Cupcake Food Art & Afternoon Tea

Cupcake Food Art & Afternoon Tea
A while back (it’s taken me ages to post this!) I was invited to help decorate some cupcakes and go for afternoon tea in Cheltenham with AO.com. So I jumped on a train and headed down there with no real idea of what exactly the cupcake decorating portion of the day would involve. After getting off the train I took a taxi to a remote studio down a winding lane, and this is what I found…

Paul Hollywood’s face being constructed out of cupcakes! I was so impressed at how the face had been put together and the level of detail that had been achieved by using cupcakes. The piece of food art was being created by Food is Art by Prudence. Prudence and her company make life size models of people out of chocolate and cheese, as well as various portraits like the above out of different food items like fruit, chocolate and cheese.

Prudence showed us how she wanted us to decorate the cupcakes with both buttercream and AO.com green coloured fondant.

Along with Sus from Rough Measures and Amy from AO.com, I got stuck into decorating the cupcakes with some chocolate buttercream. I’ve decorated a lot of cupcakes in my time, so this was fun and easy for me. I whizzed through it and decorated a whole bunch of them. Prudence said I was hired! (If only the commute wasn’t 3 hours!!)

I then moved onto fondant, which I am much less confident with. I decided to do my name in fondant on top of the cupcakes and I was really pleased with how it turned out, now to get it into the portrait…

Woohoo my name made it into the portrait!

Watch the full video of the construction of the portrait, including the final result above. You can also see more photos over on AO’s blog by clicking here.

We headed to the absolutely gorgeous Ellenborough Park afterwards for afternoon tea. We got so lucky as it was an absolutely beautiful day. It is such a stunning venue and I can imagine it being perfect for weddings, a romantic getaway or a girls weekend. They have hotel and spa facilities there too.

We got the champagne afternoon tea and it was so damn good! The  champagne (I wish I knew the brand) was really delicious, and this is coming from someone who is not a huge fan of champagne/sparkling wine.

There were then four different types of scones, all served warm with jam and clotted cream. I’m not sure which scones out of the four I had, but I thoroughly enjoyed them!

Finally we moved onto the cakes. There was a delightful carrot cake, a swiss roll with a very clever pattern on the outside, a mini chocolate tart that was very delicious, and a beautifully bright purple macaron. I was very full but very happy by the end!

I went home with a copy of Paul Hollywood’s new book – Pies & Puds. I read it on the train home and I’m definitely going to give some of the recipes a go. It was such a fun day and I feel very lucky to have been a part of this unique project. Let me know what you think of the cupcake portrait in the comments!

How to Host an Afternoon Tea Party with Cocktails

How to Host an Afternoon Tea Party with Cocktails

It was my birthday at the end of July and as I’m not really into clubs much anymore all I wanted to do was stay in, eat cake and hang out with my friends! So I decided on an Afternoon Tea Party & Cocktails. We all got dressed up, I made a table full of goodies, and we spent the day eating cake and drinking tea, then as the evening came, we hit the cocktails, played games and had a brilliant time! I wanted to create this guide to help you have a great afternoon tea party too!

I started a few days in advance by making these fruit scones. I put them in the freezer to keep them fresh, then took them out the night before the party. If you have any gluten free guests try this scone recipe from The Gluten Free Alchemist, or for vegan guests try this recipe from Wallflower Kitchen.

I also made my own raspberry jam to go on the scones, which I made a few days in advance too. And of course the scones were not complete without clotted cream! So I made sure to get a couple of tubs in for the party. If you don’t want to make your own jam, there are so many quality options in the supermarket now, I would suggest buying a more premium option for the party – it is a special occasion after all!

A classic Victoria Sponge Cake was the centre piece of the table. I made a basic sponge mix and sandwiched the two halves with jam and fresh cream in the middle. You can’t go wrong with a Mary Berry recipe or my Strawberries & Cream Cake is sure to impress!

For the second cake I wanted something a bit different so I made this Spiced Carrot Loaf Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, it was so yummy! The recipe is from BBC Good Food, I omitted the walnuts and sultanas.

I made some pretty lemon cupcakes and sat them on one of my birthday gifts, a beautiful cupcake stand from Laura Ashley. You can find the recipe below:

Lemon Cupcakes

Servings 12

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 2 Eggs
  • 175 g Caster sugar
  • 175 g Butter
  • 175 g Self raising flour
  • 1 Lemon zested

Buttercream

  • 150 g Butter
  • 300 g Icing sugar
  • 1 tsp Lemon extract
  • Yellow food colouring
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

  1. For the sponge, cream together the butter and caster sugar until soft and fluffy
  2. Add in the eggs and lemon zest and mix well
  3. Fold in the self raising flour
  4. Separate the batter into cupcake cases in a muffin tin and bake at 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool completely
  5. To make the buttercream mix together the butter, icing sugar and yellow food colouring until smooth and the desired shade
  6. Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes using a piping bag fitted with a closed star nozzle and add desired sprinkles

For savoury lovers and also to provide a break from all the sweet treats, I made three types of finger sandwiches – salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and cream cheese, and ham. They were very popular and I ended up having to make more half way through the day! I also provided some crisps for nibbling on. There are so many sandwich filling options and I’ve listed some more ideas below, don’t forget to check if any of your guests require gluten free bread.

Beef & Mustard

Egg Mayonnaise

Hummus & Roasted red pepper

Hummus & Cucumber

Cheese & Pickle

I bought a good selection of tea to suit everyone’s tastes, I included decaf and fruit teas. I also provided soft drinks and juices. If you have a teapot you can make up a pot of tea for everyone.
 

 

I decorated my table with bunting, fresh flowers and a floral table cloth. I also hired some gorgeous vintage cups, saucers and plates from Tamaryn’s Treasures. They were so beautiful and really made the party special! I loved the one with the gold pattern inside the cup. They really added that vintage afternoon tea party feel to the day. Here are a few other companies that offer the same service, if you Google ‘Hire vintage crockery’ you will find lots of results:

Pretty Vintage (Lincoln)

The Vintage Affair (Buckinghamshire/Berkshire)

Add Vintage (Leeds)

Honey Bees (Leicestershire)

Later on we moved onto cocktails. This is a Cosmopolitan, a delicious mix of vodka, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry juice. Throughout the night I also made lime daquiris, pina coladas and long island ice teas. These are all classic cocktails and the recipes are readily available online, try Social and Cocktail for 100 cocktail recipes.

We played some awesome games. First we played Cranium which is a fairly well known family game, well to everyone except me! I had never heard of it but apparently a lot of people play it at Christmas. Later on we played the hilarious Cards Against Humanity – which I highly recommend. Games are such a great way to get everyone involved and interacting with each other, especially if your guests don’t all know each other well.

 

I looked into hiring people to come and do hair and make up for us, but I didn’t have the budget for this. If it was a bigger event like a hen party I would definitely have hired a professional, but I was lucky enough to have a very talented friend who did everyone’s hair. And I thought we all looked fab! If you can find someone in your local area to come and do your hair and make up, and you have the budget for it, then get on Google and Facebook and have a search. I’ve listed below some I found and the locations:

Bijoux Hair (London)

Hen Heaven (Major UK cities)

Lipstick & Curls (London & Leeds)

The Vintage Beauty Parlour (Manchester)

I had such a fun time and I highly recommend this kind of get together if you can’t be bothered with the hassle of going out (and you love cake!) Staying in is much more fun! I made everything myself for the party, but you could get your friends to bring a bake each to lessen the workload. If you do want to make everything yourself, the freezer is your friend! You can freeze the cakes (undecorated) and the scones in advance. I hope you have fun! Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for the perfect afternoon tea party!

Rose & Raspberry Cakes

I made these two gorgeous cakes for ‘Forget-Tea-Not’, an afternoon tea in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society held by Jules and Bailey from Good Gobble last Sunday at Didsbury Parsonage Trust. As you may know I have been trying to get more involved in local events, particularly charity events. I’m always happy to make cake or help out for a charity. I wasn’t able to be there for the whole event, but Jules told me it was a fantastic success, and they’ve raised around £600 so far. If you’d like to donate please visit JustGiving.com

I used this recipe to make the first cake, only changing it by doubling the quantity of rose water. I wasn’t 100% happy with how it turned out. It said to bake on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3, which I did but after an hour, nothing was happening. So I turned it up to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. It took another 50 minutes before it was done! It was a hefty mixture and expected it to be a big cake, but when it came out and cooled it was the size of a normal sandwich cake. It tasted nice (I made cupcakes with some of the batter for taste testing), but had a huge crack across the top and quite a dense cake, so I decided to do some editing for the second cake…

First I greased and lined my 9 inch cake tin.

I started the mixture by creaming together 170g butter and 300g golden caster sugar. I then added 150g full fat natural yoghurt and mixed in.

I whisked in 4 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 1/2 tsp rose water. Then folded in 300g self raising flour and 1 tsp baking powder.

This was the rose water I used, I got it in a promotional pack, but I’ve seen rose water in Tesco and I think it’s quite easy to find.

I baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes, then turned down to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 20 minutes. It looked much better this time and no nasty crack, although I forgot to take a photo!

Seen as I had ended up with two cakes I decided to decorate them both in different ways. It gave me a chance to be creative!

I was sent these gorgeous pink chocolate cigarellos from the Chocolate Trading Company. They are the first company in the world to produce cigarellos in pink! Most of us have probably seen the white, milk and dark chocolate versions on wedding and birthday cakes before. I always think they produce a really stunning and elegant effect. EDIT: Unfortunately they no longer sell them anymore.

I cut the cake in half and made a raspberry buttercream for the filling by mashing up 10-12 raspberries, and mixing with 40g butter and 200g icing sugar.

The cigarellos stick to a buttercream or ganache covering. I made a white chocolate buttercream by mixing 280g butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 350g icing sugar. Once it was smooth I mixed in 200g melted white chocolate that had cooled slightly.

I covered the cake and began sticking the cigarellos around the side. They are very sturdy and stick upright easily. It’s best to do this on a cake board or the plate you will be serving the cake on. Moving cakes once decorated is difficult enough, but I wouldn’t advise moving one with cigarellos stuck to it as it could damage the position and appearance of them.

Once the cake was covered I iced the top with the white chocolate buttercream.

 

I added fresh raspberries, upright and in circles until the top was full, and then finished the cake with a pink ribbon. I am so pleased with how it looks! The pink cigarellos are really stunning and the red raspberries compliment the dusky pink chocolate perfectly.

For the second cake I filled the middle with the white chocolate buttercream, then placed fresh raspberries flatly over the buttercream. For the topping I mixed together the leftover raspberry buttercream and white chocolate buttercream, I added 100g icing sugar to thicken it up and covered the top of the cake.

 

I decorated the top with white and pink wafer roses, which I got off ebay. They are edible, and really delicate and pretty. They stuck easily to the buttercream and I arranged them haphazardly on top.

 

I thought both cakes looked really good, I can’t decide which one I like best!

 

 

 

 

I took them along to the afternoon tea so they could be eaten and enjoyed by the customers. I’ve heard that a picture of my cake may appear in a local newspaper covering the event…watch this space! I’m very excited and have my fingers crossed!

 

These are the cute ‘taster’ cupcakes I made so I could tell you about the flavour of the cake as I wouldn’t be eating the cakes. They also showcase another way to use cigarellos. You can do more with them than place them around cakes. It sounds strange to have something flavoured with rose as it’s associated with soaps and other beauty products. But the flowery flavour is really delicious! It’s hard to describe, it’s like eating a nice smell – if that makes sense! The sponge was sweet and floral, the first bite is quite powerful but it becomes milder as you keep eating. Both the buttercreams were delicious and mixed together even better! The fresh raspberries compliment the delicate rose perfectly. The sponge was moist due to the addition of the yoghurt and I may adapt it with other flavours. Finally the chocolate cigarellos are delicious. They are made from proper quality chocolate and you can tell the difference!

 

Gorgeous photos taken by photographer Terry McNamara  – see more beautiful photos of the other delicious treats at the afternoon tea on Good Gobble’s Facebook Page. Be prepared for your mouth to water!

I still can’t decide which cake I prefer the look of… So tell me, which cake do you like most?

Richmond Tea Rooms

Afternoon tea is a long standing British custom which centres around our nation’s love of tea. It used to be associated with the past and the upper classes, but now it is enjoying a come back thanks to trends like vintage clothing, baking and period dramas. I’ve never been for afternoon tea before, mostly because I actually don’t drink tea (sorry fellow Britains!) but I wasn’t about to let that stand in my way when cakes were involved! I decided to take some friends that were visiting me for the weekend to the Richmond Tea Rooms for a special lunch.

The decor of the Richmond Tea Rooms is inspired by both Alice In Wonderland and Tim Burton. Features such as the red and black diamond painted wall, ‘eat me’ and ‘drink me’ signs and the antique till really give the tea rooms quirkiness and character. There is also an indoor conservatory and a canopied area, in which a ‘Mad Hatter’s’ tea party was going on while I was there. You can book tables at the tea rooms, but on Saturdays they only take bookings for groups of 8 or more. A wait for a table in the tea rooms can be around an hour. So me and my two friends sat in The Lodge, which adjoins the tea rooms and serves as a cocktail lounge in the evenings. The decor in The Lodge included tartan wallpaper and chandeliers made from antlers, and it still had the pretty vintage feel we had hoped for.

I decided to go for the Queen’s Tea which included finger sandwiches, a large scone with jam and clotted cream, a selection of cakes and pastries, and a tea of your choice (there are 16 teas on the menu) for £18. I swapped my tea for apple juice and we also shared a bottle of pink bubbly! One of my friends also went for the Queen’s Tea, and the other chose the Hatter’s Tea, which is the same but without the cakes.

The food was stunning and when it arrived I was so excited. I also was slightly overwhelmed as there was so much of it! I think a Queen’s Tea could be shared between two people easily. I only ate half my cakes and scone, I took the rest home and enjoyed them later.

Our finger sandwiches were filled with cream cheese and cucumber, ham and tomato, beef and horseradish, and egg mayonnaise. The scones came with clotted cream, which was very buttery, and a little pot of raspberry jam. The cakes we got were a mini banoffee pie, summer fruit jelly with fresh cream, bakewell tart and a carrot and walnut cake. I didn’t know if you could choose the cakes, I saw another table as I walked out with vanilla slices and I was a bit jealous!

The absolute star of the cakes for me was the banoffee pie (below) it was perfect in every way. Light smooth texture, and just the right amount of banana and toffee flavours. I was in heaven eating this!

I liked the summer fruit jelly, but found it very difficult to eat. The mini jar it came in was incredibly cute, but impossible to eat from. I would have preferred it served in something else. The almond frangipane of the bakewell tart was lovely and light, I had it at home the next day with ice cream. My only criticism was that it didn’t have enough jam. The scone was delicious and perfectly baked, I really enjoyed it with the jam and cream.

The pink bubbly was also absolutely delicious too! Here I am enjoying a glass.

As well as afternoon tea, Richmond Tea Rooms also offer a selection of light lunches, and an extensive selection of cakes. The food is excellent quality and combined with the atmosphere it is the perfect place for an afternoon tea. I had a lovely time here and it felt really special. This would be a great place for a celebration, I’d like to go back and see what the cocktail lounge is like in the evenings. We also spotted Jason Orange from Take That enjoying a cup of tea while we were there!

NB. All opinions are my own, I decided to go to the Richmond Tea Rooms and was not invited there to review it.

Fruit Scones

Fruit Scones

Scones are a simple tasty treat that don’t take long to make. They are a key element of afternoon tea, and are best served with jam and clotted cream – the debate rages on about which should be applied to the scone first! This Fruit Scones recipe can also be made plain without the fruit, and they can also be frozen – if you have any left!

Jump straight to the recipe!

I put self raising flour, salt, baking powder and butter in a large bowl.

I rubbed the mixture together until it formed fine crumbs. Then I stirred in caster sugar and sultanas. I always use sultanas as my boyfriend doesn’t like raisins, but you could use raisins or mixed dried fruit.

I heated some semi-skimmed milk in the microwave for 50 seconds until it was warmed through but not hot, I then added lemon juice and vanilla extract and left it for a few minutes, it will go a bit lumpy but don’t worry that’s meant to happen. After making a well in the flour mixture, I poured in the milk, then mixed it in to form a dough.

I tipped it out onto a floured surface and patted it together as briefly as possible by hand to form soft dough. You don’t want to handle it too much. I cut out rounds using a 3 inch cutter, and I re-shaped the dough when needed until it ran out.

I put the dough rounds onto a pre-heated baking tray and glazed the top with a beaten egg. They baked for 15 minutes until the scones were risen, golden brown and sounded hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Fruit Scones

I made three batches of these Fruit Scones and ended up with a big pile of light and fluffy scones. They were golden brown and the egg gives them a lovely shine on top. Of course I served the Fruit Scones with jam and clotted cream for the perfect afternoon tea experience.

Now you just have to decide whether to put jam or cream on the Fruit Scones first!


Fruit Scones

Servings 7

Ingredients

  • 275 g Self raising flour
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • A pinch of Salt
  • 65 g Butter
  • 175 ml Milk Whole or semi-skimmed
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Lemon juice
  • 35 g Sultanas or other dried fruit
  • 3 tbsp Caster sugar
  • 1 Egg beaten, for glazing
  • Jam for serving
  • Clotted cream for serving

Instructions

  1. Put a baking tray in the oven and pre-heat it to 220C/200C Fan/425F/Gas Mark 7

  2. Put the self raising flour, salt, baking powder and butter in a large bowl

  3. Rubb the mixture together with your fingertips, or pulse in a food processor, until it resembles breadcrumbs

  4. Stir in the caster sugar and sultanas

  5. Heat the milk in the microwave for 50 seconds until it is warmed through but not hot, then add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and leave it for a few minutes, it will go a bit lumpy but don't worry, that's meant to happen

  6. Pour the milk mixture into the flour, then mixed it in to form a dough

  7. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it together as briefly as possible by hand to about 2cm thick. Cut out rounds using a 3 inch cutter, you can make them bigger or smaller if you like by using different size cutters. Re-shape the dough when needed until it runs out

  8. Put the dough rounds onto the pre-heated baking tray and glaze the top with the beaten egg. Bake on 220C/200C Fan/425F/Gas Mark 7 for 10-15 minutes until the scones are risen, golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom

  9. Cool on a rack and then slice in half and serve with jam and clotted cream for a truely indulgent afternoon tea experience!

You can find more of my Scone recipes by clicking here!

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Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies

Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies

These Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies are made with a light lemon genoise sponge, filled with strawberry jam, and covered in rose and lemon flavoured fondant. They’re perfect for afternoon tea as they are so delicate and dainty. The would also be a gorgeous treat for Mother’s Day or any special occasion. If you’ve ever watched The Great British Bake Off, then you’ll have seen that Fondant Fancies have featured a few times. They do take time and patience to make, but they really are worth it for the elegant finish and delicious flavour.

Jump straight to the recipe!

To make the genoise sponge I used my food mixer to whisk the eggs and sugar together for about 8 minutes until it was thick and had reached the ribbon stage. Then I carefully folded in the flour in two parts, then the melted butter and lemon zest.

I poured the mixture into a lined 8″ square baking tin.

I baked it for 25 minutes until a skewer inserted came out clean and it was golden and risen, then left it to  cool completely.

When it was fully cool I brushed the top with apricot jam and covered it with some rolled out pink fondant.

I trimmed the edges, then using a ruler I cut it into 1.5″ squares.

Then I cut each square in half and spread some strawberry jam onto the bottom half, and sandwiched them all back together.

Using a palette knife (and a lot of patience!), I covered the sides with the rose buttercream. I put them in the fridge for an hour for the buttercream to set.

I made a pourable fondant by mixing up the pink ready to roll fondant with water, lemon juice and rose extract. To decorate them. I set up a cooling rack with a baking tray underneath and used it to place the cakes on before the pouring the fondant over the top and encouraging it around the sides to fully cover each cake.

Once they were covered, I decorated the top with little sugar flowers and sugar pearls. Then left the fondant to set at room temperature.

Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies

You can use anything you want to decorate the top of the Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies, but I would recommend something small and delicate for the best effect.

Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies

You could also cover the Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies in chocolate ganache, or put buttercream in the middle instead of jam. Or make them a bit more manly with different coloured icing and decorations. Experiment and enjoy!


Servings 16

Ingredients

For the genoise sponge

  • 4 Eggs large
  • 120 g Plain flour sieved
  • 120 g Caster sugar
  • 55 g Butter melted
  • 1 Lemon zest only

For the filling

  • 2-3 tbsp Strawberry jam

For the glaze & to cover the cake

  • 1 heaped tbsp Apricot jam
  • 200 g Pink ready to roll fondant or colour of your choice

For the buttercream

  • 35 g Butter or baking spread
  • 70 g Icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Rose extract

For the pourable fondant

  • 750 g Pink ready to roll fondant or colour of your choice
  • 1 Lemon juice only
  • 1 tsp Rose extract

To decorate

  • Sugar flowers or sprinkles of your choice

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4, grease and line a 8" square tin

  2. To make the genoise sponge whisk the eggs with the caster sugar in a stand mixer for about 7 minutes until thick and trebled in size

  3. Sieve in the plain flour in two stages, and gently fold it in each time. Add the melted butter by pouring it around the edge of the bowl and folding it in. Then gently fold in the lemon zest

  4. Pour the batter into the lined tin and bake it for 25 minutes until risen, golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Let it cool completely

  5. Brush a thin layer of apricot jam over the top of the cake to glaze it. Roll out the fondant and cover the cake with it

  6. Trim the edges of the cake then using a ruler cut it into 1.5" squares. Then cut each square into half horizontally

  7. Spread the strawberry jam onto the bottom half of the cake and sandwich them all back together

  8. Make the rose buttercream by mixing the butter, icing sugar and rose extract together until smooth. Use a palette knife to coat the sides of each cake with the buttercream. Try and get it as smooth as you can, then put them in the fridge for an hour for the buttercream to set

  9. Make a pourable fondant by mixing up the ready to roll fondant with the water, lemon juice and rose extract. Set up a cooling rack with a baking tray underneath and using it to place the cakes on before the pouring the fondant over the top

  10. Pour the fondant over the top of the cakes and encourage it around the sides to fully cover each cake

  11. Once they are covered, decorated the top with sprinkles or sugar flowers as desired. Then leave the fondant to set at room temperature

  12. Eat leftovers within 2 days

You can find more of my Cake recipes by clicking here!

Rose & Lemon Fondant Fancies

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