Top tips for a a very simple but perfect summer Tea Party

If, like me, you are suffering a turn in the weather and are having to stay inside, its time to think about planning a summer tea party for when the sun comes out again! Here are my top tips for planning a great tea party:-

1. Bake your own cakes and buy in your sandwiches. A perfect party needs a perfect host so time needs to be organised well. A home baked cake absolutely can’t be beaten for taste (even if it doesn’t look quite perfect), but I find sandwiches can be fiddly, time consuming and messy so I buy them in. Many supermarkets offer sandwiches to order for parties and I’ve found them to be delicious with lots of filling choices, and perfectly neatly made. Most cakes can be baked in advance allowing the much needed time on the party day for setting up. Cupcakes and sponge cakes can be baked one day ahead and kept sealed in an airtight container. Carrot cakes, fruit cakes and chocolate cakes keep well for a few days and the flavour is often better. Just remember that cream or cream cheese can only be added at the last minute as it can only safely be out of the fridge for a short time. Here is Mary Berry’s Victoria Sponge recipe – it’s easy but totally scrumptious and you can add fresh strawberries or raspberries and lashings of whipped double cream to create a stunning showstopper!

2. Decorate your party space. The garden or a gazebo can look pretty with just a few pieces of vintage china, for example cups or teapots filled with flowers. Mix and match patterns and add doilies on the plates. Complete the look with jam jars tied with lace and twine, filled with sugar and a teaspoon in the top or tied into the twine, to serve with tea. Making bunting needn’t mean getting out the sewing machine and cutting perfect triangles. Strips of prettily patterned fabric tied onto a length of twine (knot at the middle so that both ends flap freely) look gorgeous hung around a gazebo or from a tree.

3. Serve delicious drinks. Alcohol is wonderful at a party but on a hot day not everyone wants to drink it all afternoon so I serve some deliciously refreshing slightly alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks too. Jasmine Delight is a lovely light drink which sounds odd but is absolutely gorgeous and is always really popular.

Jasmine Delight:- 5 green Jasmine tea bags, 4 tbsp sugar, or to taste, 750ml champagne or prosecco. Brew the tea for 1 minute in 200ml hot water, then remove the bags, stir in the sugar and add 500ml cold water. Cool in the fridge. To serve – fill half a teacup with the tea, and then top up with the bubbly. (I found some lovely Organic Green Tea with Jasmine infusion tea bags at Marks & Spencer.)

For other summery drinks, I make fruit syrups by simmering equal amounts of fruit and sugar and water. (This can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge.)When the fruit is cooked well and pulpy, strain it to remove any fruit pulp, seeds etc. and then bring the remaining liquid to boil for a few minutes until it starts to thicken a little. When cooled, the syrup can be added to sparkling water for a non- alcoholic drink or can be added to prosecco or vodka for a delicious alcoholic version. Strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants are perfect to use. I serve drinks with a slice of lemon too and, if I’ve had time, home-made ice cubes containing a little edible petal or herb flower.

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Raspberry and Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes

These cupcakes are very summery and extremely delicious. Sweet raspberries with a zesty zing – yum!


Cupcake Ingredients:-

100g Caster Sugar

100g Butter, softened

120g Self Raising Flour

2 Tablespoons Cornflour

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

3 Tablespoons Milk

Grated Zest 1 Lemon


Heat the oven to 160c.
Beat together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy, then add the flour, cornflour, baking powder, lemon zest and eggs. Mix together well for one minute, making sure everything is combined. Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases set in a 12 hole muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and firm to touch.

Raspberry Syrup Ingredients:-
50g Raspberries
100g Caster Sugar
2 Tablespoons Water
Put the ingredients together in a pan and simmer over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and cook the fruit. Heat for about ten minutes, stirring continuously, then sieve the fruit mixture into a clean pan, discarding the seeds. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil, continuing to boil rapidly for a few minutes until it is syrupy. Leave to cool before using.

Lemon Cheesecake Buttercream Ingredients:-
150g Butter, softened
250g Icing Sugar
2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Cream Cheese Icing Flavouring (I used LorAnn Oils) Or replace 50g of the butter with cream cheese.
Beat the ingredients together well for a few minutes until really soft and creamy

To complete the cupcakes:-
Brush some raspberry syrup over the top of each cupcake. Then make up some lemon cheesecake buttercream and swirl this over the top of each cupcake. Finish with a drizzle of the raspberry syrup over the top. You could also add some biscuit crumbs to make a cheesecake effect but you will need to add this immediately before serving as they will go soft on the buttercream.

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Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes for Easter

Its time to celebrate all things chocolatey and spring like, so here are my Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes and some ideas for spring cupcake toppers and decoration. Happy Easter!

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes


Cupcake Ingredients:-

100g Soft Brown Sugar

100g Butter, softened

120g Self Raising Flour

2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, sieved

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

3 Tablespoons Milk

5 x 25g Chocolate covered Fudge Bars


Beat together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy, then add the flour, cocoa, baking powder and eggs and mix together well for one minute, making sure everything is combined. Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases set in a 12 hole muffin tin. Chop the fudge bars into small pieces and place one piece on top of each cupcake. (These will sink down during cooking but give a gooey, fudgy mouthful.) Reserve the rest of the chopped fudge bars to make the topping. Bake for 20 minutes at 160c.


2 Tablespoons Carnation Caramel

1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder

75g Cream Cheese

225g Icing Sugar

Remaining Chopped Chocolate Fudge Bars

In a bowl set over a pan of boiling water, or a double pan, melt the chocolate fudge bars together with the caramel and cocoa powder. When fully melted and combined set aside to cool. The mixture needs to be cool but not set so stir occasionally and when ready beat together well with the cream cheese and icing sugar. The topping can now be used for the cupcakes. If not eaten (unlikely) they will need to be stored in the fridge due to the cream cheese.

I decided to package up some cupcakes as Easter gifts so added pretty spring toppers, some stripy paper cups with an added ribbon and popped them into gift boxes. I found some gorgeous Oxfam Easter cards and these were my inspiration for the toppers – spring flowers, little birdcages and birds – they looked perfect with the cupcakes.

Here’s how I made the little bird cupcake toppers…

I rolled out some pale ice blue roll-out sugar-paste and cut fluted circles to fit the top of my cupcakes, with a pastry cutter. I then cut heart shapes from white sugar-paste and some smaller hearts in pink. I cut each heart in half to give the shapes for the bird’s body and the wings. I then cut little pink blossoms with a cutter and completed the topper by piping some legs and an eye on the bird and some dots around the edge.

I would like to say a very Happy Easter and a big thank you to everyone who has liked my posts – I am really grateful and will be popping by your blogs to have a read and say hello!
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Parsnip and Ginger Cake

About two years ago I baked a parsnip cake for a Clandestine Cake Club meeting. I’d found the recipe in a Country Living Magazine and it was delicious. Much like carrots, parsnips add a lovely moist depth to a cake. Recently I’ve had a yearning to make parsnip cake again – mainly since I visited Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s café in Axminster. His parsnip cake was served as a dessert, it was a traybake, deliciously moist and served with salted caramel sauce and sweet parsnip crisps. Yum!

Unfortunately, I’ve mislaid my original parsnip cake recipe so in an effort to replicate something like it I’ve made three attempts! This is my most recent and the one I’ll bake again. It’s adapted from a recipe in the Riverford Farm Cook Book. I’ve added ginger to it simply because I had a jar of Marks and Spencer Crystallised Stem Ginger Curd which I’d been lured into buying at Christmas but didn’t know what to do with. The label says ‘slather on toast, brioche or croissants’ which had me drooling but as I rarely actually eat any of those it just hadn’t happened yet. I’m quite glad it was still there as it’s perfect with this cake. If you can’t buy any, I would recommend making a cream cheese topping and add some syrup from a jar of stem ginger.

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250g Butter, softened

250g Soft Brown Sugar

4 Medium Eggs and top this up to 250g with a little milk, beaten

250g Self-Raising Flour

2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger

250g Parsnips, peeled and grated


Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line an 8” round cake tin.

Beat the butter together with the sugar until soft and creamy. Add the eggs and milk, flour and ginger beating to combine, only for a minute. Fold in the grated parsnips. Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes.

When cooked allow the cake to cool in the tin then remove and slather over your topping of choice. The ginger curd was stunning and still tastes good the next day. I served the cake with some whipped double cream with a spoonful of the ginger curd added to it. Alternatively, a spoonful of ginger curd could be added to a cream cheese frosting made with 75g cream cheese beaten together with 175g icing sugar.

Warning! This cake is extremely moreish making it very difficult to stick to the ‘one small slice’ rule :)

P.S. Just to make you feel better if you should break the rule (I have too) –parsnips are very nutritious. They contain vitamins from the B-complex group, vitamin C, K and E. They contain age-defying antioxidants (I feel another piece coming on) and a high mineral content.

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Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Salted caramel is my favourite flavour at the moment and I’ve seen lots of cakes and bakes using it so had to have a go. As usual I’ve played around with a mix of recipes and came up with my own way of making it; it may not be the best but it’s quick and easy if like me you’re unsure about getting the right temperature for a caramel.


For Salted Caramel:-

100g Butter

150ml Double Cream

200g Soft Brown Sugar

4 Tablespoons Golden Syrup

1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice

1 Teaspoon Sea Salt (More or less to taste)

Add all the ingredients to a pan over a medium heat, stirring well until all the ingredients are melted / dissolved. Bring the pan to the boil and continue to cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, the mixture will thicken further as it cools.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

110g Butter, softened

110g Soft Light Brown Sugar

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

110g Self-Raising Flour

Pinch of Baking Powder

I used an all-in-one method to mix the ingredients together – ensure that the butter is very soft though and the eggs are already beaten and don’t beat for more than one minute. The cupcakes were baked at 160c for twenty minutes then while still warm, straight from the oven I slathered a good layer of salted caramel over the top of each one. Alternatively you can cut a little cone shape out of each cupcake, fill with salted caramel and push the cone back in.

I then topped the cupcakes with swirls of salted caramel buttercream – add two tablespoons to buttercream made with 250g icing sugar and 150g butter. The salted caramel can also be added to a cream cheese frosting made with 100g cream cheese, 50g butter and 250g icing sugar. YUM!

I used this recipe for my Mother’s Day cupcakes, making pretty toppers and packaging them in a pretty box…

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Zesty Lime and Blueberry Cake

I love blueberries and they’re incredibly good for you. However, I haven’t really used them much in baking as although they look very pretty, I’ve found them to be rather tasteless when in a cake. I often experiment with mixing flavours and this week found a perfect partner for those dull blueberries (sorry!). Lime and blueberries work really well together, the lime enhances the blueberry flavour and together they make a scrumptious cake…

Zesty Lime and Blueberry Cake

Zesty Lime and Blueberry Cake

This cake is a basic sponge (baked in two 8” tins) but with the zest of two limes added. A syrup is then made with the juice of one of the limes and two tablespoons of sugar to drizzle over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. (To make the syrup just stir together the juice and sugar in a pan over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, stirring, until the mixture starts to thicken.)
I made two fillings for the cake which really gave it all the flavour, a lime curd and a blueberry and lime conserve. They were both slathered in between the two sponge cake layers to make this a really heavenly, zesty cake. The flavours are very summery and would be perfect for a special Mother’s Day cake or for Easter. A few crystallised violets would be pretty on top or pile on some cream and fresh blueberries. Mine didn’t hang around enough to look pretty but I will be making it again so maybe next time I will make a bit more effort on the presentation.

Lime Curd

50g Butter
200g Sugar
Juice of 1 Lime
2 Eggs, well beaten
Place the butter, sugar and lime juice in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and continue to heat, stirring continuously to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat for a minute and then add the beaten eggs, stirring well. Put back on the heat, continuing to stir well until the mixture thickens. Leave to cool then it’s ready for use or can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

Blueberry and Lime Conserve

100g Blueberries
Juice of 1 Lime
4 tablespoons sugar
Place all the ingredients in a pan over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and soften the fruit – about ten minutes. Mash the fruit down (I just used a potato masher) and bring to the boil. Leave the mixture to boil rapidly, stirring occasionally, until it thickens. It can be tested on a very cold saucer to see if it is set. I like mine fairly soft so that it spreads easily on the cake.
The whole thing is fiddly and high in sugar but it’s really worth the effort and try to just have a small piece!

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Chocolate and Blackcurrant Heart Cake


February 14th is Valentine’s Day so, along with millions of others, I was looking for ways to celebrate. I was keen to bake a cake and it had to involve chocolate and something to do with love or hearts so I decided to experiment with a heart shaped silicone cake pan. I baked a chocolate sponge using a 5 egg mix but divided it into three and baked three layers separately – very time consuming I know but the pan was really shallow! (I’m not sure I liked the silicone pan and the sponge was slightly dry so I will probably invest in a better quality heart shaped cake tin in the future!)

Anyway, as a keen follower of all things cake, I’ve seen lots of ‘naked’ cakes smothered with flowers and fruits and thought this would be perfect for my Valentine’s special. (It’s much more virtuous too which means you can have an extra glass of wine!) I made a compote of blackcurrants – a cupful of blackcurrants, with half a cup of sugar, covered in water in a pan, boiled and stirred till the fruit is really soft and syrupy. I used this to brush on to the top of each sponge layer and used some to mix into buttercream to layer in between each. I then dusted the top with icing sugar and decorated liberally with fruit, flowers and little chocolates.

As a member of the Virtual Clandestine Cake Club I was very happy that this weekend we had the challenge to bake a love themed cake so I’m looking forward to see what other cakes have been baked in the name of love. The Virtual Cake Club is a way of meeting up with others online and sharing your baking when you can’t physically get to one of the Clandestine Cake Club meetings.


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Gluten Free St. Clement’s Cake

It’s so cold outside I’ve been very thankful to be inside baking this week! I was asked to bake a cake for a friend with orange and lemon and it had to be gluten free. The cake is half orange, half lemon and I’ve named it  St. Clement’s cake after the children’s rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’. The gluten free flour gives it a very light texture and along with the light, citrusy flavour it makes this a very moreish cake.

The nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ appears to have originated before the 1700’s in London. It is a song referring to various churches in London and nearby occupations. ‘Oranges and Lemons – say the bells of St. Clements,’ refers to the church of St. Clements and nearby docks where merchants unloaded citrus fruits.

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300g Butter, softened

300g Caster Sugar

4 Eggs, beaten

300g Gluten Free Self-Raising Flour (I use Dove’s Farm)

2 Teaspoons Gluten Free Baking Powder

6 Tablespoons Milk (Any milk seems to work fine with this recipe)

1 Lemon – zest and juice (separated)

1 Orange – zest and juice (separated)

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

250g Icing Sugar

150g Butter, softened


Preheat the oven to 180c and prepare 3 x 8” round cake tins NOTE: If you don’t have 3 tins, bake the cakes individually; gluten free cakes are very crumbly to cut and it’s not advisable to bake one cake and attempt to cut it into three layers. You could just make an ordinary two layer sponge cake but it is rather special with three layers. I’ve given instructions for a mixed orange and lemon sponge but you can separate the layers into orange or lemon.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, zest of the orange and the lemon (reserve the juice) and milk. Mix together ensuring everything is blended. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

While the cakes are baking, make some syrup in a pan with the juice from the orange and lemon and the two tablespoons of granulated sugar. Stir continuously while bringing to the boil to dissolve the sugar then allow the mixture to boil for a while to thicken a little. You will need to reserve 1 tablespoon of the syrup and then brush the rest over the top of the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven.

Allow the cakes to cool completely before removing them from their tins and do so very carefully as gluten free cakes can be very crumbly.

The buttercream filling between the three layers is made by beating together the 250g icing sugar with 160g softened butter and the 1 tablespoon reserved syrup. Beat well for a few minutes until really soft and creamy then build up your cake with the filling in between each layer. Dust a little icing sugar over the top and there you have your deliciously moist, citrusy St. Clement’s cake.

NOTE: If you don’t want to make a Gluten free cake use ordinary self-raising flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder, 6 eggs and no milk.

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Lusciously Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes


100g Butter, softened

110g Caster Sugar

120g Self-Raising Flour

2 Teaspoons Cornflour

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

3 Medium Eggs, beaten

2 Tablespoons Whole Milk

Zest 1 Lemon

100g White Chocolate Chips

For Lemon Curd Topping:-

Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon

50g Butter

200g Caster Sugar

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

For Buttercream Topping:-

150g Butter, softened

250g Icing Sugar

1 Tablespoon Lemon Curd

To make the cupcakes:-

Preheat the oven to 160 c and place 12 cupcake cases in a 12 hole muffin tin.

Place all the ingredients for the cupcakes in a mixer and mix until light and fluffy, but don’t beat for more than one minute. Pour into the cupcake cases and bake for twenty minutes or until light golden brown and firm to touch.

To prepare the lemon curd – place the juice, zest, butter and sugar into a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Stir constantly while over the heat to melt the sugar and butter together well. Add the eggs slowly, beating well, then continue to beat well until the mixture thickens. Allow to cool fully before using.

When the cupcakes have baked and are cool, carefully slice the tops off if necessary to leave a flat top. Smooth a teaspoon of lemon curd onto the top of each one.

To make the lemon buttercream, beat the butter, icing sugar and lemon curd together for about five minutes until light and fluffy. This can be smoothed onto the top of the cupcakes with a palette knife or piped on over the top of the lemon curd layer.

To make a pretty sugar-paste topper:-

Colour some roll-out sugar-paste pale lemon, leaving some white as well. Roll out the lemon sugar-paste and cut out 12 circles using a round pastry cutter the size of the top of your cupcakes. Using some white royal icing, pipe small dots all over the lemon circles. Roll out some white sugar-paste and cut lots of small flowers using a very small blossom cutter. Place the blossoms round the edge of the circle toppers with a little royal icing. The toppers can be left to dry for a bit before placing onto the top of the cupcakes.

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To complete the look place your cupcakes into cupcake wrappers and / or vintage china tea cups!

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Peach and Vanilla and Passion Fruit Birthday Cakes

I had two birthday cakes to make for two lovely ladies and wanted to make sure they tasted delicious so decided to try something a bit different. I made vanilla sponges and layered this with a Peach and Vanilla Conserve and Passion Fruit Curd. I also used the Passion Fruit Curd to make buttercream to cover the cakes before covering with sugar-paste and decorating. These flavours worked really well together, giving a delicate, sweet taste.

Peach and Vanilla Conserve

340g Peaches, peeled and chopped (about 4)
300ml Water
300g Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Put everything into a large pan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar and cook the fruit. When the fruit is cooked and soft, bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until the mixture starts to thicken. You can test a little on a cold saucer to see if it is thick enough, mine was not really thick but was a lovely soft consistency and perfect for spreading. Leave to cool fully before using.

Passion Fruit Curd

200g Caster Sugar
50g Butter
3 small Passion Fruit
2 Medium Eggs, well beaten

Cut the Passion Fruits in half and scoop out all the flesh and juice into a small pan. Heat for a few minutes and then sieve so that you are left with just the juice. To this add the butter and sugar and heat in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, stirring until melted and the sugar completely dissolved. Then add the eggs slowly, stirring well until the mixture thickens. Cool completely before using and store in the fridge.

I also made myself a Gluten-Free vanilla sponge and simply layered this with the Peach and Vanilla Conserve and Passion Fruit Curd but no icing. This made a deliciously light everyday cake, just right for afternoon tea:)

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