Truly scrumptious adventure

I went up to the Cotswolds for Easter, it gave me an opportunity to spend a little time on the garden, plant a few seeds but it was also a time for relaxation and rest. It has been a busy four months, there have been so many problems at work that had to be resolved, requiring persistent effort. Not only that there are times when I feel that my life is not my own and work seems to spill over. Going up to the cottage then, is a break away, there are no work messages bleeping at me, I find I can get away from everyone and simply relax – it is blissful and I find myself wondering why I don’t do it more often. 

We spent a lovely Saturday wandering around Alcester, a pretty little town in Warwickshire (Shakespeare country!). We saw a whole gaggle of town criers as they were holding the National Town Crier championships! it was a sight to behold – the gentlemen in their red coats, tricorn hats and some of them had wigs – they looked as if they had just stepped out of the 17th Century. 
Just round the corner opposite the church we found this little gem – its called Truly scrumptious and I loved it so much I thought I would take some pictures to share with you. 
The counter looked really appetising with the pretty cakes in their glass domes.
Just to the left was a lovely snug area, all the books on the bookshelf are tea related, either fictional books set in tea shops or cake designs and such. 
This pretty little cake was sitting in an alcove. 
We were led to a charming tea room – pretty tablecloths and vintage china was laid out and there was lovely vintage music playing softly. We took a seat right by the window and had a view of the pretty garden – there were tables outside but it was a little chilly for that in April. 
Cakes abounded in lots of nooks and crannies – alongside quotations in pastel frames – all tea related. 
We opted for traditional English afternoon tea – not only enough to satisfy our hunger but we took a few cakes home as well. The scones were divine Mr D eats his in Cornwellian tradition, jam first and then cream, but I like the Devonian – cream first then jam. 
It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area, or if you are getting married they do fabulous cakes
just follow this link

Simply the best

It is all well and good trying new recipes but my success rate has taken a bit of a bashing recently, after all the festivities and rich food, what  I wanted at the weekend was a touch of simplicity, –  I thought I would go back to an old favourite of mine, Victoria Sponge. Named as I am sure you know, after Queen Victoria. 
This is a foolproof recipe – this cake is made from 6 eggs, simply weigh your eggs, add the same weight of sugar, self raising flour, and softened butter, (not straight from the fridge it won’t work!) a good teaspoon of vanilla essence and a teaspoon of baking powder ( for every three eggs – 6 eggs =2 teaspoons). Mix together to form a soft dropping consistency – using two lined round cake tins – place in a moderate oven for around 20 – 30 minutes. You will know it is cooked because it will shrink slightly around the rim, have a golden colour and will not leave any cake mixture on a cocktail stick that you can push through the centre to check. 
It is important to let the cake cool completely before icing. 
Victoria Sanwich relies on the combination of butter and vanilla, so I always use butter and not margarine, however Stork can be a good alternative for the cake, but I always recommend butter for icing. While I am a great fan of the cupcakes, I prefer my victoria sandwich with just a little Raspberry jam, but you can ice yours with buttercream if you wish. 
What I love about this recipe is that it works for me every time, there is nothing more disappointing than using good ingredients and spending time in the kitchen only to have a soggy or disastrous cake, but this really has stood the test of time even my daughter uses the recipe. 
I love to get out my china tea service and really push the boat out, I feel very Duchess of Bedford! (She invented the concept of Afternoon Tea so I am told!) China tea cups really do make the best cup of tea, not to mention a good full bellied pot! 

Strawberry Shortcake Butterflies


A friend of mine gave me a butterfly cutter that came with a cake decorating magazine, I was having a tea party for friends and thought it would make a different version of the strawberry shortcakes. Mine were just a simple outline of a butterfly but you may be able to get the push button ones from a cake decorating shop that does the impression as well as the cut.

You will discover there are two types of shortcake recipes some versions create a softer mix which is added to a shortbread mould, but this recipe requires a mix that can be rolled out.

Many recipes will allow you to use either butter or margarine, but for shortbread it really does have to be butter, it is not only traditional but gives shortbread its taste, using margarine will give you a bland tasting shortbread. I know butter is very expensive compared with stork, but if you are going to the trouble to make something why scrimp on the ingredients?

200g / 8 oz of soft butter (leave at room temperature for a while it makes beating easier)
100g / 4 oz Caster sugar
250g / 10oz Plain flour
50g / 2 oz Semolina

To decorate: Whipped cream, strawberries and a little strawberry jam.
If you are using fresh cream you need to keep them in the fridge until ready to serve, or you could use buttercream.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, you will see the mixture gets paler the more you beat. When it drops off the beaters easily it is about right

Using a fork, gradually mix in the semolina and flour until the mixture finally comes together, try not to handle it too much or you will lose the air from the mixture.

Press together to form a large ball and then place on a floured surface.

Flour your rolling pin and roll out until it is about 1/2cm thick.

Starting at the edge of the dough, cut the butterfly shapes out carefully – press into the mixture and then use a fish slice underneath to transfer to a greased baking tray, then remove the cutter. It helps to maintain the shape of the butterflies.

Make in pairs cutting the second butterfly along the middle to divide the top wings, move the wings slightly apart from each other so that they will cook separately.

Using a cocktail stick or a butter knife, make indentations to the wings like a butterfly.

Keep cutting the butterflies in pairs until all the mixture has been used up.

Bake in a moderate oven, 160c / 325F or GM 3 for around 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Do not touch the biscuits until they have cooled a little as they will be very soft and fragile. After 20 minutes or so gently ease them off the baking tray and put them on a cooling rack, until they have cooled down completely. (essential as the cream will run if the biscuits are hot).

Take one of the flat butterfly biscuits and place two teaspoons of cream and half a strawberry on each side, and cover with a small spoonful of jam.

Add another small spoonful of cream in the centre, and then press the inside edge of the wing into the centre cream and allow to gently rest on the strawberry. Repeat for the other side.

Continue until you have created all your butterflies.

You can dust with a little icing sugar if you wish, or some edible glitter, and serve.