What have been the great contributions to 'civilisation' provided by the English speaking world? You might think of parliamentary democracy or the independent judiciary. You might think of cultural icons such as Shakespeare or Dickens. I prefer to think about afternoon tea.
There is nothing more luxurious than enjoying tea and cake perched on a gilded armchair chatting about anything and nothing in particular. A fine English tradition we have decided to recreate. Being collectors of all things old, English or rare, Gillian and I have an array of afternoon tea accessories we can use to give it that country house hotel feel.
On the menu this afternoon we have a Victoria Sponge Cake with strawberry jam (recipe below). This cake is rather special; it does not have any gluten or eggs, although trust us it will still be just as fluffy. Alongside the traditional Victoria Sponge, will be served English Breakfast Tea from Fortnum's - we like their Royal Blend. We also have the option of coffee and homemade lemonade.
Enjoying tea and cake in the afternoon dates back to the late 18th century although the Victorians made it their own, it became an essential part of socialising as it was less troublesome than inviting neighbours for luncheon or dinner. The quintessential English tea time treat was the Victoria Sponge, it was widely thought to be Queen Victoria's favourite.
Our favourite dinner set has to be from English pottery brand Spode 1770, Stafford Garden featuring patterns from 1787, alongside our Russian enamelled teaspoons and the English mother of pearl cutlery dating back to the Victorian era.
I hope you agree - civilisation is as much about social interactions as great institutions or individuals.
For our cake recipe, we decided to choose a cake mix as we are just starting out baking egg and gluten free cakes. We were very pleased with the results, light and fluffy exactly how we like it.
1 x Mrs O's Fuss Free Mixes - Gluten, Egg Free - Vanilla
200ml Soya Milk (Any non-diary milk will do)
100g Sunflower Spread (We prefer Vitalite Dairy Free Spread)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbs Lemon Juice
50g Icing Sugar
100g Coconut Spread
Preheat the oven to 180oC
Line an 8" round cake tin
In a small bowl, whisk together the melted sunflower spread, milk, vanilla and vinegar.
Sift the cake mix into a large bowl.
Stir the wet ingredients into the cake mix until well combined and smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the lined cake tin and bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Leave to cool.
For the buttercream combine the lemon juice, spread and icing sugar. The consistency will depend on how you like it if you would like the mixture looser add more lemon juice, if you want it firmed add more icing sugar.
Finally, fill the centre of the cake with strawberry jam and pipe the buttercream on the top of the cake, finish with fruit, flowers and a dusting of icing sugar.