Friday, July 25, 2014

Afternoon Tea at Sketch

Last week it was time for our annual summer get together to enjoy the institution that is afternoon tea. The venue this year was Sketch in London's Mayfair. I'm not really sure where you would start if you wanted to describe Sketch, it's eclectic to say the least but there is interest at every turn and if you're looking for a quirky, fun venue then this could be the place for you.
Sketch is a collection of individually designed rooms, each one a restaurant or bar...there are 6 in total. We enjoyed afternoon tea in the Gallery. The Gallery is newly refurbished with 239 of David Shrigley's drawings lining the walls. It's a pink palace of splendour and offers an opulent dining experience.
Now to the important bit...the tea itself! We went for the champagne tea served with a glass of Pommery Brut Silver. As always there were assorted sandwiches, scones and pastries and a range of teas to choose from. I went for a classic Breakfast Tea but there were plenty of alternatives including Oolong, Green, White and Herbal infusions.
To my mind, sandwiches are never the star attraction but I did particularly enjoy the warm mozzarella and pesto Croque Monsieur you can see below. The sandwich selection included smoked salmon and Jacob's cream, cucumber, ricotta and asparagus, egg and mayonnaise with quail's egg and caviar. These weren't my favourite combinations but that is probably down to personal taste as I'm more of a cheese and pickle kinda girl...I know this makes me a philistine!
Afternoon tea is really all about the cakes. The sketch pastries were pretty and petite morsels in a variety of flavours. We ate:

  • Old fashioned pistachio macaroons which were a bit coarser than a French macaroon
  • Almond and berry tartlets
  • Coffee eclairs
  • Strawberry cheesecake in a glass
  • Mousse Malabar marshmallows
  • Meringa tarta
  • Raspberry Meringue
  • Sketch Opera
All the pastries were tasty and my dining companions would probably say that the opera was their favourite. Mine was the meringa tarta. The scones were also very good, warm sultana scones served with jam and clotted cream...heaven!
The tableware followed the artistic theme which added to the quirky setting whilst still retaining an air of sophistication.
I enjoyed the raspberry meringues and marshmallows as the add a bit of a twist to traditional afternoon tea.

Ovearll, I'd recommend Sketch as much for the experience as for the afternoon tea! You can check your coat into a giant mouth, the toilets are individual eggs and you can admire the art inspired rooms. It's a glam setting and perfect if you're in London for a spot of shopping at the weekend as it's just off Regent Street...give it a go and see what you think.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

1950's Vintage Dress Cake

A few weeks ago I attended a course at the Cake Parlour with owner Zoe Clark. Zoe produces the most beautiful cakes for weddings and other occasions and also supplies Fortnum and Mason. Her latest book is Chic and Unique Vintage Cakes and this vintage dress cake is from the book along with other designs such as a Singer sewing machine.
One of the reasons I wanted to go on this course is due to the gravity-defying design. The cake is suspended on a dress makers dummy. The design is also so chic, any lady would love this cake for a birthday or special occasion. This cake requires some construction including cutting foam board, attaching a threaded rod and nuts and using a glue gun but the finished product is worth the effort. The principle can also be applied to other designs such as a Christmas tree or bird house.
The dress I made is quite 'poufy', Zoe's original is a bit more slim line which is a little more elegant. However, the more poufy, the more cake! The body for the mannequin is made in advance with lots of CMC added which allows it to set hard. The cake is carved out of three different layers of cake to give the shape and some folds were also carved in.
The skirt part of the cake is covered in sugarpaste and then the body is added on top before adding the bodice in flowerpaste. I had a little bit of a problem with the sugarpaste as it buffed up to a really shiny finish and then it didn't dry and set as you would expect, it seemed a lot stickier than normal so I ended up with a bit of a wonky hemline but it was just about rescued!
The finishing touches were the necklace which was made using a First Impressions pearl mould, the bow around the waist to cover the join and the top of the dummy with the wooden handle. I particularly like the floor boards on the cake board, they were made using the edge of a ruler to mark out the boards and then a Dresden tool to mark the grain. Finally, to give the colour, a little paste colour was mixed with water and brushed on.

This is a lovely idea for a cake from Zoe. If you want to see more of her designs, check out her books.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ghoulish Graveyard Halloween Cake

With Halloween and All Souls' Day this week I made this Ghoulish Graveyard Halloween Cake. It was fun to make and would be great to bake and decorate with kids. It would also be perfect for a Halloween party.
The recipe for this cake is from BBC GoodFood and you can find it here. It is easy to make as it's just a basic chocolate sponge cake recipe made in a 20 x 30cm tin. The resultant sponge was light and tasty. Once cool, the whole cake is covered in chocolate buttercream. I put my cake on a rectangular cake board and then covered the board in buttercream too and put a black ribbon around the edge. Alternatively if you have an appropriately sized slate or granite board this would look good too, or you could cover your cake board in black sugarpaste.
The gravestone biscuit recipe is also included on the BBC website. They are made with soft light brown sugar and lots of golden syrup. You can cut your shapes out freehand or you can also cut them out in cardboard first and use this as a template. I used a cereal box to make my templates. To add the details I used royal icing piped with a size 2 nozzle.

To construct the cake you just need some Matchmakers, Oreo cookies and some Halloween jelly sweets. The jelly sweets are usually available in supermarkets and Haribo make good ones around Halloween time. The Matchmakers should be snapped at various lengths and then pushed into the buttercream around the edge of the cake. To make the soil on top whizz the Oreos in a food processor (or you can bash them with a rolling pin in a plastic bag), when it's a fairly fine crumb, sprinkle them on top.

Finally, push the gravestones gently into the cake and add the jelly sweets for a bit of colour and to complete the ghoulish graveyard look.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Calendar Cakes - November

Welcome to this month's Calendar Cakes Challenge. So what do we have in store for you this month? The answer:
On November 9th it's British Pudding Day! Now the nights are drawing in and the days are getting colder who can resist the institution that is the Great British pud? Do you have a great pudding recipe to share, be it a steamed sponge or a bread and butter pudding we'd love to see it.

You can enter any pudding you like, it doesn't have to be British but extra brownie points for a classic. It doesn't have to be fancy either, anything you and your family enjoy. It could be for example a cake that you enjoy warm with a dollop of custard, a pavlova, a crumble, a pie or a tart etc...anyway, you get the gist. I'm a bit of a pudding fiend so whether it's hot, cold, baked, unbaked, traditional, untraditional, simple or complex, bring it on! :-)
To see the October entries head on over to Dolly Bakes where the theme was Halloween.

Entry Guidelines:
  • Post your entry on your blog and include the ‘Calendar Cakes’ logo
  • Add 'Calendar Cakes' as a label on your post.
  • Follow Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes blogs using the Google Join this Site button.
  • Add links on your post to your hosts Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes.
  • Link to your blog from here using the Linky tool below. It's dead easy...
  • If you don’t have a blog you can still join in, just email us a picture and a bit of information about your bake. Email to
  • If you're on Twitter, tweet us a link to your post @dollybakes and @lauralovesbakes - otherwise we won't see it! Use the handle #CalendarCakes.   

Calendar Cakes Challenge Rules:
  1. You can enter as many times as you like.
  2. It can be your own recipe or one you found elsewhere (please just state where you found it). 
  3. You can use old posts as long as you update them with the 'Calendar Cakes' logo and link back (see above).
  4. If you want to enter your bake into other challenges too then please feel free.
  5.  You must submit by the 30th November.