Decadent Velvet

While I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of starving myself three or four inches thinner for the sake of a dress, as well as baking Red Velvet Cakes (we’ll got to them in a minute), I took the more practical and sensible step of heading to a dress boutique and trying on dresses which fit me now.

I went to Vivien of Holloway. If you love the New Look style of the post-WWII years, and you haven’t heard of Vivien of Holloway, get your arse to Holloway Road, London. The lovely ladies there will be delighted to help. If I had the money, I would own one of everything. And a swagger jacket in every colour. They specialise in reproduction ‘50s clothes.

And not just their signature circle-skirted halterneck dresses. There’s the pencil skirts and swagger jackets, the gypsy tops and pedal pushers (which are actually the perfect length on the short-legged me), jeans, Capri pants, halterneck tops, pencil dresses, petticoats. A brilliant home of gorgeous fabrics and beautifully made clothes.

I was there to try on the wedding dresses, the confection of lace and satin being my main target, with the elegant Grace dress as another option. I was soon side-tracked by everything else on offer, which is annoying since I haven’t the money just yet to buy any of it. Sadly.

While I ruminate on all the lovely clothes, and prioritise my wish-list, shall we have some cake?


This week’s trial was Red Velvet Cake, which came out somewhat less red than the picture suggested. This was possibly due to one of two things. Firstly, I used red wine vinegar instead of white (I have a bottle of chocolate red wine I let turn to vinegar), or secondly, not enough (or strong enough) red food dye.

Anyway, be that as it may, the cakes turned out well and tasted good. Another great Hummingbird recipe.

So, for about 12 cupcakes, you will need:

60g unsalted butter

150g sugar

1 egg

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the egg and mix well.

10g cocoa powder

2 tablespoons red food dye

Half a tsp vanilla extract

Mix together into a thick paste. Mix into the butter mix until it’s all smooth and evenly incorporated.

120ml buttermilk

150g plain flour

Add these, alternating half at a time, into the cake mix and stir well between additions.

Half a tsp salt (I normally skip the salt, I will admit)

Half a tsp bicarb of soda

1 and a half tsp white wine vinegar (I didn’t find that using red made any difference)

Stir thoroughly into the mix and spoon into cases. Bake at 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for approx. 20-25 minutes.

The suggestion is to use a Cream Cheese frosting, but decorate to your taste. Enjoy with a cup of tea.

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