Its that time of year again…Parkin!

Blog original written for the Manchester based online magazine ‘4 Manchester Women’

Parkin…feels like I haven’t made this for a while…it’s been 12 whole months since it popped out of my recipe books and made an appearance in my well used ovens. Each year I make several batches to give to friends and family and to take along to Bonfire night parties, and each year I wonder why I don’t get it out more often. As I sit and write this, the smell of Parkin wafts through the house as it rises in the oven. Will I be able to resist trying a little later on tonight? As Parkin vastly improves in taste and texture if you leave it for a few days, I tell myself I will wrap is tightly in foil and leave it well alone until the weekend….if this happens it will be a first, no cake in this house lasts longer than 24 hours…we love our cake and we certainly eat it…one of the major advantages of baking for a living.

So what exactly is Parkin? Well there is lots of history to it which I won’t detail here, basically it comes from up North (yippee) and is kind of a cakey version of gingerbread, often baked with oatmeal and treacle. Records of it trace back a good few centuries and no-one seems to know exactly why it has been associated with November 5th (not too concerned about that, just want it to taste good). Recipes vary massively, we normally bake one that contains treacle and oatmeal, but decided to give this a go this year….
Auntie Eva’s Parkin Recipe

Good old Auntie Eva brings us this one from her home in Bradford at the age of 93! Still sharp as her name (Eva Sharp) she will be delighted to know that her favourite Parkin recipe is being shared with others.

2 breakfast cups of self-raising flour
1 breakfast cup of sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4oz stork margarine (she is very particular about that!)
1 small table spoon golden syrup
1 cup boiled milk
1 egg

Really simple to make, just mix the dry ingredient’s, rub in the margarine and pour over the milk and syrup – stir well and bake in a 20cm square tin. Bake for 1 hour at 100 degrees, then turn the oven up by 10 degrees and bake for another half an hour.

If you want to add the oatmeal, just reduce the amount of self-raising flour and replace it with the equivalent amount of oatmeal , either double the amount of golden syrup or add a tablespoon of treacle.

Bakers tip: to help you spoon in the syrup and treacle, place your metal spoon in a mug of boiling water before using it – the syrup will just slide of the spoon into your mixing bowl.

Wrap your parkin in foil and leave it for a few days before eating.


Happy baking!

Charity Tea Party to raise money for Breast Cancer Care

What a fab day we have had!! We decided to open up our doors this morning to raise some money for Breast Cancer Care. The vintage china collection came out, we baked scones and cakes, and served freshly brewed loose leaf tea…we invited friends and family and two hours later had raised £330!! Here are a few photos…Scones and Cream charity3 charity2


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 is 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

Recently Engaged?? Want to know more about what we do?

Christmas and New Year is one of the most popular times to get engaged…not sure whether the festive period just gets everyone all loved up or whether all the booze around gets to us??? Either way its a super happy time for all you couples looking to get hitched. This makes January a super busy time for us. We get lots of enquiries about the services we offer, all of which we respond to as quickly as possible. Whilst we can provide lots of information over email or on the phone, a chat face-to-face is a good way for you to find out more about us, and for us to get to know more about the plans for your day (and a great chance for you to try our cake!) . So when we aren’t catering for vintage tea-parties, we are busy with meetings and follow-up quotes for weddings. There is lots of information about the services we provide on the ‘Weddings‘ section of this website…but just a quick summary to get you started….

Vintage Afternoon Tea Catering – from 20 to more than 120 we provide delicious finger sandwiches (plenty of them), scones, home-baked cakes and plenty of tea. Its all served on our beautiful collection of vintage china (included in the price)



Tea-Ladies – to keep your day running smoothly. Our tea-ladies (and gents!) are super helpful and very professional, but also offer a more relaxed and informal approach to wedding service. Our ladies are available to hire with or without the catering service.


Vintage Cake Tables and Wedding Cakes – a different way of serving cake or desert to your guests, beautiful, delicious and a real talking point.





Vintage China Hire – extensive and very gorgeous collection of vintage china to add something really pretty and unique to your day.

If you are interested in any or all of the above please get in touch via our contact page or give us a call on 07890 090547.

Never a dull moment at Alice’s Vintage Pantry!

Hello!! It’s been a while since we found time to sit down a write a few words about what we have been up to…we have had the busiest few months to date…lots of vintage tea parties, vintage china hire, meetings with brides and grooms, testing new recipes and much more. No two days are the same, the diversity of events we cater for, and people we meet is huge.

Over the last few months it has ranged from catered weddings for over 100, to catered hen-parties for five, vintage cake tables for weddings and christenings, birthday parties for all ages (from a 1 year old girl, to a 21 year old boy and to a lovely 95 year old lady), vintage china hire for shop launches and special events (including the very glamorous Louboutin at Harvey Nichols!) and many more happy occasions. We’ve also catered for funerals, the other end of the spectrum; we hope that we have provided something special on those sad occasions.


Our collection of vintage china and accessories has been growing too…SO many cups, saucers, teapots, cake stands, table linens, cream and jam bowls etc etc…we’ve had to build new shelving and storage to accommodate it all. We have soured it from a wide range of places, vintage markets, charity shops, antique shops and, loveliest of all, dontations from friends and clients who are keen to see their vintage china go to a good home. We love it all and appreciate the support of all of those around us.

2013 has been an amazing year for Alice’s Vintage Pantry, we are already looking very busy for 2014….very much looking forward to bringing our fabulous vintage tea parties to all you lovely people!! If you would like to book a vintage tea party with us, or find out more about what we offer please get in touch.


Fill in the online enquiry form, call us on 07890 090547, or email

Alice x

Vintage Jewellery for your Wedding Day

Delighted to have a bit of advice on our blog for those of you looking for the perfect piece of vintage jewellery for your wedding day….the lovely Jayne from Ruby Rose Vintage Jewels ( gives us a few ideas…

Where do you begin when thinking of what jewellery to wear on your wedding day? After making an endless series of exciting and daunting decisions; this fabulous dress, that amazing venue, the colour scheme, the theme, the readings, the vows, the music, it’d be easy to become side tracked and miss out on the opportunity to wear something with real meaning that you can treasure forever to remind you of your special day. There is a whole world of romantic symbolism to explore, a wealth of styles, gemstones and precious metals to choose from.

My starting point, and of course I’m biased in favour of antique and vintage jewellery, would be to ask; “Is there a family piece I can borrow?” Especially a ring or necklace or earrings that have been worn by other family members in the past, immediately fulfilling the “something old” and “something borrowed” criteria of the well- known saying. How lovely to walk down the aisle in the same necklace your own mum or grandma wore on her day.

If not, I’d look at pearls as my next choice – real pearls, cultured pearls, glass pearls; who cares about value, it’s their meaning we are interested in, and the fact that regardless of personal styles and tastes, the regal pearl compliments most dresses, from the traditional big white number, through creams and pastels to bold dramatic reds, midnight blue or black.

Take this genuine Art Deco Pearl and Diamond ring – a stunning simple design which would look great with anything from Grecian style to 1950’s dresses. As pearls are associated with the qualities of loyalty, friendship and faithfulness, they are damn near the perfect romantic gift to receive from your other half on the morning of the wedding … (a few hints may need to be dropped!)



This Art Deco glass necklace would also fit the bill; with plaited strands of tiny fake pearls making up a stunning choker that would look beautiful with your “Great Gatsby” inspired gown.





If you are an understated dresser, and have a chic, simple dress, think about adding a delicate brooch. Try something like this Edwardian gold and seed pearl swallow and clover leaf brooch. The swallow represents loyalty, as the swallow always flies home. The clover leaf represents the trinity of hope, love and faith – used together with the seed pearls this forms a pretty strong statement of romantic integrity!


Next up is the bow or knot. Used in jewellery since Ancient Greek times, again in the French Court of the 17th century and beloved by the Victorians, the knot is a strong symbol of “strength in union” or “the ties of love binding us together”. A symbolic piece of jewellery need not be expensive; you can pick up one of these 1950’s rhinestone necklaces for around £10-£20, this one has the bow/knot design and is in fabulous condition for something 60 plus years old.


Another idea is to add a blue gemstone (sapphires, aquamarines, blue topaz) to your ensemble – for the “something blue”. This sapphire and diamond ring from the 1940’s screams Hollywood glamour, and also carries the symbolism of the bow. Equally, having an adornment in yours or your partner’s birthstone, or perhaps your children’s birthstones is a fabulous personalised idea.


Of course, you may well want to wear something just for the sheer beauty or decorative effect it has. I’d plump for something wonderful like this heavy silver and pastes Art Nouveau bracelet, over 100 years old and utterly magnificent, a design that would compliment a vintavintage inspired dress, as much as it would a flamboyantly embellished modern dress.





Finally, why not find a unique piece that allows you to write your own history and symbolism? I wore this necklace on my own big day, a gift from my husband to be. The Nouveau stylised “rose tree” represented our strength, the two flower heads represented our two children, whilst the diamonds symbolised “forever”. Being set with red rubies made it even more special, as not only is our daughter’s name Ruby Rose, but I’m a Lancashire lass, and in this piece I could wear the red rose of Lancashire with pride!

So, whether you love the old or prefer shiny and new, be sure to pick a special piece of jewellery that is simply perfect for you.

Best of Vintage Manchester 2013

Yippee!! We made it to the final three!! Delighted to have been shortlisted in the Best Supplier category again this year. Lovely that our clients and friends have got us this far….we just need to enough votes to get us the top slot…if you like what we do we would LOVE YOUR VOTE. Just click on the link and vote for Alice’s Vintage Pantry!

Thanks in advance lovely people 🙂

Here is a photo of our Alice at last year’s awards…apron off and make-up on!

Vote for Us in the Vintage Manchester 2013 Awards

Voting is now open for the Vintage Manchester 2013 Awards…we made it to finalist last year and would love to do the same again this year…so if you have a minute to spare and you like what we do, please click on this link and nominate us for the Best Event Supplier category. Thanks!!!

Alice at last years event….no sugar, flour or apron in sight!


How to Plan a Vintage Tea Party

Afternoon tea anyone? Fresh baked scones, plenty of hot tea, finger sandwiches and delicious cakes. Who doesn’t like it? Given the recent rise in popularity of afternoon teas I think the answer is not many! It seems to go down well with all ages, and works for almost any occasion….from weddings, to baby showers, birthday parties and christenings. I’m lucky enough to spend lots of time at vintage tea parties. With summer just raising its sunny head, I thought it might be a good time to share a few tips on how to go about creating your own vintage tea party….

  • Take it as far as you like. Just stick to the beautiful china and finger sandwiches or go for it with a vintage dress code, appropriate music and games from a bygone era. Vintage afternoon tea parties can be vastly different. Decide whether you are going for the country fate, pearls and lace or Mad Hatter tea party theme…accessorise accordingly.
  • Vintage china is a must…whether you borrow, buy or hire it, pretty cups and saucers, little tea-plates, teapots and embroidered table linens all need to be there. The tea somehow tastes better, guests will love choosing which cup to use, and it becomes a real talking point at the party and will make it a memorable occasion.
  • Sandwiches need to be tiny, tasty and pretty. The crusts need to come off before you got them in to triangles or fingers. Little open sandwiches
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    cut using a round or fluted pastry cutter also work well. Be sure to use a small amount of butter to stop your sandwiches going soggy, and make them at the last minute…finger sandwiches dry out very easily.

  • Use loose leaf tea…it makes a world of difference. Not just the flavour, guests will also love the novelty of using a tea-strainer to get their perfect cup of tea.
  • Depending on the size of your party, borrow extra kettles, fill flasks with boiling water, or get your hands on an urn. Plenty of hot tea is essential.
  • Bake or buy plenty of cakes…your guests will appreciate having a choice and you don’t want those cake stands looking bare…the cakes are a big part of the overall look.
  • Put bowls of fresh strawberries out, or arrange them around your cakes. A great way to add a really summery look.
  • Your tables will look gorgeous laden with pretty vintage china, think about any additional decoration you might like. Little glass vases filled with flowers. Bunting strung along the side of the table. Bird cages filled with flowers or candles. Little tea-lights or strings of pearls. Candelabras. All can be easily and cheaply brought or hired.
  • It doesn’t have to be all about the tea…a glass of something fizzy works very well with a vintage tea party. Even your alcohol can be served in teacups.
  • Use fresh flowers to help decorate the room. Hand tied, in bird cages, or in little glass vases. Go for traditional flowers such as roses, lavender and sweet-peas.

Hope these tips help get your tea party planning started…if you want a couple of recipe ideas take a look at earlier posts…


Vintage Market

Altrincham Vintage Market is one of our favourite places to pick up new items for our collection of vintage china. We were delighted to find this amongst the many treasures the market had to offer last Sunday. A little ‘Sadler’ vintage teapot…pretty blue flower design with ridge detail around the lower half of the teapot…gorgeous. This one will be making an appearance at one of our vintage tea-parties very soon.