Afternoon Tea in the Garden

Laura is the eldest of four daughters in the family.  When all four are at home with the parents in the beautiful Cotswolds, they like to join their mother in baking tasty treats for the family.

Following several days of soaking up the warm sun and summery countryside air, Laura and Philippa decided to put together their first Afternoon Tea of the Summer….

“We enjoyed a selection of sandwiches – egg mayonaise, beef pastrami, horseradish & rocket, and ham and chutney – before spreading a little raspberry jam over the light, freshly-baked scones. But the masterpiece of our tea was our take on The Hummingbird Bakery’s Early Grey Tea Cupcakes, taken from the Cake Days recipe book. We were contemplating substituting the Early Grey Tea with Yorkshire Tea (the only blend of standard English tea allowed in the house) but we wanted to be a little more adventurous. So, from the assortment of teas we had in our cupboard, we selected the Rooibos and Vanilla tea by Dragonfly Tea – a favourite of our mother’s. It worked a treat. We succeeded in creating a new twist on the classic vanilla cupcake, something with a little more flavour that was added due to the slight smokiness of the Rooibos tea.”

Laura and Phili look forward to many more sunny days and delightful rounds of Afternoon Tea in the Garden. They have also made it their quest to sample the Afternoon Tea menu of as many Oxfordshire establishments as possible. Recommendations?

Voilà the recipe:

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

For the sponge:

3 Earl Grey teabags

3tbsp just-boiled water

80g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened

280g (10 oz) caster sugar

240g (8 ½ oz) plain flour

1tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

200ml (7fl oz) whole milk

2 large eggs

For the frosting:

50ml (1 ¾ fl oz) whole milk

500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar

160g (5 ½ oz) unsalted butter, softened

One or two 12-hole deep muffin tins

  1. Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5, and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.
  4. Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
  6. While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.
  7. Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.
  8. Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife

(Thanks Laura Ashley for typing up the recipe!)

We halved the mixture, being quite precise until it came to the teabags. We used the ratio given – 1 tbsp boiled water to a teabag – but we used 2 tbsp for half the quantity and would recommend using 4 for a full batch in order to get the full flavour of the rooibos coming through.