7marvels

I’m excited to launch and bring you my ‘Small Business Spotlight’ series… 🙌🏼

Each week, I’ll be introducing you to a new business! This is the first instalment, and what better way to start than with 7Marvels – an independent home/online bakery based in Richmond Upon Thames?!

I got the chance to ask the wonderful Cristina Popescu, founder, director and head baker of 7Marvels, some questions and you can read the full interview below…

7marvels
Cristina Popescu, founder of 7Marvels

Tell us a little bit about yourself & your small business: ‘7Marvels’

CP: I’m a homebaker based in Richmond Upon Thames. I started 7Marvels two years ago.

A fun little fact about my business is that I made the decision to start it at our annual street party in 2018!

Here is a link to my website for more information about me and my passion for baking

7marvels
Macaron Stack

Why did you decide to open your small business?

CP: Since a very young age I’ve always been passionate about cooking and baking in particular but I never really took my passion up until recently when I started my baking business.

It originally started as a macaron business but later went on to be a bakery with a myriad of different treats (birthday cakes, celebratory cakes and french pastries)!

7marvels

What are your hopes for the future?

CP: I am so grateful for the fact that I am able to do what I love for a living; and so with that said I hope that my business carries on to thrive and flourish in the coming years.

As we all know, Covid has hit most small businesses hard… So, this next part of the interview with Cristina at 7Marvels delves into how Covid restrictions and these past lockdowns have affected her home business.

7marvels

How has 7Marvels been affected by COVID?

CP: I am lucky enough to have been able to stay open amidst those uncertain and turbulent times.

Having an online-only shop has helped me in various ways to stay open and carry on making cakes; I was able to bring a smile to people’s faces with my cakes and pastries which matters a lot to me.

7marvels
Mille-Feuille

How has your business had to adapt since COVID?

CP: Having a business open during Covid has to a certain extent confirmed my initial decision of opening an online shop in spite of having a cake shop on the high street.

Have you noticed any changes in your business (sales etc.) since the COVID lockdowns?

CP: I have noticed changes in customer tendencies as they are more inclined to buy online.

7marvels

What advice would you give other small business owners – or those looking to start one?

CP: Get all the resources and equipment needed to start an online business alongside with the rest. I believe that e-commerce is becoming progressively more powerful and prosperous than it was before.

The most important thing is to do what you love and be passionate about it, and you need to have the resilience and determination to carry on with it even if it gets difficult. Your love and devotion will be apparent in what you do and the customers will become recurring ones.

There you have it… Luckily for Cristina, Covid hasn’t affected her business, as it was very much online-based to begin with.

A massive thanks again to Cristina for giving up her time to do this interview, and for giving some awesome advice for self-starters too. What a sweetheart! 🥰

7marvels
Paris Brest

7Marvels’ cakes/bakes look 😍😋 incrEDIBLE! (you’re welcome! 🎤⬇️)

Here’s an added bonus, Cristina’s business caters for most dietary requirements, offering treats that are vegan, low-sugar, eggless and gluten-free! What’s not to love about some delicious guilt-free goodies!?

I’m planning on ordering one for my birthday this year, and I cannot wait! Judging by how quickly last year went, I’ll be 30 at the blink of an eye!

Follow 7Marvels on Instagram

LIKE 7Marvels on Facebook

There’s lots to come in this series… So watch out for more interviews with small businesses in the coming weeks. I’ve got everything from crystals stockists, candle makers, hairdressers and beauty salons! ✨

This is the most consistent I’ve ever been… Thank God for scheduled posts!

There’s nothing more romantic than a gooey fresh-out-of-the-oven brownie!

Well, today – I’ll be showing you how to make that “berry, berry” nice looking brownie slab, pictured above!

DISCLAIMER: they’re topped with dried crushed raspberries and edible rose petals for that extra bit of yummy love.

Want to know the best part? They’re ONLY 144 calories per slice! Usually, brownies range between 350-400 calories each! 💪

brownies

Ingredients needed to make the lovely brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter (just melted)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 1/8 sugar or sweetener

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour or plain flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Crushed dried raspberries and edible rose petals (for garnish)

brownies

Way to make the lovely brownies

Begin by preheating your oven to 175 degrees (or gas mark PHWOAR!)

Then, grease your baking tray with a fine layer of butter or oil, before adding parchment paper.

Next, make a start by adding the hot melted butter, coconut oil and sugar into a bowl. Mix vigorously for about a minute.

Afterwards, add the eggs and vanilla extract – before mixing again for another minute.

By now, it should be time for the flour, cocoa powder and salt (in another bowl) – add them to the wet ingredients, fold gradually until you can no longer see any dry ingredients.

*insert chocolate chunks or chips here (optional)* if you’re planning to do it, now’s the time.

Top tip: don’t over-mix. If you overdo it, you’ll end up with a cake. As tasty as cakes are, they’re no brownie.

Tips when making lovely brownies

Another top tip: ‘folding’ just means drawing the a sideways infinity sign with your spatula (going around the sides of the bowl) and covering the wet mixture over the dry as you do it (meeting in the centre).

Transfer your batter into the greased and lined baking tray, before popping in the oven for 20-25 (depending on the strength of your oven).

Top tip: brownies don’t have a set-time, people feel differently about tastes & texture. What I will say though, bake them until it no longer jiggles on the top when you shake it.

Another top tip: pop a toothpick in the centre to check. If it comes out with chocolate all over it, congratulations you’ve got yourself a tray fudge brownies! 🎉

Tea

Ways to enjoy the lovely brownies

Want a tea to pair it with (not that you’d need it)? I’ve got the loveliest suggestion!

All that leaves is to set the tray aside out to cool before cutting it into slices (and adding the crushed raspberries & edible rose petals).

I don’t need to tell explain the final step, do I? It’s basically just you putting a slice in your mouth – not even on a plate!

If you get a chance to try these, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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afternoon tea

Calling all ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and afternoon tea fans.. I’m so excited to bring you this post!

I was gifted this brilliant little hamper for Christmas, by one of my lifelong & closest friends – who I’d regularly (prior-to-Covid) meet up with for afternoon teas – bringing our mums along…

Before I go any further: special thanks and a shout-out to Natalie (pictured with me below) for this amazing & very thoughtful gift! ❤️

afternoon tea
Us at Fortnum & Mason

There isn’t much I love more than an afternoon tea… No-thanks to Covid, we haven’t been able to go out to any this year! 😭

So, I decided to buy a Sara Miller cake stand (pictured in top photo) as a way of bringing afternoon teas to us, if we can’t go to them…

I wasted no time in putting Natalie’s present to good use, by making an at-home afternoon tea for me and my household. Isn’t it gorgeous!?!

Tell me more about the afternoon tea

All sandwiches, pastries and cakes were bought from M&S Food Hall, listed below…

afternoon tea

M&S Collection Santa Hat Profiteroles (top row)

This was a unanimous standout favourite… Choux pastries filled to the brim with delicious raspberry crème pâtissière & delicately topped with raspberry flavoured white chocolate fondant. 

Victoria sandwiches mini-cake (second row)

We usually always go for scones (whichever way you pronounce it), but we thought we’d mix things up a little with these mini Victoria sandwiches.

A butter sponge, combined with a strawberry jam and buttercream centre, topped with light dusting of sugar.

Strawberry Cornish Clotted Cream Sundaes (second row)

Delightful. We absolutely loved this.

A butter pastry filled with Cornish clotted cream buttercream and a sprinkle of dried strawberries.

Who knew straight up cholesterol 😂 and dried strawberry crumbs could be so delightful!?
Seriously though, very moreish.

Cheesecake Bites (top row)

Vanilla cheesecake bites dusted with edible glitter.

Sandwiches (bottom row)

Ham & Cheese

Egg & Cress

Prawn cocktail

Cheese and tomato

afternoon tea

What was in the afternoon tea hamper?

Okay, now – back to the hamper (pictured above)…

It comes with sachets of Galaxy hot chocolate, Nescafé Gold Cappuccino, Twinings Cranberry & Raspberry and Everyday Breakfast (also by Twinings).

There was also a bag of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ crunchy mint dark chocolate discs 😋, a notebook (as I love to write) and a pen. 📓🖊🥰

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steamed pudding

A very Merry chocolate orange steamed pudding and a Happy pudding New Year to you…

I know everyone’s prepping for Christmas and planning what to serve.

Cooking Christmas dinner and desserts is my favourite. I absolutely love the feeling I get when I see my family eating what I’ve made.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I love sweet treats more the savoury.

Although, over the past year, my love for sweet stuff has dwindled. I became that person who skips the sweet cupboard for the fridge, only to get out pickled beetroot, jalapeños and sliced cheese as my midnight snack. Weird, I know…

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you… The reason why you’re here is to read the recipe and method of baking this alternative Christmas pudding. So, let’s get going!

Fact about me that may or may not interest you, I’m not into the traditional Christmas pudding. Since discovering this pudding on Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine With Me’ two years ago, my life changed.

Disclaimer: this is a more savoury-tasting dessert. It sounds sweet, but the slight bitterness of orange offsets it, which I like.

Here’s my twist on that very pudding…

Ingredients for the steamed pudding

3/4 cup melted President/Lurpac butter

3/4 cup golden caster sugar

3 medium eggs (at room temperature)

1 cup self raising flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

Zest of an orange

2 or 3 orange peeled & segmented

Vanilla extract

Terry’s Chocolate Orange

Orange Quality Street Matchmakers

Recipe for the steamed pudding

Begin by melting the butter on the hob, as soon as it melts, pour straight onto golden caster sugar in the preparation bowl.

Once cooled, add orange zest, vanilla extract, and then the 3 medium eggs (one at a time). You can choose whether to mix by hand or whether you’d prefer the use an electric mixer. However, do not overmix.

The cup of flour is mixed & sifted with the cocoa and the baking powder and salt in another bowl, separately.

Begin adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients gradually, mix in the figure of 8.

Pour the batter into a pudding pot that’s well greased with butter, and sprinkled with two tablespoons of caster sugar.

steamed pudding

Decorate the sides of the pudding pot with the orange segments, making sure the inside of the bowl is covered before adding the batter.

Before baking, please make sure the lid is firmly shut on the pudding pot, to avoid water/batter leakage. If you do not have a pudding pot, please wrap well with grease proof paper and silver foil over the top. Make sure it’s tied with a rope, so you can easily pull it out of the boiling water after baking.

There are two ways of baking this – either on the stove (in a bain Marie), which will take approximately 1 & a half to 2 hours – on a medium heat, or in the oven (in a bain Marie) for 45minutes to 1 hour – on a medium heat.

Once baked, leave on the side to cool for 20minutes before turning over on the serving dish.

steamed pudding

For garnish, pour the sauce and/or cream along with Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Matchmakers.

Ingredients for the orange sauce

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50ml orange liqueur/extract

100ml orange juice

1 juiced clementine

1/4 cup melted butter

200g creme fraiche or brandy cream to serve on the side (you can add the remaining orange zest and a drop of orange extract/liquor to this).

Method of orange sauce

Pour the orange juice, juice of the clementine into a pot on the stove along with the caster sugar until melted.

Once the sugar is melted and the syrup comes to a boil, add vanilla extract, orange liquor/extract and butter.

Leave to simmer for 5 minutes or more, depending on how you like the consistency of the sauce.

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apple crumble

Welcome to fall/autumn… 🍂🍁

I’ve recently discovered how to make a healthy vegan apple crumble, and it couldn’t be simpler!

This is the perfect autumn snack that will fulfil your sweet cravings, but in a healthy way.

Ingredients for making the apple crumble

Apple (halved)
*** I used a pink lady apple

2 slabs of butter (melted)

Muesli

Clear runny honey

Method for making the apple crumble

Cut your apple in half, removing the core.

Place it face down in a baking tray (lined with parchment paper) and score the apple (like a Hasselback potato).

Melt a slab of butter on a low heat, before basting the Hasselback apple.

Pop the now buttery apple into the oven to cook on a 150 degree (or 200) heat for 25 minutes (depending on the strength of your oven)

Once cooked, get your buttered apple out to cool for 10 minutes.

While your cooked buttered apple is cooling, heat up another slab of butter, this time adding the honey and muesli into the saucepan while it melts.

Stir the muesli into the honey & butter mixture until coated – you’ll start to see the muesli turn golden brown.

Once your buttered apple has cooled, drizzle the honey-roasted muesli over the top of the apple before popping back into the oven for 5-10 minutes (depending on the strength of your oven).

There you have it, a quick, healthy apple crumble with a difference.

Optional: serve with ice cream

Transforming the apple crumble into a ‘pumpkin spice’ version

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

The above ingredients are all you need to make pumpkin spice mix from scratch. Theoretically, all pumpkin spice is, is pumpkin pulp (purée) left to ‘marinade’ in cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

sweet potato brownies

When I make promises… I keep them!

Last time when I blogged about a baking recipe, I mentioned that I’ll be sharing my sweet potato brownies recipe with you… Today is the day!

We’re on what feels like day ‘trillion’ of lockdown – which came quicker (in days) than it did in $$$ for Jeff Bezos…

I’m still out here (in here, #StayHome) experimenting with my bakes, re-making my take on a Charlotte Crosby classic!

What you’ll need to make the sweet potato brownies

  • 300g sweet potatoes (diced)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp clear runny honey
  • 4 dried dates
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 60ml boiling water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Honey greek style yoghurt (to drizzle on before serving)

How to make the sweet potato brownies

Preheat oven to 180°c (or gas mark 5) if you have a powerful oven, but 200°c if you don’t.

Cut sweet potatoes into chunks and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Spray oil onto tin before adding the sweet potatoes, lightly spray them with oil before roasting for 15-20 mins (or until tender).

Once out of the oven, blitz them in a blender (or mash them by hand) until they reach a puree consistency.

Lower oven temperature to 170°c (or gas mark 3) – because you’ll be putting them in again, and you don’t want to burn them!

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa powder, salt and boiling water until a paste-like consistency forms. Once done, leave to one side.

In another bowl, crack two eggs and add four finely chopped (and de-seeded) dates, whisk in the honey and vanilla extract before adding the ground almonds, cocoa paste and sweet potato mash. Beat well to mix. 

Finally, spray coconut oil (or rub butter) on base and sides of the tray (to stop brownies from sticking to it) before adding the batter to bake for approximately 20 minutes. 

Once baked, leave to cool and then serve alongside honey or coconut greek style yoghurt. 

This is quick, easy, healthy and quite tasty! What’s not to love!?

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