Afternoon Tea at The Merchant Hotel


Apparently jeans are discouraged.. oops! Well they still served us.

I’m sure my face was quite a sight when the lady in her little blue uniform carried towards us this beautiful tower of treats. Everything so was perfect and miniature, I was scared to touch anything when it arrived in front of me. Oh and the smell! The little scones were freshly baked and their warm, butter, vanilla scent  soon made me very hungry…

We finally made it here, my Mum and I, after she promised some time ago to take me out to Afternoon Tea to celebrate my birthday, her birthday and also my exam results. For many years we have meant to share it together whilst in London or elsewhere, but sadly it never happened. So now, in this magnificent setting of the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, it felt very special indeed. Not least because this building holds special significance as in fact my Dad used to work here when it was still a bank, and before it became this famous hotel. My mum remembers taking me here many times as a small baby to visit Dad, and so coming here when I am now very nearly 17 must be a strange feeling for her!

The outside of the building has a large grand staircase, before you enter into the moving doors and arrive in the enormous Great Room. The grandeur and decoration everywhere is breathtaking and makes for quite an entrance. It also felt very exciting to be here, as just under a year ago, I spent over 4 hours queuing and patiently waiting outside, opposite the main entrance to catch a glimpse of Justin Bieber arriving at the hotel, back when the MTV EMA’s were being held in Belfast.

I was also on a little high after such a successful and exciting first day at my new school. Thank you all so much for your kind words of support! I was surprisingly more confident than I anticipated and quickly said many ‘Hello’s’ and got acquainted with as many people as I could. By lunchtime I already felt part of things, and soon realised that everyone else was as nervous and apprehensive as me on their first day of term. I now look forward to starting my first proper week and really getting into the swing of things.

This delightful looking dessert above, I believe, was an Apple and Cinnamon Charlotte, although all I was worried about was the gorgeous rich chocolate centre. Oh and the other beautiful mousse in a small little glass was an Orange Blossom Jelly and Peach Coconut Mousse shot glass. It was delicious! We were also served a pretty little raspberry macaron (which I really was not too impressed with as the inside was far too sticky and fell apart!) and a tiny little Mixed berry Tartlet which really was delicious! And as for the scones.. Well you should know that I am a huge fan of scones, and so of course these went down a treat. Enough said.

Having never really tried proper pastries before, or anything of this kind anyway, I was blown away by how you could incorporate so many different flavours, textures and processes into one small bite. The aroma of the Orange Blossom Jelly really was incredible, and me and mum spent ages trying to figure out what it was.. (we thought Jasmine, obviously a little off on our tasting skills!) I had always been fascinated by the pastries and desserts of France, and yet this shows that they are also right on my doorstep. I have vowed to find out how to make these little desserts one day, they are just incredible! However, as mentioned above, the macaron left a little to be desired. It was pretty much hollow, and one whole shell side came off, leaving a gaping, overly sticky hole, with all of the filling attached to the other side. I passed this one to mum, who didn’t mind the praline filling. This made me very much proud of my own macaron attempts.. It wasn’t even smooth on top! (Oh and apologies for the sticky plate!)

However, all in all, I loved this little outing and it was an experience I will treasure for many years to come I’m sure. Once back at school and work we would rarely have time to do things like this together, with a younger sister and another brother to look after too, my mum is a busy lady! After a quick visit to the equally gorgeous Ladies’ Restroom, of course, we were off for a spot of shopping! A day well spent.

A x

Lemon Meringue Pie Macarons

Macarons may just be one of my most favourite things. Know why?

Just look at those little cuties!! Quintessentially French, they turn any moment into a very special one, and make any kitchen look sophisticated. What’s not to love?

Okay, so I may have skipped out a few down points. Those little feet? You’re never guaranteed that they’ll form.

Lo behold if you turn them over to find a hollow..

And taking out a tray of cracked, bubbly tops is enough to make any baker’s heart drop.

Despite my fears, and reading many a post that told me macarons were never meant to be perfected by anyone except  Pierre Hermé, I bought a 1 kg bag of ground almonds and got ready to bake!

I can clearly remember the first time I set eyes on a French macaron. In Paris, of course, and last year on a school trip. Told to go in search of one for my Mum back home, I wasn’t completely sure what I was looking for, or what was so incredible about this little Parisian treat. Pardon me if I say Paris will tell you about its macaron. Found just about on every perfect little street, in every patisserie and knitted into its wonder just as much as the Eiffel Tower and the baguette, the macaron is just another reason I long to soak up more of France, and one day find myself in Paris.

Opening that oven door a fraction and finding that these little rounds had magically developed beautiful, frilly feet.. Wow, that was a relief! Patiently waiting another few exact minutes was tough. Though I finally took them out, tested their bottoms, found they were hard to move yet not wobbly, and so decided they were done! Hooray!

They had not retained their bright yellow as much as I had hoped (my camera setting gives them a little boost) and so I will need to look into this one for my next macaron session. However, all in all, a successful batch I believe. Not perfect, but I never expected them to be. Better than the last time is all I was hoping for, and gives me more confidence to try again! Oh and converting my non French loving brother to the beautiful land of macarons was well worth it in the end. Although it does mean there’s now less for me and mum!

This post really should have been written and published a good few days ago. Wednesday really.. But I got a little sidetracked and caught up in other things.

I got my GCSE results! The exams I was busy studying for, months and months on end. I am very, very pleased to tell you, my lovely followers that I got.. 8 A*s and 2 As! I am over the moon, and so incredibly relieved! No sleep was had the night before, and my stomach really did have a mind of its own for the whole day before. Add to that the fact that our principal decided to invite the local media and TV crew along in the morning when we were to receive our results, and that made for one extremely scared, nervous, bewildered Amy who was now stressing about what to wear!!

By 9.30am the envelope was opened, and after a few anxious moments trying to decipher what the blooming sheet and all its complicated numbers and letters were trying to tell me, I let out a sigh of relief and ran straight to my waiting mother in the car, (whilst trying to avoid the man with the camera!) However our eager school secretary soon had me cornered and thrust towards the lady with a microphone and so I waffled out a few excited and surprised sounding sentences, something about just being really happy, and adding in that I had had no sleep?! Oh dear..

That desperate interview made it onto the news, the Northern Ireland news, and so my phone started buzzing as relatives and friends realised yes, that was me on the TV, waffling in an excited way, with a lawn mower cutting grass behind me! If you really, really want to witness this for yourself, and hear what I sound like.. though trust me you don’t, then you can drop me an email, or comment! Anyway, moving swiftly on..

If you would try to try these macarons for yourself, and please do, then you can follow this recipe below, which I found after coming across the beautiful blog, Sweetest Kitchen, and I hope she won’t mind me sharing this wonderful recipe! It is adapted from the book ‘Macaroons’ which I really hope to buy, and get baking some more delicious macarons!

Lemon Macarons

*adapted from the book ‘Macaroons

75g ground almonds

115g icing sugar

2 large egg whites (left at room temp for 3-4 hours)

50g caster sugar

finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

yellow food colouring paste or liquid


1. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

2. Place the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and whizz for 15-20 seconds.  Sift the mixture into a large bowl.

3. Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk with electric mixer until holding soft peaks.  Gradually whisk in the caster sugar to make a firm, glossy meringue.  Whisk in the lemon rind and enough food coloring to give a bright yellow colour.

4. Using a spatula, fold the almond mixture into the meringue mixture one third at a time.  When all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, continue to fold the mixture gently until it forms a shiny batter with a thick, ribbon-like consistency.

5. Pour the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1-cm round tip.  Pipe small rounds onto the prepared baking sheets.  Tap the sheets gently on a work surface to remove air bubbles, and then pop any with a cocktail stick.  Leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or until the batter does not stick to your finger when touched lightly.  Preheat the oven to 160C.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes, then carefully peel the macarons off the baking paper.  Leave to cool completely.

Lemon Meringue Filling

*adapted from ‘Making Cupcakes with Lola’

(I scaled the recipe below, roughly by a third, as you require much less to fill macarons)

160g sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3 egg whites

60ml water

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Good quality or homemade Lemon Curd

1. Whip egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar in a large heatproof bowl with an electric mixer until foamy.

2. Bring a saucepan of water to a gentle simmer and set bowl over pan.

3. Beat on high until peaks form, about 5 mins. Mixture should feel quite warm.

4. Take off heat and add vanilla, beat again till thick.

5. Spread a small amount of Lemon Curd on one macaron, and a small amount of the meringue on the other, and then gently sandwich together.

6. After filling all macarons, place in an airtight container, and resisting the urge to gobble them up immediately, refridgerate for 24 hours. Trust me, they taste much better this way after the long wait!

Bon Appetit!


North Coast Lovin’

First off, I must apologise for the sheer lack of posts over the past week here at Snazzy Biscuits. I could feel bad, I do a little, but I won’t apologise for having the most amazing week away. The North Coast of Ireland, Northern Ireland’s famous Causeway Coast, is one of my favourite places in the world.

If you don’t mind, whilst I get unpacked, and ready to hit the kitchen again, I’ll let you enjoy some of the beautiful shots I got. I hope I don’t make you too jealous, though perhaps I can inspire you to come visit this little corner of world. There are some foodie shots thrown in there too, of course.  My mum and I treated ourselves to a very lovely breakfast out one morning whilst the rest of the family were still in bed! I loved just sitting looking across the harbour and daydreaming the morning away…


Berry-Nice Blackcurrant Cupcakes

Like a juicy little blackcurrant pie, all wrapped up in a mini cupcake.

Today the sun shone, and so to the garden we headed. Mum’s blackcurrant patch was bursting with berries which needed picked, and something yummy to make use of them. The whole garden seemed like it had just been turned to ‘super-bright’ like that camera setting you sometimes have. Every flower, tree, plant was beaming with bold colour and brightness, brought to life by the glow of the sun. It was really rather pretty.

A half hour later we had armfuls of blackcurrant stems which needed stripped. I was coping alright, I managed to put up with being covered in leaves, berries and general dirt. That was until a few spiders decided to join the garden party. You should know I really do not do spiders. Eughhh. Passed that branch to mum, and kept calm and carried on. Very soon I had a large tub full of bright purple berries. An hour well spent I thought. It’s little things like this that my mum has passed on and taught to me, that I hope I will be able to replicate later in life myself. There really is nothing like using fruit and produce you have grown and picked yourself, and eating it within hours of it leaving the plant. Fresh is most definitely best!

Tomorrow we head to the North Coast, or you may know it as the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland, home to the Giant’s Causeway, and my favourite little town of Portstewart. This will be my 4th holiday this year and you have no idea how blessed and happy that makes me feel. The long, endless Portstewart Strand is my little slice of heaven. Days are spent body-boarding, swimming in the slightly chilly sea or if the sun decides to make an appearance, you can dare to lay out on the sand. Today’s sun is getting me excited that this week may be different, and a contrast to the usual weather we expect in Ireland, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit like summer. Touch wood.

If all else fails, these cupcakes may insert some sunshine. The sheer amount of juicy purple fruit in these beauties, makes you feel you’re eating something quite healthy, and I’m sure the vitamin C content cancels out the sugar and butter. Anyway, just indulge in a little goodness. Recipe which is from my mother’s favourite cook book of Sarah Raven’s, is included below.

*recipe adapted from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook

Blackcurrant Cupcakes

115g butter

115g sugar

115g self raising flour

2 eggs

1/2 tsp baking powder

100g blackcurrants, topped and tailed

1-2tbsp milk


250g icing sugar

2-3 tbsp blackcurrant juice/Ribena (I used half and half)

dash of lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 180oc. Line muffin tray with cupcake cases.

2. Cream butter and sugar then beat in eggs. Add sifted flour and baking powder gradually and beat in.

3. Add milk to make a smoother mixture, then gently fold in whole blackcurrants.

4. Divide between cupcake cases, only about half way and bake in oven for 15-20 mins.

Blackcurrant Icing

1. Sieve the icing sugar, then add lemon juice and blackcurrant juice and mix well until smooth. If too thick, add extra blackcurrant juice or water (if you don’t want the icing to be any sharper) till of desired consistency.

2. Spread over cupcakes using a spatula and decorate with extra blackcurrants.

Bite and chew, enjoy!

Spiced Carrot Soup

Hold on a second…  a post about soup, yes soup, on a baking blog? What’s going on?

You aren’t seeing things, no, I just decided that today this gorgeous soup deserved its own spot, a little moment of glory, and a chance to make it onto my blog. Right now I am sniffling, coughing and trying desperately to fight off whatever the heck I’ve got which is making me feel this yuck! Today nothing else would do, what I needed was a huge piping hot bowl full of soup and full of soul.

This soup provides a kick which really does warm you up, right down to your toes. Its creamy yet light, spicy yet fresh and makes such a delicious little lunch. I first made something similar for my GCSE Home Economics practical, though it used red lentils, and I just decided to leave them out today and play about with something a little new. With help from a recipe courtesy of BBC Good Food, a website I can always rely on for perfect recipes, I whipped up this yummy soup. Have a look..

I tucked into this bowl of bright orange goodness whilst tucked up on the sofa watching what else but the Olympics. It really is mind blowing, and I’m loving every minute. Great Britain are bringing home the medals and each day it gets more and more exciting! Last night’s 100m final had our whole family on the edge of our seats, as did the men’s tennis final, when Andy Murray finally defeated Federer to claim Gold, in some style! Could not be happier. Long may it continue!

This soup is best served with some thick cut bread, such as this Irish wheaten, or whatever takes your fancy. Grab a spoon, cuddle up and eat!

Spiced Carrot Soup

1tbsp vegetable oil

1tsp cumin seeds

pinch chili flakes

1/2 garlic or squeeze of garlic paste

1 onion chopped

450g carrots chopped

1 potato chopped

1l vegetable stock

115ml milk

1. Heat the oil and chop vegetables. Add cumin, chili and garlic and cook for 1 min. Add onion and soften for 5 mins.

2.Add potato and cook for a further minute. Then add carrots and stock and bring to boil. Stir in milk.

3. Reduce heat and cover, cook for 20 mins til carrots are tender.

4. Allow to cool slightly, then blend with a hand blender or in food processor till smooth.

5.Serve hot, with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle of cumin seeds.

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Buttercream Cake


A decidedly grown up cake. Raspberry buttercream layered between sticky, sweet chocolate cake, and covered in a deep dark chocolate ganache? The perfect cake to say Happy Birthday to my lovely Dad.

On a rare break from watching the Olympics, yes I am engrossed, and spend every moment I can soaking up all the action.. I baked this delicious cake for the main man in my life. Daddy! He adores a big bowl of fresh raspberries and cream when he comes home from work, so I knew his cake needed to have raspberries in it somehow. Paired with his love of chocolate, and I knew it called for only one thing. This yummy recipe from Sweetapolita. I played about with it a little, especially the buttercream, but I hope I did it justice. She was so kind to reply to me on Twitter when I tweeted her a photo of it! I was thrilled, and it definitely made my day.

This is by no means a perfectly executed cake, it’s a little rough around the edges I know. But I feel that’s part of its charm, it’s approachable, and it certainly makes up for it when you take a huge bite! Yum!


August have arrived, and that means only one thing.. the holidays are half way over and the new term of September looms even closer. Right now I don’t really want to dwell on that thought as I am perfectly happy where I am right now, and loving every minute of the time I have to relax and enjoy summer. At the beginning of every holidays, I always draw up an imaginary list of all the things I would like to have done, or feel I should have completed by the end of summer. Things I will look back on and remember, make it stand out, make me feel it has been a memorable summer. I never manage to complete that imaginary list, and yet I never feel that the summer has been wasted.Yes it may have flown by, far too fast for my liking, but so far I still have very fond memories of all my summers. Perhaps the need to feel I have achieved something, or done something out of the ordinary overrides the simple need to relax, unwind and enjoy a peaceful vacation.

We all sat together as a family, (a rare occasion) and enjoyed this 3 layer delight. Dad’s first exclamation of “Mmmm!” was enough to convince me it was all worth it and it had been a success. The sharpness of the raspberry takes away a little of the ultra sweetness of the buttercream, whilst the rich dark chocolate on top makes an amazing partner for the fresh raspberries and moist chocolate cake. An all-round crowd pleaser.

I wouldn’t want to take any credit for this delicious recipe, and to be perfectly honest when it comes to the buttercream I can’t remember the exact recipe I must have used in the end, as I played around with the flavour and texture for so long! (I have began to bake by instinct now I reckon) and also, I forgot to add the vanilla extract into the cake, oops! So if you would like to make your own Chocolate and Raspberry masterpiece, then please head on over to Sweetapolita, and give it a try:

Dark Chocolate Cake

Swiss Meringue Buttercream  

(though as I mentioned, I didn’t like the texture of how mine turned out, and added icing sugar and whipped until it was more like regular buttercream.)

Dark Chocolate Ganache 

This turned out PERFECT! Give it try!

Once again, thank you so much for stopping by Snazzy Biscuits, your continued comments and support means the world, and I can’t wait to share more yummy bakes with you!

Amy x


Sweet Cherry Cupcakes

Sweet as a Cherry Pie..

Summer always seemed to last forever, when I broke up at the end of term as a nine or ten year old. I now realize it is only a mere two months, and a very short two months at that. Days which otherwise would seem endless, suddenly seem to become even shorter, and there are never enough hours to pack in everything that is needed. For now though I am content to bake, read, and repeat, in that order. It seems the perfect way to spend a lazy summer for now. It’s hardly like the Northern Irish weather permits anything more summery or outdoorsy.. rain always puts paid to that.

In an effort to inject a little sweet summery happiness lately, I decided to whip up these cute little cupcakes, made with yummy morello cherry jam, and matching  fluffy icing! A family get together was calling and so I knew these would be the perfect little treats to share. I skirted out to the cinema with friends though, sadly a date I could not get around, and so had to enjoy one of these yummies when I arrived home later. Once again inspired by a recipe from my favourite Lola’s Cupcakes book, which still hasn’t made it back to the library, oops!

Oh so sweet and sticky, the cherry jam adds colour and gooey bits to the cupcake mixture,and gives the buttercream frosting a light cherry taste and beautiful pink colour. These really are very sweet indeed my friends!

*inspired by Lola’s, but my own recipe

Sweet Cherry Cupcakes

125g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
1tsp vanilla extract
2tbsp morello cherry jam, warmed in microwave
1tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 160oc (fan assisted)

1. Cream together butter and sugar using an electric mixer still fluffy. Then add eggs and beat in.

2. Sift in the flour, mix to combine, then add milk and vanilla extract and beat till creamy.

3. Using a spatula gently fold in the warm cherry jam, only a few times, you don’t want to completely combine it. You want the mixture to be streaked, or marbled throughout with cherry jam.

4. Divide between muffin cases and bake in the oven for around 20- 25 mins. Check with a skewer, which should come out clean.

5. Remove from tin and place on a cooling rack.

Fluffy Cherry Buttercream

3oz butter
80z icing sugar
1 1/2 tbsp slightly warmed cherry jam
1tbsp milk
1. Whip the butter until smooth and cremy. Sieve in icing sugar.

2. Beat together with jam until smooth and creamy. Slowly add a little milk at a time until of desired consistency.

3. Beat for around 3-4 mins, or even longer if you can manage it, until buttercream is light and fluffy in texture.

4.Place in piping bag and swirl over cupcakes using a star nozzle.

5. Decorate as you please.. I used little fondant flowers and a spot of extra buttercream on top.

Enjoy! Thanks for dropping by! x