You probably already know I’ve been bitten (hard) by the travel bug and I love nothing more than discovering and exploring new places, learning about new cultures and tasting new food. Even just breathing in different air fills me with happiness only fellow travel addicts can relate to. You also probably know that I run my own cake company and that food, baking and travel are my most favourite things after family and friends, of course.
Getting to Tangier
Having a three-hour flight yesterday afternoon meant that I got a little time to have a think about how I was going to share what I’m doing here in Morocco for the next five days. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would be sharing this experience and despite having around six other blog posts in drafts right now, I couldn’t wait to make a start with this one.
Firstly, for those that don’t follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (ahem..why not?) then I’ll share exactly what I’m doing in Morocco now, and that’s teaching two of the chefs at the amazingly luxurious Le Mirage hotel how to make a lovely selection of English themed cakes, cupcakes and desserts.
The hotel is opening its very own cupcake cafe in the next month or so, and they needed an experienced baker from the UK to come over ASAP – voila! That’s how I ended up here, in Morocco, baking cakes and seeing more of the world.
Secondly, I apologise now if you’ve seen me talking about this on Social Media for the last week or so… actually, scrap that, I’m not sorry at all! In fact, I feel so incredibly proud and lucky to have this opportunity, and I’ve worked damn hard at getting Cuppies ‘n’ Cream, where it is today.
Le Mirage really is a stunning hotel. Located a mere 15 minutes drive from Tangier airport, right next to Hercules caves, it’s a luxury hotel at it’s finest. I 100% had a ‘pinch-me’ moment when I hopped out of the car in my standard comfy travel outfit…(Ugg’s, leggings and a warm jumper) feeling suddenly very under-dressed and not cool. In my mind, I was thinking “abort, abort” and very nearly had the worst confidence-crisis moment of my life. I’d gotten quite nervous on the flight over with thoughts like “what if I’m not good enough” or “what if I can’t bake in their ovens“.
Rest assured I was greeted by the lovely owner’s husband who gave me the nicest of welcomes. I wandered around to my room, past the pool and the pretty garden lamps, set my case down and sighed a big sigh of relief.
Despite it being dark I could hear the waves crashing somewhere to my right and other than that… it was complete silence. Heavenly.
Here’s my home for the week…
Time to eat!
After a lovely dinner in the restaurant, and a very much needed glass of Moroccan wine I started to relax a little. I don’t know why I was feeling so anxious, it’s not usually how I react to new exciting situations like this, and I constantly had to keep reminding myself that I’m here for a very good reason… and that is because I’m good at what I do. I just needed to keep telling myself that.
I do deserve this, and I’ll make sure these very lovely chefs here know how to make some fab cakes and sweet treats for all the people that are lucky enough to stay or eat at this hotel and the new cafe.
So, day one went a little bit like this…
After a walk along the beach and seeing everything in daylight for the first time I went for breakfast by the pool, under crisp white parasols and met with Sawsan who runs this hotel with her husband. We then headed to the Beach Bar, which is currently closed for the quiet season, meaning the kitchen there is totally empty and free for us to use.
I was very excited about the kitchen and loved the space. What you can’t see in this photo is the giant fridge in the room to the front and a storeroom to the right. New ovens are arriving for the cafe so, for now, because I only ever bake with electric fan ovens, we made do with a portable fan assisted one.
Time to bake
I organised the ingredients (more on that later) and familiarised myself with the oven, the equipment, the scales and got myself ready for the chef’s who were hunting out a mixer for us to use.
We baked vanilla cupcakes which are always a good starting point as they’re so simple and incredibly versatile. Oreo cupcakes were next and then we baked a chocolate fudge layer cake using my go-to recipe (find it here).
I soon discovered the Moroccan butter that Sawsan had bought was so so buttery, almost like it hadn’t been processed as much as the butter we use at home. Whilst I’d usually think this to be a good thing, it’s not good for baking and it meant the buttercream and sponge were way too rich. Luckily, we quickly found an alternative French butter which worked perfectly.
Self-raising flour doesn’t exist here either, so we used plain flour and baking powder. In my mind, I always think ‘a good workman never blames his tools‘ and I was keen to prove that it’s possible to make delicious cakes even when the ingredients aren’t what you expect them to be. I also didn’t want them to have to spend more money than
We stopped for a long lunch at 12’ish. And when I ‘
The chefs needed to head back to the main kitchen for a busy lunch sitting and in general, I’ve realised quite quickly that everything runs that bit slower here. Calmer and with less pressure.
I spent time eating, wandering around some more, even had a nap. Is this how other people really work? I’m now starting to see that working a straight 9-5 isn’t the only way to get results. I mean granted, if you’ve got a lot on then fair enough you need to crack on and put the hours in… but it surely doesn’t always have to be like that.
Maybe I’m just enjoying it way too much here already and I’m blinded by the incredible surroundings and by doing something that actually, really, doesn’t feel like work.
After our long lunch break
We rebaked the vanilla cupcakes, just to make sure we’d got it right with the ingredients. Increased the baking powder slightly, tinkered with the oven and they baked perfectly, and I felt oh so relieved. We had fun piping and then demolished half the chocolate fudge cake – which went down an absolute storm.
Lemon drizzle cakes were baked next and we’ve left them to cool overnight so we can add the drizzle in the morning. The lemons here are so much bigger than our English version, same goes for the strawberries too. So much more flavour and so much more delicious. It means we didn’t need to use any extracts and I could totally rely on the natural flavours keeping additives to a minimum.
Right now, I am exhausted so I’m going to go test that giant big bath, eat some delicious food on room service and hopefully have another perfect night’s sleep…My nerves have disappeared and I’m really excited for day two.
I love my job!