Easter Tea Party
As a mother of three young girls I love using any excuse to bring out the party dresses and if I can combine this with the need to bake pretty cake then I can think of no better way to spend an afternoon.
My daughters love putting on their aprons and baking cakes with mummy and then sitting down to eat them off delicate china plates; like real princesses’. Although, vintage china, delicate sandwiches and tasty cake is a winning combination for all ages and indeed genders. I have some wonderful memories and photographs of afternoon teas I have held over the years and I’ve themed them to reflect changing seasons and occasions.
I must say that I’m delighted that afternoon tea is currently all the rage because it’s a tradition I have long upheld and with this lovely spring weather I can think of no better time to host a tea party in the garden. With the Easter holiday comes the perfect opportunity to host a pretty spring gathering complete with Eater treats and decorations.
Serve tea made with real leaves, brewed in a warmed pot and drink it in delicate, fine china cups. An afternoon tea break will be just the thing to perk up tired spirits and to help you enjoy life at a more leisurely pace.
Spending time making and eating your own home-made baked treats is one of life’s ultimate indulgences. There is nothing quite like a morning spent baking and then a proper cuppa and a catch up with friends and family over a slice of cake.
For an extra special Easter celebration, bake bread and butter pudding made with sliced hot cross buns, make homemade marzipan eggs or try this mouth-watering almond Pasque cake decorated with crystallised garden flowers. I like to add Amarguinha liquor to my cake as I feel this traditional liqueur from Portugal really adds a good almond flavour, you can use Amaretto liqueurs, but I find the bitter almond taste of Amarguinha liquor particularly good.
For the icing
100g icing sugar
½ juice lemon
Zest of ½ an un-waxed lemon
85g caster sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
For the cake:
250g cubed salted butter
250g golden caster sugar
125g ground almonds
250g plain flour
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 drops of natural almond extract
4 tsp, Amarguinha liquor (bitter almond liqueur)
To Crystallise the Flowers:
First, crystallise your primroses and violets by painting the petals with a little egg white diluted with rose water.(you can also use orange blossom water) Then sprinkle gently with caster sugar and leave to dry on a rack while you are baking your cake. I often crystallise these a day or two in advance, in order to give them plenty of time to dry out.
When it comes to crystallising edible flowers for this cake, roses also work very well, but you need to allow plenty of time for both the crystallising process and the drying out process. It is also really important to make sure that the roses haven’t been sprayed with any sorts of insecticide.
Pre-heat the oven to 160C/315F. Make your marzipan filling by putting 375g marzipan, 85g caster sugar and a whole egg with an extra yolk into a food processor, gently pulse to a soft paste. Scoop the mixture out, knead into a ball and wrap with cling-film. Set aside somewhere cool.
Mix 250g cubed butter and 250g golden caster sugar into a pale, soft cream. Add four eggs (free range) one at a time, alternating with 125g of ground almonds by the spoonful.
Sift together 250g plain flour with half a teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of baking powder and add to the mixture, stirring well. Add the Amarguinha liquor and almond essence.
Spread half of the cake mix into a 24cm Spring form tin lined with baking parchment. Spoon in the filling you made earlier and then add the rest of the cake mixture on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, then open the oven door gently and lay a piece of doubled folded, foil over the cake. Carry on cooking for a further 45 minutes. Your cake should now be golden brown and shrinking slightly from the sides.
Leave on a cake rack to cool.
Remove from the tin and store ready for icing.
For the icing
Mix 100g icing sugar with the juice of half a lemon, lemon zest and a little hot water to make a glaze.
Pour over the top of the cake
Allow to set for 5-10 minutes
Decorate with your flowers and tie with a pretty ribbon.
Make your own Marzipan
Forget the bright yellow marzipan of childhood with its bitter almond flavour, home made marzipan is delicious and subtle in taste and colour.
It’s simple to make your own marzipan and I love making marzipan eggs at Easter time. It’s also a great activity for children who will enjoy making marzipan shapes and of course eating them.
Take equal amounts of caster sugar and ground almonds and bind them together with a beaten egg and teaspoon of orange flower water and a squeeze of lemon. Mix, then knead and roll out, using icing sugar to stop the paste sticking to your board.
Using small moulds create Easter eggs, fruit or even rabbits. Always use small amounts of gel colour, not liquid food colourings for the best results.
Alternative Marzipan – nut free
Now if you really don’t like the almond flavour of marzipan or have a nut allergy then you can make an alternative nut free marzipan
200g fine semolina
200g icing sugar
150g softened butter (unsalted)
2 tsp rose water
1 tsp natural vanilla essence
Place all the ingredients in a food processer and pulse until a soft dough is formed. Remove and knead into a ball. Wrap with cling-film and set aside until needed.
Hot Cross Bun Pudding
300ml double cream
600ml whole milk
4 free range eggs
100g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 tablespoons orange liqueur
100g natural marzipan
8 hot cross buns
40g salted butter, softened
3 tbsp orange marmalade (thick cut)
Icing sugar for dusting
- Heat oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3.
- Warm the cream and milk in a pan over a gentle heat. Do not boil!
- Whisk the eggs; sugar and vanilla together with a fork in a large bowl, then gradually add the warm cream mixture.
- Halve the hot cross buns and spread with the butter. Arrange in a large shallow ovenproof dish (approx 25 x 32cm), dot with the marzipan, drizzle over the liqueur and brush the marmalade on top.
- Pour over the cream mixture and set aside to soak for 20 minutes. Press the buns down into the custard mixture with the back of a spoon as they begin to soften.
- Bake for 45 minutes until set, then remove and allow to stand for 10 mins. Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve while still warm.
A selection of finger sandwiches is always the perfect savoury element for an afternoon tea. Indeed in my opinion sandwiches are an essential part of Afternoon Tea and generally they should be on thin bread, crust less, cut into finger-sized portions. When choosing fillings the ease of eating should always be considered, no one wants to pick up a sandwich and end up covered in filling, so make sure that fillings such as cheese are bound together with a little spiced yoghurt or mayonnaise.
Dressing the Table
Take time to dress the table with an heirloom, linen or lace tablecloth, embroidered table napkins or any pretty vintage shawls you may have. Lay out pretty porcelain crockery and pick bunches to make sweet-smelling posies from the garden, pop them into a special cut glass vase, fill cut crystal bowls with sugared almonds or marzipan eggs and turn serving tea and cake into a special occasion.
I love making an Easter tree and it’s become known as a wishing tree in my family, because each member of our family places a tag on the tree with their special wish for the year, along with pretty decorations’.
To make an Easter tree collect some branches of shrubbery, and spray with matt cream aerosol paint, available from DIY and art shops. Place the base into a pretty old flower pot filled with sand and top up with pebbles.
Hang with decorations like rabbits, hares, eggs or vintage style hand made crepe flowers.
Now all that remains to do is enjoy a pretty, satisfying and tasty spring afternoon tea that everyone can get involved in making and indeed eating.