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ITALIAN CREAM CAKE



On my Birthday there is nothing I love more than cake and champagne. Having my friends over to enjoy this with me is the perfect way to spend the day. Here is the recipe from my recent YouTube episode - enjoy!

For the cake

  • 2 cups / 250g / 4 ½ oz plain flour
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup / 225g / 8oz salted butter
  • 1½ cups / 300g / 4oz granulated sugar
  • ½ cup / 110g / 4oz light brown sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup / 250ml whole buttermilk7
  • 7oz packaged sweetened flake coconut
  • 1½ cups / 118g pecans (toasted)

For the frosting

  • 2 packs (8oz) cream cheese
  • 1 cup / 225g / 8oz unsalted butter
  • 2lb powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 7oz sweetened flake coconut
  • ½ cup / 65 toasted pecans

Instructions

  1. Cream together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, almond extract, and vanilla extract in a mixer until fully combined. About 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the eggs one-by-one, beating after each addition. Once all of the eggs have been added, give the mixture a good whisk. 
  3. Add in the baking powder and baking soda. Then mix in a little of the flour and buttermilk, a bit at a time, whisking after each addition. Repeat this until  all of the flour and buttermilk are fully combined. 
  4. Stir in the coconut and pecans by hand, then divide this mixture between three cake tins. 
  5. Bake in the oven at 350f / 180c for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. 

For the frosting

  1. In a mixer beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and the almond extract, whisk to combine.
  3. A tablespoon at a time, add in the powdered sugar, mixing after each addition.
  4. Once the cake has fully cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, and then on the top and sides of the cake so it is fully coated in the frosting.
  5. Use the remaining coconut to cover the top and sides of the cake - this can be very tricky! Just take your time and have patience.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining pecans on top of the cake.

    Recipe adapted from: https://www.melissassouthernstylekitchen.com
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5 GIFTS TO HELP MAKE LIFE MORE BEAUTIFUL


As it’s my Birthday this week, I thought I’d focus this blog on gift-giving. I have chosen 5 gifts that are part of our everyday lives, but often overlooked. These items are unique and special, bringing small moments of joy to the often mundane rituals we all have to go through. It is always the small things that make the biggest difference, so I hope you will be inspired by my choices, whether you are looking for a lovely present for a dear friend, or just wanting to treat yourself!


John Derian Paperweight 




When gift-giving I always try to find unique and special things that the person I’m gifting for might not have seen before. These paperweights by John Derian are exactly that - handmade using collaged paper under blown glass, this is an item that you can admire and keep for the rest of your life. 

CLICK HERE TO SHOP

Chintzy Bow Linen Hand Towel - Isla Simpson



Isla Simpson is a British artist and designer who I discovered through Instagram. I often include her in my gift-guides, simply because I love her unique and beautiful products that are almost like stepping back in time. These Chinzty Bow linen hand towels would be so beautiful in a guest bathroom, or even for everyday use in the kitchen.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP

Mason Cash ceramic measuring cups



These will be so well received by someone who loves cooking or baking. Again, this is about bringing beauty to the mundane and overlooked. Having these elegant ceramic measuring cups to hand whilst in the kitchen will bring a little moment of joy. 

CLICK HERE TO SHOP

Pansy Paper Flower Plant - Cutterbrooks


Although I do love nothing more than receiving flowers or plants, there is always the heart-sinking moment when they begin to fade. The joy of this plant, although admittedly expensive, is that it will last forever. Handmade in New York by artist Livia Scetti, these antiques of the future are a wonderful gift for a very special Birthday.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP

Scented Matches from Cire Trudon

If like me you light a lot of candles, these scented matches will be the perfect little present. As you know, I think that everything in life should be beautiful, even matches! 

CLICK HERE TO SHOP



 

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My New 'Botanica' Fine Fragrance Candle



Home fragrance is a passion of mine - something that enriches my life and makes it more beautiful. I love how it evokes memories and feelings, creates a welcoming atmosphere for our guests, and how such a small object can elevate our personal space in such an impactful way.

When I first decided I would like to start my own brand just over a year ago, I told my business partner, Vanessa, that it had always been a dream of mine to have my own scented candle. In sync in so many ways, it was an ambition of hers also.
 
For me, the most wonderful things in life are those which are all around us in nature. My happiest times have been spent enjoying the pleasures of a beautiful garden, surrounded by lovely things with no monetary value - the scent of a flower as it is carried through a breeze, the sound of buzzing bees as they go about their business, or the comforting warmth of the sun in the springtime after a long winter. I wanted to capture all of these memories in my first fragrance - this was the genesis of Botanica. 



Deciding on which fragrance notes we wanted to use in our candle was the first step in a long process. Vanessa and I both agreed that the scent of Rose should define the candle, a flower that is so evocative of an English Garden. We also knew that we didn’t want the candle to smell too sweet and that it should have earthy undertones, like you would experience in a vegetable garden, perhaps.

With this as our guiding principle, we contacted a Cotswold-based perfumer to create the fragrance for us. We gave a detailed brief of not only fragrance notes, but also how we wanted to make people feel when they lit the candle. Our fragrance expert achieved what we had been hoping for in the first sample - Botanica was born.


The next step was to design the actual vessel, and the packaging for the candle. I thought about all of the elements that made me think of an English Garden and then looked through photos that I’d taken in gardens that I’d visited over the years. 

I have always admired Botanical Art, and knew that I wanted the packaging for the candle to emulate the style of botanical art that I’ve had in my homes throughout my adult life. I contacted an artist that I’d discovered through Instagram, Israel de Alcantara, to ask if he would be able to create a series of illustrations based on the photos I’d taken in gardens over the years.





We worked together closely, painstakingly going over every detail to make sure that the vision for the packaging could be realised. We are all delighted with how it turned out, and I think it perfectly captures the beauty and pleasures of a garden. 

Here at Nicolas Fairford we have spent a lot of time focusing on every aspect of Botanica in the hope that all those who purchase it will enjoy not only the scent, but the entire experience.



I personally have centred my life and career around sharing beauty - this is my next offering which I hope you will love!

Nicolas x




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Christmas Afternoon Tea Recipes

All of the recipes as featured in my latest YouTube Episode


Chocolate & Orange Cake

Ingredients:

140ml / 2/3 cups sunflower oil

2 eggs

200ml / 3/4 cups whole milk

325g / 1 1/4 cups caster sugar

85g / 1 cup cocoa powder

200g / 1 1/4 cups plain flour

3 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Zest from 2 oranges

Fresh juice from 2 oranges

 

For the Ganache:

300 g (1 ¾ cups) dark chocolate

325 ml (1 ⅓ cups) heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon butter

 

Instructions

CHOCOLATE ORANGE CAKE

Preheat oven: 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, sugar and milk together until fully combined.

In a separate bowl, sieve in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder, then add in the orange zest and whisk them together.

Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring together as you pour until just combined. There may be a few small lumps left, but that’s ok.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the orange juice in the microwave for 30-60secs, then slowly add this into the cake batter, mixing as you pour until the liquid has only just combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two greased and lined cake pans and bake for 25-30mins until risen, springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. 

Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10mins before moving to a wire rack to cool further.

CHOCOLATE ORANGE GANACHE:

Whilst the cakes cool, start making the ganache. In a heatproof bowl, heat the cream over a double boiler or in the microwave (30 secs at a time) until almost boiling.

Pour your hot cream over the chocolate and butter, letting this sit for 5mins before adding your orange zest and stirring until smooth.

Let your ganache set for 30-45mins at room temperature, until it reaches a spreadable consistency more solid than liquid.

Recipe courtesy of sweetmouthjoy.com

 

Christmas Scones

INGREDIENTS:

350g/ 1¾ cups + 2 tbsp Self-Raising Flour

95g/ 3tbsp butter

1tsp Baking Powder

3tbsp Caster Sugar

1/4 tsp Salt

150ml/ half a cup Egg Nog (or your milk of choice)

Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 180ºc

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and butter into a large bowl

With your finger tips, knead everything together until you have fine breadcrumbs. It is very important to work lightly if you want to achieve a good texture. Running you hands under cold water before you do this step will keep your hands cool and help with this too.

Stir in the egg nog or milk. Make sure you stir with a knife - again delicately - so you don’t overwork the mixture.

With your hands, knead everything together until you can form a ball of dough.
Dust your work surface with a little flour and roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about a 1 inch thickness.

Use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into small rounds. If you don’t have a cutter - simply use the rim of a glass.

Place the scones on a baking tray and brush a little milk on each one to glaze.
Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

Allow the scones to cool for 5 minutes and dust with a little icing sugar

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients:

200g/ 1 cup sugar
240ml / 1 cup water
350g / 2 cups fresh cranberries
2 tsp orange zest

Salt for seasoning

Instructions:

Heat the sugar and water together in a pan until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the cranberries and simmer until they burst. Heat gently until thick.

Once thickened add the orange zest and season with salt.




 
 
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Decorating The House For Christmas

 

 

I’m so happy to be able to blog again - I really missed it whilst my website was under construction. The last one I published was about my Summer break in Yorkshire, and now it Christmas - how time flies!

 This past week I’ve been busy decorating my house for the festive season. The tradition in my family was to decorate the tree on the 13th of December - my sisters birthday. It was always such an exciting time where we would all help to place the decorations whilst listening to Christmas music and enjoying some tasty treats. Even now when I hear one of those songs on the radio I’m immediately transported back to that time and I just remember being so happy. 

 Now that I’m all grown up and have my own place, I’m starting to make my own traditions. Although I would prefer to put up and decorate my tree on the 13th, I simply have to do it much earlier so that I can film festive content for YouTube in advance, so now I do it on the 1st of December. 

 My family all live 400 miles away in England, so sadly they are unable to help me decorate my tree. Instead I entice my friends over to help with the promise of mince pies and alcohol - funnily enough they all seem to free for this particular occasion. For me, decorating the tree signals the start of Christmas, and although I am quite particular about how I want my tree to look, I would much rather be doing it with friends than on my own. 

 Over the years I’ve had both real and faux Christmas trees and I always change my mind about which I prefer. With a faux tree there is a lot less mess, it always looks more full and uniform, and it won’t start to droop after a few weeks of being inside a warm house. A real tree smells wonderful, and I just love the natural, irregular shapes and looks that they provide. 

 This year the allure of the scent of pine drove me to get a real tree. I headed on down to my local tree farm and picked the perfect one within minutes - a 9ft beauty with full branches and lots of character. It was delivered to my door three hours later and placed into position in its new home. 

 

 

Before decorating the tree, I like to let it sit overnight so that the branches can fall and open out. It’s always a good idea to do this, despite the temptation to get started right away. The next evening I had two friends over for drinks and they kept me company whilst I decorated the tree. 

 

 

I like to make my own garland for the fireplace using winter foliage. I have a good friend who has a huge garden - luckily she lets me forage every year for bits of evergreen, holly, and anything else I can find. 

 It is much easier than you imagine to make your own garland. I don’t bother attaching it all together with floral wire. Instead I just place the foliage on the fireplace and stick bits here and there in a symmetrical fashion until it starts to look good. This way you can keep standing back adjusting. I’m very happy with how it has turned out. 

 

One of my favourite things to do at Christmas is to set the table. It is even more exciting this year as I have a dining room!

 I had been looking for some festive tableware for quite some time but never really found anything I liked. Finally I discovered this Toys Delight collection by Villeroy & Boch and I think it is perfect. My new dining room is quite plain as I’ve yet to wallpaper or decorate it fully, so this tableware will add a little whimsy and colour.

 

 

It also brings out my inner child - the little boy who would excitedly decorate the Christmas Tree with his parents and siblings on the 13th of December each year - and for me, that is what this time is all about!

To sign up to the Villeroy & Boch newsletter and receive a discount - use the Nicolas Fairford HERE
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TAKING A BREAK - MY WEEK IN YORKSHIRE

TAKING A BREAK - MY WEEK IN YORKSHIRE

It was time for a break. After working 6-7 day weeks since September 2020, I was tired and ready for a change of scenery. Like most of us during this pandemic, my footprint has not ventured much further than my postcode recently, and as someone who loves to travel and explore, I’ve found it difficult. That’s why when my small team announced they would be away the following week, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to pack my bags and have a much-needed rest.

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THE PERFECT BREAKFAST TO CURE A HANGOVER

THE PERFECT BREAKFAST TO CURE A HANGOVER

Shakshuka is a classic Middle Eastern dish that is packed full of flavour and goodness. It is my go-to breakfast after a night out - comforting, delicious and easy to whip up. 

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FLORALS? FOR SPRING?..

FLORALS? FOR SPRING?..
Cathy B Graham and I became friends after finding each other on Instagram. She had just released her brand new book ‘Second Bloom’ and was in London taking a break, so we decided to meet for Tea at Claridges, where she was staying. Cathy is such a fun lady, full of charm and completely hilarious - we hit it off immediately. Continue reading

AFTERNOON TEA RECIPES

AFTERNOON TEA RECIPES
Here are the recipes from my latest video ‘ How To Create The Perfect Afternoon Tea At Home’ which I recently shared on YouTube. I hope you find them useful and delicious. If you would like to see the episode CLICK HERE Continue reading

THREE OF MY FAVOURITE COASTAL HOTELS IN EUROPE FOR A SUMMER BREAK

THREE OF MY FAVOURITE COASTAL HOTELS IN EUROPE FOR A SUMMER BREAK
With today being the first day of Summer, and the weather being completely glorious here in Edinburgh, I have been daydreaming about where I would like to be right now. Travel is still quite restricted here - we have to self isolate on returning to the UK, and other measures mean that traveling is still not really very viable at the moment - but we can dream! Continue reading
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