Category Archives: Cookies

Gingerbread tea party for Christmas

Friday 2nd December – this was the 2nd joint Top Secret Tea Party / Tilly’s Vintage Craft Workshop event and, again, it was just fabulous!

Tilly’s barn, in Chesterton, Peterborough, is an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful things. Currently Tilly has decked the barn out for the festive season with lots of felt garlands, innovative Christmas tree decorations, oranges studded with cloves and tied with ribbon, a stunning white Christmas tree and lots of fragrant candles. I can’t think of a nicer place to spend a Friday evening with a bunch of lovely, chatty women and a couple of young girls.

I served luxurious hot chocolate – the kind that’s made from cream, milk, melted chocolate and… nothing else! It’s the only kind of hot chocolate I like and is perfect for a cold winter’s evening. Equally delicious is a tea cup of mulled wine…..I make mine using red wine, orange juice, sugar, honey, cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  I also put the kettle on and made several pots of steaming hot assam tea.

I made a squidgy ginger loaf cake, studded with stem ginger and sultanas and drizzled with fondant icing (these cakes are great because they keep for a week or two so are perfect for guests popping in over the holidays); chocolate and cinnamon cupcakes topped with marshmallows and two chocolate logs. One was a traditional ‘buche de noel’, filled and covered with chestnut , chocolate and cream mousse and the other was made the same way but minus the chestnut puree. If you’ve ever cooked with canned chestnut puree I’m sure you’ll agree it’s the most unpromising of ingredients – it doesn’t smell or taste pleasant until you mix it with other ingredients; then it imbues the chocolate mousse with a nutty taste and really does lift a chocolate log to another level. Delicious!

 

 

Tilly showed our guests how to make vintage inspired gift tags and Christmas decorations – some using some of my gingerbread cookies which I’d baked and brought along – I have a tin full of these, all wrapped with wool, lace, ribbon and little snowflakes – the whole tin looks and smells divine (why not fill a pretty tin with something similar and give as a gift?). Tilly also had us all captivated by showing us something many had last made at school – pom poms! We used some of those plastic sacks that often drop through your letterbox for charity donations, cut them into long strips and matched with strips of wool. It’s better than throwing the bags away, if you’re not going to fill them with goods for the charity. We wound the strips around circles of card, well, you wouldn’t think something so simple could keep a bunch of grown women (and two girls) so quiet! We were all very pleased with our pom poms and these can be attached to gifts or hung on a tree (or used to entertain the cat). Tilly gave us so many ideas, using up bits of fabric, paper (buy a snowflake stamp/cutter and stick the cut outs to card/gift tags), wool, ribbon, things that you might have lying around at home (garden twine… string…brown paper…newspapers…comics…holly) that really give your gifts and home the individual touch.

I wasn’t feeling too well a few nights after the tea party so I spent a quiet couple of hours finishing more gingerbread decorations whilst curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea – time and energy well spent!

I can’t wait for the next Tilly / Lemony Drizzle joint event…. A Mothers’ Day Vintage Tea Party – book your places now by emailing mslemonydrizzle@sky.com.

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Being a good hostess

I was intending to blog about my thoughts about WHY I spend my precious spare time baking and hosting secret tea parties-  I think about it a lot because I get SUCH a lot of enjoyment out of it even though I also find it time consuming and at times stressful…. getting everything done when I also work full time is no easy feat. So…why? But as well as writing about that, I thought I’d combine those thoughts with feedback on the first children’s vintage tea party that I hosted last weekend, because in some ways it exemplified what ‘being’ Lemony Drizzle is all about.

Whilst there are many keen amateur/home bakers and cooks out there it’s not just the baking that I love. And it’s not really the planning as I find this the hardest bit to fit in to my busy working life… never enough hours to dream up new recipes, try them out, shop for the ingredients..so sometimes I fall back on old favourites or trust that a new recipe will turn out just fine even when I’ve had no time for a trial run.

What I really love, above everything else, is hosting tea party events. Having guests come to eat my food and enjoy it, looking after people, knowing they will (fingers crossed!) be impressed with what I’ve baked and making the table a visual delight – THAT’S the best thing ever in my view. It’s such a basic thing to do really, to feed people, to make connections with people, to strengthen bonds over the tea table… it shows you care when you spend time baking, when you try your best to ‘wow’ people – not just because food looks good but because it also TASTES good – no good having one without the other! So many ‘food experiences’ these days are bland, branded, ubiquitous, there’s very little that’s personal with an eye to the finishing touches – it doesn’t matter where you are in the country (or even the world) you can go to a chain cafe and get the same food, often mass produced, taken from the freezer, and made to look and taste the same in Aberdeen, Liverpool, London or Southampton. I find that utterly depressing.

There’s something so civilised about sitting at a table laid with pretty tea cups and plates, with freshly cut flowers (though I can’t claim they’re from my own garden, sadly), starched white table linen, having a conversation with your fellow guests, and being waited on by someone who really does care whether you have a lovely time and who knows what went in to every morsel you’re eating. You can get more perfect looking cakes or scones elsewhere that’s for sure – I’m not the most careful of bakers when it comes to prettying up my wares – but you would be hard pushed to find a tea table with food containing more love, care and devotion to pleasing the people consuming the fare. I love ‘doing’ Lemony Drizzle because I love feeding people with great food.

And so hosting a tea party for a beautiful, sophisticated 8 year old and three of her friends was an absolute joy last weekend. The birthday girl gasped with delight when she saw the tea table and the cakes that were lined up for her party. She introduced each of her friends to Ms Drizzle and they loved drinking pink lemonade poured from pretty tea pots and loved the name tags I’d tied with ribbon around their whiten linen napkins. They wolfed down the finger sandwiches and, much to my surprise, enjoyed the dark chocolate marbled cookies and chocolate dipped fancies, much more so than the butterfuly cupcakes which went untouched (though they loved talking about them!). Their little tummies couldn’t of course take as much as adult guests I feed, BUT that did not diminish their love of visually consuming the feast before them. They chatted away to each other and to me, weren’t at all shy and giggled and laughed – a lot!

They adored the sherbet lemon sweetie cake I’d made as the centre piece, filled with sherbet butter icing and topped with jelly tots, jelly beans and flying saucers even though they only ate the sweeties because they were full up! Seeing their joy at having a vintage tea party was so lovely – the birthday girl declared it her ‘best party ever’ and decided that Ms Drizzle makes ‘the best cakes in the world’.  She wants to do it all again next year.

What more could a host ask for? x x