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…

Enjoy!

Mere Court Wedding Fayre

Wow, what a fab day we had at Mere Court Wedding Fayre! Thanks to all you lovely people who came along to see us and try our cake. We talked vintage china, cake tables, afternoon tea catering and tiered wedding cakes…all very exciting. Here are a couple of photos from our table….To hire our china or book a cake table for your wedding, click here to get in touch.

A couple of chances to try our goodies….

Thinking about booking a vintage tea party? If you are thinking about booking a vintage tea party with us and would like to sample our cakes and see our vintage china we have two fab events coming up for you to pop along to.

Cake in the City

Saturday 9th February (1pm-3pm) we will be at this fantastic event being held at an exclusive boutique style private members bar in the heart of Media City. A chance to relax in the most amazing bar, sample our cakes (and fill up on them!) and chat to other cake lovers (or the friends you bring with you), and get yourself FREE membership to Manchester Cake Club. ‘On the 7th’ is the venue, not normally somewhere you can visit without membership…so now is your chance. Tickets are just £10 (bargain!) – for more information or to book email us tea@alicesvintagepantry.co.uk (tickets are limited).

Oasis in the City

On Sunday 24th March we will be at The Parsonage Trust in Didsbury running the pop-up tea room at this shoppers paradise event. The beautiful building will be packed with stalls offering you the chance to indulge in a bit of retail therapy, get a bit of pampering, enjoy tea and cake and pop in on the regular ‘How to’ sessions. It will be the opportunity to buy from lots of vendors who you won’t find on the high street.

 

If you can’t make these dates and you would still like to try our goodies and meet us before booking an event, we will happily come and meet you and bring cake samples with us.

Get in touch to find out more.

A Year in Pictures

So its December again! We’ve just been looking back over this year, amazed by how many different types of events our vintage china, home-baked cakes and vintage tea parties have been used for…weddings, christenings, birthdays of all ages (from one to eighty), tea with friends, a leaving party, baby showers, charity events, family gatherings and a ladybird ball. We made it to the final three in two categories in the Vintage Manchester Awards and have made some fabulous new friends. We’ve raised money for charity, we’ve blogged, we’ve added lots and lots more gorgeous china to our collection. Much more to come next year…including a party to celebrate an MBE…very excited about the year ahead! To book your vintage tea party or hire our vintage china just get in touch. A few photos from this year….

 

Vintage Cake Table

Planning a vintage wedding? Or just want to do something a bit different and very pretty? Take a look at this Vintage Cake Table we supplied a few weeks ago…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bride and groom wanted something a little different to the more traditional wedding cake, so we created this for them. Our gorgeous cake stands piled high with lots of our yummy cakes.
It looked divine and guests loved choosing their favourite vintage tea-plate and then filling it with their favourite cake. So if your stuck on which cake to go for then go for them all! Contact us to find out more.

Fantastic Ginger Cake!!

We’ve been busy bees for the last few months, lots of tea parties to bake for, china to shop for and weddings to plan. The last two days have been a little quieter so we have found time to try out a few recipes we have had our eye on for a while. This one is our favourite…delicious and a great time of year to be baking with treacle and ginger. We found it in an old (ish) copy of the BBC Good Food Magazine and couldn’t resist sharing it. Hope you like it as much as we do.

Ginger Cake with a Caramel Frosting

  • 200g butter
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 100g black treacle
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 300mls milk
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Few chunks of crystallised ginger, chopped

For the frosting:

  • 85g butter
  • 175ml double cream
  • 175g caster sugar

Heat the oven to 160c, gas mark 3. Butter and line a 23cm round cake tin. Put the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large pan and gently heat, stirring until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 mins.

Stir in the eggs and milk, then sift in the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda. Mix well then pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 50mins – 1hr until the cake is firm to the touch an springs back when pressed in the centre. Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn out on a wire rack to cool.

Put the frosting ingredients in a small pan over a medium heat and stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Increase the heat and boil hard for 3-4 mins, stirring occasionally, at this stage the frosting should look like runny custard. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool for 30 mins. Beat with an electric whisk until thick and spreadable. Spread over the cooled cake and decorate with crystallised ginger.

Yum! xx

 

Breakfast Bar Recipe – Packing a Healthy Lunchbox

 

Goodness, the summer holidays really do feel like a distant memory. Anyone else finding it really hard to get back in to the routine of school, nursery and after school activities? And the school run…I had forgotten how long it takes to get four children fed, cleaned, dressed and out the door (well one can do most of that himself, but don’t underestimate the amount of shouting it takes to get it done –who said kids are easier as they grow up?!). The last week of the holidays was spent finding, buying, washing and labelling uniform, shoes and all the other bits of kit – and now we pretty much need to re-mortgage the house to pay for it all. Anyway final bits of sorting done, coats located and dusted down, shoes lined up in the hall and umbrellas at the ready. So time for the packed lunches….

They may seem similar, but packed lunches are a whole different ball game to a summer picnic – children are eating them every day so they need to be healthy, nutritious and they need to provide some variety to stop the little ones getting fed up with them. Cocktail sausages and cake just aren’t going to cut it on a daily basis. Away from my normal role of cake provider and connoisseur of all things sweet and sugary, I thought I better put my sensible Mum hat on and have a think about how to give my children a decent packed lunch with a yummy but healthy treat in it. For inspiration I’ve had a peek around the internet, chatted to friends and put together the following ideas. I’ve also given the lovely Nigella’s breakfast bar recipe a go… it’s delicious and full of seeds and fruit…a great alternative to chocolate and crisps for a lunchbox…recipe and photos below.

My lunchbox tips:

  • Bread sandwiches can get a bit boring, and some kids won’t eat an ordinary sandwich, try using pitta bread or wraps for a change.
  • Get a cracker selection box and let your kids pick two each day.
  • Try and go for wholemeal bread products where you can.
  • Include cut up peppers, carrots and cucumber – vary how you cut them up (sticks, circles etc)
  • Instead of a sandwich include pasta. Eating pasta for dinner? Save a portion for the lunchboxes the following day. Chicken and pesto works well.
  • Give them a treat every now and again – maybe on a Friday – pretzels or similar are a good low sugar alternative to crisps.
  • Cut the sandwiches using different shaped pastry cutters to keep it interesting. If sandwiches are just not going down well, no reason why you can’t put bread and butter in the lunch box and some cooked chicken or chunks of cheese.
  • Include a piece of fruit but don’t just stick to an apple – try chunks of pineapple, slices of melon or quartered oranges. Make is fairly easy for them to eat. If you have time make a fruit salad – squeeze a little lemon juice over it to help prevent it spoiling before lunch time.
  • Include some nuts, seeds or dried fruit in a small paper bag or sandwich bag…my children’s preference is for walnuts, try different things, there is probably something they like.

And as for Nigella’s recipe…she describes it as ‘milk and cereal in a bar form’, so go for it…you could enjoy one with a cuppa whilst you wish you were back on summer holidays (or not!).

Nuts & seeds

Ingredients

  • 397 grams condensed milk
  • 250 grams rolled oats
  • 75 grams desiccated coconut
  • 100 grams dried cranberries
  • 125g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
  • 125g natural, unsalted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 130c/gas mark ½ and oil a 22x33x4cm baking tin.

Warm the condensed milk in a large pan.

Nuts, berries & seeds

Mix together all the other ingredients and then add the warmed condensed milk, using a rubber or wooden spatula to fold and distribute.

Spread the mixture into the tin and press down with the spatula or your hands.

Bake for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and, after about 15 minutes, cut into four across and four down to make 16 chunky bars. Let cool completely.

For an even healthier version replace the condensed milk with soy milk and a little brown sugar. Use any dried fruit and seeds you like.

Roll on October half term…

Originally published on www.4manchesterwomen.co.uk

 

50th Birthday Party

Thought I would share these photos with you…taken before guests tucked in to this delicious afternoon tea at a 50th birthday party earlier today. Happy Birthday Sam!

 

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