Summer Garden PartyJune 18, 2014
There’s something about bite-size bakes, dainty sandwiches and cream-laden scones that makes afternoon tea irresistible. China cups and saucers, loose leaf tea, some pretty bunting fluttering in the breeze – it doesn’t take much to make the occasion really elegant and you needn’t venture far either – when the summer sun is shining, what better setting for a posh tea party than a beautifully dressed table on your own lawn?
Your garden furniture can be easily spruced up with an artfully placed tablecloth, pretty napkins and sophisticated crockery, so dust off your cake stand and make it the centrepiece of your table. An eye-catching teapot will fit the bill too, especially when teamed with exquisite teacups patterned with beautiful flowers – there’s a real trend at the moment for mismatched cups and saucers in porcelain or fine china and charity shops are a great source for these. Add the finishing touches with ornate napkin rings, cake slice and sugar bowl.
To make guests feel welcome, make sure the table is laid with sugar and milk, and be ready to pour everyone a refreshing cuppa when they sit down. As well as traditional English breakfast tea, other varieties such as Earl Grey, peppermint, camomile and fruit flavours are ideal. On hotter days, iced tea makes a more refreshing tipple, while guests may prefer to cool off with an iced cordial or a sparkling summer refresher.
In terms of food, delicate sandwiches, delicious cakes and perfect petit fours provide a scrumptious selection when arranged on a classic cake stand. Scones are a foolproof way of ensuring the occasion is filled with traditional teatime charm. They’re best eaten on the day they’re baked, they don’t take very long to make and they are wonderful teamed with lashings of home-made jam presented in a pretty bowl or rustic jar.
When it comes to the sandwiches, a subtle twist on the ordinary can work wonders – one of our favourites is pesto bread which infuses a traditionally baked loaf with wonderful Italian flavours. Get a head start by preparing the fillings in advance, but don’t assemble them until just before you’re ready to eat or you’ll end up with a platter of soggy sarnies! And remember, if you want your party to be a really sophisticated affair, make sure you cut off those crusts!
Why not try some home baking with the help of our recipes? Fruit tartlets filled with mini mouthfuls of exotic fruit or elegant cupcakes infused with the flavours of summer. Individual portions are key, so stay away from large cakes and take inspiration from childhood finger food favourites – shortbread and biscuits can both be made in less than an hour. Take inspiration from our collection below.
What you need
- 250g ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry
- Zest of 1 orange
- 75ml fresh, ready-made custard
- 1 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
- 2 slices firm mango
- 24 blueberries
- 12 raspberries
- 6 blackberries
- 3-4 stems redcurrants
- 2 strawberries, cut into quarters
- 150g apricot jam
What you do
- Mix the orange zest into the pastry and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
- Divide the pastry into 24 pieces and roll into balls. Place in the wells of the tin and use the pusher to press into shape then prick the bases and sides with a fork. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges. Cool in the tin then carefully loosen from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Place about half a teaspoon of custard in each case. Use a small flower-shaped cutter to cut shapes out of the kiwi and mango. Arrange an assortment of various fruits on top of each tart.
- Heat the jam and sieve to remove any lumps. Using a teaspoon, spoon a little over each tart then use a pastry brush to cover all the fruit.
Tip: These tarts are best eaten on the day they are made.
What you need
- 125g unsalted butter
- 150g golden caster sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 50ml Pimm’s
- 150g self-raising flour
- 50g unsalted butter, softened
- 400g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp Pimm’s
- 1 tbsp milk
- To decorate
- 6 small strawberries, sliced
- 12 mint leaves
What you do
- Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
- To make the cupcakes, cream the butter and sugar with the zest until light and fluffy. Combine the eggs and Pimm’s then add one third of this to the butter mixture with 1 tablespoon of flour, mix well and repeat twice. Add the remaining flour and mix well.
- Divide the cupcake mix between the cupcake cases and level the tops.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until they are golden on top and spring back when lightly pressed with a finger. Remove from the pan, place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- To make the buttercream, beat all the ingredients together until smooth, transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe onto the cakes. Top with strawberry slices and use a small sharp knife to push a mint leaf into the top of each cake.