Triple Chocolate Surprise Inside Cupcakes

I hadn’t done any baking in the longest time so I decided to make some cupcakes for the weekend. We’re going to my boyfriend’s fiancé’s family home to celebrate his mum’s birthday and I thought I should bring along some treats!

choc

I’ve been wanting to try out Dr Oetker’s Surprise Inside range so this seemed like a perfect excuse to give it a go! Available in chocolate, salted caramel and lemon flavours; they come in pouches with nozzles designed to fill cupcakes with a sweet and gooey centre.

choc-filling

With mine; I made some regular chocolate cupcakes and allowed them to cool for a few minutes once they came out of the oven. While they were still warm, I inserted the nozzle of the pouch and attempted to fill each cupcake as evenly as possible!

droetker-surprise

droetker-filling

Each 140g pouch is meant to fill up to 12 cupcakes — although I did find it a bit hard to tell how much product to put in each one and ended up filling 15.

filled

I carefully followed the instructions for these, inserting the nozzle completely in to each cupcakes. Once they had completely cooled, I added frosting and sprinkles for a cute finishing touch!

Once the cupcakes were cut open, the results were mixed. I baked half the batch in a shallow ‘bun’ tin and the other half in a deeper ‘cupcake-style’ tin. Initially, I thought that those made in the bun tin turned out better simply because the cakes were shallower which made it easier for the filling to reach the centre. However, as people were eating them, I then noticed that some of those baked in the cupcake tin also had a really good gooey centre too! In the end, it seemed the majority of the cupcakes turned out really well with a perfect chocolate-y middle. It was only with a few that the filling didn’t quite reach the centre.

chocolate

wpid-wp-1438356526737.jpeg

However they looked though, they all tasted equally delicious. The chocolate filling is rich and indulgent and adds a fun twist to the classic cupcake. I can see myself using this again in the future to come up with some yummy combinations….I’m thinking strawberry cupcakes with a chocolate centre, vanilla bean with salted caramel and lime with lemon might all be to come!

choccupcakes

Ed Sheeran at Croke Park

This weekend we were amongst the tens of thousands of people who descended on Croke Park to see Ed Sheeran for his two sold-out shows.

ed-sheeran

We had pitch standing tickets for Saturday and since we arrived early enough, we managed to get up pretty close! There was a VIP section at the front so we weren’t able to get right up to the stage but we still had amazing views. As time went on, we could see the whole venue fill up more and more behind us — in the end, over 80,000 people showed up that night!

croke-park

Things kicked off early enough as support act Jamie Lawson took to the stage at 6pm. Although we weren’t too familiar with his music, we still enjoyed it and since he’s the first artist signed to Ed’s own record label, I’m sure we’ll all get to know him soon enough!

Shortly afterwards, Dublin group Bell X1 came on. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t realise they were still together. Back when I was a teen, I had a few of their songs on my iPod and they’re really good — the kind you remember, as it turned out, the second you hear them years later!

ed-support-acts

By 8pm the stage was empty and the stadium was almost full. As the minutes ticked by, you could just feel the anticipation growing. At exactly half eight, the screens lit up with a fast-paced montage of pictures of the main act from childhood to present day. Then he walked out on stage and the crowd went crazy :-).

ed-croke-park

As soon as he started to sing, thousands of people were joining in. As he spoke, every sentence was greeted with cheers and elated screams. With promises like “if you’re prepared to lose your voice, then I’m prepared to lose mine” and strong encouragement to sing and dance like idiots, Ed had our full attention for the night.

ed-sheeran-croke-park

Some of the songs in the first half of the set included the classic Small Bump; his most recent release Photograph and the hauntingly beautiful I See Fire (which was hands-down my favourite song of the night!).

ed-live

Then, like had been done when Ed first came on-stage, the crowd erupted all over again as Dublin band Kodaline appeared. They performed their massive hit All I Want to a completely enthralled audience. Then Glen Hansard joined in. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t immediately recognise him and when I did figure out who he was; I only knew him from the film Once. To be fair, I’d say when it came to knowing who he was, it was 50:50 with the crowd — Glen himself joked that someone had asked him if he was Ed’s granddad! All three acts then performed Molly Malone and The Auld Triangle together. It was brilliant and the surprises didn’t stop there as Kodaline’s bassist called his girlfriend on to the stage and got down on one knee! I have a little video clip of the big moment on Instagram if you’d like to check it out.

ed-kodaline-glen-hansard

With the stage back to himself, Ed broke in to Thinking Out Loud. This single has broken records for spending over a year in the charts. Some say it’s overplayed and people bemoan that it’s the only song couples want for their first dance but really…it’s just so beautiful! When you hear it sung live, it’s even better (L and I are seriously considering having it for our own big day!). Several other tracks including A-Team followed after. He also did some seriously impressive rapping, sampling the likes of 50 Cent, Iggy Azalea and more.

Towards the end of the show, Ed disappeared off stage and returned sporting a Wexford GAA jersey. His final performance of the night was his 2014 hit Sing. He introduced this song as being one he wrote specifically for Croke Park so that unsurprisingly went down pretty well!

ed-sheeran-wexford

All in all, it was an incredible show. Ed already has a well established reputation as a nice guy but I still couldn’t get over how humble he seemed and how he was so clearly happy and grateful to be up there on-stage. He has so much talent and it’s really lovely to see him being so well received. I’d happily go to see him again — and I think that the 160,000 plus fans that saw him over this weekend would say the same!

croke-park-crowd

Essie Brides to Be

I couldn’t resist. I’ve always said I’m a sucker for cute things. When I was browsing in my local pharmacy and I saw the Essie 2015 Bridal Collection, I just had to stop and stare.

The colours in this range are so beautiful. There’s the palest purple, the punchiest pink, a stunning red-orange…I limited myself to just one: a nude shade called Brides to Be. I got engaged last month and I’ve never been so conscious of how my hands look — so that was how I justified this particular purchase!

essie-brides-to-be

I’m such a big fan of nude nails — I always think they look so pretty, clean and elegant. They work at any time of the year but seem particularly lovely in the summer months. Brides to Be is a darker type of nude colour, almost like a warm sandy-beige.

brides-to-be

This is the third Essie nail polish I’ve ever bought…and I think it’ll be the last too. I have the same problem every time — the formula is just far too runny for my liking. In the past, I’ve wondered if I’d picked up a dud bottle or that I’d not paid enough attention during application. I allowed myself to be drawn in with the beautiful colours but the reality is that these polishes just don’t work for me! The formula is so incredibly thin and I’ve been left with air bubbles and an uneven finish. I can just about get decent results with two light coats but really, it’s not good enough.

bride-to-be-polish

Like I said, I adore the colours in the collection. Essie, in general, have some of the nicest shades out there. I’m disappointed with the quality though. As well as that, they cost €10 a pop and I could easily pick up a Rimmel polish for half that price and more than likely be pretty happy with it. So — unsurprisingly — I really can’t recommend this. Have you tried any/many Essie nail polishes — how do you find them?

essie-bride

At the Irish National Stud & Gardens

We recently visited the Irish National Stud and Gardens in Kildare. I hadn’t been since I was a kid but I remembered having such a great time there so a trip back was long overdue!

gardens

At this popular tourist attraction, you can find a working stud farm and the most beautiful gardens. It’s very much an outdoors experience so it’s definitely at its best on a sunny day.

To start, visitors can take a forty minute guided tour of the stud farm to learn more about the horses and the history of the place. You can also explore their dedicated museum, barns and paddocks where you can see racecourse champions enjoying their retirement!

stud-farm

Alternatively you could begin your visit, like we did, at the Japanese Gardens. Created over a hundred years ago, these gardens tell the story of life through nature. Following a winding trail, you’re taken on a journey that starts at the Gate of Oblivion, through the Cave of Birth and onwards. The Path of Adventure, Hill of Ambition and Bridge of Life all lie ahead as you explore representations of the different stages of life. Carefully cultivated plants, stepping stones, bridges and a pitch black tunnel all add to the experience — there’s plenty to take in along the way.

japanese-gardens-sign

tunnel

japanese-gardens

In comparison to the meticulously kept Japanese Gardens, St. Fiachra’s Garden appears to focus more on Ireland’s raw natural beauty. It’s informal and open with woodlands, wide stretches of grass and waterfalls as well as gorgeous unique sculptures seemingly at every turn! There are so many fantastic photo opportunities in both spaces so you’ll be spoilt for choice ;-).

irish-outdoors

deer

Then, as if the gardens weren’t relaxing enough, you can unwind some more as there’s a restaurant, picnic area and playground all on-site to take care of everyone and keep them all happy!

shetland-pony

As far as days out go; this was a pretty good one! I think it’s somewhere that all ages can appreciate and enjoy, especially if you just wanted to get away for a few hours for a bit of peace and some lovely scenery.

Little tip: if you want to save on admission prices, selected Keeling’s fruit platters in stores now come with a 2 for 1 voucher for major Irish tourist attractions — I’m planning on taking full advantage of this offer over the summer, I just need to decide where to visit next!

An Exciting Announcement!

As you’ll know if you’ve been following along lately, we were in London recently. We had such an amazing trip and the time absolutely flew by. I was so sad waking up on our last day, knowing that we had to soon depart! By that evening though, I was glad to be home! We’d had such a long day with hold-ups on the tube and our flight being delayed. We arrived back at our place much later than we’d expected so I couldn’t wait to get in the door!

Once in, I immediately took off my make-up, scraped back my hair and got in to pyjamas. Curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea, I noticed that L had unpacked the box of Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes that we had picked up earlier that day. Of course, as soon as I saw them, I was asking him to pass me one!

Knowing how much I’d been wanting to try one of these famous cupcakes, he told me to close my eyes and he’d get me one. I unsuspectingly went along with this and when I opened my eyes, he was on one knee with a small red box in his hand. At first, I was just really confused (wait, where’s my cupcake?!) and then he opened up the box to show me this sparkling ring inside…!

wpid-imag0346 (2)

The next part is kind of a blur. I was genuinely so surprised, I may have even cried just a little bit! Obviously I said yes! That was a whole three weeks ago and we’ve had the best time since then celebrating and sharing our news with all our loved ones. I’m really excited to be sharing this on here too — my blog has become such an important part of my life over the past few years that I couldn’t not share! I’m not planning on turning in to any kind of wedding blogger any time soon — I’m kind of still getting used to just being engaged! Maybe in the future, I’ll feature some related pieces….so watch this space! ;-)

London: Part Two!

Three weeks after coming home, London is still very much on my mind! I’ve been wanting to share more of our trip so for this post, I thought I’d talk about some of the places we visited that really stood out for us.

londontickets

1. London Eye and the London Dungeons

We were proper little tourists and visited two major attractions in one afternoon! They’re conveniently located next to one another and tickets for both can be purchased under the one roof. Little tip: if you’re travelling to the city by train, you can even download vouchers which you can present at the counter with your train tickets to get 2 for 1 admission. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and the queues were long enough. After we’d bought our tickets for both attractions, we decided to do the Dungeons first.

Really…I can’t recommend this place enough! We only had to wait a few minutes before it all began. In groups of around twenty, you’re brought on a 90 minute tour. You move from room to room as professional actors put on fast-paced performances, showcasing infamous parts of London’s history. Think Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, Guy Fawkes…It’s extremely well put-together and so entertaining (and also kind of terrifying in parts, if I’m being honest!). The actors involve the crowd and pull individuals out to participate in the action. There are 360 sets, a boat ride and a vertical free fall drop ride so you’re constantly kept on your toes….definitely worth a visit!

After the Dungeons (and a bit of a sit-down to recover), we got in line for the London Eye. There had to have been at least 100 people ahead of us but we were in a capsule in less than ten minutes which I really wasn’t expecting! Maybe we got lucky that day but the queues moved so quickly, it hardly felt like we were waiting at all! On-board the Eye, we shared a capsule with around twenty other people. A full rotation took around thirty minutes and the views along the way were as incredible as expected.

Maybe it was because so much had happened in the Dungeons but I have to say the Eye felt a little slow in comparison! I don’t regret going on it but if I had to choose one, I’d go with the Dungeons — it’s more fun and interesting and it just seems much better value for money. The Eye is still a really great experience — the whole afternoon is something we’ll really always remember.

onlondoneye

2. Cereal Killer Café

I have a bit of a weakness for cute and quirky little places so it was no surprise we ended up here one morning! I’d heard of people dismissing it at some kind of hipster joint but to be honest, I don’t particularly care whether a place is cool or not; if it looks interesting, I’ll go! There are two cafes, the original in Shoreditch and then the newest place in Camden which is where we went.

cereal-killer-camden

wpid-wp-1434976104160.jpeg

My first thought on arrival was that it looked small but I quickly realised that there was tons of seating in the back as well as tables outside. I chose the cereal cocktail Peanut Butter Jelly Time which consists of peanut butter Cap’n Crunch, Reese’s chips and strawberry milk. It was such a good combination! I had it with a hot chocolate for a super-sweet start to the day ;-).

Price-wise, it wasn’t a budget breakfast but at the same time, it wasn’t that much more expensive than the coffee and pastry I’d bought the day before in another place. Inside was really well decorated with lots of colour and old TV sets showing classic episodes of the likes of Johnny BravoTeenage Mutant Ninja Heroes and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (my favourite childhood show!). The staff there were lovely too — we really enjoyed our visit and it’s somewhere I’d definitely recommend.

hamleys-ldn

3. Central London

Our bus let us off at Leicester Square and we spent almost an entire day exploring the surrounding area. After traipsing up and down the likes of Oxford Street and Regent Street (obviously we had to stop in Hamley’s while we were there!), we were exhausted so we grabbed some ice-cream and settled back in Leicester Square! It’s constantly crazily busy but if you’re visiting London, you really have to go there! It’s so much fun to just relax and people-watch. While we were there, we decided to go see a film and ended up at Jurassic World in the iMax that evening. It was such a last minute decision but we loved it!

wpid-imag0330

4. Hummingbird Bakery

On our last day, I persuaded my other half to squeeze in a quick trip to the Hummingbird Bakery! I have their cookbooks and I’d heard so much about it that I just had to go there! So before we headed to the airport, we stopped in at the Notting Hill branch. I probably should have made time to go earlier in our trip because Saturday afternoon was definitely not the best time to visit! This bakery is located on Portobello Road so when we arrived, we got caught up in the famous Portobello market on its busiest day…! On the one hand, it was kind of cool to get to catch that at the same time. On the other hand…it was chaotic and we’d already checked out of our hotel so we were lugging all our bags with us — not ideal but we just got on with it! The queue for the bakery was going out the door but it moved quickly enough. I picked up 2 vanilla, 1 salted caramel and 1 black bottom cupcake to bring home with us — they got smushed to bits on our travels but they were still delicious! Of course though, I’ll have to go back again to try some cakes that are still intact and haven’t gone through airport security (any excuse, really!).

nottinghill-hummingbird

If you missed London: Part One, you can catch up here!

Insta Lately

instajuly

  • Nothing says summer like cold drinks on warm grass!
  • We went to see Mr Paolo Nutini in Marley Park — perfect way to spend a Saturday evening!
  • The Lush Intergalactic bath bomb in action — I did a full review here, if you’re interested.
  • I picked up some L’Oréal lip gloss and this blur cream in Boot’s. So far, I’m liking the gloss and undecided on the blur cream!
  • This mint choc cooler from Costa tasted like an extra indulgent milkshake; I savoured every single drop!
  • Chocolate addiction strikes again! I absolutely loved the key lime pie bar but I was a bit disappointed with the salted pistachio — there was hardly any pistachio in it all!
  • A long overdue shopping trip with my best friend resulted in lots of bags and an empty purse…
  • Pasta is pretty much always good but this tagliatelle was incredible — thinking about it makes me hungry every time!
  • Eton Mess has to be one of the easiest and most delicious summer desserts — fresh strawberries, whipped cream and crushed meringue is such a perfect combination :-)