Robert Irvine Loves Our Victoria Sponge Cake

Robert Irvine is a British celebrity chef and expat with a sweet tooth and a taste for delicious British cakes. He’s thankful to Tea & Sympathy for serving up a Victoria Sandwich Cake in New York City, “as good as it is back home.”

The camera crew for The Best Thing I Ever Ate came down to the restaurant, interviewed Nicky and tried our Victoria Sandwich, with delicious consequences. Thank You Robert Irvine!

Tea & Sympathy on the Food Network

We’ve previously blogged the recipe for our Victoria Sponge cake here, and you’ll also find it in our cookbook, which we sell in store. Our book makes the perfect Christmas gift, and Nicky will even sign copies now she’s such a big TV star!!!

Tea & Sympathy Customer Blog Review

It makes our day when we come across kind words on customers’ blogs. Don’t tell The New York Times, but they mean a lot more to us than write-ups in the big publications. Because at the end of the day, we’re not cooking for journalists, we’re cooking for you. And kind words are always made all the better by gorgeous photographs. So thank you very to The Boston Bakery Babe for this fab post.

Bird’s Custard

Thick or thin, runny or lumpy, hot or cold; every Brit has their own way with custard and plenty of school canteen memories to go with it (good or bad!). A sweet vanilla cream that is scientifically proven to make every cake, baked good and dessert taste better, we get through lashings of the stuff every day.

Bird’s Custard Powder is nothing short of culinary magic. When mixed with milk, heated and stirred, this cornstarch-based powder thickens into a delectable custard. This method allows the skilled cook to create their preferred consistency by regulating heat and spoon-work. We serves our quite light, feeling this the right way. However the pre-mixed variety available in-store is of the more viscous nature that will remind most people of school.

As well as being a delicious product, Bird’s Custard deserves a place in our British Pantry for its brand credentials. Sold across the world from Canada to India, it is recognised by 99% of surveyed consumers back in Blighty. What’s more, it accounts for 45% of the custard consumed in the UK, which is pretty good going.

If you’re yet to try custard, we strongly urge you to do so. It is one of the few foods to fall into the category of life-changing. And you don’t have to invest in a whole tub of powder, or carton of pre-mix, as it comes as an option with all the cakes and desserts we serve in the restaurant. Order yourself a cuppa to go with it and you’ve got the perfect end to a meal.

From foodspotting.com.

Will & Kate’s Wedding Cake Recipe

It’s wedding week, and time for our Thursday recipe. Any guesses what we might be sharing with you today? While the best man’s speech, the throwing of the bouquet and the inebriated uncle are all great, there’s one tradition that trumps the lot for us… the cake! And we feel we’ve outdone ourselves somewhat this week, by digging out THE recipe for Will & Kate’s wedding cake last year. It’s from the fantastic Phatfoodie blog, which is well worth a peruse, especially if hungry!

Will & Kate’s Royal Wedding Cake Recipe

Vintage Glamour Wedding Cake

served at Prince William’s and Princess Catherine’s Royal Wedding Reception, April 29, 2011

A Note From Pastry Chef Fiona Cairns:

A beautiful three-tiered timeless classic, this could take center stage at any wedding feast. It can be baked and decorated at least a month in advance and there are no colors to mix as the entire scheme is in ivory fondant with highlights of gold (you could also make this cake in white and gold.) If you break down each stage, giving yourself plenty of time, you may find it easier than you think.

Serves about 120-150 people

Ingredients for the Cake: One 6-inch square (3-inch deep) square cake pan

One 8-inch square (3-inch deep) square cake pan

One 10-inch square (3-inch deep) square cake pan

Double the recipe for Rich Tamarind Fruit Cake batter (recipe below)

6 tablespoons brandy, plus more to feed the cake

1 cup apricot jam, gently warmed and pushed through a sieve

6 3/4 pounds marzipan

confectioners’ sugar, for rolling

Sizes for Cake Boards and Drums:

One 8-inch square thin board

One 10-inch square thin board

One 12-inch square thin board

One 6-inch square (1/2-inch thick) cake drum

One 8-inch square (1/2-inch thick) cake drum

One 10-inch square (1/2-inch thick) cake drum

Preparing the Rich Tamarind Fruit Cake:

Single cake makes 25-30 slices

A Note from Fiona Cairns About the Recipe:

I started my business using this particularly moist, dark recipe as a Christmas cake, producing hundreds of miniatures cooked in baked bean cans from my kitchen table. It has been tweaked by adding tamarind — my husband’s bright idea. Make it up to three months in advance, or at least a week before you want it, to let it mature and absorb the brandy.

Ingredients for the Fruit Cake:

1 1/2 cups candied cherries

2 cups golden raisins

2 cups dark raisins, preferably Thompson

1 1/4 cups mixed candied citrus peel

2/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

1/2 cup dried currants

3 tablespoons molasses

3 tablespoons bitter orange marmalade

1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate

finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon

1 heaped tablespoon apple pie spice

6 tablespoons brandy, plus 3 tablespoons to feed the cake

1 cup walnuts

1/3 cup blanched almonds

1 1/4 cups self-rising flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cups almond flour

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preparing the Fruit Cake Batter:

The day before, rinse the cherries, then dry them well with paper towels and cut each in half. Place the golden and dark raisins, mixed peel, ginger, currants, cherries, molasses, marmalade, tamarind paste, zests and spice into a large bowl. Pour in 6 tablespoons of brandy, stir well, cover with plastic wrap and let stand overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with brown paper and tie with string, to protect the cake from scorching in the oven.

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven, shaking once. Cool slightly, chop coarsely and set aside.

Combining the Fruit Cake Ingredients

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. In an electric mixer on high speed, beat the butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes until it turns pale and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, then very gradually the eggs, mixing well between each addition. Fold in the flour with a large metal spoon and then the soaked fruits (and any liquid) and nuts.

Spread the batter into the pan. Bake on an oven rack in the lower third of the oven for about 2 1/2-3 hours. If a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, it is ready. If it browns too much before it is fully cooked, make a circle of foil a bit larger than the cake, pierce a hole in the center and open it up, then place it over the pan.

Let cool in the pan. Pierce all over with a wooden toothpick and evenly sprinkle over the remaining 3 tablespoons brandy. Remove from the pan and discard the paper. Wrap in fresh parchment paper, then aluminum foil, and let stand for a week or up to three months. Unwrap and sprinkle with with 1 tablespoon more brandy every other week, if you like, for extra succulence and booziness!

Preparing the Wedding Cake Boards and Pans:

Thin cake boards are used only while you are assembling the cakes, and really serve to save your work surfaces. You can use any board you have, even plywood. Thick cake drums are used to support each tier of the finished cake, so must be bought for this purpose.

Prepare the cake pans and batter (see above). Divide the batter between the pans, filling each to the same depth. The smallest cake will take about 1 hour and 45 minutes, the medium 2 1/2-3 hours and the largest about 3 hours: if a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, it is ready. Let cool in the pans. When cooled, pierce all over with a fine wooden skewer and sprinkle with the brandy. Wrap in fresh parchment paper, then aluminum foil, until ready to use. You can continue to feed the cakes with 1-2 tablespoons brandy every other week, for a month or two.

Using Marzipan for the Cakes:

Take the 8-inch thin board and place the 6-inch drum on it. Brush 1 tablespoon apricot jam into the center, then place the 6-inch cake on top, upside down so the flat bottom forms the surface. If it is slightly smaller than the drum, make a strip of marzipan as wide as the side of the cake and the same circumference, and stick it to the edge. Similarly, all cakes should be the same height. If not, apply an extra-thin marzipan layer to the top of the shallow cake (use the pan as a guide). Repeat for the other cakes, placing the 8-inch cake on the same-size drum and 10-inch board, and the 10-inch cake on the same-size drum and 12-inch board.

Brush the 6-inch cake with jam. Knead 1 3/4 pounds of marzipan until pliable. Sprinkle a work surface and rolling pin with confectioners’ sugar, and roll out into a rough square slightly larger than the top and sides of the cake and drum and about 1/4-inch thick. Lift on to the cake and drum, smooth all over and cut away any excess. Cover the other two cakes, using 2 1/4 pounds marzipan each. Leave overnight to firm up.

Assembling the Wedding Cake:

Items Needed for Cake Construction:

12-inch square (1/2-inch thick) cake drum and eight wooden dowels

Ingredients for Covering the Cake:

Confectioners sugar, for rolling

9 pounds ivory fondant

2 tablespoons brandy or boiled water

2/3 cup royal icing in a parchment paper cone

Preparing the Base Drum:

Dust the 12-inch drum with confectioners sugar and sprinkle with a small amount of water. Knead 2 1/4 pounds of the fondant until pliable, then sprinkle a work surface and rolling pin with confectioners sugar and roll it into a rough square slightly larger than the top of the drum and about 1/8-inch thick. Wrap it loosely around the rolling pin and lift on to the drum. Smooth with your hands and trim away any excess. Replace the excess in a plastic bag and seal. Let dry overnight.

Preparing the Icing Cover for the Cake:

The 6-inch cake will need about 1 3/4 pounds of fondant, and the two larger cakes about 2 1/4 pounds each. Work on just one cake at a time.

For each cake, brush brandy all over the marzipan. This helps the fondant to stick and is an antiseptic. Lightly dust a clean surface with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the fondant into a rough square about 1/4-inch thick and slightly larger than the diameter of the cakes, their sides, and the drums.

Lift the fondant with your hands, place it over the cake and gently smooth, covering the cake and drum. Do not stretch, and work as quickly as you can, before it dries. Cut away any excess, provided it is still clean, and seal in a plastic bag. Let the three cakes stand overnight.

Building the Cake:

Spread 1-2 tablespoons royal icing into the center of the base drum. Gently ease away the largest cake and drum from its board using an icing spatula and place it exactly in the middle of the base drum.

Now insert four dowels into the large cake, spacing them to form the corners of a square just within where the 8-inch cake will sit. Push down each stick until it hits the drum, and mark with a pen about 1/8-inch above the surface. Remove each stick, score with a knife at the mark, snap (or saw) and discard the excess. Replace each in its hole.

Spread a spoonful of royal icing into the center of the largest cake, remove the 8-inch cake and drum from its thin board and center on top of the larger cake, resting the drum on the hidden dowels. Repeat the dowel placing process with this middle tier to add the top cake, again using a spoonful of royal icing to keep it steady.

Preparing the Decorations for the Cake

Ingredients for the Adornments:

Confectioners sugar, for rolling

Set of 3 blossom plunger cutters (1/4-inch, 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch)

1 1/4-inch butterfly cutter

2 tablespoons royal icing in a parchment paper cone

100 small gold dragees in 2 sizes (optional); I used 50 medium and 50 small gold dragees

1 small paint brush

1 large egg white, lightly beaten (or 2 teaspoons dried egg white mixed with water until frothy)

Edible gold glitter

Two small artificial ivory or white doves (or other birds)

For the Top Tier: 2 feet long, 1 1/2-inch wide vintage gold ribbon

For the Middle Tier: Cream organza about 1 yard long, 1 1/2-inch wide and gold ribbon 6 1/4 feet long and 1/4-inch wide.

For the Bottom Tier: Gold bejewelled ribbon about 4 feet long and 2 1/2-inch wide.

For the Base Drum: One roll double-sided sticky tape and ivory ribbon about 4 1/2 feet long, 1/2-inch wide.

Instructions for Making Butterflies and Blossoms:

You will need about 12-15 butterflies and about 100 blossoms in three sizes (I made 25 tiny 1/4-inch blossoms, 25 medium 1/2-inch blossoms and 50 large 5/8-inch blossoms).

The decorations are applied randomly, so this is just a guide. Knead some of the fondant left over from covering the cakes and drums until pliable, and roll out thinly (no more than 1/8-inch thick) on a board sprinkled with a little confectioners’ sugar. Stamp out the blossoms and butterflies and allow to dry for a few hours, preferably overnight. I lay them out as I make them in boxes interleaved with parchment paper. Prop up the butterflies’ wings between two sticks (you could use spare dowels), so the wings will dry as if in flight.

If you like, pipe the centers of the blossoms with a tiny dot of royal icing and then press on a gold dragee. If you prefer, just pipe a dot for the centers. Once the butterflies are dry, paint the edges of the wings with egg white and dip into the glitter.

To finish the cake, apply the ribbons by sticking them at the back of each cake using a little royal icing. On the middle tier, overlay the wide organza ribbon with two bands of narrow gold ribbon. Wrap the base drum with the double-sided sticky tape, then stick on its ribbon.

Casual, informal designs do have one huge advantage: any blemishes or marks in the icing can be covered by a decoration! Randomly apply the butterflies and little blossoms all over the three-tiered cake, sticking on with the royal icing. As a final touch, place the two doves in the center of the top tier.

 

The Special Relationship, Prince Harry and Royal Tea at Fortnum & Mason

A few news stories that have caught our eye of late have left us brimming with confidence in the ‘Special Relationship‘. Not that we ever doubted it of course; despite occasional tongue-in-cheek goading, our first hand experience suggests all is rosy transatlantically-speaking. David Cameron is down in DC at the moment, and his matey show with Mr Obama, next to Sam Cam and Michelle’s apparent friendliness, implies this won’t be changing any time soon.


And any single young ladies out there who want to strengthen the relationship, keep an eye out for Prince Harry’s recent interview in which he complains about being unlucky in love. Stating that his ‘job’ has stood in the way of him and potential brides, he says he hopes to have a princess on his arm before turning 30. That’s only three years away, and the fact he gave the interview to an American network (CBS), could mean he’s been casting his eye over the Atlantic…

 

HRH WLTM...

To finish off this impromptu news round-up, here’s a story we can’t quite believe we missed. The Queen, Kate, and Camilla, going for tea! A couple of weeks back now, the royal trio descended on Fortnum & Mason – the luxury London department store – to unveil a plaque, and sample the fine British produce they have on sale. As restrained as ever, the Queen remarked on the day: “How Marvellous!”

Has anyone put the kettle on?

 

Now, we wonder which blend of tea they all went for…

Chocolate Cake Breakfast Could Help You Lose Weight!

Good Morning New York, and what a fantastic morning it is. Snow may be threatening, you may not have bagged that front row NYFW seat you were after, and the world of coffee may have just taken a turn for the worst (yet another reason to drink tea), but we awake to news of, quite possibly, the most significant scientific breakthrough of our lifetimes.

Brew-me-o & Perculate... Leo launches a coffee brand?! Apologies for the pun, it's still early...

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have found that a slice of chocolate cake may be the perfect way to start the day for those wanting to lose weight. After a 32-week study on 193 people, it was found that those eating a balanced 600-calorie breakfast, including the gateux, lost more weight than those who took a 300 calorie, low-carb diet.

Eat me... and lose weight?!

The brainbox in charge concluded that, “the participants in the low-carbohydrate diet group had less satisfaction and felt that they were not full.” Read the rest of the article here. Then, get out of your pyjamas and get down to Greenwich Avenue; we’re serving our famous chocolate cake from 9.30am!

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens – 200 Today!

It seems like bumper season for big British events at the moment. Following Accession Day yesterday, it’s the 200th anniversary of one of Blighty’s greatest ever writers, Charles Dickens.

Dear old Mr. Dickens... Happy 200th!

The author of many fine novels (Tale of Two Cities is our favorite), Dickens had a larger impact on London’s image than Paul Auster, Martin Scorcese, Mark Rothko, or even Candice Busnhell did on that of New York. Think of spires, sooty streets, smoke, steam and the banks of the River Thames, and Dickens’ masterful words will have shaped those images.

Grey, grey, grey... The weather is definitely one thing we don't miss...

But let’s not get too cerebral about the old man. While you’re having a celebratory cup of birthday cake (Historically speaking, Victoria Sponge would be perfect, as would anything from Mrs. Beeton), here’s a trailer from the BBC’s Christmas version of ‘Great Expectation’. Beautifully shot and styled, it still had its critics. There were accusations of dumbing down, complaints that Gillian Anderson was too young to play Miss Havisham while some even said that ex-Burberry model Douglas Booth was just too damn hot to play Pip. We’ll let you decide that one for yourself….

Next up, the Diamond Jubilee & the London Olypmics… Bring on summer!

Tea & Sympathy Cupcake Competition

Morning all, happy Monday, give us a smile, the weekend’s over but it’s not that bad – especially as we are announcing a brand new create-a-cupcake competition! It’s pretty straightforward – we want you to suggest traditional British flavors for us to turn into bitesized baked yummies. We put our heads together at T&S HQ over the weekend and came up with a few ideas of our own: Guiness, Rhubarb & Custard and Maltesers got us excited, while Shepherd’s Pie and Branston Pickle  got a firm thumbs down…

We need to confirm the prize, but most likely it’ll be a pot of tea and a couple of your little creations at Tea & Sympathy! As well as getting the honor to help name the beauty.

So please let us know by commenting below, or tweeting us @TeaAndSympathy, or on facebook.

Really looking forward to your suggestions!

One day, all this could be yours... Just give it a great British flavor!

Guiness Cake!

We don’t often reblog, but this fantastic recipe is well worth it!!

Decadently Gracie

A current favourite in my house at the moment is the Chocolate Guinness Cake. My girlfriend is completely obsessed with it to the point we are going through one a week! Apparently, it’s just a slightly larger cupcake so it’s completely fine.

The recipe I use is from The Hummingbird Bakery book, Cake Days, a book which has kick started my very naughty baking habit. A copy of this can be found at The Stylist

The cake is quite dense and incredibly moist, its so easy to see why it’s a firm favourite. That and the combination with cream cheese frosting is amazing.

We’re all out of Guinness cake now… Guess I better get to start on the next one 😀

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