Category Archives: Date cake

Summerhouse tea party – grand opening!

Well, that’s it then – my first ‘public’ tea party event is
over! Myself and Mr Tea had to work really hard last week to get the
summerhouse looking ship shape and lovely in time, but, I think we did it – I was so pleased that I managed to sew some vintage shabby chic cushions despite being up till the wee hours. Then it was up early last Friday to make bunting –it looks so fresh and fabulous, don’t you think?! I want to make some more…once I can face cutting all those triangles out again!! Good way to use up
remnants of pretty fabric and VERY satisfying when you do it all yourself!

Now to the food…… I spent a fair while deciding what to put
on the menu. Partly because there were two men coming and lets face it, men don’t
always like dainty afternoon tea (Mr Tea is an exception maybe!). So my
solution was a) make a sticky date cake – dark, rich and not at all dainty –
which went down well with the four women as well as the men actually so I’m
glad I went with that option. 2nd solution? Serve scones (I baked a
mixture of plain, fruit and almond) with Talisker whisky clotted cream!!! That
did the trick too – what man could turn down cream with single malt running
through it?! I decided to serve honey as I thought that would go well with the
whisky cream and it seemed to work – I loved the honey/scone combo, even
without the cream. I have to say my scones came out SO big this time – rose and rose in the oven! I’m not complaining but I think I’ll use my smallest cutter
next time so they’re not too big. Strawberry jam, of course, for those who didn’t
want honey; the jam came from the farmhouse kitchen at Hall Farm, Chesterton,nr. Peterborough and very lush it was too.

I also made the tallest, wobbliest layered sponge you’ve
ever seen, as Mr Tea felt we needed a spectacular centre piece for our inaugural
tea party event. So I used a whole jar of my homemade lemon curd (another blog post about that when I have time to write it…) between the bottom two layers and then cream whipped with lemon juice and icing sugar between the top two. Very nice, but personally I find these big layer cakes a bit over the top when you want your guests to enjoy a bit of everything on offer – a tower of sponge can be a bit daunting don’t you think? Or maybe that’s just me!

Also on offer were chocolate dipped Viennese Fingers – using
the recipe that the lovely Lynn, she of the Bakelady blog and Clandestine Cake
Club fame, recently posted online. http://bakelady.wordpress.com/recipes/chocolate-covered-viennese-fingers/ Thanks for that Lynn – I hadn’t made these
before and I thought they were extremely tasty. I sort of preferred them
without the chocolate – bit rich maybe? But I might try dipping them in white
chocolate, or milk? I’ll give it a go – or pipe them into circles and sandwich
together with buttercream or jam as per Lynn’s suggestion online.

I’m working backwards here..sorry folks! Onto (or back to?!)
the savoury fare…… I’ve been experimenting with bread at my ‘practice’ tea
parties, to find some that’s both tasty and also suitable for having the crusts
cut off for finger sandwiches. Whilst I’m always more than happy to bake my own
loaves it’s hard to make homemade bread that’s ‘square’ enough for dainty
sandwiches. But I think I cracked it this time….. firstly, I made some mini bread
rolls (poppy seed and plain), and served these with individual pots of homemade
smoked mackerel pate. Each pot had a little fabric cover tied over its lid to
add to the vintage shabby chic feel. And many thanks to my lovely friend Shan
who had the patience to tie the bows around the jars when I was getting rather
hot under the apron in the kitchen! Secondly – I’ve discovered Hambleton’s
newest bakery branch, in Oundle – all the bread is baked locally (mainly in
Oakham I think) and the staff were SO knowledgeable and happy to discuss my
requirements. So we had their 7 seed wholemeal bread and also a white tin loaf
and not only did they slice beautifully, they tasted delicious (properly proved
bread with no nasty ingredients – worth its weight in gold in my opinion) AND
the remaining bread is STILL fresh – 3 days after we bought it. I shall be back
to Hambleton’s (and you should see their chocolate brownies!!). Fillings for
sandwiches…. Rare roast beef and mustard (another manly addition!) and cream
cheese and chives.

Watching my six guests run down the garden path under huge
umbrellas was so funny! I stood in the kitchen until they were all settled by Mr
Tea and then we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the grand opening of
the summerhouse. I’ve never seen rain get harder and harder and harder with no
sign of stopping – but we were all cosy inside our little pop up tea room and
we lit some candles which added to the atmosphere. A few runs back to the
kitchen to top up the tea pots was a doddle and, before we’d finished our cake,
the rain stopped and the sun almost, almost came out! We all sat around the
table until well after 5pm and it was so lovely to be with such great people
having a nice chat and a laugh. I’ll tell you how nice they all were – we received
flowers, 6 x duck eggs, chocolates and a thank you card afterwards – that felt
pretty good I can tell you.

So now I’m wondering whether we could use the summerhouse as
a winterhouse?! If guests wrap up warm I can provide blankets to go around their
legs and we can warm ourselves over endless pots of tea whilst we chat and eat
cake…… sounds like a good plan to while away a gloomy winter afternoon rather
than wait for spring to appear? I’ll keep you posted! But I have other tea
parties planned at different venues in October…. Watch the events page closely
and do pop along and join in the fun if you can.

Lemony x

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Baking for gluten free guests

I must say I was a little daunted by the thought of catering for a
friend who has Coeliac Disease – this is not a matter of someone being ‘a bit
fussy’ (and we all know a few of those) … but Coeliac sufferers really do
just that, suffer, if they eat any food with gluten in, which includes wheat,
rye and oats. So I was determined to do my best so my friend didn’t miss out on
the full afternoon tea experience. I was amazed to be able to buy xanthan gum
in the supermarket, which helps the ingredients in GF recipes emulsify and
stick together, but couldn’t for love nor money buy rice flour around any of
the supermarkets or more specialist shops in Peterborough. Not being a GF
expert I wasn’t sure whether I could substitute a GF mixed flour blend for rice
flour so I avoided some of the gluten free sponge recipes I’d had my eye on
trying.

I made sundried tomato bread, which used the GF flour blend and didn’t contain yeast (so a bit like a savoury cake really) – it was really runny when I poured it into the loaf tin but it came out lovely and moist and easy to slice for sandwiches. I also made another loaf with GF bread flour and yeast, which looked like wallpaper paste, not nice at all!! But it cooked fine –looked like a blond German rye bread in texture (not to everyone’s taste I imagine) but tasted quite pleasant.

I also made scones, using the flour blend and xanthan gum – I divided
the recipe to make half fruit and half cheese scones and I could tell by the
feel of the dough that they were going to be a success. I must say I really
enjoyed both of them – just as nice as my ordinary scones.

I also baked a lovely cinnamon, date and fig cake – which, as well as being gluten free also contained no sugar – though I did sprinkle liberally with sugar so it didn’t seem quite such a virtuous cake when served! It was so moist and so sweet from the dates and figs – just gorgeous really!

Finally I made a batch of almond macaroons – I think making cakes
or biscuits that don’t call for wheat or oats is a good choice for Coeliac
sufferers – it’s not tweaking or imitating – it’s making the most of cakes
which just don’t need flour to make them delicious.

So I was rather pleased with yesterday’s efforts and we all sat at
the table for a very long time, waiting so we could eat just a little bit more….
What more could a hostess ask for? Fab.

If you want to find out more about Coeliac Disease visit http://www.coeliac.org.uk/