Afternoon Tea still remains today a special occasion and a favourite thing to do to catch-up with friends, family or celebrate a special event in your life. We hope you enjoy our version of the Gin & Tonic Cake and Red Velvet Cake with a twist of Fossil Coast Gin.
This blog article provides some background into the history of the Afternoon Tea and explores two classic go-to cake recipes to try at home using our Lime Stone London Dry Gin and Red Bed flavoured gin to enhance the taste of your cake.
The History of the Afternoon Tea
Tea drinking dates back to the third millennium BC in China but it only became popular during the 1660s by the arrival of queen-consort of Charles II of England the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza. It was not for another 180 years that Afternoon Tea was to become truly a quintessentially Victorian tea-related ritual, introduced as a “mini meal” bridging the gap between lunch and an evening meal at 8pm.
Catherine de Braganza's brought a chest of tea to the English royal court. Not only was it the favourite drink of the Portuguese royals but the Portuguese had been trading with the East for tea for many years. While Catherine de Braganza did not introduced tea to Britain, she certainly influenced it becoming a fashionable and widely drunk beverage among aristocrats. This in turn led to laying the foundations for the growth of the British tea trade and the formation of The East India Company that reached Africa, South America and India. By 1663 the poet and politician Edmund Waller wrote a poem called, "On Tea" in honour of the queen for her birthday that referenced her love of tea.
On Tea by Edmund Waller 1663
Venus her Myrtle, Phoebus has his bays; Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise. The best of Queens, the best of herbs, we owe To that bold nation which the way did show To the fair region where the sun doth rise, Whose rich productions we so justly prize. The Muse's friend, tea does our fancy aid, Regress those vapours which the head invade, And keep the palace of the soul serene, Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen.
Image: Courtesy of Wikipedia
In 1840 Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, started Afternoon Tea as a ritual. It is believed that The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon and complained of a “sinking feeling” and requested that some light food and a pot of Darjeeling tea be brought to her private living quarters to help ward off her mid afternoon hunger.
The original Afternoon Tea was made up of delicate sandwiches, sweet pastries and cakes. Scones with clotted cream and jam were a feature introduced later in the twentieth century. Soon this became a routine, and the Duchess decided to invite a few of her friends to her private rooms for tea in the afternoon. A new social event was born in which the invited guests would have an opportunity to meet with friends, catch up on the latest news and events.
The Duchess was a lady-in-waiting and a lifelong friend to Queen Victoria who herself began to engage in the Afternoon Tea as ritual making it a formal occasion between 4pm and 7pm to meet with specially invited guests and dignitaries.
The idea of the Afternoon Tea was further adopted by British society and soon became a private social event governed by etiquette rules for society ladies and an opportunity to present the finest English china, linen, and silverware as fine accoutrements to be used in the service of afternoon tea. Henry James, the American novelist and, naturalized English citizen from 1915, wrote extensively about the innocence and exuberance of the New World and is quoted as saying,
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
The Lime Stone Gin & Tonic Cake
The Gin & Tonic Cake (makes 8-10 servings) is a classic showstopper made to share for Afternoon Tea and only takes 25 minutes to make with a cooking time of 1 hour and 10 minutes. The choice of using Fossil Coast Gin’s Lime Stone London Dry Gin creates a depth of flavour that leaves a wonderfully sumptuous citrus refreshing taste.
200g unsalted butter
200g castor sugar
4 medium eggs (beaten)
200g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
Grated lime zest
Syrup & Icing
125g caster sugar
100g icing sugar
125ml tonic water
3½ tsp of Lime Stone London Dry Gin
2 Limes cut into half-wheels to garnish
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Grease and line base and sides of a 900g (2lb) loaf tin. Mix butter and sugar in a glass bowl until light and fluffy and slowly add the beaten eggs and continue to mix.
Fold into the mix the flour, baking powder and lime zest, followed by the gin and pour into the loaf tin and bake for between 55min - 70min's. You will know if your cake is baked by inserting a skewer or knife into the centre of your cake, right to the base. When you pull it out, it should come away clean. If you pull it back and it has wet batter on it, or is a bit gummy, then the cake needs a bit longer in the oven.
While the cake is baking make up the sugar syrup by gently heating the caster sugar and tonic water in a small pan, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Turn up heat and boil for 1min. Spoon 2tbsp of the syrup into a small bowl and mix in 2tbsp of the gin. This mixture will be used to soak into the cake.
Once the cake is baked drizzle over the gin syrup mixture and leave to cool. Make the icing by mixing together icing sugar with remaining 1½ tbsp gin and pour over the cake and decorate with lime wheels. Leave the cake to set before serving.
The Red Bed Red Velvet Cake
The Red Velvet Cake (makes 10-12 servings) is a classic showstopper made to share for Afternoon Tea and only takes 20 minutes to make with a cooking time of 1 hour and 10 minutes. Emma Stone the award winning actress once said, “You’re a human being, you live once and life is wonderful, so eat the damn Red Velvet Cake.” The Red Velvet has contrasting layers of cake, strawberry jam and frosting and is perfect for the regal red berry blush of Red Bed. The choice of using Fossil Coast Gin’s Red Bed flavoured Gin creates a depth of flavour that leaves a wonderfully indulgent red berry taste.
150g butter (softened)
300g castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs (separated)
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 level tbsp cocoa powder
Red food paste
Pinch of salt
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 egg whites
250g castor sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp strawberry jam
A punnet of fresh strawberries
50ml Red Bed flavoured gin
Pre-heat the over to 180°C (350°F) or gas mark 4. Butter and flour the inside of two round cake tins (top and bottom) and line the base and cut parchment paper into a round the same size as the base.
Cream the butter in a large bowl until soft before adding the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, the egg yolks and continue mixing until consistent.
Sieve the flour, cornflour, baking powder and cocoa powder onto a plate. Measure the buttermilk and red food colouring until your preferred shade of red is achieved. Slowly combine the dry mixture of flour, cornflour, baking powder and cocoa powder and continue mixing until consistent. Whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form and fold into the cake mix.
In a small bowl add the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda until it bubbles and then gently fold in the cake mix. Once mixed pour equal amounts into each cake tin. Bake of 25mins-30mins until baked. You will know if your cake is baked by inserting a skewer or knife into the centre of your cake, right to the base. When you pull it out, it should come away clean. If you pull it back and it has wet batter on it, or is a bit gummy, then the cake needs a bit longer in the oven.
Pour 50ml of Red Bed flavoured gin into a small bowl and add the sliced strawberries and leave until the cake is baked and cooled.
Once baked leave to cool before inverting them on a wire rack to further cool before adding frosting and spreading a layer of jam.
To make the frosting place the egg whites, sugar, syrup, salt cream of tar tar and water into a stainless steel bain marie ensuring it does not touch the water. Whisk this mixture until soft peaks form, remove from the bain marie and add in the vanilla extract. Continue whisk for a further minute.
On both sides of the inverted cake use a palette knife to spread strawberry jam. Upon this layer of jam add a layer of sliced strawberries that have been soaking in Red Bed gin. Add a layer if frosting before placing one half of the cake on top of the others. Add an additional layer of frosting and sliced strawberries.