Raspberry Topped Lemon Drops



‘Lemon Drops’ – light sponge cake, filled with fresh homemade lemon curd and cream, topped with a little more cream and a raspberry, perfect on a hot summers day – delicious!

Baking with Kids

Rain, heavy rain, light showers, more rain. No surprise our little ones are getting a bit of cabin fever. Trips to the park are off the list, as is playing in the garden that now resembles a pond, and if I have to sufferthe indignity of trying to squeeze my Mummy body up and down through the soft play maze one more time I may be forced to emigrate. The summer holidays haven’t even begun and the children are getting fed up. Drawing, sticking, teddy bears tea parties and den building have served us well, but just aren’t cutting the mustard anymore. Time to mix it all up with a bit of kiddy baking….yes I know it’s messy, a little frustrating (they probably won’t do it like you would) and won’t necessarily result in something you would feed your mates, but they love it! Not only do they enjoy it, but it’s a great chance to teach them something new…weighing ingredients, counting out cupcake cases, learning new words…when else will they learn about ‘whisking’ and ‘sieving’?

There are lots of simple recipes that are great for baking with kids, some more suitable for slightly older kids, but there is something for everyone. For the older kids make cupcakes, cookies and flapjacks, with the little ones chocolate dipped strawberries, cupcake decorating (bake them yourself first), even icing and decorating plain biscuits goes down well. If they like picking the food colouring off the shelves try making your own playdoh in the colours they choose, they will love to watch as the gooey mixture turns to what they recognise as playdoh.

Last week I went for chocolate dipped strawberries, simple but fun and just about all I was brave enough to manage with 1-year old twins and a 3-year old. It worked well but I thought my 3-year old was up to a bit more of a challenge. So today (whilst Dad bathed the twins) we baked and decorated cupcakes. Read on to see how we got on and for the recipe we used…

Hand washing to get us started….

Counting out the cupcake cases…

Getting the mixture in to the cases…sticky fingers time…

Sophie’s selection of decorations…vast majority of the blue sparkle ended up decorating the floor…

Topping the cakes…actually tasted very good!

All in all a SUCCESS!! A bath was required and the kitchen needed a scrub down, but we were happy!

If you fancy giving it a try here is the recipe we used, a few ideas for variations and some thoughts to help you survive your afternoon baking.

Basic Cupcake Recipe

175g soft butter

175g caster sugar

175g self raising flour

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 180c

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Lightly whisk the eggs just to break them up, then add in the vanilla extract. Slowly add the egg mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.

Sieve the flour on to the top of the mixture and pour on the milk. Gently mix together until fully incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases (cases should be about two-thirds full) and bake in the centre of the oven for 18-20 minutes.

Leave to cool completely and decorate with toppings of your choice.

Toppings and variations

  • Buy ready-made fondant icing, roll out and use a cutter to make circles to place on top of the cakes, then decorate with little flowers or hearts and edible glitter.
  • Make some vanilla butter icing and pipe in large swirls onto the cakes; decorate with smarties or anything you like.
  • Cut out a little sponge from the top of the cake, fill with jam, replace the ‘lid’ and cover with icing.
  • For a chocolate surprise filling push a square of chocolate into the centre of each cupcake just before you put them in the oven.

A few thoughts to help you survive:

  • Start with a shopping trip – take your little ones to the baking aisle and let them choose some cake decorating bits and pieces – most supermarkets have a great selection of coloured icing, cupcake cases and decorations. Perhaps set a limit to how many items they can choose. Whilst you are there you can get a bit of your weekly shop done too.
  • If your children are very young weigh the ingredients yourself and set them aside. Let them have a go at breaking an egg into a bowl, then press on with your ready prepared ingredients (perhaps even make them yourself first and just let them do the decorating).
  • Try and stay relaxed – the kitchen will be a mess (probably a complete right off), the kids will lick the bowl and try to eat all the decorations before you get started – just enjoy the chaos – there will probably come a time when they won’t want to spend a minute with you near the oven.
  • Decant some of the decorations into small cupcake cases – this will stop them going wild and will hopefully limit the mess.

Give it a go and send us your photos…if not of the kids, at least of the mess they create!

Alice xx

This post was originally written for 4Manchester Women www.4Manchesterwomen.co.uk

New Additions This Week

Alice’s Vintage Pantry had a whole day away from baking this week to browse some of Manchester’s vintage shops. Luck was on our side and we found some beautiful pieces to add to our extensive vintage china collection…couldn’t wait to share some of them with you….

Vintage teacup, saucer and tea-plate (otherwise known as a ‘trio’) – beautiful gold detailing.

Teapot and sugar bowl (complete with their own cosy!)

Two-tier cake stand – this is going to look beautiful filled with scones and finger sandwiches.

To find out how you can hire these pieces and many others click here to send us an email or call Alice on 07890 090547.





Time for Tea

We are constantly adding to our vintage china collection – visiting charity shops, car boot sales, antiques fairs and vintage markets – its always exciting getting up early to have a browse, you never know what you might find. Today was an especially exciting day…we took a family trip to a local vintage market(in South Manchester) and came home with three fantastic teapots along with some other bits and pieces. Good quality vintage teapots are quite difficult to find and can be very expensive, so to walk in to a vintage market and find these three sitting together was a real treat.

The afternoon has been spent trying tea from them all whilst deciding which is our favourite. Really hard to choose because all three are so different. The unusual shapes of the cream and gold ‘Sadler’ and the blue and gold ‘Arthur Wood’ nearly grabbed my vote, but when it came to it I couldn’t resist this cute little brown teapot that comes tucked up warm in its own shiny metal tea-cosy. The metal cosy is lined with insulation to keep your tea extra warm…now that is a perfect vintage teapot.

To see more of our vintage china collection take a peek around the rest of our website and if you would like to hire the vintage china for any occasion get in touch.





How Versatile is a Vintage Tea Party?!

There is nothing like a vintage tea party for versatility: pretty vintage teacups and saucers, embroidered table linens and exquisite vintage cake stands are admired by all the ages (especially the ladies); gooey cakes, tasty finger sandwiches and scones served with plenty of clotted cream are popular with everyone (especially the men and children); and there are not many who don’t like a proper cuppa made with loose leaf tea and poured from a vintage teapot.

So no wonder that so many people are hosting vintage tea parties for so many different occasions. Alice’s Vintage Pantry has been super busy this month, booking for a wide variety of occasions, they include: a 40th garden party, a little boys 3rd birthday, a leaving do, afternoon tea for a girly get together, a Ladybird Ball, another 40th, several weddings and a golden wedding anniversary – phew! Whatever gathering you are planning, consider tea, cakes and vintage china…

Baking the Perfect Sponge

From picnics to sports day – how to bake the perfect sponge cake

Winning the Mum’s race at sports day just isn’t that cool is it…nor was coming last as I remember from my last encounter with such an event (oh my goodness, how on earth did I manage that?!). What is cool is donating a beautifully light and perfectly risen Victoria Sandwich to the refreshments stall. Rising above the tray bakes and cupcakes the perfect sponge will make you proud that you tied your apron strings rather than the laces on your trainers. Whilst others are in their lycra sweating (yes, some Mums actually do put themselves and their kids in training for sports day!), you can be in the kitchen sipping tea whilst you mix your buttercream. And baking your own is at least a zillion times better than shop bought sponge. Not only does it taste far better, it’s cheaper, you know what’s in it and it’s a creation you can be proud of. This is all sounding a bit like a Kirsty Allsop dream…the reality is that many of us don’t have much success in getting our sponge to rise…flat cake syndrome is all too common and puts many off baking their own sponge cakes…so what to do about it? Well, there are some basic rules to baking that whilst pretty straight forward really do make all the difference to turning out a cracking cake. Have a read below, give it a go and let us know how you get on….

  • Weigh and measure all your ingredients before you get started, and do it accurately – it’s well worth investing in electronic scales. Baking is basically science, so you need to get the experiment spot on.
  • Grease and line your cake tin before you begin to mix, if you leave your mixture sitting around whilst you get this job done air bubbles will start to rise to the top and limit your cakes ability to rise.
  • Use the best quality ingredients that you can afford and make sure it is all at room temperature before you get started.
  • Get some decent measuring spoons – if a recipe requires a ‘teaspoon’ it means 5mls – most ‘teaspoons’ measure less than this.
  • Use really soft butter – make sure you get it out of the fridge well in advance of your bake-off. If it is still feeling a bit on the hard side when it’s time to get started either pop it in a warm place, microwave it for a few seconds, or grate it on to a plate.
  • Most sponge cakes start with creaming together butter and sugar – take this process seriously. Creaming together doesn’t mean a quick mix, it means fully incorporating the ingredients and then continuing to mix for at least 5-10 minutes until really light and fluffy. This is pretty hard work if you are doing it by hand, so if you are planning on doing a bit more baking (or even just mixing pizza dough or bread mix), invest in an electronic mixer.
  • When it comes to adding the eggs make sure you do it slowly. If you go too quickly the mixture may curdle and result in a heavier sponge. So just a little at a time with a good mix after each addition.
  • Make sure the oven set to the correct temperature before you put your hard work in it. Modern ovens are generally pretty temperature accurate but they do vary slightly so get to know yours.
  • Have your cooling wire at the ready, but leave your cake in the tin for two minutes before placing it on the wire.
  • And last but definitely not least…whatever you do don’t open the oven door!!

Victoria Sandwich recipes seem to be everywhere I look – with jubilee celebrations and the picnic season well and truly upon us, every supermarket shelf and magazine is offering us their variation on the classic sponge recipe. At Alice’s Vintage Pantry we use a tried and tested recipe that turns out the most delicious Victoria Sandwich…needless to say I’m quite keen to keep that one close to my chest, so here is another created by the super talented and much loved Delia Smith.

  • 110g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 110g self-raising flour (sifted)
  • Jam to fill, and sifted icing sugar to top

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 / 170c. Grease and line two 18cm cake tins.

Cream butter and sugar together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs together thoroughly then slowly add to the butter and sugar. Stir in the vanilla essence. Sift the flour on to the mixture and slowly incorporate using a metal spoon. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and bake for 25 minutes or until well risen and springy to the touch.

Feedback and photos please!

And if you don’t want to put your apron on don’t forget we can bake one for you – we deliver anywhere in Manchester, Cheshire and the surrounding areas.

This blog was originally posted on the 4Manchester Women website www.4manchesterwomen.co.uk

At Alice’s Vintage Pantry we think vintage cake stands filled with scones and cakes look divine, that there is almost nothing better than drinking tea from a dainty vintage teacup when poured from a vintage teapot…but there is one thing that you need at your vintage tea party to complete the look…beautifully hand-embroidered vintage table linens. We have a large collection of table linens that we have been lucky enough to find in various places all over the country.

They range from smaller ‘tray cloths’ to large table cloths that look pretty covering any table, and can be overlaid on top of plain white table linens. The cloths featured in these photos are a few we bought earlier this week in Manchester; we love them so thought they were well worth a blog mention! Get in touch if you want to know more about hiring them or any other items from our collection.

A special gift from a special day in 1951

I love it when a new addition to our collection ofvintage china comes with a special story…it’s one thing to buy china at a vintage market, auction, charity shop or car boot, but when it is passed on to you by a friend it comes with a real sense of history to it. This pretty set of 6 teapcups and saucers, teaplates, sandwich plate, milk jug and sugar bowl look great in the photo and even better close up. They are dainty without being so delicate you are afraid to hold them, the orange detail is handpainted and they are in near perfect condition. So where did they come from? Packaged in a box with the message ‘Wedding present 1951, love Gran’, my good and lovely friend Laura recently inherited them from her Gran. A wedding gift to her in 1951 they are a classic example of the style of the day and would have been put on display in her house and used on a regular basis. Laura was keen to see them used again so has donated them to our collection of vintage china items. We are delighted to have them and look forward to seeing others enjoying using them at our next event. Thank you to the lovely Laura!

Chocolate, chilli and all things baking…

A couple of months ago I was asked by the fab 4Manchester Women(online magazine style blog) to write about baking and all that goes with it…just in case you missed my first article, here it is….

Blogging about baking…simply fab…this must surely mean I get to test out more recipes and eat even more cake…the first thing you should know about me is the basis of survival in my rather hectic life is a proper cup of tea accompanied by a delicious piece (or three) of home baked cake. I try and blame my rotund (and seemingly growing) belly on the four children I have, but if the truth be known it is purely down to a love of testing my baking and that of anyone else I can get my hands on. My other great love is vintage china – in fact I think my perfect day would probably largely be made up of the above mentioned tea and cake, all served up on gorgeous vintage china…little teacups, cake stands, pretty milk jugs, cake forks…my dream day. Not one to miss out on making it all a super big part of my life, I decided a little while ago to set up a business that incorporates all three – Alice’s Vintage Pantry – I hire out my rather large collection of china for weddings, christenings, baby showers, birthday parties and lots of other special occasions, and I provide afternoon tea catering, ‘everyday cakes’, and celebration cakes for other cake lovers, corporate lunches with a twist, and anyone who wants to lay on a rather special feast for their chums. Not a job I will ever complain about.

I love it all, so was delighted to be asked by 4Manchester Women to write about baking and all that goes with it. As a super busy working Manchester mum I was really excited to discover that there is a blogging site out there that will put me in touch with other similar women AND keep me up to date on what’s happening in Manchester (whilst I break eggs in to bowls and sieve flour, oh and look after the littlies). My blogs will feature baking tips and recipes and will answer any questions you have on how to make the perfect Victoria Sandwich or anything similar. Email me your questions to feature in next month’s article alice@alicesvintagepantry.co.uk And because I love the women of Manchester any of you ordering from Alice’s Vintage Pantry will get 10% off if you quote the following when you place your order – ‘Cake is an essential food group for any self-respecting woman’ (urm, not sure I should be quoted on this, but hey, I live by that rule!)

So where shall we start? Cupcakes I think. Never have they been more popular. Pretty much any flavour and style you like is out there and they seem to be available on every street corner. Some of you lovely Manchester ladies took part in a bit of research to establish how best to represent Manchester Women in a cupcake…ok so don’t take this too seriously…just a bit of fun really and the chance to try out a new recipe. What did you come up with? A chocolate and chilli cupcake covered with chocolate icing and topped with popping candy sprinkles –what does this represent? Well, that us Manchester ladies like a bit of indulgence, but only with a bit of kick and fizz. I’ve been trying out a few recipes for this ‘4Manchester Women’ cupcake and would like to share the best with you. Go get your cupcake cases out and your oven gloves on….

For the sponge you will need:

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 340g self raising flour, sifted
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons dry red chilli flakes
  • 110ml milk

Preheat the oven to 160c and line a tin with cupcake cases.

Break up the chocolate in to a bowl, place over a pan of simmering water to melt. Make sure the butter is soft, and cream together with sugar.

Break the eggs in to a separate bowl, add the vanilla extract and whisk lightly. Add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar slowly, beating in between additions. Once it is all combined sift the flour and cocoa powder onto the mixture and fold in. Now mix in the chilli flakes and add the milk. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack before icing.

For the topping you will need:

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 100 butter (unsalted)
  • 45-50 mls whole milk
  • Popping candy
  • Small red finger chillies

Sieve icing sugar and cocoa powder in to a bowl. Add the butter. Use an electric mixer to combine. When there are no lumps of butter left slowly add the milk. Then mix until light and fluffy.

To decorate simply put the buttercream topping in to a piping bag and pipe away, or use a spatula or something similar to spread on the top of each cake. Sprinkle with a bit of popping candy and place a small red finger chilli on top.

So there we have it…let us know how yours turn out and send us some photos if you can. Now time for me to finish off these cakes…

On the baking blog next time…top ten tips to beat flat cake syndrome.