By Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe
This month, I would like to pay tribute to my new (future) home country and celebrate their many delicious desserts I adore. I first heard about some of them through the many British authors I enjoy. The descriptions of some of the afternoon teas from Enid Blyton’s books used to get me all excited to try them myself someday. In later years, desserts drew my eyes in movies, series and the images on the internet all got me excited until I was fortunate enough to visit the UK and taste them myself.
Join me on a culinary journey as I drool over and describe them to the best of my ability…
First, the Victorian Cream Tea, best enjoyed in a charming tea house bursting with atmosphere. My favourite is Betty’s in York. A cream tea is a charming Victorian tradition of getting together between 3 and 4 pm for a mini-meal. The story goes the afternoon tea tradition was started by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford and a close friend of Queen Victoria. She was hungry and wanted a small meal to ‘put her on’ till dinner. She soon invited her friends to join her in the tea ritual and even got Queen Victoria into the habit. The cream tea is served in 3 courses in a 3-tiered tray with a selection of sandwiches, a selection of mini cakes and some scones and clotted cream to be washed down with a cuppa of tea. Something I really enjoy.
Secondly, Scones and clotted cream. Scones have been described as drops of heaven. They can be plain, sweet, include raisins or be savoury. Plain scones are an integral part of the cream tea and often served with butter, clotted cream and strawberry jam. There is also the great scone debate – clotted cream first (Devon style) or jam first (Cornish style). The Queen herself prefers jam first but this author likes the clotted cream first. What’s your preference?
Thirdly, the heavenly Victoria Sponge Cake. It’s a two-layer sponge cake, filled with a layer of raspberry jam and whipped cream. It’s light and airy and delicious and often called the quintessential English teatime treat. It was named after Queen Victoria who was known to enjoy her sponge cake. There are variations also made with buttercream, with strawberry jam and even served with fresh fruit. There is of course the Victoria Sponge debate about which version is better. In my case, I prefer whipped cream and strawberry preserve in my Victoria sponge.
Fourthly, Clotted Cream Fudge. Clotted cream fudge is tasty, chewy fudge that dissolves in your mouth. It’s my favourite fudge and best bought in the charming historical apothecary or sweet shops in my view. Available in all the seaside towns as well. They are very rich and last forever so spread the guilt over a longish period as you savour them.
Fifthly, Sticky Toffee Pudding. This Duchess of Cambridge favourite also features among my favourites. A yummy date sponge cake served with toffee sauce, sometimes accompanied by ice cream or custard. It’s usually served warm and hence a perfect winter dessert in my view. Some of the origins point to it being introduced by Canadian soldiers but it is now firmly a British classic.
This was such a hard list to create with so many contenders, Carrot Cake, Coffee Walnut Cake, Snowballs, Eton Mess, Brandy Snaps, Strawberry Shortcake, Shortbread Cookies, Cinder Toffee all are candidates as are many other delicious British desserts. What’s on your top 5? Would you agree with my choices? I would love to hear from you….
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