Two more afternoon teas…

The search continues for an afternoon tea that surpasses my first ever. The Everglades in Londonderry has beaten off every afternoon tea I have had since. Is that finally about to change?

Rocca Bar and Grill, St Andrews

What did we get?

We were promised an assortment of fresh fine pastries and cakes. I don’t know how you would describe this, but I would not use assortment or fine! Frankly, the eclairs look like they were made by a toddler. They tasted pretty stale too and I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had been defrosted and then filled. There was no drizzle on the hunks of lemon drizzle cake either. Three is not an assortment either, if you ask me, and for the price, I expect five or six portions of cake, at least. The scones were ok, but there was no where near enough cream and jam for all four scones, so I had to go searching for a member of staff who could get us some more. It was whipped cream too, which is just a crime against scones!

Eclairs look like they were made by a toddler!
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I Bought a Dehydrator!

I’m so excited. I have wanted to have a go at dehydrating for a long time . People that do it seem to rave about it, so I was particularly curious. I was actually more interested in making meaty treats for my dog initially, and not drying fruit. But, I couldn’t justify buying one just for that (sorry Wilma). Now, though, I have a good(ish) reason to buy one. It’s not for my dog though – it’s actually for a recipe idea I’m working on.

My dehydrator packed with grapes, raspberries, strawberry pieces and blueberries.
My fully loaded dehydrator – Grapes, Raspberries, Strawberry Pieces and Blueberries.

If you have ever looked for dried blueberries in the shops you’ll know how hard it is to find them. You can get them from Amazon, of course, but you have to buy a big bag and they are fairly expensive. So, I thought I would “save” money, and instead I spent £41.99 on a dehydrator and a carrier bag full of fruit! Much better than spending a few pounds on a single bag! I’m sure you’ll agree…

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Perfect Macarons – The Holy Grail

Creating the perfect Macaron is like finding the Holy Grail for some Cakers. These heavenly little things have driven more people to quit than I can count – just spend a day in a cake group on Facebook and you’ll see exactly what I mean. These little meringue/biscuit hybrids are well worth the effort though, and once you’ve mastered them, they’ll take pride of place at every afternoon tea party.

Four raspberry ripple macarons.
Raspberry Ripple Mini Macaron, available as part of an Afternoon Tea at For Cakes Sake

When you first set out to make these impossible treats you’ll probably read a ton of blogs (like this one), you might even watch a bunch of tutorials. I know I did. In that case you will already know about perfect feet (that’s the bit under the smooth dome!) You’ll also want a smooth top, and a great rise with no cracks. But the fact is, that they only have to taste lovely, anything else is a bonus. Remember that, and you can’t go wrong!

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Test Kitchen Take Over

My test kitchen has been completely taken over by For Cakes Sake this week. Just right too as things are starting to hot up over there. Not only has an offer gone in on a premises, I have also registered as a limited company. This means that things are getting real and there is a massive list of recipes to test and cost out. It’s pretty bonkers the amount of work that needs to be done.

Baking cakes is always a treat. But when the pressure is on to test out a ton of stuff, it makes sense to combine a few skills. So, I designed this Dungeons and Dragons Crate Cake. I had missed a few sessions of DnD over the past few weeks, and I kept promising them cake. Although, I knew they would not be expecting this!

Secret Recipe Strawberry Milkshake Cake

I particularly wanted to test out my new recipe for strawberry milkshake cake, but I also wanted to work with chocolate. Choccywoccydoodah make it looks so easy and fun. So I decided to break away from using the standard fondant and try something a little different. I am so glad I did.

Dungeons and Dragons Crate Cake. It has a baby dragon hatching from an egg, a broken scroll and plenty of gold coins.
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The Perfect Scone

What exactly is a Scone?

Simply put, a scone is just a type of quick bread. They are versatile little things though, and the variations are almost endless.

They can be sweet or savoury. You can use wholemeal flour, oats, lemonade, sugar, fruit, cheese, and even pumpkin puree in your recipe! And, you can griddle them, fry them, oven bake them, you can even deep fry them.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, they are also known under a variety of different names. For example, when made with potato they are called Tattie Scones and if you use baking soda and griddle them, they are Soda Farls. In America, they are Biscuits, and they can also be Bannocks or Griddle Scones. We already mentioned the deep fried version in Australia, they call these Puftaloons.

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I will only buy cakes from a full time cake maker…

…and why you probably should too.

This might be a little controversial, and I apologise if it offends. But, I have really had my eyes opened since delving deeply into the world of baking. And, even more so when it comes to professional home baking. I am shocked, and at times, utterly disgusted, by the standards some home bakers uphold when they bake for clients. So much so that I really feel the need to write about it. Honestly, I will never buy a cake from a home baker again.

Baking in your own kitchen

It had not even occurred to me that a person could bake for paying customers in their own home kitchen, but they can, and they very often do. Of course, it’s not as simple as just starting a Facebook page and taking orders. You must register with your local environmental health department if you intend to bake professionally. They will require proof that you have a basic understanding of food safety and hygiene, and in most cases, they will also do an inspection of your facilities. You must also register with the HMRC, have permission from your landlord or mortgage provider, and you must have proper insurance.

Lemon-Licsious Humpday Cake by For Cakes Sake
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Baking with buttermilk

What is buttermilk

Buttermilk is a tangy, milky liquid that is often used in baking. It adds a lovely flavour to the dish, but it also works perfectly with baking powder to add rise to your bakes.

It comes in two different forms. The stuff you buy in the supermarket is a cultured milk that contains acid. This is what you should use if your recipe calls for buttermilk. The other kind is made from churning double cream. This kind of buttermilk will taste nice as a drink, plus you also get butter as a by product. But, it isn’t acidic, and that means it will be no good for your baking.

homemade buttermilk in a jar
Homemade Buttermilk
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A Week of Afternoon Tea

My first afternoon tea experience was an absolute delight. A basket of perfectly warmed scones, a selection of finger sandwiches and two tiers of tasty bites and treats. Unlimited tea and coffee and an attentive waiter made for an exceptional afternoon. We feasted for two hours before admitting defeat and boxing up the left overs.

Many teas have come and gone. But so far The Everglades in Londonderry remains my favourite.

Will this week be the week that I find a new favourite?

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Mmmm Marshmallows

Whats a marshmallow?

Marshmallows, as we know them, have been around for thousands of years. Originally, they were made with root sap from the marsh mallow plant, hence the name. The root was boiled with sugar, and once thickened, it was strained, cooled and flavoured. We know the Egyptians were making honey flavoured marshmallows as early as 2000 BC, although this treat was reserved only for gods and royalty!

Not just any old treat, these might be good for you!
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