31 Oct 2012

Betty Crocker Red Velvet Cake Mix & Halloween Bakes!

What could be a more perfect cake to bake for Halloween than a red velvet cake? It adds to the creepiness of the Halloween cake if the insides are bright red! I absolutely love red velvet cake and I've tried many times to create my own at home but they always turn out a disappointing pinky brown shade. The cake mixes from US makers Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker have always been fantastic for creating deliciously blood red cakes so I was excited to hear that Betty Crocker was releasing a Red Velvet Cake Mix to the UK market. After some searching I finally found some at Sainsbury's on offer for £1.39 (usual price £2.09).

I decided to use this cake mix to make a spooky "white mice graveyard" traybake. The cake mix is extremely easy to make and simply required 3 eggs, some water and oil to complete. It was nice to have all the amounts given in UK friendly measurements too.

Once all the extra ingredients had been mixed together I could tell this cake mix would not have the same intense red as the US imports. I have no doubt the ingredients have been changed to lessen the amount of artificial colourings.

Once baked the cake had a nice deep reddish brown colour. The red is still prominent enough to ensure that this is unmistakably a red velvet cake. Because there was such a generous amount of cake mix I was able to make a 12 inch traybake and still had enough to fill twelve muffin cases (only eight are pictured as four were eaten straight out of the oven! Not by me I hasten to add).

My kids had loads of fun decorating their "white mice graveyard". We used white chocolate mice, Nice biscuits, crushed Oreo biscuits and Reese's pieces to decorate the traybake. We also used orange icing to create some fiendish pumpkins. It turned out fantastically well, even if I do say so myself. We all felt quite proud of ourselves with the finished result!

The idea for this came from a Sainsbury's instore leaflet so thank you to them for the inspiration!

I kept the muffins simple and just finished them off with some chocolate icing and orange Reece's Pieces. They look great displayed on this fabulous Halloween cupcake stand from Poundland, although quite a few had disappeared (again!) by the time I took this photo. Once the cakes are cut the reddish brown colour reveals itself, adding a bit more gore to our Halloween bakes.

Even though the Betty Crocker Red Velvet Cake was not as bright as it's US counterpart it still had the same fantastic taste. As Betty would say the cakes are "super moist" with a rich chocolate flavour. Now I'm off to make a cup of tea and enjoy some of this baking!


Frankie Fizz by Swizzel's Matlow

I loved this find from Swizzel's Matlow. The packaging looks fantastic and fun, with it's childish Frankenstein's monster, and bright colouring.  It's a massive bag which contains 20 individual sweet sachets. For my kids this was the highlight of all the Halloween products this year! Any trick or treaters at my door tonight will definitely be getting some of these Frankie Fizz.

Inside the individual sachets you get an orange flavour fizzy dip with a blackcurrant lolly. The orange dip is very sweet with a great sherbet fizz. The lolllipops are quite small but they are perfect for a sweet treat. They have a subtle fruity flavour but more importantly they turn your tongue black! Since my kids have never had sweets like Black Jacks (liquorice yuk!) this whole "tongue turning black" phenomenon was quite a revelation. Lots of tongue-sticking-out chaos ensued for quite a while after they tried these!

Even though these are a new product for 2012 they have a great retro feel to them and I'm sure that many adults would like to give these a try too! They also have no artificial colours and are suitable for vegetarians. I bought them from TK Maxx for £1.99 but they are also available at Asda.

Penn State Pretzels Limited Edition Devil's Flame Roasted Chipotle Chilli

I absolutely loved the look of these Limited Edition Penn State Pretzels and I have to admit I bought them purely on looks alone. The flavour "Devil's Flame Roasted Chipotle Chilli" did not appeal to me at all. But the pretzels on the front of the packaging had such a fantastic cobweb shape I couldn't resist buying them anyway!

They certainly lived up to my expectations in the looks department. The cobweb shapes are fantastic! They are perfectly themed for Halloween and will look spookily fabulous for any kind of celebration. The taste however is not so scary. From the name "Devil's Flame" you might expect a seriously hot tasting pretzel. This is not the case at all, there is a very mild chilli taste with only a slight heat.

On the back of the packet it says "A subtly spicy flavour with a little extra bite!" which perfectly describes the flavour. They have quite a Mexican inspired flavour too which comes through the use of the chipotle chilli and other Tex-Mex type spices. The pretzels themselves have a great crunch but are not too hard. They do taste quite dry though so keep a drink to hand whilst eating these!

It's great to see a product that has not only changed it's flavour for Halloween but has also had a shape makeover to fit the theme! I hope Penn State continue to release seasonal varieties because these Limited Edition Devil's Flame Roasted Chipotle Chilli look and taste fantastic.

Halloween Gingerbread House Kit (Asda)

If you are trick or treating today or having a Halloween party or even snuggling up to watch a scary movie tonight - Happy Halloween!! As you can probably tell from the fact that I gave my own blog a Halloween makeover I do love all things spooky. If I had to pick the best supermarket this year for Halloween goodies it would have to be Asda. My local store had a whole spooky aisle which they gave an awesome Halloween makeover, it was darker than the rest of the store and was fully decorated with scary props. It was also filled with great bargains, many of the Halloween food products were only £1, including this awesome looking Halloween Gingerbread House Kit.

It's hard to tell from my photo but this is actually a very large kit. The box is about three times the size of a normal cake making box kit. For £1, you get a whole load of fun products too.

There are six pieces of gingerbread for the walls of the house, two packets of icing in orange and black and three different packets of Halloween sweets to decorate. Last year I bought a massive Christmas Gingerbread House kit from an expensive shop and when I opened it nearer to Christmas all the gingerbread pieces were completely smashed. I was half expecting the same to true of this Halloween Gingerbread Kit when we opened it yesterday but everything was extremely well wrapped and in perfect condition.

The kit is very easy to use, just warm up the icing bags, snip off a corner and you're ready to ice! It's all a bit of work in progress at the moment but here's stage one of the decorated house pieces. If you're looking at the windows and thinking I can tell which ones her kids decorated and which ones the adult did then you'd probably be wrong. My eldest son was fantastic at decorating these, the messed up looking ones are all my artwork! We pretty much followed the design on the box and I'm especially pleased with how the cobwebby roofs turned out.

We all had lots of fun making this gingerbread house, it's a fantastic idea aswell, and one that I have never seen at Halloween. The smell from the gingerbread pieces was absolutely delicious too, I wish they had included a few pieces just for eating whilst we were decorating! I will update later with pictures of the finished house.

Please feel free to leave a comment below, let me know if you are planning any Halloween baking today!

30 Oct 2012

Review Cadbury Crispello Double Choc

Firstly a massive thank you to the fabulous blogger The Review Addict who very kindly sent me a Crispello to review. It seems my Cadbury's delivery was lost in the post, and by lost I mean no doubt eaten by my postman. Thank you Hannah!

Crispello is the first new* counterline brand that Cadbury's have launched in 15 years. It has caused much excitement amongst chocolate fans but has also attracted a fair bit of criticism along the way. The Crispello is targeted specifically at women as a lower-calorie way to enjoy chocolate with it's three individual pieces made of wafer and a creamy chocolate filling. Some media commentators have been expressing their disdain over this marketing at women, especially this article in The Telegraph; "Why Cadbury's Chocolate for women leaves a nasty taste".

I personally don't have a problem with this chocolate being marketed at women on a lower calorie platform. It's not exactly a secret that many women count calories or watch their weight and there are far more patronising products around than this chocolate. In fact marketing lower calorie chocolate at women has been done plenty of times before. Remember the Twix Fino and it's "Deliciously Light" tagline. Or how about the Mars Delight with it's lower calories than a regular Mars bar. Or even the Flyte chocolate bar with it's "Taste the Chocolate, Skip some fat!" tagline. I think the biggest problem for Cadbury's is that apart from the latter chocolate bar all the rest of these lower calorie chocolates have been consigned to the chocolate bins of history. I can only assume that they were not all that popular with women.

I will reserve further judgement on Crispello's marketing until I have actually seen some advertising. So far Cadbury's has created some great buzz around this product but as far as I'm aware it's hasn't even hit the shop shelves yet. (If you are trying to find it apparently Boots and smaller independent shops are your best best).

So what about the Crispello itself? The packaging is quite simple but has that rather lovely purple Cadbury's colour. Inside the reclosable wrapping there are three separate pieces of chocolate. Even though these chocolates are made with wafer they seem surprisingly robust. The three pieces are a decent size and altogether you get 30g of chocolate, which is still quite a bit smaller than the recently downsized 45g Cadbury's Dairy Milk.  
The chocolate pieces look quite plain and lacking in any Cadbury's logo or detailing. However I liked the shape of them with their little flat platform on the bottom, they look like little treasure chests! Each piece contains 55 calories, which makes the full Crispello 165 calories in total. For comparison a four finger Kit Kat has 233 calories and a small Dairy Milk bar has 239 calories.

Each piece is made up of a "milk chocolate flavoured cream" centre, with a wafer covering and a chocolate coating to finish. As soon as I opened the wrapper the sweet chocolate smell was very strong. However the actual chocolate coating is quite thin. The creamy centre is full of lovely Cadbury's chocolate which will not disappoint anyone. It certainly doesn't feel like a lower calorie chocolate from the taste of the filling. The overall chocolate flavour is tempered by the outer wafer layers. They add a lovely crispy texture which is very reminiscent of a Kinder Bueno bar or even a Kit Kat. 

The taste is very good and even though the individual pieces are supposed to make saving a piece for later a possibility, I found myself finishing all three pieces quite quickly (with a little help from my two boys who are on half term!). I can imagine buying a Crispello again, although I'll admit to being one of those women that didn't buy "counterline" chocolates very often (before I started this blog of course!!). It's always great to see a new* product from Cadbury's and the fact that it has lower calories is surely a good thing. (*Yes I do know about the Milka Crispello!).

Thank you again to Hannah The Review Addict for sending me this bar and please be sure to check out her fab review of the Crispello here

 Nutritional Information (per 10g piece): 55 calories, 0.7g protein, 5.1g carbohydrate, 4.1g sugar, 3.6g fat, 1.8g saturates, 0.2g fibre, 0.02g salt. Suitable for vegetarians. Bar size is 30g.

29 Oct 2012

Haribo Spooky Ghosts & Haribo cake range

You've got to hand it to Haribo, there's not a special event or season which gets past them without a new Haribo sweet to commemorate it. I've lost count of the "new" Haribo products I've seen since starting this blog. The flavours for these new Haribo Spooky Ghosts are fairly obvious. The white ghost has vanilla milkshake flavour. The orange ghosts tastes unsurprisingly of orange. The black ghost has a very sweet blackcurrant flavour. Nothing unusual there.

I bought these Haribo Spooky Ghosts purely because of their traditional Halloween colours; they will be perfect for decorating some Halloween cupcakes with my kids this half term. However it seems that Haribo has caught on to the fact that many people use their sweets as quick and easy decorations for cakes, as they have now launched their own range of Haribo covered cakes. So far I've seen three different varieties of these Haribo cakes:

Haribo Halloween Cauldron Cake (£7.00 Asda/Tesco)

Haribo Halloween Traybake Cake (£2.00 Tesco)

Haribo Halloween Cupcakes (£1.00 Asda/Tesco)

These all feature a Halloween theme but I wouldn't be surprised if Christmas Haribo cakes were soon to follow. They all look quite fun but I will be sticking to using Haribo to decorate my own Halloween cakes, it's even more fun that way!

Have you tried any of the new Haribo range? Let me know whether they are a "hit" or a "miss"!

28 Oct 2012

Milka Mousse: Pear and Almond

I couldn't resist buying this bar of Milka Mousse Pear and Almond chocolate when I saw it in a bargain store, it's such an unusual combination of flavours. These types of Milka bars are usually called Amavel but I have never seen this "Mousse" version for sale before, even though it is the same bar.

They come quite lavishly wrapped compared with other Milka bars I've tried. First there is a sophisticated cardboard outer box and inside is the gold foil wrapped chocolate. The whole package is also much thicker than a standard Milka chocolate bar.

The chocolate has quite an unusual triangle segmented shape which is typical of the Amavel range. It still breaks off in rectangles with two triangles to each rectangle. At this point I couldn't detect any smell of pears or almonds, just the rich Milka chocolate.

Inside the filling looks quite similar to any other truffle like chocolate. I don't know what I was expecting from the word "mousse" but in reality the texture is somewhere inbetween a truffle and a cream. If feels very soft and has a great melt in the mouth consistency. The colour of the inner mousse is slightly paler than the thicker outer chocolate covering.

Unfortunately there is no detectable almond taste in this bar, which only matters because Milka chose to call it "Pear and Almond". In fact there is a nutty taste to the chocolate but it is not almond. Like most Milka chocolates there is quite a strong hazelnut flavour throughout the chocolate itself which works well with the overall flavour. Luckily Milka did not hold back on the pear flavouring, it is very strong and just like a fully ripe sweet pear. The flavour of pear works well with chocolate as pastry chefs have known for years. I'm always glad to see a chocolate maker stepping beyond the usual orange or strawberry when dreaming up a fruit flavoured chocolate.

I bought the Milka Mousse Pear and Almond bar in a 99p Store, which is a complete bargain for this chocolate. They also had two other varieties of Milka Mousse available; Mousse au Praline and Mousse au Chocolat. These are both less exciting than the Pear and Almond but are still delicious. The Mousse au Praline in particular has a fantastic hazelnut flavour which compliments the Milka chocolate perfectly.

It's hard to tell from the minuscule writing on the back (which is all in a Cyrillic alphabet) where these bars originate but it is definitely somewhere in Eastern Europe. If you manage to find these bars then don't hesitate in giving them a try.

27 Oct 2012

Nature Valley Sweet & Nutty Peanut Bars

Nature Valley, owned by General Mills, have launched a new cereal bar to their Nature Valley range, the Sweet & Nutty. This is great news for fans of US products as these bars seem to be identical to the US Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut bars. The packaging is slighty different but the bars look the same. On the subject of packaging, is it just me or do these look like they are being targeted to men? Maybe it's something to do with all the background hardwood and exposed nails!

The bars themselves are thankfully not as gooey as the picture on the front of the box would suggest. They do have a nice amount of chewiness but they are not overly sticky.

Each one is packed full of oats and crispy rice, which are chewy with a slight crunch. There is a generous amount of peanuts, which are quite soft in texture, and the whole bar has a fantastic peanutty flavour. The base of the bar is covered in a pale golden coloured layer, this has an almost maple syrup flavour. The whole thing made me feel as if I was eating a delicious peanut butter treat rather than a cereal bar.

I doubt I would eat this for breakfast but it's great as a replacement for chocolate or when I need a quick pick me up, as they are extremely delicious and satisfying. At 148 calories in each bar, they have more calories than the usual cereal bars I eat, and are much higher in fat, but they still have less calories than most chocolate bars.

These bars are currenty on a half price offer of £1.49 for a box of 5 bars in Sainsbury's, so it's a good time to try them out. I can't quite believe the normal price would be £2.99 though as that seems ridiculously expensive for cereal bars. They are also available in the Almond version pictured above.

Nutritional Information (per bar): 148 calories, 3.7g protein, 7.8g fat, 1.0g fibre, 0.10g sodium.

26 Oct 2012

Hotel Chocolat Halloween Bites Box (The H-Box)

Of all the many Halloween themed food products in the shops at the moment this Halloween Bites selection box from Hotel Chocolat has to be the best looking. Just for the pumpkin shaped chocolates alone this box is unbeatable.

Inside the box you get three Zombie Eye Truffles, four Praline Pumpkins, four Dark Soft Caramels, three Gianduja Bombs and one Crystal Skull. The chocolates all look thoroughly fantastic and live up to the description of "A hair-raising collection for spooky parties and nights behind the sofa".

The stars of the show are undoubtedly the Praline Pumpkins.They look first-rate with a superb shape and colour. Let's cut to the chase though because when it comes to adorable chocolate pumpkins it's the insides that count.

They look just as wonderful on the inside, revealing a delicious hazelnut praline. They taste fantastic and were my favourite out of the whole selection. Hazelnut and chocolate is a match made in heaven anyway but here it is done to perfection. It's a masterclass in chocolate hazelnut praline. I hope next year Hotel Chocolat does a box with these Pumpkin Pralines alone.

No gags please. Next up we have the Zombie Eye Truffles which also look brilliant. These red coloured eyeballs are described as being "white chocolate with blood curdingly tangy raspberry ganache". Enough description though, I know you just want to see the insides of a zombie's eyeballs.

The raspberry filling is extremely tangy bordering on sour. The white chocolate has a lovely sweetness to counterbalance the sour flavour of the ganache but I still found the overall flavour a bit too sharp. The fruity raspberry flavouring however is fantastic.

Next up we have the ones I like to call "The Other Two". They are a bit boring compared to the rest of the Halloween awesomeness going on in this selection box, but as we all know you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, or in this case, all of your bestsellers in one box.

The Dark Soft Caramel lives up to it's plainly descriptive name. It delivers a strong dark chocolate and a sweet caramel oozy centre. Delicious for dark chocolate fans. The Gianduja Bomb is a smooth hazelnut praline wrapped in dark chocolate. The inner truffle is delicious but I found the dark chocolate had a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Last up we have the largest chocolate in the box, The Crystal Skull. He's a mightily ugly dude, and whereas the other Halloween themed chocolates in this box are still quite "cute", this skull is genuinely monstrous.

The Crystal Skull was my second favourite in taste, after the Praline Pumpkins. It has a deliciously sweet milk chocolate filled with cherry crystals. These crystals give a lovely fine crunchy texture to the chocolate but only the barest hint of cherry which was a bit disappointing. Overall the Crystal Skull was still absolutely divine and luckily it is big enough to break in half and share with your nearest and dearest.

Unfortunately this box of Halloween Bites is already sold out online but Hotel chocolate still has boxes of the Zombie Eyeballs and lots of other Halloween treats available.

25 Oct 2012

Magnum Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Cream

New from Walls Magnum, ice cream in tubs! Magnum are of course famous for their ice creams on a stick. I tried to think of a more sophisticated way to describe them but there you have it - ice cream on a stick. Now Magnum have branched into the premium ice cream tub market to rival the likes of Haagen Dasz and Ben & Jerry's.

There are two varieties available in this new range; Vanilla & Chocolate or just Chocolate. They both seem fairly safe choices, if a little boring.

The top of the ice cream is covered in dark chocolate pieces. The ice cream itself has a deep creamy colour. There is also a "core" of chocolate sauce, which I uncovered in the photo below. This is very similar to the recent Ben & Jerry Cores Ice Cream.

Everything about this new Magnum Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Cream is good. The ice cream is very creamy and speckled throughout with small chocolate shavings. The chocolate sauce core is flavourful and has a rich cocoa edge. The chocolate pieces on top add a tasty initial crunch. It's all very good, I can't say anything bad about the taste, but there was still something missing for me. I think I am too used to exciting flavours in these kinds of premium ice cream tubs. There are so many fantastic choices out there. I also absolutely loved the Ben & Jerry Cores Ice Cream, they are delicicous with a great combination of flavours and textures. The Magnum Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Cream is just a bit boring in comparision. However if you looking for a simple vanilla and chocolate ice cream done well then this will go down a treat.

The  Magnum Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Cream costs £3.99 for a 450ml tub but is currently on offer for £1.99 in Sainsbury's.

Are you tempted by the new Magnum Ice Creams?

You may also be interested in:
Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra
Haagen Dasz Mint Leaves & Chocolate

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