Cakes. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, random days.. there’s always a reason to have cake. After all, there’s at least always someone’s birthday somewhere, right? Even if you don’t know them.
Well, the last time I baked a cake, it was for a whole other reason. My brother makes these amazing cake toppers and he asked me if I could help him take cool pictures of them. And how better to do that then to go and bake a cake. Or two (the second one coming in a separate blog). I found a chocolate sponge cake recipe on MidvaKuhava page (and used their awesome cake calculator that helps you change the size of your baking pan), and just invented the filling and the results were.. yuuum!
Ingredients (for one 20cm round cake, 10cm high – makes 14 to 18 pieces):
- 9 smaller eggs
- 108 grams of butter
- 144 grams of flour
- 54 grams of cocoa powder
- 108 grams of sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 300grams BAM white chocolate with caramel (you can get it here)
- 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
- 750ml of whipping cream
- 6 gelatine leaves
- 2 bananas
- some milk (for soaking the sponge cake)
Start off by making the sponge cake. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 Fahrenheit) and line a 20cm round tin with baking paper on the bottom and grease it with butter on the sides. If you have three such tins, use them, if not, just repeat the process 3 times.
Beat the eggs and the butter until really fluffy and then whip in the melted butter. In a separate bowl whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder and baking powder), and then fold them in the egg mixture. Divide in three equal sized batches (I usually weigh the batter to get even sized sponge cakes) and bake each for 12 minutes. Let cool completely.
For the filing, heat 300 millilitres of the whipping cream and the chocolate at medium heat, while soaking the gelatine leaves in cold water. Once melted, mix the gelatine in the chocolate (drain it of any water before you do so) and mix until it completely dissolves. Whip the remaining whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Cool the chocolate mixture down (but not so much as to let it allow to start setting) and gently fold it into the whipped cream.
Line the baking tin (spring form) with acetate foil (this prevents the cake from sticking to the sides and allows you to create nice straight lines). Place one sponge cake on the bottom and soak it with a bit of milk. Top it with pieces of one banana and cover with almost a half of the chocolate mousse. Repeat with the second layer and top with the remaining third sponge. Keep just a little bit of the mousse for the top. Let the cake set overnight in the springform and decorate in the morning.
Well, actually two days, because I suggest you spend one day discovering the Douro Valley and its wines. The itinerary is set for a full three days, meaning that you arrive by plane the evening before and leave home on what is actually day 5, in the morning.
Start your day at a normal hour (yaaay, no getting up early on vacation) because, well, basically nothing is open before 9.30 a.m. We stayed at a very central location, the Clerigos city center Studio 2 apartment, on Rua Conde de Vizela, which is two blocks away from the famous Livraria Lello (not that we got to see it, though, but more about that later) and a block away from all the restaurant and bars.
We started our day at the Zenith Porto Brunch & Cocktails where the food is really delicious, the service is fast and friendly and the prices are good. For some reason I expected Porto to be expensive, but it really wasn’t! Oh, bonus points for Zenith – everything is EXTREMELY Instagramable.
Up next was a lot of walking. First we went to see the Igreja dos Carmelitas. It’s so majestic. And blue. It’s actually lined with tiles, a very interesting way to cover a building if you ask me, but really beautiful.
Up next was the São Bento Railway Station. It’s a 20th Century railway station, covered with – you’ve guessed it – white and blue tiles. The station is quite busy, but worth a stop to admire the wonderful architecture. Next, and just a few blocks up the hill is the beautiful, white and blue Church of San Ildefonso.
After that, walk (or better said get lost) in the streets of Porto while making your way down to the Luis I Bridge and take a walk on it. But don’t cross to the other side – that one is reserved for day 3.
Rather return back and make your way down to the river. Old trams will pass you by and tempt you to take a ride instead of walking, but don’t. You’ll stumble upon Tasquinha d’Ouro with a very cool vibe and affordable coffee and Somersby to rest your legs a little. You’re walking towards Farol das Felgueiras (a lighthouse) which is a good 1 hour walk from the city center.
Walk back towards the center, but this time more up and away from the river, and you will reach the Porto Botanical gardens. Enjoy the peace and tranquility in the middle of the city. Plus they have some really photogenic buildings and stairs there.
Call an Uber (because, honestly, your legs will hurt a lot plus you’ll be hungry!) and let it take you to Adega Mercearia Bebe se Mal. It’s a small restaurant with just a few tables, which they cover with paper (which they change for each customer), and with literally just one menu. They didn’t even speak English, but we managed to order some fish and octopus with shrimp. And boy did we order well! It was finger-lickingly good, with just the right seasoning and tones of garlic. And the potatoes! Even when I couldn’t eat anymore, I ate some more.
After some well deserved rest (another perk of staying in the center of everything – you can go home for a quick nap and to recharge your phone) we visited the Chapel of Souls – another gorgeous building with blue and white tiles.
We finished the day with happy hour at MaoMaria and a small burger at Honorato Clerigos. Yum!
Day two will start a little earlier, as adventure lies ahead. I highly recommend the Living Tours trip to the Douro Valley which includes transfer, traditionally made bread (to line your belly for all the wine tasting), wine tasting, lunch at an amazing location, a boat ride on the Douro River and another wine tasting. We LOVED IT!
After a two hour ride and some delicious bread with butter we were ready for wine tasting at Quinta da Avessada. We stared with sweet wine Moscatel and some history of the winery and the winemaking. After that, our lovely host invited us to the lunch room. We saw some prepared tables before at the restaurant so we assumed we were going to have our lunch there. But we were pleasantly surprised when they opened the door to an old winemaking space with some barrels still there and some really clever wine storage designs. We ate some delicious food in this lovely atmosphere. And of course drank some more wine.
We continued back to our mini bus and drove down the breathtaking landscape to the boat on the Douro River. A 50 minute cruise was gorgeous and relaxing, with warm sun on our cheeks and beautiful reflections in our eyes.
Next stop: Quinta da Roeda. Home of the Croft Port wine. After a tour of the estate and a description of the wine making process, we again had some wine tasting to do. Tough life!
Despite eating and drinking all day, you’ll be hungry again when you get back. And I suggest you visit Taberna Folias de Baco. Again a small, family owned restaurant, with friendly people and delicious food. We ordered a menu for 2, which included 2 glasses of wine, which they produce themselves, some cold cuts of meat, olives, cheese, a sausage, and deliciously loaded breads. Such amazing combinations of tuna and port caramelised onions or prosciutto with mint. And all for just 25 EUR for both.
Another day you can start late. Well, unless you want to see the Livraria Lello. We came there 20 minutes before it was supposed to open, and the line was already 200 meters long. And double – one for vouchers and one to then actually get in. We, therefore, made the only logical decision and went to Zenith again. No regrets.
Fulled up again, we began our second day of walking all day. We made our way down to the river again and crossed the Luis I Bridge (the lower level). Our mission – to find the rock from which you can take amazing photos of the bridge. We followed the instructions to get there to the T, but did not find it. Mind you, Porto is like San Francisco (haven’t seen it yet, but so I’ve heard) – up and down and up and down, so we were well out of our breath with no success. We think we saw the rock but couldn’t get to it because of some street renovations. Well, gotta leave something for next time.
We instead made our way up to Miradouro da Setta do Pilar – it’s a spot where you can get some amazing views of Porto and it’s free, so I highly recommend it.
After returning back down to the river, we enjoyed the views and the chill vibe, and had a coffee at a cute cafe with a funny waiter.
Our afternoon began with – surprise, surprise – wine tasting at Ferreira. You have a lot of wineries (or are the called Portmakeries?) so you have a lot of options to choose and might even get away with not booking your tour in advance at all. I do have to warn you, though – Port wine is really really sweet, so taking a 5 wines tasting might be too much. It was for us.
After that, return back to the other side of the river and shop for local delicacies at the meia.duzia. They offer jams and a few savoury spreads, and you can taste them all. At first I thought they sell hair color or hand creams when I saw the packaging. But no, it’s better. It’s food!!
Finish your day strong, with burgers and cocktails of course! And get a good night sleep if you have an early flight to catch.
Quiche is, in addition to the choice of NFL teams, almost the only other thing that divides this house. I love it, Aljoša hates it. OK, hate is a strong word, but he just really doesn’t like it.
1. Plan ahead
London is a huge city and if you only have a good two or three days there, you really really need to plan ahead, divide the city into parts and see which sights and locations are close to each other and you can squeeze them into the same day. By knowing what and where you want to see, you’ll also know whether to take the London Pass (point 3) or not.
If you plan well, you’ll be able to visit one or more of the amazing markets, such as The Columbia Road flower market, the Broadway market and the Duke of York Square market (check the opening times online). We didn’t get the chance to visit those because (a) it was raining when the flower market was open, and (b) we were there for the NFL UK game, so that took one of the weekend days as well.
2. Go to the Old Hat pub
It might sound like a random advice for a post about general tips on weekend in London but it really is a whole experience and the best of both worlds, basically. Why? Because it’s not a random, half-run-down pub but a really polished place you wouldn’t even call a pub, but at the same time has all the qualities a pub must have – cheap beer and G&Ts and delicious, mostly fried food that comes in big piles and tones of side sauces and dips that don’t always make sense.
Oh, and some fun moments: an old guy, sitting in his booth, watching TV and drinking beer, while falling asleep all of a sudden, still holding his beer, of course. Or two guys, hitting on the same woman, by the bar, all around 40 years old and not that attractive. You really can just sit there all day and observe the people. And drink gin of course.
3. Take the London Pass or at least the Hop-on-Hop-off bus
The London Pass is a sightseer credits package, that allows you to visit all attractions on their list. This is why it’s good to plan ahead. Some museums and galleries in London are free, so if this is on your list, London Pass might not be useful. But there’s a bunch of interesting things to see that are included in the London Pass, one of them being the London ZOO. There you can even hang out with King Julian up close as they have
Otherwise at least buy a ticket for the Hop-on-Hop-off bus, since they all have live guides (some of them quite funny) and you get to see London from “above” (= not riding the underground) without needing to walk for miles and miles. Hop-on-hp-off busses are a great way to get from one place of interest to the other, and they even take you across the Tower Bridge.
4. Visit Notting Hill
Whether you’ve watched the movie or not, Notting Hill is a must visit for everyone, apart from those who for some reason really really hate pretty buildings. Is there such people? I don’t know, but what I do know is that the houses in Notting Hill are charming and welcoming. Maybe even to welcoming for the people who actually live there and have Instagramers standing on their front door, posing for the picture with the most likes. I didn’t do that but I did take some lovely pictures of the neighbourhood from a (sort of) respectful distance.
Also nearby is the Museum of Brands, where you can see the history of packaging, brands and advertising and it’s actually quite fun. Also included in the London Pass.
5. Prepare to wait
Wait for the Underground train (which run very often, not to be mistaken), wait for the hop-on-hop-off bus, wait to buy tickets, wait to get through security check and.. wait to get your picture taken at Platform 9 3/4. The platform 9 3/4 is inside the King’s Cross station (which is quite obvious but the Google maps shows it almost outside the station plus at one entrance it seems like you need a ticket to even get inside the station, but you don’t) – just go inside the station through the main gate and walk straight down towards – yes, you’ve guessed it – platforms 9 and 10, and you’ll see it on the right. If nothing else, a long line of people should give it away.
You can have a friend take a picture of you for no charge or you can buy the “official” picture taken by one of the employees. No one pushes you to buy the photo, though, so that’s something I really liked.
6. Eat Asian food
While trying not to insult anyone, I’m going to gently try to say that British food is not one of the best in the world. Luckily, though, London is a real melting pot which brings an amazing thing with it – loads and loads of different restaurants. While it would probably take you around 50 years to try out all the restaurants in London (for real, there were more than 18.000 in 2015) and I am far from being able to say that I am an expert in London restaurants and can suggest THE best one, I can suggest you go to some Asian restaurants with delicious food: Viet Eat and On the Bab (Covent Garden). A tip: order different small portions and share, so you can try as many things as possible.
7. Visit the Beafeeter distilery
One of the “hidden gems” of London (at least for the G&T lovers) is the Beefeater distillery. It’s included in the London Pass or you can pay 15 GBP for a guided tour with tasting and one gin & tonic per person. The building itself is quite stunning, don’t you think?
But what’s even more stunning is that this is actually a quite small distillery which is their only distillery, producing Beefeater gin for the entire world. They made 35 million bottles in 2017, and what’s even more impressive, only 5 people work on the actual production of the gin (so this does not include development, administration etc., of course). Yeah, you heard right, 5 people! Plus you get to taste a few shots of gin and enjoy a gin and tonic at their bar.
8. Get lost in the city
Just stroll around and enjoy the views. While the underground and the bus will get you almost anywhere, it’s sometimes fun to just walk around and see what you can see along the way, with just a basic destination set in your navigation, but kind off ignoring it most of the time. One great route to do so is the way from the Westminster station where you can see Big Ben and the London Eye, all the way up to the Covent Garden. Walk along the river as long as you can, and you’ll pass the Scotland Yard and some lovely gardens and buildings. Covent Garden is an experience as well, both in the morning when you can see it all peaceful and clean as well as in the afternoon when it’s all busy and buzzing.
9. Visit the Old Bank of England Pub
I know, I know, another pub, but this one really is more of a museum than a pub. The pub resides in the old Law Court’s branch of the previous Bank of England which operated from 1888 to 1975 and the interior is spectacular. Just order some draft beer and enjoy the views. You can just sit there all day and enjoy the little details of this gorgeous interior. And the good thing is, the pub is along
10. Don’t lose your Oyster card
Just kidding, I only said that because Aljoša managed to lose it in the first hour after we’ve bought it. But, yeah, don’t lose it. Oyster card is basically the only way to get around London with public transport, so you make sure you get it. It works both with underground as well as buses and you’ll see after each ride how much money you have left. What is something most tourists don’t seem to know, though, is the fact that you can get the “deposit”, that you pay for the card when you buy it, back. How? Just head to one of the machines where you can top it up, and chose the return option. There’ll be helpful underground employees there to help you, so don’t worry. This does not work with the Oyster card that comes with the London Pass, though, since you also don’t pay any deposit there. You can get the leftover money back, though, the same way as described above.
When you get delicious sweet wine as a gift (in our case, worth 50 EUR per 0.5 liter but in a plastic vinegar bottle, to be exact), you can either just drink it all or use a part of it to make this amazing dessert. It’s so simple, anyone can do it, I promise. And from experience, it will get even the non-dessert-lovers praising it and wanting more! As I am one of those people who never reads the introduction stories in the recipe blogs and I just keep scrolling down to get to the recipe already, I’ll just get straight to it:
Early in the morning you’ll drive up to Chefchaouen. The blue city. “There are several theories as to why the walls were painted blue. One popular theory is that the blue keeps mosquitos away, another is that Jews introduced the blue when they took refuge from Hitler in the 1930s. The blue is said to symbolize the sky and heaven, and serve as a reminder to lead a spiritual life. However, according to some locals, the walls were mandated to be painted blue simply to attract tourists at some point in the 1970s.” (source: Wikipedia). If the later is true, it sure is working.
Describing Morocco in one sentence would be really, really hard. You can’t even fit all the words that describe their landscapes in one sentence, let alone all the flavours, markets, souks, riads, and people. But you can see most of Morocco in 2 weeks and here’s the (in my opinion) perfect itinerary.
Have you ever seen the TV series Munchies? We discovered it by chance when eating pizza in Zagreb, Croatia (I know, so random), and then we searched clips of it on YouTube, and found a clip of a chef making tiramisu from scratch. So I decided to make my, wait for it, FIRST EVER TIRAMISU! I can’t believe it took me so long but here it is.
OK, so you’ve decided you want to go to Scotland and you’re all ready and familiar with my 10 tips for travel in Scotland. You also know that you have a good 7 days of time to see the most of Scotland, so here’s where I come in with my week in Scotland travel guide (itinerary) or how to get the most out of your 7 days in Scotland.
Arrive late night at Edinburgh airport. Pick up your rented car at Sixt (or other rental company) and drive to the nearby hotel – I suggest Holiday Inn Express since it is a 3 minute drive away, you always know what you get and the rooms are clean and modern. We’re not fans of their breakfasts, but that’s maybe because of the English breakfast, not Holiday Inn Express in general. Well, at least you get an excuse to eat a croissant and Nutella for breakfast.