Afternoon Tea

Other than my family of course there are two things I really miss about living in the UK.  Pub Lunches and Afternoon Tea.  Bar food here is no measure against the sheer delight of a good old Pub Lunch, and some of my more memorable Pub Lunches are seared into my brain as indelible memories.   The beer garden in Cheddar Gorge was one for instance, a Ploughman’s Lunch with Cheddar pulled directly from the caves where it matures washed down with a cold lager shandy.  Another highlight was sitting at the outside tables of a pub down in Helston, Cornwall, on a glorious sunny afternoon with my boss and my workmates playing hookey so we could watch the ships come in for some sort of celebration (that part I cannot remember).  I ate a huge baked potato piled high with locally caught prawns drenched in Marie Rose sauce, again washed down with a lager shandy.

My favorite Afternoon Tea (among many memorable ones) was in Glastonbury, an old fashioned Tea Shop run by several silver haired old ladies, with crisp white tablecloths and mismatched chairs, clinking china tea cups and saucers with matching cake plates and tea pots, cake racks lined with paper doilies and piled high with Vanilla Slices, Scones, Cup Cakes and Cucumber, Salmon and Watercress sandwiches and pots of strawberry jam and Devon Clotted Cream to go with the Scones.  One of my favorite cakes for Afternoon Tea is the Battenberg, but that has more to do with my love of marzipan than it is to do with my fondness for cake.

Tomorrow evening is the final concert for the school year for my husband’s band and as usual there will be a reception after the concert where the band boosters and various others bring the food.  I always try to make something very British to take along rather than something Southern,  in years by I have taken Scotch Eggs, Sausage Rolls, mini Cornish Pasties, a Strawberry Trifle and Prawn Vol-au-vents (okay technically French but they are a favorite British party food) and they have all be very well received.   This year I decided that I would make Battenbergs.

It is not a hard cake to make, a basic sponge cake.  The hard part is the construction, and of course finding a source for ready made marzipan.  Luckily for me both Fresh Market and World Market in Wilmington sell it so I always pick up a couple of blocks so I have it on hand should the spirit move me to make something that needs it.  I have been known, in moments of insane desire for a Battenberg NOW I HAVE TO HAVE IT NOW types of food psychosis, making the marzipan from scratch and I don’t mean from Almond Paste, I mean from whole Almonds.   Here is my finished article (I made two of them)

I think I may have been a tad over-enthusiastic with the red food coloring, as I seem to recall the pink layers being more pink than coral but checking out the Wikipedia page for the cake shows a home-made one with the same affliction.  Perhaps it is just the Mr. Kipling version that is paler pink.

One of the secondary effects of making Battenbergs of course is that you have lots and lots of cake trimmings to do something with (it is almost impossible to bake a perfectly square cake).  Of course you can always throw them in a bowl and serve them with ice cream but as far as I am concerned one of the best ways to use them is to make an English Trifle.  Which is exactly what I did.  If I were not taking this to a US high school then I would have liberally soaked the cake in a good cream Sherry prior to adding the jello, but alas, I have no desire to be charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors for providing a dessert to a high school concert.   Here is the result

The great thing about trifle is that it is bound only by the limits of your imagination in that the fruit and alcohol in the bottom with the cake layer can be made with many things.  I have made a delicious Pear and Pear Brandy version, using a Champagne jello, regular English custard and normal cream.  I make a Black Forest version using chocolate cake, cherries soaked in liquor then with chocolate pudding and chocolate whipped topping, bananas soaked in banana schnapps is also very good with banana pudding and whipped cream on top.  There really is no end to the combinations that you create.  Just make sure that the fruit and sponge on the bottom gets a good soaking of whatever alcohol you are using.

I enjoyed creating these today, and I hope they will be well received at the concert.  I will be sure and reserve a slice of the Battenberg before it goes out to the masses.


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