

This time, I stuck to making cupcakes.  I made a few changes here and there as I went along due to how the first attempt turned out, but also because I am one of those people who will taste as they cook – if something doesn’t taste, smell or look right to me (regardless of what a recipe/method tells me) then I will use my initiative and change it up a little.

Cookbook Recipe:

Sponge

120g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened

300g (10 1/2oz) caster sugar

2 large eggs

20g (3/4oz) cocoa powder

40ml (1 1/2fl oz) red food colouring

1tsp vanilla essence

300g (10 1/2oz) plain flour

1tsp salt

240ml (8 1/2fl oz) buttermilk

1tbsp white wine vinegar

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Frosting

100g (3 1/2oz) unsalted butter, softened

600g (1lb 5oz) icing sugar

250g (9oz) full-fat cream cheese

Coloured sprinkles to decorate (optional)

I won’t be mentioning any specific brand of ingredient as it will feel like I’m favouring; I just used whatever I had in the house!  On another note, there must be some kind of nation-wide shortage on red food colouring these days as I must have gone to five different shops and they had diddly-squat!  Eventually I did end up finding some food colour gel which was labelled ‘bright red’ – it was the only choice I had so I went for it!

Processed with Rookie

Often, most recipes require you to preheat the oven right at the beginning but I waited until a little later to do that as we recently got a new cooker and as the ovens are fan-assisted they work quite quickly.  I like to start off by weighing out all my ingredients so I have them ready and I also lined a muffin tin with muffin cases.

  • With a hand-held electric whisk I creamed the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  I cut the butter into small cubes to help the process along a little quicker.

Processed with RookieIMG_3791

  •  I then added one egg at a time and mixed it thoroughly, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Here is where I start to make a few changes to the method:

  • I added 1tsp of vanilla essence to the cake batter and mixed it in well.

Processed with Rookie

  • I added the red food colour straight into the batter and kept mixing until I achieved the right colour – however I was a little disappointed with the result, I think it turned the cake batter more pink than red.
  • Here is where I added a very small pinch of cocoa powder to the cake batter to help deepen the red colour.
  • I sifted the flour and salt into a separate bowl; I then added half of the flour/salt to the cake batter and folded it in with a spatula (I was too scared to use the electric whisk for fear of covering the kitchen in flour).
  • I poured in half of the buttermilk to the cake batter and mixed it well.
  • I added the other half of the flour/salt mix to the cake batter and made sure to fold it in well.
  • Finally I added the rest of the buttermilk to the mixture and mixed that in (the buttermilk I bought was 250ml, which I used it all rather than leave a measly 10ml behind).

Processed with Rookie

As I don’t imbibe in alcohol I am always looking for ways to substitute alcohol ingredients for non-alcoholic ones and sometimes it proves a little difficult.  This recipe calls for white wine vinegar (of which I didn’t have) and I spent hours trawling the web for a suitable substitute and in the end I settled for using white vinegar instead.

  • Finally, in another bowl I mixed together the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda but I also added about 1/2tsp of sugar to the mixture to combat the very sour taste a little.  I then added this mixture to the cake batter and made sure to incorporate it all.

Because I have a fan-assisted oven, I actually lowered the temperature to 170 degrees celsius rather than 190 degrees celsius.

  • While the oven preheated, I spooned the cake batter into the muffin cases in the muffin tray using two spoons (or you could use an ice-cream scoop) until they were two-thirds full.  I then popped them into the oven and after 20 minutes they were done.

IMG_3800IMG_3801

After letting them cool in the tin I transferred the cakes onto a wire rack to cool while I made the frosting.

  • Using the electric whisk I beat together the butter with only 200g of the icing sugar as I didn’t want my frosting too sweet (this is an American style recipe after all) until the mixture was sandy.
  • I then added the cream cheese and mixed it slowly until it was incorporated into the mixture well enough before I increased the speed on the whisk and beat the frosting until it became soft and fluffy.
  • Once the cupcakes had completely cooled, I added the frosting to all but one and swirled it with the back of a spoon, until it achieved the desired effect I wanted.

Processed with Rookie

  • With the last remaining un-frosted cupcake, I popped it into the food processor and blitzed it into crumbs (alternatively you can do this by hand) and then sprinkled them over my frosted cupcakes as decoration.

Processed with RookieSo there we have it, my second attempt at making Red Velvet cupcakes and all in all, I don’t think I did a bad job.  You know what they say, practice makes perfect!

I look far too happy about this midnight cupcake feast…

IMG_3809Are there any recipes that you love using or struggle to get right?  Do you have a better Red Velvet recipe that you use?  Don’t forget to leave a comment below 🙂 x

When in Caerphilly

I always like to have a bit of an explore but I find that I don’t get many chances these days to do so.  I feel somewhat ashamed that, apart from in my childhood I have never really explored any surrounding areas around Cardiff properly.
I really am a big nerd and love walking around historical sites and museums so was excited when I finally got to have a look around Caerphilly Castle and let me tell you, it is bigger than I thought!  I had a local tour guide show me around – my best pal Nathan.  My sense of direction is quite awful so it was just as well he was there otherwise I might not have made it back!  From this shot you really can’t tell just how big the place is but as you can see it was a lovely day if not a tad muddy (I really should have worn my wellies).
Nathan @ Caerphilly Castle
When you look at an aerial shot you can get a better idea of it’s true size – making it the largest castle in Wales.
Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle and grounds
As it was numbingly cold I attempted to take as many pictures as I could so it was just as well that I had my nifty smart phone compatible gloves with me as I think otherwise, my fingers may have fallen off from frostbite.  I have to say that as awesome as it all was walking around and looking at the ruins, I wish there was more… stuff.  Stuff like more plaques with information to read about certain areas or what certain rooms might have been used for, or even having items and objects displayed in those rooms as all of them were bare.
Taking sneaky shots of my tour guide
Wooden carving “holding up” the leaning tower
The bareness of the Castle was beginning to get to him…
When we got to the Great Hall we were greeted by a man who referred to us as “Sire” and “Lady” (I am definitely no Lady) and just before he went on his break he told us that that they were doing talks about castle life for all the school children visiting for the day but had covered up the tables of pretend food so that no one nicked anything.  Nathan mentioned that usually there were various shields and armour displayed in the Hall but all that remained were some flags and a few tables.
The Great Hall was by far the prettiest of rooms and have found that quite a few people have hired this as a wedding reception venue which I thought was quite lovely – the room has a lovely sort of rustic look if you’re into that sort of thing.
Great Hall ceiling
A quick photo before masses of school children turn up
There were various statues and models of some things such as how the castle defences would work, complete with sound effects.
I did spend most of the day playing photographer as I had just gotten my new iPhone 5s as a birthday present, so was excited to play around with different shots as I was wandering about – I have to say I am quite impressed with the quality of pictures.
I am quite nerdy when it comes to taking photos of ruin – I guess I just fancy myself as a bit of a photographer sometimes (I must get it from my dad) – you can see that I got quite into it and I’m sure Nathan was shaking his head at me when I wasn’t looking!
What I found quite interesting was that, as many times as the castle came under siege, it was never once taken – meaning it had one bad ass defence system in place!  Some of the castle was cordoned off for safety reasons but it really made me want to climb on all the rocks even more and pretend I was Indiana Jones.
Speaking of bad ass defence systems… the picture doesn’t do it justice really as the trebuchet was HUGE and probably works to this day.  I’m sure it could still do plenty of damage.
I believe this was called the Ballista, I might be making that up but it was basically a massive sort of crossbow and is quite heavy to operate.  At this point whilst we were checking it out, a gaggle of small school children turned up and joined us and blocked us in.  They kept attempting to lift the weapon and move it around, which, fair play to them they actually managed to do between five of them.  The teacher who was with them kept apologising to us and then made a side remark that watching and listening to the kids was actually hilarious – he wasn’t wrong.  Instantly, these kids and their amazing imaginations were pretending they were part of a siege and began “loading and firing” the weapon and trying to take down the castle and barking orders at each other.  Eventually we managed to escape with good timing as we had spotted a kid that was the spitting image of the character of Russell from ‘Up’ (except he was ginger) and Nathan could not stop giggling every time he caught sight of this kid.
Ballista… I think!
I guess maybe the castle is a little more bare in the winter months because of the weather perhaps, so it might be worth re-visiting in the summer when the warmer weather returns and we remember to take a packed lunch with us – by the time we were done I was cold, sniffly and starving!  But it was a good day out with my best pal in any case – I should learn to get out and explore more!