A Bake in the Life: Chocolate Marbled Cheesecake Muffins

Cake tends not to last very long in my house, so I am always looking out for quick and delicious recipes that are easy to eat or pack for lunches at work. This basic chocolate muffin recipe is one of my favourites and muffins are the perfect portable cake! The addition of bicarbonate of soda gives them a light texture, and the simple recipe means you can adapt the muffins according to your own tastes 🙂 I chose to combine the original chocolate muffin with a cream cheese marbled filing along with white chocolate chips to create these Chocolate Marbled Cheesecake Muffins.

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Chocolate Marbled Cheesecake Muffins

You will need:

9 oz/255g Self Raising Flour

œ Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

œ Tsp Salt

5 oz/ 150g Caster Sugar

3 Tbsps Cocoa Powder

1 Egg

8 fl oz/ 240ml Milk

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

3 fl oz/ 90ml Vegetable Oil

3 oz/85g White Chocolate Chips

4 oz/110g Cream Cheese

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Let’s get started!

  • Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 5/190ÂșC/375ÂșF and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases.
  • Begin by combining cream cheese and 3 tbsps of caster sugar together in a bowl, set aside.

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  • In a large bowl sift together flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, sugar and cocoa powder, add the chocolate chips.

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  • Beat together the egg, milk, vegetable and vanilla in a measuring jug.
  • Pour all the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined.

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  • Fill up each muffin case about half full with batter, drop about a teaspoon of the cream cheese/caster sugar filling on top and then finish with the remaining chocolate batter.

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  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and the tops spring back to the touch.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
  • You are all done! 🙂August 2014 056

I’m really pleased with how these muffins turned out! The light chocolate is complemented well with the soft cream cheese and sweet white chocolate. When you break open the muffin, the beautiful marbled layers become visible as do the chocolate chips. While the bicarbonate keeps the muffins light and airy, the cream cheese ensures they stay moist and moreish. If you like you could top them with a matching cream cheese frosting, however this could be a little messy so you could always just use a light dusting of icing sugar 🙂

A Bake in the Life…

A Bake in the Life: Chocolate Orange Swiss Roll

After watching the first episode in the new series of the Great British Bake Off, I was inspired to make my own version of a Swiss Roll! I decided to use a basic chocolate swiss roll recipe from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book and adapt it with the addition of orange. Using 4 eggs gives the chocolate sponge a really light texture, and the filling can be changed depending on your favourite flavours or on what ever you have in the cupboard. I decided on using orange extract for a good flavour, mandarin oranges for sweetness and candied peel for decoration 🙂

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Chocolate Orange Swiss Roll

You will need:

4 Eggs

4 oz/100g Caster Sugar

2œ oz/65g Self Raising Flour

1œ oz/40g Cocoa Powder

2 Tbsp Orange Marmalade

10 fl oz/300ml Double Cream

1 Tsp Orange Extract

1 Tin Mandarin Orange

A few pieces of candied orange peel and icing sugar to decorate

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Let’s get started!

  • Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 7/220ÂșC/425ÂșF, grease and line a 13 x 9 in (33 x 23 cm) swiss roll tin with grease proof/baking paper.
  • Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light and frothy.

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  • Sift the flour and cocoa into the mixture and carefully fold until fully combined.

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  • Turn the mixture out into the prepared tin, ensuring it’s level before baking for about 10 minutes until the sponge springs back when touched.

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  • While the cake is cooking, place a piece of non-stick baking paper a little bigger than the size of the tin on the work surface and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Turn the cake onto the sugared paper and peel the paper off the bottom of the cake.
  • Roll the cake firmly from one end, with the paper inside and leave to cool.

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  • While the cake is cooling, warm the marmalade gently to make it easier to spread, drain the mandarins and pat dry on kitchen paper.
  • Whip the double cream until light and fluffy, then add the orange extract.

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  • Carefully unroll the cooled cake, remove the paper and spread with the warmed marmalade and whipped cream.

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  • Lay the mandarins over the whipped cream, then gently re roll in the paper and leave to set in the fridge for an hour.

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  • When ready to serve remove from the paper, sieve over some icing sugar and top with a few pieces of candied orange peel.
  • You are all done 🙂

I really like how the slightly bitter flavour of the cocoa powder and marmalade is well balanced with the sweet orange cream and juicy mandarins. I decided to top the finished swiss roll with a dusting of icing sugar and thin pieces of candied orange peel. It is easy to change this recipe to suit your own tastes, whether that’s a vanilla sponge instead of chocolate, raspberries instead of mandarins or jam over marmalade!

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Rolling the swiss roll is definitely the most difficult part, as if you let the sponge cool too much before rolling it into shape it may not hold it’s roll or it may crack. Roll slowly, while the sponge is still warm and with the grease proof paper underneath to ensure a good shape, and make sure the roll is fully cooled before adding the filling. I also found that chilling the swiss roll after filling it helps it to hold it’s shape! If you do have problems just sieve over some icing sugar to hide the cracks or cover with some buttercream icing – nobody will mind as long as it tastes delicious (Unless it’s Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood of course!) 🙂

A Bake in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Osterley Park and House, Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, UK

As my family have been members of the National Trust for a number of years it can be quite a challenge to find somewhere new to visit that is reasonably nearby so we aren’t travelling for hours to get there! Although London isn’t actually that far away from my house in Oxfordshire I haven’t had the chance to visit many of the National Trust properties in the surrounding areas. So with an empty Sunday looming we decided to travel slightly further than usual to visit the beautiful Georgian country estate of Osterley, in west London.

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Osterley Park and House

In order to reach Osterley we traveled by car along the A40 and then M40 towards London, heading onto Jersey Road in Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4RB. From my house it took around an hour and a half before we reached the long winding drive up to the estate. Parking is free for National Trust members (£4 for non members), and looks out over the beautiful surrounding parkland which is open for visitors to explore all year round.

Osterley began life as a red brick Tutor house, built in 1576 for the banker Sir Thomas Gresham, who entertained Queen Elizabeth I there at least twice. The nearby stable block was also built during this time, and can still be found on the Osterley estate as a visitor cafe. In 1712, the wealthy goldsmith, banker and property developer Sir Francis Child I (1642-1714) (Owner of the Child & Co bank, who later became Mayor of London and a Member of Parliament) acquired the house but unfortunately never lived in it. Child & Co banking premises were originally based at 1 Fleet Street next to the gateway, known as Temple Bar, and depicted in a fascinating painting hanging in the long hallway. The bank’s premises, now part of Royal Bank of Scotland, are still there today.

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When Sir Francis Child II died (1684-1740) the renovation work at Osterley was taken on by his brother and heir, Robert Child (1674-1721). Alongside his younger brothers Francis Child III (1735-63) and Samual Child (1693-1752), Robert continued the family’s banking firm and acquired many of the lacquar and japanned items of furniture found in the house today through his participation in the East India trade. In 1761, Francis Child III employed one of the most fashionable architects in England, Robert Adam (1728-92), to transform Osterley into what Horace Walpole (1717-97) would later describe as the ‘palace of palaces’. Adam soon began redesigning Osterley into a breathtaking retreat from nearby London in which the Child family could entertain and impress their guests. Once his designs and exterior work were complete Adam set about transforming Osterley’s ground floor rooms into ‘show rooms’ which truly encapsulated the family’s wealth, from intricate metal door knobs to detailed hand painted ceilings. Today the house is as it would have looked in the 1780’s, including an opulent domed state bed which Adam designed himself.

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In 1782 unbeknown to Robert Child and Sarah Jodrell their only beloved daughter, Sarah Anne Child (1764-93) eloped with John Fane (10th Earl of Westmorland) to Gretna Green. Her parents were less than pleased with the match, as they had hoped Sarah Anne would marry a commoner who might take on the Child family name. When Robert Child died two months later (some say of a broken heart), his modified will wrote Sarah Anne and the Westmorlands out of the Child fortune and placed all his belongings, including Osterley, in trust to his future first granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane (1785-1867). In 1804 Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, know also by Regency society as ‘Queen Sarah’, married George-Villiers (5th Earl of Jersey), and so Osterley passed into the Jersey family. Her new husband’s mother was Frances Villiers (Countess of Jersey, also known as Lady Jersey), one of the more notorious mistresses of King George IV, when he was Prince of Wales.

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The Jersey family continued to use Osterley regularly for entertaining, except between 1870 and 1883, when the house was leased to the Dowager Duchess of Cleveland. However in 1923, George Francis Child Villiers (9th Earl of Jersey) (1910-98) inherited the Osterley estate and deciding not to live there, opened it up to the public in 1939. During World War II it was used as a school for the Home Guard and in 1947 served as a convalescence home for injured airmen. In 1949, Osterley was acquired by the National Trust and it’s doors opened to the public in 1953.

Parkland

We decided to have some lunch in the benched picnic area nearby the car park before heading up to the house. From here there are beautiful views across the lake and parkland, as well as the resident waterfowl. Walking up the tree lined driveway, passing the long lake on your left and open grassland on the right, the grand red brick Georgian house suddenly comes into view. The Osterley estate offers a quiet retreat, only a stones-throw from London and it is easy to see how it would have impressed guests visiting the Child family! It also has hundreds of acres of parkland to explore as well as a Park Run every Saturday morning at 9am. The grassed lawn in front of the house was full of families enjoying the beautiful weather and parkland, and we were lucky enough to see a heron catching fish in the lake 🙂

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House

On reaching the house, large stone steps lead you up to the ‘transparent’ portico, boasting large pillars and ionic capitals. It is really amazing to be able to enter the house through the main front entrance, passing under the intricately decorated ceiling and straight into the Entrance Hall (Designed in 1767 and completed in 1773). The Entrance Hall is very muted in colour, decorated in soft grey and white, with a beautiful tiled floor and large Mediterranean style statues and urns.

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From here we were directed into the Long Gallery, which still has it’s original wooden floor and is decorated in light jade green. After a welcome talk from one of the guides (Which I would definitely recommend!) we were able to explore the house on our own. The Long Gallery is filled with many interesting paintings and mirrors, as well as Asian items of furniture brought to Osterley as a result of the Child family’s participation in the East India trade. I particularly enjoyed the tall Chinese porcelain dragon lidded vases (mid 18th century) and the ornate ivory Chinese carved items, including a pleasure barge (mid-eighteenth-century) and multilevel platter would have been placed on the table of the guest of honour.

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Heading left, we passed through four more rooms, including: The Drawing room, The Tapestry room, The Bed Chamber and finally The Etruscan room. Every room is opulently designed but each have their own particular style, which makes them fascinating to explore! The drawing room is a light, airy room decorated with green/gold wallpaper and furniture, below an incredible ceiling design of pink, blue, and gold ostrich feathers set in an oval among octagonal coffers. Notably described by Horace Walpole as ‘worthy of Eve before the fall’. Currently several pictures on loan from the Earldom of Jersey trust are on display in this room, including: The Dobson self-portrait (1611-46), portraits of Robert Child and Sarah Child neĂ© Jodrell, later Countess Ducie (c.1740-93), and The Music Lesson by Sir Peter Lely. The carpet in this room was made by Thomas Moore, to reflect the ceiling design.

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In comparison, the tapestry room is a dark, candle lit (In order to protect the delicate tapestries!) red room decorated with Boucher-Neilson Gobelins tapestries (1775). The bed chamber room again returns to a light yet opulent style, with the main focus taken entirely by the elaborate domed bed, designed by Adam himself. I particularly enjoyed looking up inside the bed frame at it’s interior, which unsurprisingly is as beautifully decorated as the exterior.

Finally, the Etruscan room displays a similar ornate feel but with a contrasting style, delicately painted from floor to ceiling and completed in 1778. This room remains of special interest as the only surviving example of a style which was initiated by Adam and subsequently widely copied. Four other Etruscan rooms designed by him elsewhere have unfortunately disappeared.

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From here we turned left down a long hallway painted in a similar colour scheme to the long gallery, lined with several pictures of Child family members, including a painting attributed to John Collett (1725-80) of the Child & Co bank premises which are immediately to the left of Temple Bar in London. We spend quite a bit of time carefully looking at all the interesting characters in the painting! This led us back to the entrance hall, which we crossed to explore the eating room, decorated in a combination of pink and jade green. I particularly liked the mosaic side tables, intricately decorated with flowers.

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Heading back into the hallway, we passed the breathtaking green and white staircase decorated with large pillars, hanging lanterns and painted ceiling. The library, designed in 1766 and completed in 1773, is decorated lightly, and lined with white painted Ionic bookcases (Including a secret door!). Finally we visited the breakfast room (Originally yellow) which is currently being renovated after being re painted grey when it was used as one of the sets for the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

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Heading upstairs, we explored a few others rooms, decorated in a more modest style (As they weren’t meant for show, but family living), including: The Guest room and The Lady’s Dressing room. Finally we headed down to the basement to explore the servants quarters, including: The Kitchen, Store rooms and House Keeper’s office. I particularly enjoyed seeing a set of comedic drawings, a recreation of a spinning top game and the large traditional oven. We ended up playing the spinning top game for a while, and after a quite a few goes we managed to get the hang of it and knock over several of the wooden pegs!

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Gardens

Once we had finished exploring, we headed around the back of the house to climb the beautiful white sweeping staircase and look out across the parkland. Turning right we followed the gravel park into the main gardens behind the old Tudor stable block, starting with the walled vegetables and flower gardens. The sun was shining and Mrs Child’s flower garden was filled with tons of bright blooming flowers covered in butterflies and bees. The vegetable part of the walled garden was planted up with brightly coloured chard, lettuces and fennel, with lots of wild flowers throughout which worked really well. Surrounding the plots were fruit trees laden with delicious looking plums and apples. Out of the walled garden, we followed the gravel path around the large Temple Lawn covered in deck chairs for visitors to sit in and enjoy the sunshine, as well as admiring Adam’s iconic Temple of Pan summer house. Finally we looked at The Oriental Plane tree, which was brought over from Turkey or Iran and planted in 1755!

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I really enjoyed my visit to Osterley! The journey didn’t take too long, and thankfully there was relatively no traffic. As me and my family are National Trust members we got in to the parkland, gardens and house for free, while for non members admission is £9.25 for adults, ÂŁ4.65 for children and ÂŁ22.95 for a family, which makes Osterley one of the more expensive properties I have visited. Despite this, Osterley definitely offers plenty to see and do for the cost (For me the house itself is purely worth it on it’s own!). The house is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but open the rest of the week along with the gardens, parkland (8am to 7.30pm) and shop/tea room from 11am to 5pm. We brought our own picnic to enjoy in the parkland, however if you wanted to buy some lunch the Stables Cafe has a selection of hot/cold lunches, cakes and cream teas! I would love to visit again around, especially around Christmas time, as if Osterley is decorated anywhere near as beautifully as Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire it would be an even more breathtaking visit 🙂

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A Day in the Life…

A Bake in the Life: Gingerbread Traybake

This gingerbread traybake is definitely a childhood favourite of mine! My mum would bake it a lot especially around autumn and winter time, so the smell of it baking always reminds me of Christmas. Another one of my favourite gingerbread recipes is for Gingerbread Muffins, however the consistency of the batter is much thinner resulting in a lighter more syrupy muffin. In comparison, this recipe is more of a traditional gingerbread, dark brown, treacly and spotted with pieces of crystallised ginger which works well with sweet icing drizzled on top – delicious and very moreish! 🙂

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Gingerbread Traybake

You will need:

For the cake

10 oz/275g Golden Syrup

10 oz/275g Black Treacle

8 oz/225g Light Brown Sugar

8 oz/225g Butter/Margarine

1 lb/450g Self Raising Flour

2 tsp Mixed Spice

2 tsp Ground Ginger

2 oz/50g Crystallised Ginger Pieces

4 Eggs

1 tbsps Milk

For the icing

8 oz/225g Icing Sugar

2 tbsps Water

2 oz/50g Crystallised Ginger Pieces to decorate

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Let’s get started!

  • Preheat your oven to 160ÂșC/Gas Mark 3/325ÂșF. Grease and line a 12 x 9 in (30 x 23 cm) roasting tin with grease proof/ baking paper (This recipe does make quite a large traybake, so if you want to make a smaller cake I would half the recipe to start with and see how much batter it takes to fill your desired tin).
  • Measure the syrup, treacle, sugar and butter/margarine into a large saucepan and heat gently until melted together (Be sure to heat the ingredients slowly, or allow to cool once melted to prevent a lumpy batter).

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  • Sift together the flour and spices into a large mixing bowl, pour the cooled wet mixture into the bowl and add the crystallised ginger pieces.

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  • Beat together the eggs and milk in a mixing jug before combining with the batter and beating until smooth and lump free (I decided to use an electric hand mixer to ensure a very smooth batter).
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake in your pre heated oven for 45-50 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the traybake.

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  • Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out and continuing to cool on a wire rack.
  • Prepare the icing by shifting the icing sugar into a bowl and adding water a tbsp at a time until smooth but not so runny that it just runs off the edge of the cake.

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  • Once the traybake is cool spoon the icing over the top, sprinkle with crystallised ginger pieces to decorate and leave to set.
  • You are all done 🙂

I love this gingerbread so much I could eat the whole traybake! The combination of treacle, mixed spice and ground ginger baking in the oven always smells amazing. The final gingerbread is dark brown in colour, sticky on top and has a delicious spiced flavour that tastes good with vanilla ice cream 🙂 You can of course leave it plain, but I decided to top the traybake with plain icing sprinkled with crystallised ginger pieces which I think looks great and gives an extra sweet ginger flavour. Try not to be too put off by the rather excessive amounts of golden syrup and treacle in this recipe, it really is worth it for the amazing taste of this gingerbread – definitely try it out!

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A Bake in the Life…

A Day in the Life: Cogges Manor Farm Beer and Cider Festival, Witney, Oxfordshire, UK

Cogges Manor Farm Beer & Cider Festival

Last week I was lucky enough to be part of the Cogges Manor Farm annual Beer & Cider festival, which helps to fundraise for the Cogges heritage trust. As I haven’t been to one before I was really excited to get the chance to help out alongside other volunteers and full time members of the team. Cogges have been holding their beer and cider festival around this time of year in the wheat barn for the last three years. This year the festival took place over two days, Friday 1st August and Saturday 2nd August, an over 18’s only event from 6.30pm to 11pm both evenings and a family fun day from 1pm to 5pm during the day on Saturday. Me and my mum signed up to volunteer on Friday night and Saturday daytime, so we could experience both the adult’s only evening event and the family day event.

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Friday 1st August

Our Friday evening started off with a pre festival meeting in the cafe before heading over to the wheat barn, which was separated into two main sections: The beer and cider stands on the left, a summer bar in the middle and the live music stage on the right. The barn was decorated modestly with fresh flowers and vegetables from the walled garden, along with vintage style bunting which really left the focus on how beautiful the barn is inside. The cobbled stone floor, large exposed beams and sound of doves cooing created a casual, relaxed atmosphere that I think worked really well for the event.

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A ticket for the festival cost ÂŁ8 advance/ÂŁ10 on the night, which included a Cogges glass etched half pint tankard, beer/cider guide programme, free first half pint and admittance for the night. Guests could then purchase a drinks voucher for ÂŁ6 which was valid for four half pints, and meant we didn’t have to deal with any money throughout the night. One of the volunteers told me that last year the tankards had an image of the manor etched into them, while this year it was the Cogges ducks! As volunteers we were given a free tankard to take home, which was really nice and it meant we could test out a few of the beers and ciders ourselves 🙂

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All together there were 30 speciality beers and 15 ciders (with a range of seasonal and one off editions!) from a range of local breweries, within 30 miles of Cogges to try out. Along with the beers and ciders there was also fruity blackberry and elderflower pimms (Completely delicious) and wine available from the summer bar. We were stationed on one of the four ciders tables and ended up with five fruity ciders to help serve, including: Rabbit Foot Spasm Original and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush from the Cotswold cider company, Apples and Pears, Blackberry Blush and Strawberry Cider from Millwhites.

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The most popular ciders from our table were Apples and Pears (My personal favourite!), Strawberry cider and The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original. The Rabbit Foot Spasm Original is a special adaptation of the No Brainer cider made especially for one of the bands playing – The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band! They are an Oxfordshire based big band, known for their jump, blues and vintage jazz music. The cider proved very popular with fans of the band as well as the lead singer who told me he worked alongside the Cotswold cider company to help produce it. Fortunately our selection of fruit ciders were very popular throughout the night and we were kept busy pouring half pints while listening to the live music. As well as The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band, The April Maze – an Australian/British troubadour duo and Wes Finch – an American folk/indie performer also kept the barn full of toe tapping, head turning music 🙂

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Outside the main barn there were also a selection of games, including Aunt sally, lawn croquet, giant chess and superhero wrestling, as well as a stand selling American style BBQ pulled pork or beef baps served with tangy coleslaw (Which definitely required a taste test… Safe to say they were delicious!!). Throughout the night I got to try out most of the ciders and a few of the beers, which was definitely useful when people asked for a recommendation. My favourite ciders were Millwhites Apples and Pears, Premium Run Cask and Muscle Mary Raspberry Blush as well as Thatchers Cheddar Valley. There was also a big selection of beers from several breweries, including: Hook Norton, Ramsbury and Wychwood. A bit later in the evening my dad decided to come along to try some beers and enjoy the live music with us. He is definitely more of a beer fan, so I got to help choose him some beers and try a little bit of them myself. Of the few beers I tried I really enjoyed Ramsbury Brewery’s Sunsplash and Sticky Wicket!

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Saturday 2nd August

Today started at 12.30pm, in preparation for opening at 1pm, again with a quick prep meeting. Afterwards we headed back over to the wheat barn, which was set up in a similar way to Friday, but with a bouncy castle replacing the stage on the right. We decided to go back to the cider stand, however as a few boxes of cider were empty from last night we moved the remaining boxes onto two tables. Unlike Friday night the atmosphere was a lot quieter, however we did manage to sell quite a few half pints of the ciders we had left, as well as some of the Cogges tankards. Along with the bouncy castle there was also story telling, superhero wrestling, giant chess and lawn croquet to enjoy. As well as all the normal weekend activities at Cogges there were also spinning and weaving demonstrations, candle holder making for WWI lights out and an Imperial War Museum print display in the manor house.

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I really enjoyed volunteering at the festival! It was great to try out the beers & ciders, listen to the live music while chatting to the other volunteers and visitors. As the weekend went on I learnt a lot more about the different breweries and ciders we were lucky enough to have, and being able to recommend ciders to visitors and them enjoy my recommendations was good fun! If you haven’t been to a beer & cider festival or Cogges Manor Farm before I would definitely recommend it. Hopefully I will be able to help out again next year 🙂

A Day in the Life…