<![CDATA[Black Cat Cafe - blog]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 16:22:43 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Top Cats (and human helpers) of 2017!]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 20:15:18 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/top-cats-and-human-helpers-of-2017Cats in the news, cats on the internet, cats in the street. Everyone loves a cat that does something a little bit different – so we've compiled a list of the top cats, and people that make life a little easier for the species, that made it big in 2017. In no particular order, here they are:

Blanco the Cat

In March, a woman was befuddled as to why her usually well-behaved cat wouldn't leave her alone at 3am. After eventually giving in to the pestering, she found a pan still burning on the stove. Blanco's singed whiskers suggest that he found the problem and woke up his human before she and her husband and daughter were in big trouble.

Dr. Jeremy

In July, a London vet opened a clinic just for cats. A normal vet's waiting room is an incredibly stressful place for a cat – they're greeted with varying breeds of dogs, loud noises and they already don't feel great. In this situation a kitty would usually scarper, but they're caged in for their own safety causing their anxiety to grow. The London Cat Clinic is there to make the experience a stress-free as possible, for you and your cat.


Now Rally Cat ended up trending on twitter, and in today's world of social media that's a big deal. This little kitten wandered onto the field in the middle of a baseball game. The Cardinals were losing when the game was stopped and Rally Cat was scooped up by an employee, who got bitten in the process. On the next play, The Cardinals hit a grand slam and went on to win the game.

Hurricane Harvey Pet Rescuers

In the midst of natural disaster, The International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals teamed up to rescue pets that had been caught up in the chaos. Not just cats, but everybody loves their pets and the world would be a much sadder place for many people if it wasn't for these guys.

The Lions Who Hug

Big cats are cats, too! Seven years ago, a woman who had hand-reared two lion cubs took them to the zoo – she was unable to care for them as they had grown too big... it was the responsible thing to do. This year, that same woman went to the zoo for the first time since. Instead of eating her, roaring, or running away they recognised the woman instantly and jumped up for a heartfelt embrace that'd bring a tear to anyone's eye. There are many, many others who could be included here – the kindness of both cats and people is amazing – but we'd be here all day and ten million words does not make for light reading! We'll leave it to our readers to link us to similar stories in the comments.

​We hope you had a fantastic festive season, and we wish you a purr-fect 2018!
<![CDATA[Through the Cat Flap - Movies and a Recipe for the Chilly Winter Nights...]]>Fri, 01 Dec 2017 19:30:00 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/through-the-cat-flap-movies-and-a-recipe-for-the-chilly-winter-nightsWhat better way to spend a cold winter night than some sweet treats, some fluffy socks and a heart-warming film or two? None – and we're here to help. Not only are we going to provide you with a recipe for some indulgent brownie-cookies, but we've knocked up a list of fun, heartfelt films from the last five decades to get you warm on the inside; of course, they are all lead by cats.

The Snacks

65g Cocoa Powder
130g Sugar
65g Butter
170g Plain Flour
45g Chocolate Chips
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Egg
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt

Right, you'll need to preheat your oven to 180ºc / gas mark 4 and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. 

Start with the cocoa powder, sugar, vegetable oil and butter; mixing them together in a bowl. When they're fully mixed, beat in the egg and the vanilla extract thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder together before stirring them into the wet ingredients until it's a doughy texture. Fold in your chocolate chips (amount is a guideline – go crazy if you like).

Put dollops (approx. 2 tbsp) of the final mixture onto the baking trays and bake for 12 minutes... they might still look a bit gooey, but the outside will harden as they cool.

Don't peel them off the baking paper yet! Give them a good 10 minutes to settle, and they're all yours.

So, What're you going to watch?


Nine Lives (2016)

Kevin Spacey stars as your typical middle-class, workaholic movie Dad in this warm, amusing flick... that is until he gets mysteriously turned into a cat. This one's for the whole family, and there'll be giggles and 'awwwww's the entire way through.

Cats and Dogs (2001)

An action-packed battle of the species – Dogs Versus Cats. This is like a real-life Tom and Jerry, but they got their friends involved and they have more gadgets. All of the warm-fuzzies of talking animals, some great one-liners and family value side-stories.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

This one's a tear-jerker. Three much-loved family pets go on a quest to find their owners, who have had to temporarily leave for work. They travel far and wide, learning to love each other along the way through their close encounters and risky escapes.

Oliver & Company (1988)

A Disney animated classic about an abandoned orphan kitten who gets himself in with a crowd of street dogs. This twist (no pun intended) on Oliver Twist really lifts the spirits of a sad story, and you can't help but love the characters.

The Aristocats (1970)

Although it's another Disney, a winner is a winner. A privileged house cat and her three kittens are thrown out in the middle of the night by a jealous butler. They seek help from unlikely friends – an alley cat, an intoxicated goose and a band of singing street cats – embarking on an journey that proves friends come in all shapes and sizes.

Have a great time over the holidays, and let us know down in the comments if you've got any cat movies you think we need to see!]]>
<![CDATA[We've 'bean' getting 'egg-xcited' about breakfast...]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:30:40 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/weve-bean-getting-egg-xcited-about-breakfastTo me, breakfast is something to get enthusiastic about. As a lover of food and all things new in the flavour world, flitting between a bowl of corn flakes and a big ol' fry up is something that comes naturally. It took a while for the UK to catch up on this 'breakfast' thing – In Old English, the first meal of the day was called 'morgenmete' and it wasn't until the 15th century that the we started using the word 'breakfast'.
Since then we've evolved from fish, bread and ale to the traditional Full English – bacon, eggs, sausages and the likes of on an overflowing plate of delicious hearty goodness. Our friends in the USA prefer to have waffles, pancakes or biscuits and gravy (don't panic, we're not expecting you to put Bisto on your Bourbons. This is made up of neither biscuits nor gravy according to English folk, and consists of something similar to a plain scone and a white sauce with meat juices), whilst France like their pastries and coffee – so it seems there's no universal standard.
Having come to the conclusion that you really can have whatever you like for breakfast – let's get in to the technicalities. According to countless studies, breakfast can aid productivity, weight control and sleep issues; so something wholesome, filling and nutritious is probably a good way to go. This can be an issue, given that nutritious and delicious don't always match up – and as much as we want to take care of our selves, it's easy to take the tastier option over the healthier one. But what if I told you that you don't have to choose?
Eggs Benedict is a classic dish and full of protein to set you up for the day – with the added nutritional value of an avocado or the burst of flavour from some bacon (or even a bit of smoked salmon!) and a lemon twist on some home-made hollandaise, it's enough to be satisfying, but not so much that you just want to crawl back in to bed.
If you're not a big eater in the mornings or have a busy schedule and struggle for time, yoghurt can be very flexible to your needs. It's so time-saving that you don't even have to chew, and can be flavoured with a beautiful array of things (can I recommend our mixed berry and rosewater syrup compote?). Full of vitamins and calcium, it'll give you the boost you need t be ready for the day.
REALLY HUNGRY? Go all out. Have everything. Take the protein from the eggs and amplify it with some sausages. Get the bacon involved for some oleic acids- good for the heart – and compliment the bacon with some BBQ beans. Start your five-a-day with some tomatoes and mushrooms and to top it all off – get some carbs in you for energy with some nice warm sourdough toast. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a Black Cat Big Breakfast.
Whilst I'd love to convince you that a healthy breakfast is the way to go, I'd be contradicting myself. As I said earlier, you really can have whatever you like for breakfast... so if you're not convinced with vitamins and protein, what's to stop you popping in for a big ol' slice of cheeky morning cake?
<![CDATA[Raw cakes - healthy and delicious]]>Tue, 23 Jun 2015 15:42:21 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/raw-cakes-healthy-and-deliciousYes, having fun making raw cakes. We had recently had a wonderfully successful event with The Wandering Yak who specialise in vegan/vegetarian street food. I made a selection raw vegan cakes and tarts. I've since made them several times to put in the cake fridge at the Cat. It's amazing and quite satisfying how popular they are. though sadly only as long as they're not labelled vegan or raw! Odd because you'd think in this day and age, people would be much more open to trying different food. And so many people are now embracing the raw food culture. Not sure I could get away with it at the Cat. . . but I am tempted!

Anyway, here are a couple of the popular ones and sorry not pictures. I never think of taking pictures while make cakes. Usually because I'm not thinking about putting them out anywhere. So you can just imagine how they look!

Raw Chocolate and Berry Tart
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 cup chopped dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tblsps cacao
4 tbsps coconut oil

Blend almonds, dates, vanilla and cacao together. Slowly add coconut oil. Press into the base of a 23cm springform tin. Put in the fridge to set. 

4 ripe avocados
250g cacao
1/4 cup maple syrup
100g coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
280g coconut oil (melted - I just put the jar on top of the oven while it's on)
1 cup water

Puree the avocados. Add all other ingredients and process until smooth. Pour over the chilled base. Put back in the fridge to set. 

You can decorate it with chopped strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a mixture of all three.

<![CDATA[...retrospectively]]>Sat, 16 May 2015 14:08:24 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/retrospectivelyWith Hindsight...
As The Cat approaches its 10th anniversary, I look back and wonder ...if I'd known what it was going to involve would I have opened the Cat? That's a hard one. For a start, I never meant to be here 10 years on. It was a 3 year plan but despite a large number of people who wanted to and/or tried to buy it over the years, for various reasons it just never happened. 

This country's cafe culture is only just beginning to develop and is clearly a good 20 years or more behind that of New Zealand and Australia. When I returned to live in Cambridge in 2000, after spending 10 years in New Zealand, I was shocked to find there were no decent cafes around and nowhere could I buy a decent coffee. When I asked for a Flat White, I was greeted with a blank look and eventually given an over-extracted, cheap robusta, over-roasted blend with burnt semi-skimmed milk foamed to within an inch of its life with a lovely (not!) skin forming on the surface. I was heart broken. I love a good coffee. 

It began to dawn on me that most people don't know they are drinking a bad coffee because they've never had a good one. I can't believe it when I hear people raving about a certain brand of coffee which I think is bitter and over roasted to the point of being caramelised (not a good thing in roasting coffee). But weirdly when I say no, it's not great coffee, it's foul, bitter and over roasted I get a relief response of 'but everyone says it's good and I thought it was just me who didn't like it'. Hmmm wonder how often that happens. A case of the Emperor's new clothes I suspect.

I suppose I opened the Cat because a) I blended and roasted my own coffee so knew I'd get a decent drinkable one that was 100% Arabica beans and b) I saw cafes would eventually take off here. True I didn't expect it to take so long especially as the Cat was busy and popular right from the start. And true it has faltered at times but here we are and still the busiest cafe on Mill Road. 

There have been some tough times over those yearsl. These are probably the hardest things I've had to deal with although there have been others;: 
  • a manager who worked for 3 years from the first day I opened who I eventually realised was dipping her fingers in the Till. This realisation dawned the day I visited her (we had, I thought, become good friends) and when she made a drink asked me to get some cups from the cupboard beside me. I opened the door to see it packed with Black Cat crockery. After she left, my bread, bacon and egg order went down noticeably. My Till also began to balance. I then learnt she told customers we were business partners and it was she ran the Cafe.  I guess it was Karma coming around when she left to open her own cafe and survived  for barely 8 months. More to running a cafe than she realised! Or most people I suspect.
  • the girl who stole the petty cash over a period of several months (slack of me because I only realised when I did the quarterly VAT) and who, when I made it clear I knew someone was doing this while naming no names, left and then took me to an employment tribunal for non payment of holiday pay.
  • the Council deciding I had to apply for a change of use from A1 to A3 despite their inspecting me over the 7 years I'd been open and agreeing to let me operate as I was because I wasn't an A3. Not sure why they changed their mind but as I was told that I wouldn't get an A3, I applied for and was approved as a mixed A1/A3 class. In the meantime, I was approached by several people who said the Council had told them I'd never get an A3 and that (in one case) if I paid them a certain amount they'd take the lease off my hands! Two of those people now own their own cafe and another two were local traders. You know who you are so hey thanks for the support guys. It felt like the vultures were circling. 
  • Rumours: one persistent and difficult to deal with was the rumour that our service was really slow. Many people complained and circulated this for a couple of years via Facebook and Twitter. When we are busy we always give a 30 minute wait time so people have the option to stay or not. It didn't seem to matter what we did, this slow/slack service rumour kept circulating. Then one Sunday we had a couple who started complaining they'd been waiting 30 minutes for their toast. This was odd because it was only 9:50 and at the time we opened on a Sunday at 9:30 (it's 9:00 now) and I'd already made and served 2 other breakfasts for customers who came in before them. So we started putting down the time on the order. Oh what an eye opener. 'I've been waiting 45mins!' one young man claimed. It was 7. He'd waited 7 mins after being told it might be a 30 minute wait. People often only waited 10 minutes before claiming it was over 30. We timed ourselves. The longest anyone had to wait was 22 minutes and that was when we were packed. Funny when I put this out on Facebook, the whole thing stopped. People may remark occasionally but to us. 
  • The rumour that my staff were all on drugs spread by a friend, another local business owner. They weren't, at least not at work except one girl who was asked to leave because of it. It was hurtful because I thought rumour monger was a friend. I eventually heard other unnecessary, mostly untruthful but unpleasant things she'd said because, as is the nature of people, I was quickly told about it. Not easy to deal with but I worked out that jealousy and competitiveness are uncomfortable friends. 
  • Reviews:  Fake reviews on TripAdviser and on our Facebook pages. This is always a difficult one as I tend not to look at TripAdviser but the Facebook one I can't avoid. I find it astonishing when I know other businesses get their bad reviews removed. How is that honest? You can review me but only if you say nice things. On the other hand, I know people put up fake reviews. We have had people come in and demand a free meal with the threat they'll give us a bad review if we don't. We don't of course. It makes a mockery of the whole review thing. Mostly I just avoid looking. 
  • Reviewers and bloggers. Well what can I say? It's very easy to criticise when you're on the other side of the counter. Try running business yourself before you start criticising the way someone else does it. It may be a bit of an eye opener. And then you might understand how distressing and hurtful it is when someone says/writes negative things. This maybe a business but it is mine and I feel it personally especially as no matter what, I always try to do my very best.  And what is it about people these days that they are so narcissistic and think if we do something they don't like, it's personal! No it's not. Most of the time we don't know you and most of the time, unless you tell us, we don't know what's wrong. We didn't intentionally do anything to annoy you. Why would we? And here's a thought, if you're unhappy with something then why not mention it at the time rather than running away and writing a review, often exaggerated and not always entirely truthful. It's childish and cowardly. If you don't tell us something is wrong at the time, then we don't know to fix it. But also, don't complain, let us fix it and then still go and write a negative review. 
There have been other things, other experiences, other unpleasant and untrue rumours but that's enough of that. It is easy to focus on the negative and think the good things are somehow a fluke rather than the reality. 
But here are some of the good things...
  • One customer who has been coming off and on for the last 10 years, tells me that he goes to check out other places but he comes back because we still do the best coffee and cake in Cambridge and he loves our 'innovative' brunches (get that 'innovative'). To be fair, he's not the only one. We have customers who have been coming faithfully and regularly since we opened. One also told me I should be proud of what I've achieved because I am 

                'the matriarch of the cafe culture in Cambridge'. 
  • My staff think that's hilarious and keep trying to put it out on Twitter and Facebook but I wasn't sure how to take it (I think I got hooked on matriarch bit making me sound old!). Anyway, I've decided to embrace it. So thank you.
  • The Cat was in the vanguard of the cafe culture in Cambridge. No one else made a Flatwhite or roasted their own coffee, handmade cakes or offered a specific brunch menu until we came along. I remember customers asking us what French Toast was! Now it's on most brunch menus.
  • We have in our time been voted Best Cafe in Cambridge. 
  • We were runner up in the regional (and now defunct) Local Food Hero award hosted by Gary Rhodes. He told me my Spiced Plum Syrup cake was 'absolutely divine' . . . praise indeed..
  • Been interviewed and reviewed on TV and radio. BBC! Bet most of you didn't know that or you've forgotten.
  • I have been repeatedly asked for my recipe for Rhubarb and Rosemary cake by a famous chef - I have made it for him several times. He orders it for his dinner parties.
  • Jamie Oliver told us we make the best scrambled eggs and repeated it to another cafe in Cambridge who repeated it back to us (oh how small Cambridge is!).
  • Other cafes have taken on the handmade cake baton and, although I would never have the arrogance to describe myself as the doyenne of cakes, I am amused nevertheless, to see others doing it. But whatever, I was one of the first to make it a USP for a cafe in Cambridge. And it is gratifying to see other's following in my footsteps. 
  • Despite the rise in the number of cafes in Cambridge over the last couple of years, The Cat is still busy, still popular. We do our own thing and we have no desire to be a part of any clique. We follow no one nor do we imitate anyone else. We do love it, however, when we see others imitating us although we know they would never admit it, we still know what we do and we soon notice. We often get told about how certain other cafe menus look a lot like ours. It reminds us that we still count. 

So I guess, all in all, the good things outweigh the bad but would I do it again? Was it worth it? Who knows as I don't have a never owned Black Cat person to compare myself to. But I've done it. And after nearly 10 years we are still here, more than holding our own and still, I believe, a force to be reckoned with. 

And here is a great big thank you to all our customers, followers, friends and fans. And here's to another 10 years. . . possibly :) 

<![CDATA[Mothering Sunday 15 March]]>Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:34:02 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/mothering-sunday-15-marchWe have cocktails... more later ]]><![CDATA[Psychic/Mediumship Event]]>Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:32:44 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/psychicmediumship-eventI can't believe it's been so long since my last post. I guess when you're busy that's one of the first things that gets set aside. And the last year has been a very busy one for us. So busy that we haven't really had time to get an event organised until last Friday, 4 March. Our Psychic/Mediumship event was, as usual, booked to capacity. And we would like to say a huge thank you to the Medium (and my personal friend) Fiona Heale for a brilliant evening. In 31/2 hours she gave a message to 26 people, many who waited patiently until the end of what must have felt like a long evening.

I know many people feel rather conflicted about the notion that there are some who connect to those who have passed over and we at the Cat do not wave any particular flag. We simple offer something that many people are interested in and ask for.

And for those of you who asked, yes we do intend to hold another such evening in the near future.

See you there we hope.

<![CDATA[Supperclubs]]>Wed, 19 Feb 2014 10:22:23 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/supperclubsI've been going to quite a number of supper clubs lately. One thing that always strikes me is that they are often quite expensive (not always I hasten to add) and the food is ... often...well ...ok. I know that it is easy for me to be a bit critical. I've worked in the food industry for many years and am lucky enough to number amongst my friends a particular well-known chef who will always give me an honest critique and helpful advice on some dishes I've prepared. 

I recently attended a Tapas supper club where every dish was individually priced so you could have what you wanted and pay only for that. And this got me thinking. One shortcoming, I feel, of many supper clubs is the set price and no-choice menu. This is ok if all the courses are great and I like each one but I have been to a couple where there has been at least one course and sometimes two that I just could not eat. 

So here we go. I'm organising a South American style tapas/streetfood event. South American because it has such a rich cross/cultural food heritage. From the native South Americans who cultivated corn, lima beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chile peppers, avocados, chocolate to the immigrant Europeans who learned to make their favourite Spanish, Italian or Portuguese dishes using these ingredients.  

Unfortunately, I can only select a few dishes but I've tried to incorporate a number from across the continent. 

All will be small tapa sized so you may have as many or as few as you like. Each will be individually priced from£2-5.  There will be a selection of dishes from across South American, all small tapa sized so you can have as many or as few as you like. Each will be individually priced from £2-5. You will find more information here Supper Events 

 It would be great to see you there. 

<![CDATA[Mary Berry and making cakes]]>Mon, 18 Nov 2013 10:49:42 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/mary-berry-and-making-cakesGoing out on a limb here. I don't rate Mary Berry very highly. I've watched a few episodes of the Bake Off thing and while I Iove Paul Hollywood, now there's a man who knows his bread, Mary Berry seems to me... well average. I'm sorry but I don't understand why everyone thinks she's such a fabulous baker. Baking margarine and putting all ingredients in the mixer all at once with added baking powder! Really? It's like calling someone who uses a bread machine a master baker. That's not to say I never use the all-in-one method; some cakes call for it but to do it for every cake it seems like a bit of a cop out to me. And I'm pretty sure that most people who do bake cakes as well as those who really like to eat homemade cakes can tell the difference between an all-in-the-mixer-together cake and a one that's made by creaming butter and sugar together, adding the eggs and beating until thoroughly combined before folding in the dry ingredients. I can. The first one tends to have a denser crumb and can sometimes be a bit doughy.

I know I probably sound like a purist here but to me, putting everything in a mixer is only one step removed from using a packet cake mix and I'm sure you all know how I feel about that. Equally, I'm the first to admit that there is a place for both - all in one and packet mixes that is - but really, Mary Berry a cake baker who judges others' efforts! Am I missing something?
<![CDATA[Pop Up with Urban Street Kings]]>Fri, 08 Nov 2013 08:43:16 GMThttp://blackcatcafecambridge.co.uk/blog/pop-up-with-urban-street-kingsAfter a successful night at the Cat on 26 October (see here for a review by Local Secrets on the evening's event) the Urban Street Kings held another delightful and tasty event at the Cat last night. As before the food was innovative, delicious and artistically served. I like this stretching the boundaries with food, it takes a certain courage and conviction to carry it through. It's always tempting to take the easy route and play safe - I do it myself. I like experimenting with different flavours and combinations of flavours but I don't really do anything to make it stand out. I guess it's about keeping expectations low so the diner with be wonderfully surprised when they actually taste the food but if they aren't, then they're not going to be disappointed because their expections weren't raised.

Well, I know what I mean.

The Urban Street Kings next pop up will be 21st and 22nd November. You can follow them on twitter if you want to find out more @food_urbansk .

In the meantime, I look forward to organising the next Psychic Supper as the last one was such a resounding success. It will be on 23 November at the Cat. As numbers have to be restricted, this is a ticket only event. Click here for more information and the booking form.