Cadbury Marvellous Creations Pop Up Store

Perhaps this is my way of pining over the chocolate that I haven’t had since I started taking my healthy kick seriously… I’ve been really good, feasting on chocolate-flavoured healthy treats, think protein shakes and nutty energy bites and granola bars with the merest suggestion of chocolate drizzled on… I’ve been really good and I am starting to see some really motivating results. It’s really me fighting the internal battle of whether or not chocolate tastes as good as strong feels…

Last month, before this commitment began, we went through to the Cadbury Marvellous Creations Pop Up store in Sandton City. Pop up stores are obviously all the craze at the moment… This one was by far the most value for money, though they are all done pretty effectively and there really is a full product experience all around.

CMCPU really gave you value though because all you had to do was buy the slab of chocolate, and then you get free treats afterwards, for TWO PEOPLE! So basically 3 treats for the price of one slab. I would definitely call that #winning.

Treat options were a block of shortbread, a mini cupcake (incl. icing) or a slab of chocolate. I chose the chocolate so that I could drizzle more melted chocolate on my chocolate and then top that with mini chocolates (crumbled cookies and astros). Chocolateception…

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache filling

I love having a family with good taste. It means I get to spoil them with experiments and I get to enjoy the benefits, both of actually putting together something delicious, and of enjoying it (I am still trying to figure out which one I enjoy more… thankfully it’s not important to figure out, otherwise I would be in a major quandary and dilemma and I would probably end up not doing either of them. I’m weird like that).

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I have a problem with reading, and I have lost my excuse since finishing University. While at school and while studying at University, I got a bit lazy to read. I absolutely love reading though, I always have, every since my Great Gran taught me how to read the children’s bible when I was 5! I got a Dictionary for my 6th birthday. Which I decided I would try and read when I was 11. Thankfully I didn’t get very far, that would have been a waste of time!

But that is my problem with reading: I feel that it is such a luxury past-time, that if I have something more “important” to be doing (such as assignments, studying, thesis, etc.), then how could I allow myself to indulge in reading? As a result I didn’t do my reading at Uni. Which isn’t to say that I got much of the other important stuff done in that time instead though, I would actually end up not doing either activity. So it really was a terrible excuse.

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Now, I can’t even use that excuse because I am no longer studying! I have free time which is actually free, and it is beautiful. You could say that the free time actually adds up to the endless holidays that students get. Or at least I can tell myself that so that I don’t feel so jealous about all their time to travel and explore…

The beautiful birthday girl

The beautiful birthday girl

I suppose what I do do instead of reading or studying now is bake. I am ok with that. Sometimes baking requires planning and organisation and grown up things like that, so for this cake for my cousin’s 18th, I had to make a practice version of the cake. You know, to make sure it worked out alright (nothing to do with sampling or ensuring that we had our own personal “leftovers”…

 practice cake
For the cake

Ingredients

  • 230g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 240g flour
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 125g butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Prepare two round baking tins.
  2. Place eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk on high until lighter in colour, thick and frothy
  3. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt together and fold into the egg mixture until all ingredients are just wet
  4. Melt down the butter into the milk in a pot on low heat. Add the vanilla essence once mixed together
  5. Add butter-milk mixture to the batter and stir until it reaches a smooth consistency. Mix carefully so as to not lose any of the air in the whipped eggs
  6. Divide batter equally between the two cake tins and place in the preheated oven. Leave to bake for 30 minutes
  7. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting.

Note: for this cake, I completely flattened off both tops using a bread knife. This was so the strawberries could sit safely

For the Salted Caramel

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup caster sugar
  • 100g butter (cubes)
  • 60ml cream

Method

  1. Place the sugar in a pot on a medium-high heat and allow it to melt. Do not stir. Shake the pot to mix the sugar and allow the top dry sugar to get to the heat under the molten sugar
  2. Once a golden colour is reached and all the sugar is dissolved, add the butter and stir until melted and mixed in
  3. Remove from heat and add the cream, stirring vigorously until all is incorporated
  4. Place in a bowl/container and allow to cool before using in this cake
For the Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 120g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
  • 80ml cream (pouring or heavy cream)
  • 30g butter

Method 1:

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring regularly. Just before all the bits are melted, remove and keep stirring until the heat of the melted chocolate melts the remaining chocolate
  2. Add the butter and allow it to melt into the chocolate
  3. Mix in the cream until a smooth and consistent glossy chocolate mixture forms. Allow to cool slightly before use

Method 2: 

  1. Heat the cream on a stove top. Once simmering, remove from heat and pour over chocolate and butter. Ensure the chocolate has been chopped into small pieces so that it melts easier.

 

caramel ganache layer

For the Chocolate Buttercream frosting

Ingredients

  • 110g butter softened
  • 220g icing sugar
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 40ml cream (or until desired texture is reached)

Method

  1. Cream the butter (electric whisk on low)
  2. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together, and cream together with the butter
  3. Add the cream in small doses to help the mixture come together and continue to do so until desired consistency is reached
  4. Only frost cake once cake is coooled

Bliss Juicery

There are so many delicious bakeries, coffee shops, fast food restaurants around, that it’s quite tough these days to find somewhere convenient to get something healthy to snack on, something quick that’s not loaded with sugar or salt or a million and one preservatives. I have recently found a delicious and unique solution to my problem, and it’s only 5 minutes away from work!

Bliss entrance

Bliss Juicery is tucked away in the Colony Shopping Centre in Craighall, Johannesburg, and has been operating from there since the beginning of the year. They started out as a cleanse-only delivery service, which has now upgraded to supplying ready juices, practically on demand. They still offer juice cleanses, and they deliver your order within 15km of the shop.

Shelves

Juice cleanses from Bliss Juicery involve drinking 6 juices per day, for your choice of 1, 3 or 5 days. They also offer nut milks for some added protein, which seems like it would offer some welcome relief from straight juice for the whole day. Their Vanilla Almond Milk is absolutely incredible – and so fresh as well, it’s amazing.

bliss snacks

Bliss guides first-time juicers through the process, pre-warning them about the potential (side) effects. Basically a cleanse is like a detox, so when you go on a cleanse, you may experience similar symptoms as a standard detox, which involves headaches, caffeine withdrawal (is that really a bad thing?), and hunger. Also, “hunger”: we eat out of habit or boredom. I think that would be a big deal for me to overcome…

Health

Their juice recipes are designed based on a combination of flavour and health-benefits, in conjunction with a dietician, so not only does it taste like it’s healthy (especially their broccoli, spinach and courgette juice), but it actually is!

Bliss stocks a range of other healthy snacks as well, for those who feel like they are missing out on fibre or just want something delicious to nosh on. My favourite is their stock of Raw’s Truly vegan and gluten free snacks, especially their truffles. My mind is reeling just thinking about them, I can barely put into words how amazing they are… *zones off into daydreams of the melted “chocolate” and creamy “caramel” centres*

Healthy snacking

I am really looking forward to this health trend that many new restaurants are picking up on. It really helps when you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I hope to try a juice cleanse soon – hopefully flush my system of all the other delicious snacks I’m experimenting at the moment.

Those with hidden beginnings are often the ones who are focusing on what is most important.

Johannesburg Cake and Bake Show

Saturday was a day of treats – Urban Angel Food Market in the morning, Cake and Bake Show in the afternoon. Of course, I tried to balance this out with some exercise in the morning, but you can’t out-exercise 2 doughnuts, 4 cupcakes, a couple cookies, a scone and some chocolate truffles for lunch… But hey, we all deserve to let loose every now and then.

Mom and her cupcake

Of course, I only went for the educational aspect of the Cake and Bake Show. It had nothing at all to do with the possibility of free food, surely not! I would say the show was definitely value for money – a goodie bag upon entry, free spin-the-wheel competitions where you win more goodie bags, free samples from the different stalls, especially from the Bakels store…

Johan from the Bakels stand was particularly generous with their offerings...

Johan from the Bakels stand was particularly generous with their offerings…

Sasko was there showcasing their Quick Treats packet mixes, Clicks had a stall for their Love to Bake range, there was lumo baking chocolate, with a fantastic cake display featuring lurid but exciting lumo cake pops, and a stall for ready-made cake/cupcake decorations (sugar decor). Kenwood had a stand as well, but that just upset me… One day when I am rich!

My biggest lesson from the show: you can buy acetate at hardware stores (not baking shops, as I’d previously believed). Also, just because something looks delicious, doesn’t automatically mean it is. And beware of chocolate chip cookies who pretend to have big chocolate chips… They are liars who want to hurt your soul.

Underbelly of Paris – Les Catacombes

There is this incredible little pastry shop in the middle of Paris – quite possibly the middle of the map (though of course this depends on where you place your map)… And it is right opposite the entrance which goes down a stone spiral staircase that opens up onto thousands upon thousands of human remains. You know, location location location. (The bakery was really lovely though, don’t get me wrong!)

Bones

Les Catacombes, the Catacombs of Paris, France, are home to what seems to be an infinite number of old human remains that were dug up a couple decades ago from churchyards around the city, and placed, according to custom and set rules and regulation (because they have rules for how you stack bones, naturally), in the old underground quarries from even longer prior to that. People are weird. Maybe we were weird for being so intrigued and enthralled and captivated by it?

Greenstick fracture

This place is immensely creepy. Thankfully, I, unlike my crazy travel partner, had not watched “As Above, So Below” before going into the twisting, dark, dank tunnels, so I had no fear of imminent supernatural about to attack, but that didn’t make it any less freaky.

Tunnel

 

But enough of those childish descriptions. The information down there was great: I had no idea there were underground quarries below the densely populated city of Paris, and I got to learn a heck of a lot about the methods behind it. Also, how crazy miners are, and the people who don’t think things through, resulting in some ceilings of the tunnels collapsing. How do you not see that coming? Have you never built a sandcastle on the beach before (or in any sand whatsoever)? Silly…

Stone-masonry

What was not silly, was the fact that there was information in ENGLISH as well, for a change. It was a really nice relief to actually know what was going on down there. Except for the creepy Latin inscriptions as you head into the tunnels which house the actual skeletons – which makes it even eerier (grown up words!).

Typically people don't appreciate or respect others, or the dead, and they go and vandalise history... Spooky though

Typically people don’t appreciate or respect others, or the dead, and they go and vandalise history… Spooky though

It was really something nice and different to do in Paris. They are open until fairly late, the place is extremely accessible, and we even got a student discount, which is always great! The only problem (apart from having to do even more stairs) was that you come out somewhere quite different to where you go in, and we forgot to familiarise ourselves with the route back. It was fine, we were in Paris! Stunning little sight-see, not too busy, absolutely worth the visit!

666 graffiti

 

Palace of Ver-sigh

The Palace of Versailles is lovely, especially in the first few rooms you walk through. After that, though, the loveliness seems to spread and average out until the whole place has a lovely ranking of “Average”. Gold room, after carpeted room, after fancy chandelier.

Grand Trianon Ballroom

After the main Palace, you walk through incredibly expansive, stunning gardens. Now, I really wouldn’t mind having a garden like that outside my bedroom window! We couldn’t figure out how it was kept so impeccably neat though: we saw one lone gardener who was mowing the lawn, but we never saw anyone tending to the perfectly cropped trees, or sweeping up fallen leaves. It must just stay like that naturally, from years of being tamed to do so.

Gardens of Verailles

And it really has been years. A visit to the Palace of Versailles is like a snapshot into history that you enjoy but would rather not see. It’s almost as bad as visiting a concentration camp if you have any vague idea of what actually happened in that place. Everything is extremely grand, even the dwellings labeled as “petit”, and they clearly didn’t spare any expenses. But as you’re craning your neck to see yet another golden chandelier, you remember that there were people in the streets not very far from that very room who were literally starving to death.

Marie Leczinska

Some other Marie (Marie Leczinska)

Now, I completely understand Marie Antoinette’s instruction to “Let them eat cake”, I mean, cake is absolutely wonderful, and everyone should be allowed to enjoy it, but the detachment that the French government and bourgeois had from their people is horrifying. Then again, so is the massive economical divide we see around us even to this day…

But enough of that morbidity. It was a gorgeous day, and we got to see and learn quite a bit from the visit. I had never been to this particular overcrowded tourist destination, but I am really glad we made that long journey – though the “journey” around the Palace itself felt far more extensive and excessive and had us walking many miles through echoes of the very first chamber we went into.

Paris Day 1 – The Circumnavigation

Start: top left corner of the map. Walk “downhill”. Take a slight wrong turn. End up at Arc de Triomf. Realise your new camera’s lens does not zoom in or out; time to be creative.

Arc de Triomph

Take a stroll down the Champs Elysee, slight detour to the Grand Palais, and a nice long wait to go through security at the Louvre. Blur through the sculpture room, Medieval Art, Mona Lisa, Roman and Greek art,  foot-rest break in the Egypt chamber, and onward to the lock bridge. Slight wander to get to the Notre Dame, and a much welcome break at Quick. “Healthy” does not feature when in Rome Paris.

Petit Palais

Mona Lisa crowds

Notre Dame

Grand Palais

Obelisk Champs Elysee

A “just-around-the-corner” walk to Eiffel Tower, pause on the grass, pause in the queue, and begin the ascension to the second floor. Pause for elevator to the top, try not to get blown off the top, pause for elevator back to second floor, and some eccentric quad exercises to the bottom. Catch a bus that’s much further away than it seemed on the map.

Eiffel Tower

Get home to leave some baggage and go out for an evening walk, but end up crashing before 8pm, despite not having dinner other than cool cereal, and despite having no curtains for the remaining 2 hours of daylight.

Total: 15km of city walked. 1 wing of the Louvre explored. ±700 stairs up and ±700 steps down the Eiffel Tower. Day 1 = complete.

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