Tried and tested: Lola’s Cupcakes vegan chocolate cupcake

Whilst on a Festive trip to the capital last weekend to sing along with carols at the Royal Albert Hall, I found myself walking past a Lola’s Cupcakes stand on the way from the Jubilee Line to London Waterloo.

I fancied something sweet to keep me going until I got home, so I treated myself to a Vegan chocolate cupcake, which is dairy, egg and nut free.

It’s not the first time I’ve purchased one of these beautifully presented cupcakes, but last time I was so excited to have found something that I wasn’t allergic to that I wolfed it all down and forgot to get a picture.

The previous purchase was at Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford. On both occasions I was impressed by the way the cake looked and the packaging. The little carry handle is handy for getting your cake to the train in one piece, if indeed you can wait that long (and the first time of testing at Stratford I most definitely didn’t need the carry handle)!

Upon opening the box the cupcake is sat there snugly, a little chocolatey gift waiting to be devoured.

The cake is topped with a rich, gooey frosting, with a slight bitterness of dark chocolate. The bitterness helps it not be too sickly sweet, which is good as there’s so much of it you need a spoon or fork to handle it. I made this mistake the first time around and tried to eat it from the cupcake case, chomping right into it. I ended up with gooey chocolate all around my face, which is adorable when you’re six years old, but not so much when you’re thirty-six!!

I learnt from my mistake the second time around, however, being on a train with no tray table (how inconvenient), I had to try and balance it on my lap whilst not getting crumbs and frosting everywhere. I was partially successful. As I ate further and further through the cake, it started disappearing down the hole in the middle of the box until I could no longer get to it. I would suggest this wouldn’t be a problem if you’re eating it on a plate or can take it out of the box, but not so convenient on the train (and after all, Lola’s are situated at the station, so they must be expecting some muppet like me to try eating it whilst balancing it on their lap).

The taste of the sponge was nice, again, cocoa-y without being too sweet. However, for me they haven’t got the texture quite right and I found it a bit too dry and crumbly. I was hoping that the first time around was just a blip but unfortunately it was the same both times. With a little bit of tweaking on the recipe this could be a very good cake, but for me I prefer my own recipe. It wouldn’t put me off buying one again if I’m in urgent need of cake, but given the choice and time to bake, I’d choose my own every time.

If you’d like to try my recipe, check out my Basic dairy and egg free sponge recipe and look for the option of adding chocolate flavour. Here are some of mine:

Happy baking!!

Tried and tested: Bad Brownie Vegan Salted Caramel Brownie

I’m not one to be deterred by bad experiences and so when faced with the temptation of trying something new after my accidental nut consumption last week I decided to jump back on the proverbial horse.

Whilst browsing the stores of One New Change shopping centre, Cheapside, last Friday I happened upon a stall from Bad Brownie in the food market. I usually walk straight past these stalls, but a sign caught my eye: Vegan Salted Caramel Brownies. My interest was well and truly piqued.

The brownies were dark and cocoa-y and glittered with gold. Very decadent.

After my near death experience the day before (ok, so I’m a little over dramatic, but it could have been bad), I stopped to talk to the guy manning the stall. I asked about the ingredients in the Vegan brownie and if it contained nuts. He was extremely knowledgeable about the product, telling me that there were no nuts in the recipe but it was baked in an environment where peanut butter is used. He then went on to tell me that it’s gluten free, and uses coconut oil. He said it’s taken a while to perfect the recipe but it’s worth it, and the company are looking to expand the Vegan/gluten free range.

His knowledge of the product filled me with confidence and I purchased one for £4. I was also given a card which they stamp every time you buy a brownie and when you fill up the card you get a free brownie.

Before I left he told me that the brownie is good just as it comes, but is even better slightly warm and suggested giving it 20 seconds in the microwave.

I thought I’d take his advice, so on the way home I bought some vanilla Swedish Glace dairy free ice cream to go with my warm brownie.

20 seconds on full power didn’t do much, so I gave it another 20, which was perfect, then dolloped on a spoonful of ice cream (I tried to make it look fancy for the picture like in Masterchef, but my spooning skills left a lot to be desired).

Now, the closest I’ve ever got to a brownie in my 36 years is dressing up in a bobble hat and brown dress and promising to do my best, so this was a whole new experience for me. The top of the brownie cracked nicely when I stuck the spoon in and the centre was fudgy and rich. Mr Allergy had a taste and said the texture was good, and compared well with traditional recipe brownies. Needless to say I quickly devoured the whole thing!

I could definitely get used to eating something so deliciously naughty, but as I don’t fancy adding type 2 diabetes to my list of ailments I’d better reserve it for special occasions only.

For people wanting to feed a crowd, you can order boxes of these bad boys, and they will deliver to your office: Vegan Brownie Box Given that one single brownie is £4 the box is really good value for money.I was really pleased with this find and I would definitely recommend this product, for both the quality of the product and the staff working for Bad Brownie. Well done!!

Warning: Contains Nuts

I had a very narrow escape yesterday. Following a training seminar near Fleet Street (where an Allergy Girl friendly lunch of ham salad with balsamic vinegar was provided), I decided to detour back to Waterloo via Le Pain Quotidien near the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank. Le Pain do a very nice Cocoa and Pear cake, and I thought I’d treat myself to a slice to indulge in during my commute home. On entering Le Pain, the conversation went like this:

Me: Do you have any of your vegan cocoa and pear cake?

Server: No, the only vegan cakes we have are the salted caramel and passion fruit cakes.

Me: Do they have nuts in them? I’m allergic to nuts.

Server: I don’t think so, let me just check.

She gets a typed piece of paper out of the folder, looks at it.

Server: There’s no nuts.

Me: Can I check?

I look at the typed list of ingredients in the salted caramel cake, and 2nd or 3rd on the list is cashews (not in bold type).

Me: There are cashews in it.

Server: Oh sorry, yes I didn’t see that. What about this one? (Pointing at the passion fruit and beetroot one)

At this point we both read through the list of ingredients, which seemed to be mostly coconut based. I purchased a slice of this for a whopping £5.95, and carefully carried it to the station for fear that a hurrying commuter might knock it out of my hand.

It got there in one piece.

On the train I opened the little box. The cake looked pretty and inviting and I was looking forward to trying something new.

I stuck my fork on the pointy end, and as soon as it reached my mouth my spidey senses were telling me that something was not right. I’m lucky that when I eat something I shouldn’t I get strange taste in my mouth, usually accompanied by a tingling feeling. My alarm bells were now ringing.

I quickly went onto Le Pain’s website to find their allergen information, but there wasn’t any. I then did an internet search for “Le Pain Quotidien Allergen Menu.” This came up with allergy menus from January and March 2017. I searched the menu and there were no passion fruit and beetroot cakes listed.

I then did a more general search for “Le Pain Quotidien passion fruit cake recipe.” This took me back to their website, and the menu, but no ingredients. The only passion fruit and beetroot cake I could see was a Passion fruit and Beetroot raw nut cake. Uh oh! The clue’s in the name. Interestingly the menu doesn’t say that this item contains nuts and there is no allergen information present at all. I thought by law they had to inform people if there are allergens present?

Anyway, just to be on the safe side I called them (from the Quiet Zone, I must add. I wouldn’t usually do this and I’m the first to tut and roll my eyes but at this point I was getting concerned that I might have a full blown allergic reaction on a train that was an hour away from home).

The lady I spoke to was very nice. She started reading the recipe; passion fruit, coconut cream, cashews…. Hang on!! Cashews?

You haven’t eaten any have you? Yes!

She offered a refund next time I’m in. I was less bothered about the refund than why both the server and I had missed the crucial piece of information that the recipe contains nuts. I’ll probably never know the answer, and can only assume it was missed off the recipe when it was typed up, or somehow we both missed it as it wasn’t in bold type. Had I known the name of the cake before purchasing it, I wouldn’t even have considered purchasing it, but unfortunately I didn’t see a menu and the full name of the item was never mentioned in the conversation I had with the server.

In a mild panic, I promptly swallowed three antihistamines and guzzled an entire bottle of water (the idea is to flush the allergen out). I then located the train guard and told him I was having an allergic reaction and where my epipen was kept just in case.

It turns it that apart from being extremely dozy from the antihistamines I was ok. It’s great that my body warns me that something isn’t right, and I’m able to catch it early. Had I eaten the whole thing it could have been a very different story. Le Pain Quotidien really need to sort out their allergen information. It needs to be clear and readily available, and I will be writing to them to this effect.

I think the moral of the story is check the ingredients. Then check again. Or just don’t buy the cake in the first place. It’s better for the wallet and the waistline!

Update

I saw the manager this morning. She was very apologetic and gave me a refund. She will raise the issues of training and allergen information with their food standards people.

She also pointed out that it’s called a “Nut Cake” for a reason!! Lesson learnt, I will always look at the menu in the future!

Tried and tested: Livia’s Kitchen Raw Millionaire Bites (Salted Date Caramel)

I need to fess up. I bought these whilst wandering around a supermarket just before heading off on holiday. I say “a supermarket” because I have absolutely no recollection of which one!  It was probably Sainsbury’s, but it could also be Tesco – I shop in both regularly. I was getting those last minute bits and pieces that all allergy sufferers need like antihistamines and eye drops (it’s a glamorous life), and somehow I came home with a selection of raw Vegan treats! 

There were two or three different goodies from Livia’s Kitchen to try, and I purchased the Biccy Boms with Salted Maca Caramel and the Raw Millionaire Bites (Salted Date Caramel).  I got home, put my purchases in the snack drawer, did my holiday packing and forgot about them until I got home 10 days later.

First of all I tried the Biccy Boms with a cup of tea. I know this isn’t a review of Biccy Boms, but I thought I’d mention them. Unfortunately they weren’t for me. Like most gluten free products I found the biscuit a bit dry and crumbly. I’m not allergic to gluten and I prefer a proper biscuit, but I get that by making these gluten free they are suitable for more people. The salted maca filling didn’t really do it for me either, so I wasn’t expecting much from the Millionaire Bites when I tried them a few days later.

I’m happy to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the Millionaire Bites. To begin with, they’re a decent size. A single pack is quite expensive compared with cereal bars or Graze snacks, but I felt like I was getting good value for money (and there are three Bites per pack).


The biscuit base isn’t dry and the Bites held together well when I bit into them.  There is a thick gooey layer of salted date paste, which is so good I never would have guessed it was date. Topping it all is a thin layer of chocolate.

They really are delicious and I would highly recommend this product. As I still have no idea where I bought them from I had a go at making my own version, so watch this space for more on this story! 

Tried and tested: Creative Nature Superfoods Raw Cacao flapjack 

Hooray!!! A raw energy bar that doesn’t have nuts in it!!! 

I found this little beauty at the counter of Vital Ingredient, and couldn’t resist trying it out.
I was feeling a little peckish before my kickboxing class yesterday so saw this as the perfect opportunity to try it.  

The texture is good. It’s not dry like some raw energy bars, which makes it easy to eat before and during exercise.  The cacao nibs give it a nice little crunch.  It’s not too sweet, as there is no added sugar, just the sweetness from the dates and cacao.  

I’d like to try this on a long run before I say for sure that’s it’s a good energy bar for me, but in terms of an Allergy Girl-friendly snack it ticks all the boxes! 

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the bar itself, I’d already hoovered it up before I remembered to get a picture! 

Tried and tested: Itsu Coconut Crush

As someone that is ridiculously allergic to fish, egg and nuts, Itsu wouldn’t be my first choice for lunch. It seems that nearly everything they sell has salmon, egg or peanuts in it (apart from the Teriyaki chicken rice, which is delicious, must must be avoided when on a low carb diet).  This is a shame, as there is an Itsu right by my office, and the food always looks so fresh and tasty.

I happened to find myself mooching around my local branch one lunchtime, as I often like to see if there are any new Allergy Girl friendly options. A few items caught my eye, especially the Coconut Collaborative Little Chocolate Pots which I do like to indulge in from time to time.

Now, I don’t usually venture near to the counter unless I’ve committed to purchasing something.  There are always these interesting looking items to tempt the purchaser to add to their order, but I never feel like I have the time to browse these items and check the ingredients, as there’s usually a queue of hangry (hungry/angry) people behind me. 

I was in luck and there was no queue, so I had a rummage through the treats on offer, and stumbled across this little green box.  My eyes were immediately drawn to the words “dairy free” and “Vegan.”  My expectations were low as I assumed this would mean there were nuts in the recipe – a lot of Vegan recipes use nut butters or almond flour.  I picked up the little box and scanned the ingredients on the back.  No nuts!! Yay!!!


As per usual I waited until my train ride home to test this little morsel. I like the packaging, it perfectly shows off the chocolate inside and (for someone who isn’t often allowed to eat nice things) feels like a gift boxed treat. 

The packaging is easy to open, but getting the chocolate out wasn’t the easiest feat. If I had a napkin or plate it would be fine, but trying to avoid dropping it on the scummy plastic tray table on the commuter train was tricky, as the chocolate was slightly melted, and the filling wasn’t that firm. It was a warm day, and it wasn’t kept in the fridge (although Itsu don’t display them in the fridge, so one would assume they don’t need refrigeration).  If I purchased this again I’d definitely keep it in the fridge instead of my handbag. 

The chocolate is nice, just a thin layer that isn’t too bitter or too sweet. The coconut matcha filling is soft and slightly creamy, which is nice as desiccated coconut can often be too dry and crumbly.  I’m not sure if the matcha gives mucha to the flavour, but it’s supposed to be good for me, so I won’t complain.  

At around £2 a portion (depending on whether you buy in store or have it delivered) this is possibly slightly overpriced.  Compared to the Protein Haus Vegan Bounty bar I tried a few weeks ago it is better value for money (but does contain more sugar, so if you’re avoiding sugar I’d go for the Protein Haus one). 

In terms of a convenient, healthy(ish) snack, this is a winner. Will I buy it again?  Definitely!! 

Tried and tested: Ombar Centres Coconut and Vanilla

Growing up, my earliest memory of dairy free chocolate was a carob Easter egg that my mum bought at Holland and Barrett. It was nice, but very plain compared with the fabulous Cadbury’s and Nestle eggs I saw in the shops.  At Christmas, Allergy Boy and I would hunt through the tin of Roses trying to find the Bournevilles, which we didn’t really like (they were too bitter), but ate anyway because we didn’t want to be left out.

When we got a little bit older we found that we could eat After Eights and Fry’s Peppermint Cream, so it was lucky we liked mint!

Dairy free chocolate has come on leaps and bounds since the 1980s.  Dark chocolate has never been more popular, and with the recent craze for clean eating and raw foods, cacao and coconut milk are adding another dimension to my chocolate experience (not to mention inches to my waistline)!

Grabbing a dairy free salad-to-go from Vital Ingredient in Trump St, City of London, I couldn’t resist trying one of these Ombars.  Dairy free, no refined sugar, raw chocolate, coconut and vanilla, no nuts – perfect for Allergy Girl!


So I’m sat on my commute home trying to forget about the inconvenience of the Waterloo upgrade by testing this little chocolate bar, and it’s a dream!

It’s been in my bag, so it’s a bit squidgy to touch and probably could have done with spending some time in the fridge, but that doesn’t deter me. I break off a chunk and find a gooey, creamy centre. On first appearance the centre doesn’t seem overly generous but it’s so rich and creamy that it’s plenty.


The chocolate itself is creamy, the coconut flavour not overpowering as it can sometimes be.  The hint of vanilla comes through, but if I didn’t know it was there I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you it was vanilla.  That aside, I can’t complain other than to say damn you Ombar, I could be easily tempted to go back for more!

P.s. While writing this I discovered that Ombar autocorrects to zombie on my iPhone!

Tried and tested: Protein Haus Vegan Protein Bounty

First things first, I’m not Vegan. It’s just a good starting point if I’m looking for food without dairy or eggs. I do have to be careful and read the labels as a lot of Vegan things have nuts in them. Luckily for me, this bad boy didn’t (but shame about the Vegan Protein ‘Snickers’ bar, which was laden with pesky peanuts)! 

I’ll move to the price. Three of my hard earned British pounds. I could buy three items from the McDonald’s Poundsaver Menu. Or borrow three supermarket trolleys.  £3 seems a lot for a lump of coconut and chocolate. 

Sat on the train, I open the little plastic bag to free my afternoon snack from its packaging. I’m not ready for the slidy, melty chocolate that ensues and quickly place my Bounty on the plastic packaging, narrowly missing the train’s tray table (thank god, imagine what nastiness is lurking there).  I now have chocolate all over the outside of the plastic packaging.

I lick my fingers, take a hold of my Bounty and take my first bite.  The texture is good, if a little crumbly, and I find myself trying not to shower my lap in desiccated coconut. Back to the plastic packing. Fingers licked again. I take in the taste, which is creamy, coconutty, chocolatey yumminess! I’ve tried making low sugar Vegan Bounty bars at home and mine were not a patch on this. 

After my second bite I find more chocolate on my hands. The heat of the train and warmth of my fingers every time I pick it up is making things worse. I manage to find a (used) tissue in my jacket pocket. Not great, but it’ll do.

There’s about half of it left now, and half the chocolate has melted from the bottom onto the plastic packaging. There’s only one thing for it. I shove the rest of it in my mouth. 

Despite all the melting on the outside and crumbling of the inside it really is delicious.  However, I’d have to take out a second mortgage if this was any more than a rare treat, so I might just go back to making my own! 

Ice scream 

While we’re experiencing such beautiful sunny weather in the UK, I thought ice cream might be a topical subject to write about.

For probably the first 30 years of my life ice cream didn’t feature much in my diet. Now it’s a major food group!! 

Growing up in the UK the only dairy free ice cream available was Swedish Glace. It was only available from Holland and Barrett and came in vanilla or vanilla. Over the years the range developed to include chocolate and raspberry flavours and started being stocked in very limited quantities in Supermarkets. 

Around 2010 my local Sainsbury’s started stocking Swedish Glace non-dairy vanilla and strawberry cones, choc ices on sticks and Neapolitan ice cream, which came in a great big tub.  My previously vanilla world was amazed by these new and wonderful treats. I stocked up and munched my way through countless packages of the creamy delights. 

Then, as quickly as this new phase of my life began, it abruptly ended.  I wrote to Mr Sainsbury:

I am allergic to dairy products and am limited to buying Swedish Glacé dairy free ice cream. My local store usually stocks this in Vanilla and Neapolitan flavours. However, in the last couple of months I’ve been lucky if I can get vanilla, let alone the more interesting Neapolitan flavour. Dairy eaters have no end of choice and I often have none, as there is simply nothing in stock and I am finding this increasingly disappointing. You used to stock other flavours such as chocolate and raspberry and for a while you stocked some lovely cornetto style ice creams and choc ices. Why did you stop selling these, and what are your plans with regards to this line of goods? I would really like to have more choice when I shop, and actually be able to buy these products rather than seeing empty shelves where they ought to be.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Mr Sainsbury replied:

Thank you for your email. I am sorry you are unhappy with the range of dairy free ice cream available at our  store. I understand you would like us to increase this range in the future.

 We try to sell the widest possible range of products to give our customers maximum choice. However, due to space limitations we cannot stock every item in every store. For each store, our buyers regularly review what we are stocking and how well it is selling, to make sure that we are meeting our local customers’ needs.

Occasionally, this means that we withdraw products from some branches if they are not popular. If enough customers want to see a certain product in their local store, we will do everything we can to provide it.

With that in mind, I have passed a request on to our buyers so they can consider the possibility of stocking Swedish Glacé chocolate and raspberry dairy free ice cream and some lovely cornetto style ice creams and choc ices at our  store for you.

 We appreciate you taking the time to contact us and look forward to seeing you in store again soon.

Dear reader, you may have noticed (I certainly did) a hint of sarcasm in Mr Sainsbury’s reply.  He’d clearly copied and pasted my email into his. But I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. So next time I found myself in the freezer aisle, imagine my disappointment that there was no Swedish Glacé chocolate and raspberry dairy free ice cream and the lovely cornetto style ice creams and choc ices were nowhere to be seen. To add insult to injury there wasn’t even a tub of vanilla!! 

Fast forward a year or two and the non-dairy choices are significantly better. Mr Sainsbury is now stocking Swedish Glace choc ices (although they’ve changed the recipe and they’re not as good as they used to be). They’ve also started stocking a range of iced desserts by The Coconut Collaborative


These are refreshing, low in sugar and high in coconut, which makes them extremely trendy. The packaging is quirky, eye catching and convenient to eat from whilst sitting in front of Game of Thrones.  The only drawback is that you have to leave it to thaw for about 5 minutes before you can eat it, which is difficult for someone who’s spent 30 years plus waiting to eat the Frozen Yogurt made from the milk of the coconut! 

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Mr Tesco brought out his own Free From range a year or so ago. The range currently consists of Strawberry and vanilla cones and Chocolate ice cream sticks. They’ve recently introduced Toffee and vanilla cones but these have nuts in them, so be careful if you have a nut allergy like me. 

Alpro have also recently brought out a dairy free range. Their Coconut ice cream is to die for. I’ve not tried their vanilla, so I can’t compare it with Swedish Glace.  They also do a Chocolate Hazelnut ice cream, which isn’t Allergy Girl friendly. 

I was really excited a few months ago to see an advert for dairy free Ben and Jerry’s, however it was short lived as they’re going to be making theirs with almond milk. 

Finally, if you happen to be looking for a dairy free ice cream in Spain or the Canary Islands (and possibly the Balearics), head to a Mercadona supermarket, where you can pick up a box of very tasty choc ices on sticks or a tub of mango and raspberry ice cream. Yum! 

That’s all from me.  If you have your own tips on where to buy dairy free ice cream, I’d love to hear them. Alternatively you could try making your own……