Looking at the View- Tate Britain’s take on the landscape

I was walking past Tate Britain a few days ago, musing about how its been a very long time since I’ve been inside- too long, in fact. I’ve also been fairly out of touch with the gallery scene recently (appalling, I know, for an art history student!) so I didn’t even know what the current exhibitions were.

Wandering through the gallery, I stumbled across an exhibition called ‘Looking at the View.’ This free, small exhibition is all about exploring the way artists throughout time have used the landscape in their work, using a variety of techniques and medium. It also plays with the way the viewer interacts with the landscape, and the different meanings it can carry. Some of the works were solely of the landscape, others used the landscape as a backdrop for the figures, for others still, the landscape worked merely as one tiny element of the composition.

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The curators have drawn really interesting comparisons between a number of works, juxtaposing similar looking works that were created possibly a hundred years apart, like these two:

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Sir Brooke Boothby by Joseph Wright, painted in 1781 and Tracey Emin’s Monument Valley (Grand Scale) of 1995-97. (I’m sort of curious as to why this photograph too two years to produce- I would love to hear the back story behind that one!) These paintings, when looked at in conjunction, are really interesting- the artist has created a really definite relationship between the figure and the landscape, and the viewer must question why they have made these choices and what they signify. Comparisons like this one are drawn all over the gallery, like these two very similar works, again painted a hundred years apart.

P1000885 (Left: Patrick Nasmyth, View Near Sevenoaks, Kent, 1820; Right: Augustus John, The Little Railway, Martigues, 1928)

Some of the works made me feel very homesick for huge flat fields and never ending skies, like where I live when not at uni, in Essex (one of the flattest places on earth!) And it made me pine for summer, especially because its still snowing (its nearly April, what is that?) I particularly liked these two:

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John Nash’s The Cornfield, 1918 and Paul Graham’s Union Jack Flag in Tree, County Tyrone, 1985. If they don’t make you long for long hot summer days I don’t know what will!

Posted in art

Surprise Inside Cake or ‘A Cake that Freaks People Out’

It was my dear friend (and housemate) Nicole’s 21st birthday this weekend, and responsibility for the cake has fallen to me. Living together, Nicole has witnessed countless cake triumphs (and, of course, failures!) so this one had to be extra special.

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I wanted a cake that would get people really excited.

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‘A cake that freaks people out.’

So here it is:

Surprise Inside Cake (inspired by the Pinata Cake craze that is flooding the internet at the moment)

I just used my most basic cake recipe for this- but had to double the recipe to create a cake big and strong enough with withhold all the treats!

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12 ounces of butter

12 ounces of sugar

6 eggs

12 ounces of self raising flour

dash of vanilla extract

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Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Sift in the flour and mix until combined. Then add vanilla.

Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 180 degree oven ( it is a good idea to keep checking on it, as with such a large cake, cooking times can really vary!)

Once the cake is cool, cut it in half. Hollow out the top of one half and the bottom of the other. There should be a cavity in the middle of the cake, but make sure you leave the sides wide enough so the whole thing doesn’t cave in! Fill the bottom half with an assortment of sweets! I went for lots of coloured ones, for the aesthetic effect, but its completely up to you!

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Vanilla Icing

5 ounces of butter

10 ounces of icing sugar

2 tablespoons of milk

a few drops of vanilla extract

Beat the butter until smooth and soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beatwell until combined. Add the other half and mix well. Add the milk and mix well to loosen the mixture.

Use the icing to attach the top half to the bottom half, and then to decorate the outside. Add food colouring to the icing and use to decorate if you wish!

Cut into it and watch the insides pour out. And trust me- this cake will get the desired effect every time!

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xxR

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Blackberry Cake with Orange Drizzle

Today was a cake day- grey, wet, cold.

Plus uni finished yesterday so I have nothing to do any more except bake (what a nightmare!)

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PLUS I found these blackberries in the reduced section in my local shop- a section I must admit, I frequent often!

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This cake, with a cup of tea, was the perfect antidote to a grey Wednesday afternoon!

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Blackberry Cake with Orange Drizzle (recipe stolen from here!)

110g softened butter

140g caster sugar

2 eggs

zest from 1 orange

125g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

200g blackberries

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

juice from 1 orange

30g caster sugar

Beat together the sugar, caster sugar (except for the last 30g), eggs, orange zest, flour, baking powder and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until smooth and well combined. (I did this by hand (because I don’t have an electric mixer- sad) but if you do, feel free to use that!

Then fold in the blackberries. If you toss them in a bowl with icing sugar before hand, this should prevent them from sinking to the bottom! (I only very recently learned this sneaky trick!)

Pour the mixture into a loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper and bake in a 180 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

While it is cooling, mix together the orange juice and sugar to form a sort of syrupy liquid. Poke deep holes all over the top of the cake and spoon the mixture over the top of the cake and into the wholes.

Leave to cool completely, then sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy!!

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xxR

Chocolate Crackles

Today is arguably the most miserable day of the year, weather-wise. It well and truly sucks. So, I was kind of grumpy and very damp by the time I’d walked all the way from my boyfriend’s flat to Camden Town tube station. And its busy there, all the time. There is a constant flow of people- tourists, teenagers and Camden weirdos, going in and out, which is enough to turn any mood slightly foul. So there I was- wet and annoyed (having had to queue for ages behind people with very little understanding of how to top up an Oyster card).

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And then something caught my eye.

On the floor, underneath hundreds of rushing feet, was a wad of money. A wad.

I stared at it. ‘Don’t pick that up,’ a voice said to me. But I couldn’t help it. I glanced around- no one was looking. Not even the station guards had seemed to have noticed it. I grabbed it.

Walking down the unending spiral staircase, I felt so guilty. I had stashed it in my pocket, too scared to look in case someone saw. I felt like I had just robbed a bank.

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The entire journey home I could feel it, burning in my pocket. I just don’t know how criminals do this!

Am I a bad person? Yes. I know, I’m sorry.

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Please accept these Chocolate Crackles to make up for it!

Chocolate Crackles recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

4 ounces chocolate, melted

3 ounces flour

1 ounce cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature

2 1/2 ounces sugar

1 egg

4 tablespoons milk

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Set aside to allow it to cool.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat well until combined. Stir in the melted chocolate.

Mix in the dry ingredients and the milk, alternating them and mixing well. Wrap the dough in cling film and put in the fridge to rest until firm.

Once firm, roll the dough into a log, wrap in cling film and allow to cool for 30 more minutes. Cut the log into one inch pieces, roll into a ball and toss into a bowl of icing sugar, ensuring that the icing sugar coats the ball entirely.

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Place these balls on a baking tray and bake in a 180 degree oven for 12 ish minutes, or until the sugar has cracked and the cookie is, well, cookie shaped.

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xxR

Stressing Out Carrot Cake Cupcakes

It’s me that’s stressing out, not the cupcakes. I have two essays due next week PLUS a dissertation due after Easter, so I’m feeling a bit snowed under. I realize that baking is probably the least valuable use of my time at the moment, but I need to try and take my mind off the work load before I break down!

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Carrot cake is the ultimate relaxation device.

Carrot Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe adapted from here)

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1 c flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 c sugar

1/2 c vegetable oil

2 eggs, room temp

1 tsp vanilla

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 c (or about two large carrots) grated carrots

Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and sugar in a large bowl and mix well.

In another bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, vanilla and maple syrup. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is thoroughly combined. Grate in the carrots and mix.

Bake for 15- 20 minutes in a 180 degree oven.

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For the cream cheese frosting:

Mix a big dollop of cream with with about double the amount of icing sugar (I completely eyed this up, and then relied on tasting and testing to get it right.) It should be a smooth creamy consistency, but not too runny! Mix in some ground ginger (if you want- I think this is delish with carrot cake!) Grate some orange rind on top (again, totally optional, just looks pretty!)

 

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Enjoy!

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xxR

Stolen Bicycle Cheesecake Brownies

Living in London, you kind of expect to have your bicycle stolen. But that doesn’t mean its not still painful.

I LOVED my bike- it was beautiful, an old (vintage!), green Hercules Balmoral ladies bike. Okay okay, so the brakes weren’t great and the gears were a bit funky and it was very hard to peddle (getting over Waterloo Bridge every morning really was a killer.)

I also loved not paying for the bus.

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It was chained up on a quiet, residential road in Camden, the kind of road where no crime ever happens and everyone rides bikes. Or so it would seem. But someone cut the lock, and just like that, its gone.

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I need something gooey and chocolate to cheer me up. Something like these delicious cheesecake brownies. (They are SO good- the gooiest brownies you’ve ever seen on the bottom, with a cheesecakey, crispy drizzle on top.)

Cheesecake Brownies

recipe taken from here

85g butter

4 ounces chocolate

130g sugar

2 large eggs

70g flour

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

80g chocolate chips

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Melt butter and sugar in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat, then beat in the sugar and eggs.

Mix in the flour and cocoa powder, then vanilla and chocolate chips.

Spread evenly in a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Then make the cheesecake topping.

200g cream cheese

1 large egg yolk

75g icing sugar

splash of vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese, yolk, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Distribute it in dollops around the brownies, then, using a dull knife, spread it around in a marble effect.

Bake in 180 degree oven for 10- 15 minutes- but keep an eye on them! You want them to be really gooey!

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xxR

Rain Room

I woke up this morning with something nagging in the back of my mind- there was something I’d been meaning to do for ages but hadn’t got round to.

Oh god! – I panicked.

The rain room- how long was it on for? – pretty sure it closes in March- aaah!

Random International Rain Room at the Barbican invites viewers to experience what it would be like to control the rain. Viewers enter a room filled with a downpour of rain, however, do not get wet, for, wherever they move, the rain stops.

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I jumped on the computer, and, sure enough, it closes in March. I had two days. It was 8 am. ‘Be prepared to queue for four hours’ the website warned. That was it. I was dressed, out of the house and crammed onto a commuter tube by twenty past. Ugh.

I made it to the Barbican centre by 9.00, armed with an almond croissant and plenty of reading, ready to face the queue. Which was, by the way, ridiculous. There were already at least 60 people there when I arrived, and it didn’t even open until 11!

Three and a half hours later, I was at the front of the queue.

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Then, I was allowed to descend the stairs into the exhibition space- a very dark, gradually curving corridor that seemed to go on forever. I must admit- it was scary. The sound of pouring rain could be heard, very faintly at first, but increasing more and more as I approached.

The initial sight of the rain was perhaps the best part of the exhibition. The room was completely black apart from one very strong spot light at the far end, meaning that all that was visible was the rain and the silhouettes of people experimenting in the installation. It was very beautiful.

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Entering the rain was slightly unnerving- I almost didn’t trust it. But, as if by magic, the rain above my head stopped. It really was quite amazing.

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