My first attempt at sugar cookies

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I see sugar cookies all the time on social media. Birthday sugar cookies, baby shower sugar cookies, wedding sugar cookies, Christmas sugar cookies. I can’t seem to get away from them when I’m scrolling through Pinterest, but I’ve never actually had a go at making my own sugar cookies before. Well, until now that is.

I get the impression that sugar cookies are a much bigger thing in the US than they are here in the UK. The only time I’ve eaten sugar cookies before is back when I was at Primary school; my mum has a friend who grew up in Hawaii, and she always made sugar cookies for us to decorate when we went round to her house. (Side note: I loved going round to her house.)

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So, armed with a bit of spare time and some good old nostalgia, I decided to have a go at baking my own sugar cookies. My mum’s friend was kind enough to give me her recipe, so I was able to make the exact same yummy cookies that I remember eating as a kid.

I was really pleased with how these cookies turned out for a first attempt. They tasted just like I remember, and were perfect for icing. I decided to keep things pretty simple and go with a butterfly design for these cookies, but I’m excited to experiment and see what other designs I will be able to come up with using some different cookie cutters.

I’m already planning on making some of these for my 21st birthday party next week, so I’ll be uploading a recipe soon! I’m hoping to have a go at making some cacti cookies, what do you think?!

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Have you ever made sugar cookies? Do you agree that they’re way more popular in the States?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Victoria sandwich cake and party planning

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Hey guys, how’re we all doing?

Despite only working three days a week at the moment, I’m feeling pretty worn out. When I go back to uni in October I know that I’ll be buried in a mountain of work once again, so I’m trying to fit as many things into this summer as I can. While this is great in some respects- I’m churning out enough baked goods to feed a small family for a year- I’m also feeling like I just don’t have enough time to fit everything in.

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s my 21st birthday next month, so I’m busy looking forward to that. I’m not having a proper party- I decided to spend the money on a trip to Rome with Jason instead- but I am having some family round on the day to celebrate with me. Naturally, because I’m me, having a few family members round has turned into a themed celebration, so despite the small 18 people long guest list, I’m pulling out all the stops to create an awesome Latin American themed fiesta.

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I studied Spanish at school and fell in love with the language, going on to develop a huge appreciation for both Spanish and latin American culture as I’ve gotten older. Hence when I was thinking about a summer party theme, my mind instantly went to sunshine, papel picado and mojitos. Sadly, here in North England the sunshine isn’t a given, but with plans for a DIY cocktail bar and several Mexican paper crafts already underway, the other two are looking likely.

Alongside my fiesta planning, I’ve also done some very English baking for my Dad. Unfortunately my Dad’s birthday is in May, right in the middle of exam season, so I didn’t have time to make him a birthday cake this year. To make up for this I made him his favourite Victoria sandwich cake the other day while I was off.

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I love Victoria sandwich cake. Like, what’s not to love really? It’s the perfect combination of soft sponge cake, sweet jam, and light and airy cream. I personally prefer cake with buttercream instead of fresh cream, but seeing as this was for my Dad I sandwiched the sponges together with a whipped double cream and strawberries mixture, his fave.

It’s safe to say this cake went down very well- two days later and it’s almost all gone! If you fancy making your own Victoria sandwich cake, try using my vanilla sponge cake recipe.

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I’ve got plenty more baking planned for over the coming weeks, mainly preparations for my birthday- yay!

What have you been up to this week? Let me know in the comments!

The Best Gingerbread Men

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Hello you lovely people! How are we all today? Running around like crazy people trying to purchase the last of the Christmas presents? Same! Today has been hectic. I’m trying my best not to be too hard on myself for the fact that I’ve left everything to the last minute, but I am still cursing myself for not starting in July. Eh well, there’s always next year.

I have sooo much baking planned for this week- first up, my favourite gingerbread men! Baking gingerbread men has become somewhat of a tradition for me during the week leading up to Christmas. The first time I tried making my own gingerbread men was way back when I was in year nine at high school (so back when I was 14- that’s six years ago!). Pleasantly surprising myself with the result, several of my friend’s ended up receiving gingerbread men that year. And so it became a yearly tradition for me.

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This recipe gives the tastiest, soft spiced gingerbread men that I’ve ever had. I’ve tried a few different methods of making gingerbread over the years (I also like to make a yearly gingerbread house, which requires a slightly harder textured gingerbread), and I can safely say that this is my favourite to eat! With just the right amount of ginger and cinnamon, and a wonderful soft texture, these gingerbread men are the perfect little festive treats for all the family. Plus, they fill your home with the BEST Christmas smell.

In short, if you leave these out for Santa, you’re sure to be put on the nice list!

Fancy making your own? Find my recipe below!

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs golden syrup
  • 75g dark soft brown sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg

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Method:

  1. Begin by greasing two baking trays and preheating your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4.
  2. Melt your butter, sugar and syrup in a pan, stirring continuously as you do so.
  3. Once your butter and sugar mixture has melted, combine your dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a small well in the middle and pour in the syrup mixture. Stir well.
  4. Beat your egg before adding it to the mixture. Combine well. The mixture will be incredibly sticky at this point- don’t worry! That’s what we want!
  5. Leave the mixture to rest for ten minutes.
  6. Once the mixture has rested, roll it out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Cut out your gingerbread men! The cookie cutter I used for my men was approx 13cmx10cm, with my stars being about 4cmx4cm. Place your cut out shapes on a baking tray and pop them in the oven. If you’re using a cookie cutter the same size as mine for your men, they will need 12-15 minutes in the oven. My smaller star and tree cookies take between 8-10 minutes to cook.
  7. When ready to come out of the oven, the gingerbread will still feel soft to touch, but they will look nicely baked on the surface and the edges may be starting to darken ever so slightly. Remove them from the oven and leave to rest on the baking tray for five minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. P1240180.jpg

Once cooled, you can ice your gingerbread like mine, or maybe melt some chocolate to drizzle over! Maybe add a bit of lemon juice to your icing to spice things up a bit. For my icing I mixed a little amount of egg white with some icing sugar for a firm consistency before outlining my gingerbread shapes. I’m afraid I don’t have measurements for this- I sort of just see how it goes! But if you do wish to do the same as me, sieve a small amount of icing sugar into a bowl before gradually adding egg white. Don’t add too much egg white, otherwise the icing will turn out far too runny!

That’s it from me today guys, I hope you enjoyed this post! What are you up to this week leading up to Christmas?

I hope you’re all having wonderful days, and best wishes to each and every one of you,

Maddie x

Spiced Caramel Apple Cake

 

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Hello you lovely people!

So, OK guys, here it is, the Autumnal cake recipe you’ve all been waiting for; my Spiced Caramel Apple Cake- let’s be real, does it get any more Autumnal?!

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Those of you who frequent my blog will know that I am a cake addict; I will gladly spend my day doing nothing but baking, icing and eating cake. I’d never actually tried incorporating apples (or any type of fruit in all honesty) into my cakes before, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good this bake turned out!

As it was my first time experimenting with adding fruit to my cake, I decided to keep the rest of the recipe relatively simple and stick to my basic sponge cake recipe, with a few seasonal adjustments.

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Packed full of Autumnal spices, layered with salted caramel sauce and topped off with sweet cinnamon buttercream, this cake was PERFECT for Autumn. And pretty easy to make too. I already had a jar of my homemade caramel sauce in the fridge when making this cake so I thought I’d use it- find my recipe here– though this would be just as tasty if you decided to use shop bought caramel.

Fancy making your own? Find my recipe below:

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • Approximately 6oz of apples. I used Braeburn apples, though I imagine any type of eating apple would work well. 
  • 8oz butter or Stork margarine
  • 8oz light soft brown sugar plus a small amount to cover your apple pieces with.
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice

For the buttercream

  • 12oz icing sugar
  • 8oz butter or Stork margarine (room temperature and cubed)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For the salted caramel sauce (This makes one small jar full- you won’t need it all!)

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 90g salted butter, room temperature (You could also just use unsalted butter if you did not wish to make salted caramel sauce)
  • 120ml double/heavy cream
  • 1tsp salt

 

P1230389.jpgMethod:

  1. Begin by washing and peeling your apples, before cutting them into small chunks. Mine were around 1cm squares.
  2. Pat your apple chunks down with kitchen towel to get some of the moisture out of them. You don’t want to make your cake soggy, so I recommend giving them a little press with your hand over a sheet of kitchen towel, to help get some of the excess juice out.
  3. Sprinkle some sugar over your apple pieces and leave to rest in a bowl while you prepare the rest of your cake.
  4. Grease and line two 8″ cake tins, and preheat your oven to 180C.
  5. Cream your butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in your eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each. This will help stop the mixture from separating.
  6. Sieve in the rest of your flour, and your spices. Combine your mixture thoroughly using a wooden spoon or electric mixer.
  7. Tip in your apple chunks and stir through to distribute evenly throughout the cake mix.
  8. Pour your mixture evenly into the two prepared cake tins, place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes. When cooked, your sponges should spring up when pressed in the middle, and a skewer should come out clean after being inserted into the centre of your sponges.
  9. Leave the sponges in the tins to rest for a minute, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  10. While your cake is cooling, you can make your buttercream! Sieve your icing sugar into a bowl and add your butter. Add in your cinnamon and whisk together until you have a smooth icing consistency (this will take a while!). If your buttercream is slightly too thick, add a little milk.
  11. If you wish to make your own salted caramel sauce, do so now (find my recipe here!). Leave your sauce to cool a little before assembling your cake, you don’t want it to melt the buttercream!
  12. You can now begin to assemble the cake. Spread a thin layer of caramel sauce on one of your sponges before adding a layer of butter cream on top. Pop the second sponge on top before spreading a layer of caramel on this too, and piping some more cinnamon buttercream around the edges for decoration. I also chose to add some caramelised apple slices to my cake to make it look super fancy 😉

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So there you have it!

I absolutely love how this recipe turned out, incase you couldn’t already tell! 😉 Jason isn’t even a big fan of cinnamon, and even he liked this cake! So I think that says something about how good this tasted. I loved the contrast of the caramel with the spices and the apple, it was a PERFECT combination.

What have you guys been baking recently? Do you have a favourite bake for Autumn? Let me know in the comments, you know I love to be inspired!

Best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

Chocolate and Chopped Nut Apple Slices

These Chocolate Apple Slices are the perfect treat for fall! Crunchy apple, smooth chocolate and tasty chopped nuts make these a super tasty snack over these cold months.

Hello you lovely people! Ok, so I have a little confession to make, this post was actually meant to go up before Halloween and Bonfire Night, but I got crazy behind on my blogging schedule- I’m sorry!

But I figured that a tasty apple treat is perfect for the whole of Autumn, regardless of what festivities you celebrate. So that’s what I’m bringing you today!

There’s something oddly comforting to do with apples at this time of year, at least for me. As the Winter months roll in, I am craving hot apple cider, apple crumble and custard, spiced apple cake… you get the idea. Mixing the trusty old apple with sweet treats has something soo satisfying about it, and so homely. The thought of toffee apples takes me right back to being a kid. I remember my mum buying them in close to Halloween; I would sit and nibble all of the sugary coating off before leaving the apple. I am proud to say that my taste buds have changed somewhat, and now I enjoy devouring the apple itself too.

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Today’s recipe is a really simple, yet scrumptious idea, that’ll have you whipping up the perfect sweet treat in no time. I mixed it up a bit from the usual toffee coated apples and decided to dunk these apple slices in melted chocolate instead! This was for two reasons, primarily the fact I’m on a student budget and chocolate is much cheaper, and two because I left my sugar thermometer at home. Three because I just bloody love chocolate.

I also decided to keep things plain and simple, and stick to just apple slices rather than dunking a full apple. You could pop a lolly stick in these if you fancied making some ‘apple pops’ for a Fall themed party, but I liked the idea of having my slices on their own, as they make a great snack! (Though I will warn you that this does make them a little messier to eat!).

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I topped of my slices with some chopped nuts, and the outcome was soooo yummy. The crunchiness and juiciness of the apple, accompanied with the smooth chocolate coating and nutty flavour was delicious, and perfect for Autumn!

The best bit about these is that you can eat more of them because they’ve got fruit in… that’s totally how it works, right?

You could also whip up some of my salted caramel sauce to drizzle over the top of these apples. I have a feeling it would be HEAVENLY.

This salted caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment to all your fall sweet treats! Pair it with apple crumble, cheesecake or on top of cupcakes for the perfect Autumn dessert combo! Best of all, it only uses four ingredients!

My Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe!

So let’s get to it!

You will need:

  • Apples. As many as you like really. As I live alone I kept it to a minimum and only used two apples.
  • A mixture of chocolate. I used 150g milk chocolate and 150g white chocolate.
  • Toppings! I used chopped nuts and golden stars on my apples, but feel free to get creative here and top with your favourite sweets or sprinkles!

Method:

  1. Wash and slice your apples. You want thick enough slices so that your apples are too delicate when you’re dunking them in your chocolate. Peel if you’d prefer, but I kept the skin on mine. Press your apple slices with some kitchen roll to help dry them out a bit before adding the chocolate, you don’t want them to be too wet.
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  3. Melt your chocolate! I decided to cover half of my slices in white chocolate and half in milk chocolate for artistic credit, but do whatever tickles your fancy. By holding the bottom half of your apple slice between your fingers, use a spoon to cover one side of your apple in the melted chocolate. Spread it out with the back of the spoon so that you have an even layer, before turning over and doing the same with the other side. Your fingers will get a bit messy! More to lick off afterwards, right? 
  4. Place your slices down on the baking tray once you have covered them in chocolate.
  5. If using chopped nuts, sprinkle these over the top of your apple slices. Drizzle some melted chocolate over your slices in a contrasting colour. I chose to add my golden stars after this to make them really stand out!
  6. Once you are satisfied with the look of your apple slices, place them in the fridge for the chocolate to completely set!

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I keep these slices in the fridge once I’ve made them. If you’ve covered them in chocolate well enough, they keep for quite a few days and retain their juicy, crunchy texture.

There you have it guys! I hope you enjoyed this really easy and tasty recipe, if you can call it that!

I’ll be taking these with my lunch over the next few days, if I haven’t eaten them all by then!

What’s your favourite treat to make using apples at this time of year? Let me know!

Best wishes,

Maddie x

Halloween Party Treats- A Collab!

Hey guys!

Get in the Halloween spirit with these great party treats! Impress your guests with spiderweb cupcakes and ginger spiced truffles!

It’s already getting dark at ridiculously early hours here in Lancaster, and I’m cranking the heating up to full on most nights to prevent my toes dropping off.
But there is one small glimmer of joy on these bitingly cold autumn days- Halloween of course!
You may have already seen some of my recent Halloween posts, but today is a super special post because not only are we talking Halloween, we’re talking Halloween parties! And, making it even more special, is the fact that we are joined by the lovely Yara over on Little DIY Projects!
Yara’s blog is amazing, and guys should totally check out- I am endlessly inspired by her posts! Today we are teaming up for a Halloween party collab, where she’ll be doing the decorations and I’ll be doing the treats!

So let’s get started!

I knew when Yara and I decided to do this collab that I wanted to make spiderweb chocolate cupcakes. Spiderweb cakes are a staple bake for me on Halloween, and one that I’ve been doing for years. I love the simplicity of them, and how effective the chocolate spiderwebs look!

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However, I also decided to spice things up a bit (quite literally!) and make something completely new for me. Enter my spiced ginger white chocolate truffles. I have never made truffles before, so it’s fair to say these were complete guesswork… Well, that’s a lie, I technically have made truffles once before. I made a chocolate ganache a few years back that went completely wrong and ended up solidifying into a soft creamy chocolate mixture. I ran with it and rolled it into truffle balls. 

But this time I wanted to try and come up with an intentional truffle recipe- so that’s what I did. These little guys did turn out a little rough around the edges, there’s no denying it, but I’m still pretty happy with the final product (plus, it’s Halloween! Surely a bit rough around the edges just makes them more creepy…right? Right?). They taste exactly how I think an autumnal truffle should taste; gingery, cinnamony, spiced creamy goodness, all coated in a very generous layer of white chocolate. So ok, maybe the white chocolate layer wasn’t meant to be quite that generous. But like my last truffle attempt, we’re rolling with it.

So first things first, my Spiderweb Chocolate Cupcakes! 

Get in the Halloween spirit with these great party treats! Impress your guests with spiderweb cupcakes and ginger spiced truffles!

 

You will need:

  • 12 cupcakes. Make your own or use shop bought- I’m not going to judge! I used my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe, found here
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • A piping bag. I use disposable piping bags, allowing me to just snip a small hole in the end, no nozzle required!
  • A sharp knife or cocktail stick

What to do:

  1. Break your milk chocolate into a microwaveable bowl and heat in the microwave for one minute. Take the chocolate out, stir with a spoon, and pop it back in the microwave for a further minute.
  2. Spoon your milk chocolate evenly onto your cupcakes, to coat the top of each. If you need to, spread it out with the back of your spoon to achieve a smooth finish.
  3. Melt your white chocolate in the same way as your milk chocolate.
  4. Spoon your melted white chocolate into your piping bag. Snip a small opening in the end of the bag.
  5. Pipe a spiral of white chocolate onto the top of each cake. Work quite quickly to ensure your milk chocolate doesn’t harden.
  6. Using your knife or cocktail stick, on one of your cupcakes, drag a line from the centre of your spiral outwards, towards the edge of your cupcake. Do this at regular intervals around the cupcake, to create your spiderweb effect!
  7. Repeat this on all your cupcakes, creating the perfect creepy treat for your party guest!

There you have it guys- how simple was that?! I love spiderweb cakes for this, they’re so quick and easy to do, perfect for when you have a lot of guests coming over!

Now to my Spiced Ginger and White Chocolate Truffles!

Halloween party treats- spiced ginger and white chocolate truffles

 

Ingredients (makes approx 20 truffles):

  • 125g ginger snap biscuits
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 350g white chocolate
  • Orange food colouring

What to do:

  1. Start by smashing up your ginger biscuits into really really fine crumbs. You could use a food processor for this, but my preferred method is putting the biscuits in a freezer bag and bashing them with a rolling pin-  a great stress reliever, am I right? 
  2. Combine your biscuit crumbs and your cream cheese in a bowl. Mix together thoroughly before sieving in your icing sugar and mixing together once more.
  3. Add in your cinnamon, before covering the mixture with some clingfilm and putting in the refrigerator for an hour. OK, so I didn’t actually do this with my truffles, and resultantly had to struggle trying to roll a very sticky mixture into balls, hence the rough, messy appearance of my finished truffles. DON’T DO WHAT I DID. Learn from my mistakes, guys.
  4. Once you have refrigerated your mixture, begin to roll out small truffle sized balls using your hands. Alternatively, use a little scoop so make life easier. Another lesson from my mistakes: don’t make your balls too big! (Ey yo…) But seriously, this mixture is very sickly. You want small balls of delight, not something so big that its a struggle to eat. 
  5. When you have your truffle balls, pop them on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray, and place them in the fridge for further 15 minutes.
  6. Just before taking your truffles out of the fridge, melt 300g of your white chocolate. I did this in the microwave, heating the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl for one minute, then taking it out and stirring with a spoon, before popping it back in the microwave for a further minute.
  7. Now it’s dunking time! Scoop up your first truffle ball using a teaspoon. Pop it in your bowl of melted chocolate and spoon the chocolate on top, so it is covering your ball. Lift out of the chocolate, tap it on the side of the bowl to get rid of the excess, then pop it back down on the greaseproof paper.
  8. Continue with this dunking method until all of your truffles are coated.
  9. Once you have covered all of your truffles in chocolate, place them back in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened. Leave them for another 15 minutes.
  10. Melt the rest of your white chocolate. Add your orange food colouring and spoon the mixture into a disposable piping bag. Snip a hole in the end and pipe your decorative stripes on top!

Again, I had a bit of an issue here! I actually ran out of white chocolate, and so had to do my stripes in icing instead, hence them looking a bit runny. Don’t worry though- I’ve included plenty of chocolate in this recipe to stop you from making the same mistake!

So there you have it guys, my first attempt at truffle making. It’s fair to say that these weren’t plain sailing, but I’ve definitely learnt for next time! I absolutely will be making more truffles in the future, as I looooveee different flavoured truffles so much. My brain’s already going into overload with cute festive ideas for over the Christmas period!

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I would’ve absolutely loved to have done some Halloween party savoury snacks to go with this post too, but sadly being back at university both time and money are limited. I hope you enjoyed this post though and it has given you some inspiration to get making this Halloween!

Be sure to check out Yara’s post over on her blog and go and say hello! We’ve had loads of fun putting this collab together, and I hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed creating it for you!

Best wishes to you all!

Maddie x

 

Homemade vanilla fudge recipe!

This recipe gives you the creamiest, most wonderfully textured vanilla fudge. A true classic, perfect as a thoughtful homemade gift for your loved ones.

Hi guys! Today’s blog post is all about how to make your own homemade fudge- yum. I’d attempted making my own fudge twice before, prior to this post, and that had turned out…well…not brilliantly to say the least. But I am a fudge addict, I LOVE fudge. My family and I used to holiday a lot in the UK when I was younger, and my dad and I would always bring back fudge. So I just had to give it a go one more time before accepting defeat.

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For me, fudge is very much a food for special occasions- as Christmas grows ever nearer, what better time to share this sweet treat recipe? When done correctly, homemade fudge makes a wonderful gift for family members and friends. And in case you hadn’t already guessed, I finally managed to do it correctly!

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After looking over a few different fudge recipes and comparing them with the one I’d previously tried from one of my own recipe books, I settled on the following method and ingredients found here on the Good to Know website. One thing that did surprise me was just how cheap the process turned out to be, using only six ingredients- most of which you’ll already have in your cupboard!

If you’d like to know how to make your own homemade fudge, keep reading!

Ingredients (makes approximately 36 pieces of fudge):

  • 450g granulated sugar
  • 85g butter (I used salted butter as this was all I had in! I’m sure unsalted butter would work brilliantly too though.)
  • 150ml milk (I used semi-skimmed milk, though I imagine full fat milk would be good too.)
  • 175g evaporated milk
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • Vegetable oil for greasingP1230318

Method:

  1. To begin, place your sugar, butter, milk and evaporated milk into a large heavy bottomed pan and mix them together. Heat gently, stirring continuously, until your sugar has dissolved.
  2. Once your sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring occasionally to ensure your sugar doesn’t burn. Be careful as your mixture will be very hot!
  3. Continue to boil until your mixture reaches 116C on a sugar thermometer. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer- firstly, I strongly suggest you invest in one! They make life so much easier. Secondly, you can see if your fudge is done but spooning a small drop of the syrup into iced water, it should form a soft ball. (I got this tip from the Good to Know website).
  4. Once your syrup is the correct temperature, remove your pan from the heat and stir in your vanilla extract, before pouring your mixture into a square tin brushed with vegetable oil. I used a 20cm shallow square tin for my fudge.
  5. Leave your fudge to cool for approximately ten minutes before cutting it into squares. Now leave it to cool completely. Wrap in cellophane bags and tie with a pretty ribbon for a perfect homemade gift!

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I hope you enjoyed this recipe; this fudge was so creamy and very sweet, I loved it! I’m looking forward to experimenting with some other flavours now that I’ve got to grips with vanilla fudge- is there anything else you’d like to see? Peanut butter perhaps? Chocolate? Let me know! 

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

Pssst… if you enjoyed this post, why not share it on social media or pin it on pinterest?