“Puttin’ on the Ritz”


Last week it was my Mum’s Birthday. Normally it’s quite tricky to think of nice things to do – my Mum is a very busy lady and doesn’t really like a lot of fuss; a spa day or manicure would actually be her worst nightmare.

In December I was hooked on watching “Inside Claridges” on BBC2 but there was no time to pop back to London let alone book a table anywhere. Instead I spied a jolly looking tea set in the dresser and decided to make a swish afternoon tea for her at home.

Mum's Birthday Tea

Mum’s Birthday Tea

Designing the menu didn’t take too long. She much prefers classic, simple flavours so I went with cheese & tomato and cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches. But, just for good measure I cut the crusts off and made them lengthways like they do at those fancy hotels – well that’s what I think it said in the documentary and in this lovely little book on Afternoon Tea from the Ritz.


She also likes a cake called “Morning Buns” which they only make at Jarrold‘s restaurant but I didn’t have the required 6 hours for the round trip to Norwich either and I suspect the recipe is a closely guarded secret! In their place I made some rock cakes from a Dan Lepard recipe and they turned out brilliantly and very close to what I wanted (I used 160g of sultanas and a dash of vanilla extract in my batch).

Rock Cakes

For a splash of colour I made some mini fruit tarts. I only had about an hour to make everything (so whipping up a batch of Crème Pâtissière was not an option). Instead I made a little bit of vanilla butter cream to put into the bottom of the tart shells – just enough to prevent the fruit from falling out! There wasn’t quite enough time to sieve the apricot jam or wash up the pastry brush after the egg washing either so I just encouraged the warmed, lumpy jam to vaguely cover the fruit with a teaspoon (ssshhh, I hope there are no Roux brothers reading this!). I think I got away with it, they tasted lovely and took a fraction of the time of the real thing:

Fresh Fruit TartsFruit Tarts

Makes 12

150g plain flour

75g of unsalted butter, diced

1 egg beaten

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

2-3 drops of vanilla extract

cold water to bind

For the buttercream:

50g of unsalted butter at room temperature

icing sugar to taste

2-3 drops of vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 tablespoon of apricot jam

2 kiwi fruits

handful of grapes (or any berry fruit you prefer)

1) Place the flour and the butter in a bowl and rub together with your finger tips until the mixture looks like fresh breadcrumbs and the butter is evenly distributed.

2) Stir in the sugar, vanilla and half of the beaten egg.

3) Slowly, adding a little at a time, pour in some cold water. Mix until the dough comes together.

4) Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it and to allow it to rest a little.

5) Dust the work surface with flour and then roll out the dough to about 5mm thickness and cut into circles using a fluted cutter.

6) When all the tart cases are ready for baking brush them with the remaining egg wash and bake at 150-170°C for 15-20minutes or until lightly golden.

7) Place them on a wire rack to cool while you make the butter cream and slice the fresh fruit.

8) Mix the butter with a fork as you add dessertspoonfuls of icing sugar (I used about 2) and beat well after each addition until smooth. Taste it to check it is sweet enough and then mix in the vanilla extract.

9) When the pastry shells are cool place a small amount of the butter cream (about 1/2 a teaspoonful) into each one and then top with the sliced fruits.

10) Gently warm the jam (and sieve it if you have time) and brush the jam over the fruit to glaze.

11) Serve immediately

Fruit Tarts

Finally; the Birthday cake. Mum and Dad are still swamped in festive leftovers, there’s over half a Christmas cake still knocking around so I thought making a whole sponge cake would be decidedly unhelpful at this point. Instead I made individual muffin sized sponges, flavoured with caraway seeds and topped with lemon icing. A single candle in each one signified the celebration.

Seed Cake Birthday Cake!

Everything was washed down with lashings of tea from a proper pot and afterwards we escaped to St. Mary Mead by watching Miss Marple DVDs… but now I’m thinking we should have been watching Jeeves and Wooster instead – check this out Mum you’ll love it:

Say it with Cake


First, an apology. I promised a fellow Platter user that I would post my Avocado & hazelnut cakes recipe following this picture but I completely forgot! Sorry.

Chocolate, Avocado & Hazelnut

Chocolate, Avocado & Hazelnut Cakes

Follow Delia Smith’s all-in-on sponge recipe but replace butter for the same weight of avocado (which you blend to a smooth purée) and a heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder. Spoon into bun cases and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
The quenelle-like piles of icing are made from ground hazelnuts, a tablespoon of cocoa powder and it’s sweetened with a tablespoon of golden syrup and about 20g of butter….or you could just use nutella!

This week has seen much more cake than a few chocolate buns. Right now it appears to be everyone’s birthday! Ok, well not quite everyone but 3 very lovely ladies I know.

Cinnamon Buns

First it was Ruth’s turn (who I met through Richard when they performed together last year in Othello at the Rose on Bankside) and a surprise brunch birthday party. I knew there was going to be a birthday cake there but I still felt I should bring something to the table. In times of brunch, bread based products are always a winner and if a culinary question is ever bread related I expect Dan Lepard will have the right answer. So, I made his Cinnamon Buns and they turned out wonderfully- thanks Dan!!

Cinnamon Buns

Have a go at them too, I highly recommend it: Dan Lepard’s Cinnamon Buns Recipe

Set Design Cake

That same day, straight from the surprise brunch we hopped over the Thames to see Rhodora (my stylist!) and celebrate her birthday too. She’s all about the stage management right now, so it was obvious to us that she needed to have a set design cake!

Photo 25-11-2012 16 19 07

Photo 25-11-2012 16 15 04The base is chocolate fudge cake (recipe from Victoria Glass) and then the icing is Mary Berry’s Sacher Torte topping (including the apricot jam) . The flats were made from chocolate and chocolate fingers and the backdrop and proscenium arch are made from the ginger bread husbands recipe in this book from the Ritz Hotel.


Stained glass using boiled sweets
Photo 25-11-2012 16 57 39

Word of warning; if you want to make the cinnamon buns and the theatre cake one evening, just so you know, start early. We didn’t get to work until go 10pm so it was getting on for 2:30am when we finally hit the hay.

Colouring-in Party

No time to rest, the next day was Helen’s birthday! Helen is an animation director, so a slice of sponge cake and a DVD just wouldn’t do. So I made her a woodland colouring in party! First I decorated our living room using tissue paper and branches from the garden. I made some cardboard owls and then I painted trees onto disposable paper tablecloths with black poster paint and stuck them on the walls.


silver birch tree

Next I drew some woodland creatures onto white plates using these pens which become dishwasher safe if baked at 170C. Hurrah. For dinner I poached chicken, mashed potato and steamed some cauliflower so that the meal would be comprised of white food. I did this so that she could colour in her meal with a palette of sauces.

Photo 26-11-2012 20 33 23Photo 26-11-2012 20 01 41Photo 26-11-2012 19 24 45

It sort of worked and tasted pretty jolly, even if it looked a little bizarre! The sauces I made were (clockwise from top to bottom) Beetroot & Cream Cheese Purée, Roasted Red Pepper Pesto, Spiced Carrot Purée, Saffron Mayonnaise, Salsa Verde and Black Olive Tapenade.

I felt she hadn’t worked quite hard enough for her meal so she had to colour in the leaves on her birthday cake too!

Helen in icing mode

Finished Cake

Happy Birthday Everyone!

Me & Helen, and some Owls!