I think our Easter cake debate is over

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I love Simnel cake (ok, I really love marzipan, the cake is just an excuse to eat marzipan), but none of our kids are that keen. But it wouldn’t be Easter without a cake.

I think Lakeland have given us our answer:

 

The Lakeland Easter Anti Gravity Cake - chocolate lovers delight!

 

This anti-gravity kit is a clever piece that I’ve seen them illustrate with all kinds of ideas, but I particularly love this one and know it will go down well here. I mean, Flake and Cadbury Mini Eggs? Ok, it’s not exactly single origin chocolate, but it is Easter.

This piece of kit is just £9.98, and if baking is your thing then I can imagine you having some fun with this.

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Look who’s at Lakeland this year

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Davina McCall at Lakeland

 

I’ve written before about celebrity ranges turning up at Lakeland, some I liked more than others. This year’s latest offering is from Davina McCall, and I can’t make my mind up. Yes, she no doubt has a new book and DVD to push as well, and I’m not sure I’ve ever really forgiven her for nearly crippling me with one of her previous DVDs.

Seven minutes of hell one day, seven hours at a press show the next day barely able to stand or take the stairs.

But I digress.

There’s some interesting stuff in here, but it’s a bit samey/been done before. So there’s a pencil sharpener type spiraliser (did these last year with mixed success, MFL’s was brill, I had to upgrade to a more Hemsley type). There’s a personal blender which would seem to be Nutri Bullet lite.

And a grater is hardly ground breaking.

 

Davina McCall Crinkle Cutter at Lakeland

 

The crinkle cutter looks ok, and I don’t have one of those, and can imagine getting some use out of it.

But I’m yet to be convinced on the value of the others unless you really want Davina’s signature in your kitchen.

What do you think?

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How to make homemade chocolates the easy way

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We’ve been playing with some festive chocolate moulds from Lakeland, and I think after a bit of trial and error then these are great for creating some solid chocolate shapes quite quickly.

 

Festive chocolate moulds from Lakeland

 

Now, this is the Lakeland official image of how these could come out, and I think very easily you could get these done to look the same. Silicone moulds, plenty of detail, and some good shapes. I would say the only challenge, as you’ll see, is that a few of these are a bit too tiny and detailed.

 

The first snowman ready to go

 

We wanted to play around a bit with the chocolate, so MFL and I used white chocolate. He tempered some, I didn’t. He coloured some chocolate. I painted mine afterwards.

One of us is much more experienced with chocolate.

 

First trials of the chocoalte moulds

 

But what it proved is that it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, that you can produce really good looking shapes from these moulds. I think they’re perfect for small gifts, particularly if you need quite a few, as it’s pretty quick to do.

With a few pretty cellophane bags and some ribbon, then you can have a pile of these fairly quickly, depending on how fancy you want to get on decoration. I’ve also still got some candy melts with sprinkles in to try, which I think could be effective too.

 

First attempts with a few challenges

 

The only downside I would say to these was that the Rudolph’s antlers and the candy canes proved almost impossible to get out the mould in one piece. But I think I proved you could do this with kids, based on my level of expertise, or really go for it.

Homemade gifts have often had a bad rap, but I think these could be lovely. At the time of writing, these are half price on Lakeland at £2.49. If Star Wars is your thing, or that of the intended recipients, then there are also some chocolate moulds for both heroes or villains.

My thanks to Lakeland for sending me these moulds to try. They also sent me the train, which I am hoping to make as a Polar Express inspired centre piece at Christmas. Look out for my how to on this one soon.

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No surprise that Lakeland are on the Bake Off bandwagon

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But you know what? There’s some lovely things in here, and a bit different. I mean, who doesn’t want bunting cookie cutters?

 

Bake Off Bunting

 

And slightly less frivolous, I really love this enamel jug too.

Enamel jug

There are lots of stencils and cake wrappers and things, so plenty to help get your baking to star baker level for whoever your judges are.

Ready. Steady. Bake!

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The temptation of the Lakeland sale

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I’m a big fan of Lakeland, it’s got me out of more than one cooking equipment hole, and I admit it, I love a good mooch around their stores. Which is why it’s always very tempting when their sale comes around.

And it’s on now, and this is what I’m trying to restrain my credit card from purchasing:

 

Cordless blender

 

Cordless Blender – I think I’ve written about this before given how rubbish my current one is. I love the idea of it being cordless, and as it’s now down to £39.99 from £74.99 got to be worth a serious look.

Cherry stonerCherry & Olive Stoner – I always think these are a waste of space…until I need to stone a whole batch of cherries or olives. Given this is now only £2.99, I think I could be persuaded to find it space.

 

Store & Serve Cake tin

 

Store & Serve Cake Tin – on the basis that I always end up using my normal cake tins upside down to achieve this effect, and that you can never have too many cake tins, then I can see this being very useful. Not to mention well used.

 

Chiffon Cake Pan

 

Chiffon Cake Pan – ok, never baked one of these before in my life, but saw them being done on the Great British Bake Off last year and wanted to, but lacked the right pan. Could now put that right for half the original price. And have something to put in that cake tin.

 

Where there's tea

 

A new mug – because I love and agree with the sentiment, and have just dropped an old favourite mug so there’s space in the cupboard.

I must admit to generally staying away from the Home sale, as too easy to end up with things you never knew you needed, let alone know when you’re going to use them. Or maybe that’s just me! I’m also staying away from the Gift sale, as there is some beautiful glass in there, for which I have a real weakness, but no need.

Have fun, just remember if you don’t need it or won’t use it, then it’s not a bargain.

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Lakeland are in the Christmas race too

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Gosh, they’re all at it now! The early starters are off, and now Lakeland are ready to show you their Christmas wares. Here’s five on my wishlist:

 

Rydal Hamper from Lakeland - great gift for a food lover who likes lots of things

 

What I love about the Rydal Hamper is that everything tasty it’s packed with is made in Great Britain. There’s tasty popcorn from Joe & Seph, Tracklements Christmas Chutney to go with your Boxing Day cold cuts and Perry Court Farm Pear Juice. Even the platter is made in Staffordshire.

 

Russian Doll Cookie Jar - possibly a great gift because all food lovers are smaller on the inside

 

I love this cookie jar, very cute, although sadly you don’t get a stacking set of them. Great for keeping cookie treats safe and in great condition.

 

Cocktail Layering Tool - great gift for a food lover who fancies themself as a mixologist

 

This one is a great stocking filler for any would-be mixologist. This niftly little tool allows you to create fabulous layers in cocktails, and surely Christmas Day is a great time to try them out?

 

Choc on Choc Handbag

 

Here’s another great stocking filler. Handbag, phone, lipstick. Three daily essentials all in the other daily essential: chocolate. Couldn’t be better in my book!

Cucumbo - great gift for the food lover who likes it curly

I’d be tempted to give the Cucumbo to someone without any of the packaging, to see if they can work out what it is. I mean, you could give them a cucumber too, but that’s just making it too easy. I quite like little gadgets like this, and anything that makes veg more fun for kids is a good thing in my book.

These are just five, there are lots of new things in the range and for every kind of person on your list, not just the cooks and bakers. Let the festive planning begin!

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Celebs popping up all over the shop at Lakeland

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I had a brief run into Lakeland whilst I was away, and came away with a gravy separator and the new catalogue. And looking through, it’s like Hello magazine in there.

 

Cake lifter

It’s no surprise with their baking credentials that Lakeland have linked up with Mary Berry. Now, these things all say they are new products, and they are certainly useful products but I am not sure if they count as new merely by the rebranding. That said, things like the pushpans are useful, as is a cake lifter.

 

Jam Label Kit

 

Kirstie Allsop is busy in the jam department, making them look prettier or more presentable, either for the village show or for gifting. As we are coming into marmalade making season (or my preference would be Seville orange curd) then these may make perfect sense right now.

 

Chocolate Maker's Funnel

 

Paul A. Young turns up too, though again it’s unclear whether he has just been involved with the book, or with all the new chocolate making kit as well. They certainly look more professional, so if you know someone who has a keen interest in this area then could be some good choices for them.

 

R2D2

 

And whilst not strictly speaking celebrities, then there is a whole range of Star Wars bakeware and goodies on offer. I am not sure if some of these are the same as my Williams-Sonoma ones, but after the success of our Christmas Dalek Christmas cake in 2013, then I’m thinking maybe 2014 may be the year of the R2D2 one.

There’s obviously some interesting changes gone on at Lakeland in terms of buying strategy but if these are the sort of things we’re going to see then it may well prove to be a good change. Worth keeping an eye on them.

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Lakeland: top choices in my favourite sale!

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I do love Lakeland, loads of things you want, although quite sure some of them you don’t need. But I do save my splurges generally for the sale, which is now on. Here’s what I’m considering:

Strawberry Huller - great gift for a food lover who needs another gadget

 

A strawberry knife/huller – I can’t bear badly hulled strawberries (or where people just cut the tops off). I’m not sure I need one of these but if it makes the job neater and quicker, then maybe. And it is in the sale. So maybe. What do you think?

Lemon Oil

 

Lemon Extract – this is reduced to £2.99 and is a bit of a no brainer to me. Of course can always add zest but this is a great standby, for sweet or savoury dishes. There’s also ginger extract in the sale, which I guess I could apply the same principle too, but I think I would find more use for the lemon.

 

Fondant fancy cases

 

Fondant Fancy Cases – of course I don’t need these, but I love a fondant fancy, and maybe homemade versions would be even more sublime. So not need, possibly like. Which makes them a perfect gift, something to treat someone to that they wouldn’t spend the money on themselves. The whoopie pie tin might fall into the same category.

 

Slate three tier stand

 

Slate three tier stand – of course I don’t need another cake stand. But I don’t have a slate one. And I love slate. This would be someone making a generous gift as still quite expensive at just under £40, but actually good for serving sweet or savoury.

So just a few things I would give serious consideration to, or think of as good gifts for others to put away for a later date. But if you see lots of posts about fondant fancies, you’ll know I’ve succumbed!

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That time of year already?

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Merry Christmas to food lovers

 

I’ve worked in retail long enough to be used to Christmas in July, as it’s when the press shows always happen to launch Christmas ranges. That bit’s not unusual, but getting an email as a customer at the beginning of September about Christmas?

Well, I guess we have to conclude that Lakeland’s average customer is very well organised!

I mean, you don’t want to find that there has been a run on turkey foil by the time you get to December. And you’d want first dibs on the nativity sets and the Celestial Sparkle Trees.

And you’ll need time to work your way through the hampers, the stem ginger and the 100 other preserves. There are some good looking gifts for food lovers. I love the Mason Cash Gingerbread Man Gift Set and see that baking trends have hit Lakeland with a Macaroon Gift Set.

And of course, no Christmas lunch would be complete without a Cracker Symphony. But hey, better get in quick, those Lakeland Ladies are quick off the mark!

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Baking hit or miss?

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Surprise inside or not? Unusual baking tin from Lakeland

 

I think it’s probably quite clear that I am both very fond of my baking, and therefore also have an unhealthy amount of love for Lakeland too. A new catalogue and new gadgets is always a moment of quiet joy.

So I’m really not sure about why I’m not sure about the Victoria Surprise Cake Set. I mean, I love, really love a great Victoria sponge. I love it when the filling isn’t mean. I even have a passing nostalgia for those sponge flans that my Mum used to make for buffets, even if I hope the sachet jelly is now long gone.

And so in theory the Surprise Cake Set should be a good thing. I am just not really sure if I need another set of round tins in the cupboard. Could I give my guests a surprise in a different way without it involving cupboard space? I mean, if I was looking for a gift for the baker who had everything, then I guess this would be a good gift. But for those of us with limited space then maybe not.

What do you think? Would you give it house space?

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