Cheers! Here’s to a cocktail of cakes

Hurrah, summer is here at last (sort of)! And with all of the street parties, picnics and tennis on the horizon it’s the perfect time for those of us who do indulge in a drop of alcohol to enjoy a leisurely Pimms. Or maybe you’re a gin girl instead? Whatever your tipple, it’s possible to mix the indulgence of an afternoon drink in the sunshine with cake. What a treat!

Throw into the mix being asked to cater for a hen party, where the bride is partial to a summertime drink or two, and I had an interesting challenge coming up with the cake that was to be the centrepiece of her afternoon tea with a twist. The cake was a triple layer of her favourite summertime drinks, mojito, gin and tonic and, of course, a summertime Pimms. The cakes were surprisingly simple and easy to make, using a basic cake mix and adding in the relevant fruit/alcohol, so that you get the right level of flavour but not so much that the mixture is too wet.

Making a boozy cake wasn’t enough for me; I also wanted to have boozy icing (this was, after all, a party cake, was it not?!) so I made Pimms buttercream icing and drizzle, gin buttercream icing and matching drizzle and finally mojito buttercream icing and drizzle. It really was simple, just mix icing sugar and butter with the respective alcohol and fruit juice. The tricky part was not drinking it, licking fingers or testing the strength of flavour too many times!

Finally, having stacked the cakes one on top of another – and I’m not going to lie, this bit was, and always is, terrifying! – I decorated with cascading fresh mint and lime (mojito), slices of lemon (gin and tonic) and a scattering of strawberries, slices of cucumber and orange and fresh mint.

I really was thrilled with how the cake turned out – it looked great and tasted absolutely delicious. And it goes without saying, a three-tiered boozy cake at a hen-do will always go down a treat!

 

Ingredients

For the cake:

12oz butter

12oz sugar

6 eggs

12oz self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

A shot of your chosen alcohol

Buttercream icing:

5oz butter

15oz icing sugar

Up to a shot of your chosen alcohol and fruit juice

Drizzle:

10oz icing sugar

Up to a shot of your chosen alcohol and fruit juice

Fruit to decorate

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together and add the eggs, one at a time. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix on a high setting for a short time. Add a shot of your chosen alcohol and mix, again on a high setting for no more than a couple of seconds.

Transfer to two cake tins and bake on 150 for 30-40 minutes remembering to do the skewer test to ensure your cakes are cooked properly.

While your cakes are cooling prepare the buttercream by mixing together the butter, icing sugar, alcohol and fruit juice (lime for mojito, lemon for gin) until smooth. To make the drizzle mix together the icing sugar, alcohol and fruit juice until smooth. Sandwich the buttercream icing between the two cakes and top with the drizzle and fruit.

A fresh idea: fresh mint chocolate cupcakes

It’s always lovely when customers give you something, especially if it can be used in baking! Last Monday two little girls – who have been loyal customers since Willow Bough opened – called in for their usual hot chocolate and gave me a lovely bag of fresh mint they’d picked that morning from their garden. I could have used it for fresh mint tea (or taken it home to garnish my Pimms!) but instead chose to use it for cakes.

The challenge I have with mint – as much as I love it – is that I find it hard to disassociate it from toothpaste! So I wanted to find a cake that would complement the fresh taste of the mint without giving me that ‘just brushed’ feeling!

Because it’s summer, which makes me think about ice-cream just a bit too much, I thought I’d try mint-choc cupcakes. I used a basic chocolate cake mix, with just a hint of peppermint extract so the mint flavour isn’t too overpowering and finished each cake with a delicious minty buttercream icing in a pretty pale green shade, topped off with the fresh mint leaves. They look almost as good as they taste!

Mint choc cupcakes – makes 12

Ingredients

For the cake:

8oz butter

8oz sugar

4 eggs

6oz self-raising flour

2oz cocoa powder

A few drops of American peppermint extract

For the icing:

5oz butter

7oz icing sugar

A few drops of American peppermint extract

A few drops of green food colouring

Fresh mint leaves to decorate

 

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy before adding the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and mix, adding the peppermint extract. Fill the cupcake cases until they’re three quarters full and bake in the oven on around 150c for 20 minutes. Once baked (test with a skewer, which should come out of the cake clean) leave to cool on a rack.

To make the icing, cream together the butter, icing sugar and peppermint extract until smooth. Add green food colouring a drop at a time, until you have the colour you want. I like the icing to be quite a pale green, as it contrasts well with the brightness of the fresh mint leaves and the darkness of the chocolate cake. Using a palette knife apply the icing to each cake, giving a smooth finish. Top each cake with one or two fresh mint leaves, put on a cake plate and invite your friends over to enjoy!

 

Willow Bough Tea Rooms is open 9am-5pm Monday to Saturday and can be found at 11 Merton Park Parade, Kingston Road, Wimbledon SW19 3NT.

 

A taste of summer: cherry and coconut flapjacks

Hello and welcome to my new blog. In this blog I’ll be writing about baking delicious sweet treats, afternoon teas and other tea-room-related fun…

Afternoon tea has always been a hobby of mine, from the early days of baking cakes and sharing them with childhood friends, teddy bears and bunny rabbits (yes, real ones named Miffy, Buffy, Peter, Chocolate and Delilah) on a picnic rug on the playroom floor to my excitement as an adult visiting national trust properties and quaint villages where sandwiches, scones and clotted cream were the first priority!

I also developed an addiction to vintage china and pretty things, which started when I inherited tea sets from both my grandmothers. I can’t explain it but I really do think a cup of tea tastes so much better from a cup and saucer! My collection/addiction – whatever you want to call it – grew and now I have my beautiful little tea room in Wimbledon where my customers are treated to good old fashioned cakes which are all baked on the premises and afternoon teas which are all served on beautiful vintage china. If you’re in the area please do call in and see us!

Baking the cakes myself is definitely one of the really fun parts of my job! We get to make traditional favourites such as Victoria sandwich, lemon drizzle and coffee cake as well as trying out new recipes and adapting recipes to give our own take on the classics. One of my personal favourites, which I think works well all year round is coconut and cherry flapjack. I really think the flavours complement each other and, for me, both cherries and coconut evoke memories of both family Christmases and long, lazy summers in the south of France.

Flapjacks are a relatively new cake, having been around in the UK since the 1930s and are still popular today – they’re great for picnics and packed lunches and go wonderfully with a lovely cup of tea. They’re an easy bake which makes them perfect for children – this is probably why I first made them with my Grandmother as a small child. And they can be cut into bite-size pieces suitable for children or larger slices for grown-up children!

 

Cherry and coconut flapjacks – makes 12

Ingredients

6oz butter

3oz golden syrup

3oz honey

6oz sugar

12oz oats

5oz glace cherries, halved

1oz desiccated coconut

Method

Melt the butter, syrup, honey and sugar in a saucepan. Once fully melted, stir in the oats. Add the cherries and coconut a bit at a time, stirring in as you go to get an even distribution.

Pour the mixture into a greased baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven (150c) for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Leave in the tray until cooled as removing warm flapjacks from the tray will result in a big, crumbled mess! Once cool, slice into twelve pieces, put the kettle on and indulge!

 

Willow Bough Tea Rooms is open 9am-5pm Monday to Saturday and can be found at 11 Merton Park Parade, Kingston Road, Wimbledon SW19 3NT.