> The Beesley Buzz: The Great Denby Cake Off: My Perfect Afternoon tea bakes

The Great Denby Cake Off: My Perfect Afternoon tea bakes

Ever noticed how a cup of tea helps to make things seem better. Perhaps it's because by stopping to have a cup of tea we are saying that we matter. We are taking a few moments out of our busy lives and non-stop schedules, whether that be by ourselves or enjoying a cuppa with friends. 

And what better way of truly celebrating the simple yet special moment of enjoying an cup of tea than to enjoy it with cake and make it a proper occasion of afternoon tea.

Denby's challenge is to 'bake the perfect afternoon tea delight' and who would have thought just how tricky it would be to create a single favourite cakey delight.

Indeed when I think of afternoon tea, I think of vintage tables and chairs, bunting, and a three tiered cake stand with a variety of pretty cakes and things to eat. 

For me, part of what makes the occasion of afternoon tea so special is the choice of cakes. And I like the cakes to be small enough to actually try one of each so you really do get to have your cake and eat it, so to speak.

I also wanted my cakes ideally to be based on British classics. So I've created my own twist on three baked delights: a Victoria sponge; the European-sounding, but British-created Battenberg cake; and not-so-British Florentines, but with a British-inspired chocolatey design on them.

I chose to make the Florentines because I've adapted them to make them gluten free. Several people I know suffer from coeliac disease or are gluten intolerant and it wouldn't be fair to invite them over for afternoon tea if they can't join in the fun of eating the baked treats too.

Look out for my own flavour twists in these recipes too!

The most complicated recipe to make was the miniature Battenbergs because they were really quite fiddly (and time consuming) to put together. But they look so pretty and were so popular (Miss T kept coming back for more) that I'm glad I put the effort in.
Miss T kept pinching the mini Battenberg cakes!
The other two recipes are simpler so bear with me!

Saffron and rose flavoured miniature Battenberg cakes
The Battenberg cake originated in the United Kingdom when it was made by the Royal household to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's grand-daughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg.

Making the actual sponges is fairly straight forward especially as it is an all-in-one mixture (no need to beat the sugar, butter and eggs first). But do allow enough time to assemble them. It can be a little fiddly to make such cute little Battenberg cakes. 

3 eggs
175g butter
175g caster sugar
140g self-raising flour
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of saffron strands (ground to a powder and mixed into a tiny splash of water)
50g ground almonds
half a tsp baking powder
1 tsp rose water
pink food colouring

Ingredients for the assembly:
1 pack white marzipan
apricot jam

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line your cake tins. 
2. With the exception of the saffron, pink food colouring and rose water, beat together all the other ingredients.
3. Then split the mixture into two bowls.
4. Into one of the bowls of mixture, add the saffron and mix well. This will make it look a yellow / slightly orange colour.
5. Into the other bowl add the rose water and the food colouring to make it look pink and smell lovely. 
6. Pour the mixture into the two tins and bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.(you can do the skewer check to make sure it is cooked through).
7. Now for the tricky bit. You need to cut each sponge into very neat and tidy segments of the same size. I have bought a ruler I use for cookery and this ruler came in very handy! 
8. Mix a little warm water that had been previously boiled into the apricot jam and mix to make it a little thinner. 
9. Use the jam as 'glue' and glue together 4 of the mini Battenberg pieces to give that chequered effect. Cover the sides (not the ends) with more apricot jam. Then cover with pieces of marzipan rolled into long strips and cut to approximately the right size. 
10. For these mini Battenbergs, each of the cakes was about 4cm long and the marzipan length needed for each was around 10.5cm. I used my trusty ruler to measure (and then pressed the edge into the marzipan and used the ruler to cut straight lines). 
11. I used kitchen scissors to tidy up the edges where needed. It worked far better than trying to trim with a knife. 

Gluten free Union Jack pistachio Florentines
When we made florentines a couple of months ago for the first time ever, we were pleasantly surprised at just how straightforward they are to make, yet they look beautifully impressive and look so delicate and pretty. They are perfect for afternoon tea because they are a light enough treat to eat without filling you up too much. 

As I already said, I wanted to make these gluten free but you can use plain flour instead of rice flour if you don't wish to make them gluten free. 

50g butter
50g light brown miscavado sugar
50g golden syrup
50g rice flour
25g dried cranberries
25g candied peel
25g almonds
25g pistachios
half a tsp ginger powder 

Ingredients to decorate: 
55g dark chocolate
40g white chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 or 3 baking trays with baking paper. Then prepare the dried fruit and nuts by chopping them ready.
2. Then melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan on the hob. This only takes a few minutes which is why you need the other ingredients ready. I usually forget to do this and then panic trying to chop the fruit and nuts quickly. 
3. Once the butter, sugar and golden syrup have melted, remove from the hob. Add the rice flour to the pan and mix. Then add in all the other other ingredients. The pistachios and ginger are my little twist to the recipe as I adore pistachios. 
4. Place small spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking trays. Leave plenty of space between them as they will spread and remember you will only need very small dollops of the mixture. 
5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. 
6. leave to cool a little until they can be removed easily from the baking paper. Then using scissors cut them into rectangle shapes. 
7. Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl above a pan of warm water on the hob. Then spread over the back (flat side) of each florentine. Leave to set.
8. Melt the white chocolate as above. Then pour into a piping bag you can make yourself from greaseproof paper. Pipe on a Union Jack style design onto the dark chocolate. Leave to set. 

Heart shaped mini Victoria sponge cakes and strawberries. 
The recipe here is for a classic victoria sponge cake, the victoria sponge being named after Queen Victoria who enjoyed a piece of sponge cake with her afternoon tea. A victoria sponge can be filled with either whipped cream or a butter icing / buttercream style filling. My kids adore butter icing so I used that, although fresh cream would also taste amazing especially with the fresh strawberries. 

Miss T helped to make the Victoria sponge cakes...
115g caster sugar
115g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
115g butter

Ingredients for the filling:
70g icing sugar
50g butter
a drop of vanilla extract
(Beat together the icing sugar, butter and vanilla extract to make a butter icing. )
Strawberry jam
Strawberries to place on top. 

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a cake tin. I use a fry light spray to grease the tin as it is a speedy way of doing it. 
2. Mix together the cake ingredients in a bowl. This is again a really straightforward cake to make because it is an all-in-one method of mixing everything at the same time. Because this recipe uses self-raising flour and baking powder, you are not trying to beat any extra air into it, so as soon as the ingredients are combined, you can stop mixing. 
3. Spoon into the tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. 
4. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
5. When cool, using a heart cutter, cut out heart shapes.
6. Then assemble by cutting each heart in half and spreading a layer of jam and then piping on some of the butter icing. On top of each, pipe a small blob of butter icing, then top with half a strawberry. You can use the strawberries' natural heart shape to accentuate the heart shape of the cakes. 
7. You can also sieve on a little icing sugar if desired. 

The afternoon tea:
A couple of years ago during Jubilee year, the boys each decorated a Jubilee plate and so I've used these with a cup placed between them to make a home-made cake stand for my afternoon tea, together with another cup and further small plate on top for the final third tier. 

So there you have it, my perfect afternoon tea...A choice of mini saffron and rose battenbergs, Heart-shaped victoria sponge cakes, and gluten-free pistachio and ginger florentines. 
The only thing missing is the perfect person to enjoy afternoon tea with...Mary Berry herself. Oh hang on a minute, we did get to have afternoon tea with her last Saturday but that's a whole other story! 

This is my entry into the Denby Cake-Off. You can find out more here. 


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