Those of us who love frequenting tea rooms (you know who you are), just can’t help ourselves from obsessing over their decor, teapots, cups and saucers, and food. And although we wouldn’t dream of ever giving up the pursuit of the perfect tea room, we do enjoy re-creating one or more aspects of our favourite tea room once we’re back home. Whether it’s sourcing their beautiful china for our own tea table, buying a tin of their popular house blend, or having a go at trying to bake their cakes or scones, we want the tea room experience to go on within our own familiar habitat long after it has ended at the one away from home.
But when it comes down to baking that cake or those scones, the problem is that some tea rooms want to keep their recipes a secret. Drat. Luckily, some tea rooms don’t mind sharing their recipes and even go so far as to publish them. The Tea Rooms, Stoke Newington Church Street, London is one of those, and I recently had a chance to review their cookbook, Secrets of the Tea Rooms – Recipes for Traditional British Cakes and Savouries.
The Tea Rooms opened in 2007 and are owned and operated by mother and daughter team Anne Wilkinson and Isabelle Allfrey; Isabelle is a professional chef. The tea setting is traditional (LOVE those bentwood chairs), with an emphasis on quality homemade cakes and confectionery. Who wouldn’t like a cookbook filled with quality recipes from a tea room with a professional chef, huh?
Secrets of the Tea Room contains a variety of great sounding recipes – scones; cakes and pastries; soups; savoury pastries; biscuits and batch bakes; and Christmas cooking - originating from family members and cookery books and adapted for the tea room. Measurements are given in imperial and metric, so the book is suitable for cooks on both sides of the pond.
Handy tips are sprinkled throughout as are colour photographs, making it an immediate winner as far as I’m concerned. There is also a brief history of tea in Britain – always a good sign.
I am certain that I will eventually try each of the recipes in this book: they are solid, traditional British tea fare. But I did have to narrow it down to just one for the blog post, so I decided on the Lemon Cake. With the days drawing in, I have been in a mood lately to drink more Earl Grey, and Lemon Cake and Earl Grey tea are an excellent pairing.
For one small loaf cake, made in a tin about 9 in (23cm) long. This loaf cake is made extra tangy with lemon syrup poured over the cake, straight from the oven.
5 oz (140 g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tblsp dark rum (I did not have any rum or rum extract, so I used vanilla extract)
6 oz (175 g) caster sugar
2 oz (50 g) melted butter
3 oz (75 g) double cream
2 oz (50 g) icing sugar
Set the oven to 180°C (350°F) or Gas Mark 4, and prepare a small loaf tin by greasing lightly and lining with baking paper.
Grate the zest of the lemon (the skin without the pith) or use a zester. Add the zest to the eggs, salt and sugar, and whisk together, without overworking. Stir in the cream. sieve the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture. Then add the melted butter and rum. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 7 minutes at 200°C (400°F), Gas Mark 6. Then lower the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4, and bake for a further 33 minutes.
Tip: Do not let the lemon syrup boil, otherwise it could taste bitter.
The Lemon Cake looked and tasted fantastic. The recipe was easy to follow, and I already had everything on hand. Baked in small, individual loaf tins, the Lemon Cake recipe from Secrets of the Tea Rooms would be perfect for holiday gift-giving to friends, neighbours or work colleagues, together with a festively wrapped copy of the book itself.
155 Stoke Newington Church Street
London N16 0UH
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