I was published again this month in Vintage Life magazine, and while it's an utter thrill to see my articles and recipes in print, this time around I'm rather disappointed (and it's not the first time...) The article I wrote has been shortened without me being asked first and the recipe sadly has been misprinted. I am therefore providing both the full article and you can find the recipe here. I hope you enjoy it!
When I was a child - like many children - I loved throwing tea parties for my huge variety of toys. Even though all the cups were plastic and the teapot was empty, I imagined I was laying out the finest bone china, the tea was some exotic blend I hadn’t even heard of, and the toys were served delicious cakes and delectable sandwiches (see I was a foodie even then). My teddies and dollies were in their Sunday best and on their best behaviour - probably the only time both they and I were! As I grew and played with my enviable collection of Barbie and Sindy dolls (and Disney Princess dolls - they were always my favourite) I made them have dinner and tea parties with each other rather than me hosting it for them - me hosting would have been just plain weird. Now I’m grown up (in body at least), I still yearn for those days of having tea parties so have to force them on friends and family. There is still something so magical for me about that tea party spread; tiny morsels of cake and finger sandwiches as if made for pixies, the heavenly scent of sugar and tea or coffee hanging in the air and beautiful crockery adorning the table. It always feels to me that there is fairy dust enveloping everything and I am swept back to being a child playing make-believe with my toys. Although now I’m not dressed in my Super Ted pyjamas, I’m dressed in an elegant frock imagining it’s 1952 - I’m still playing make believe to a certain extent.
One of my favourite things to eat as a child was a fondant fancy, which is also known as a French fancy. They fascinated me with their colours (the pink and yellow ones at least, the brown ones were pretty dull), their soft interior and sweet and slightly crunchy exterior. They were definitely one of the more magical treats we had as children. Most of us know them as one of Mr Kipling’s “exceedingly good” cakes, and the eponymous cake maker is credited with introducing this little coquettish confection to Britain in 1967.
I realise there are a lot of steps in making these fancies, including an abundance of putting in and taking out of the fridge, but these steps are so crucial. Chilling the cake ensures a smooth coating of buttercream. Gluten-free cakes are typically more crumbly than regular wheat flour cakes, so in order to coat the sides of your fancies and not destroy half the cake in the process; chill, chill, chill. Whilst these are notoriously tricky to get right (does anyone recall the technical challenge on the Bake Off) when you do, they truly are some of the most delicious and magical treats you could want on your tea party table. Try not to touch the sides too much when you ice them to ensure there are no fingerprints; you want a neat and smooth finish.
I would recommend serving these gorgeous little pixie cake treats alongside a Victoria Sponge (see issue 82 for my recipe), lashings of tea and some gluten-free finger sandwiches (crusts removed, of course) stuffed with smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber (obviously), egg mayonnaise and the perennial favourite, cheese and pickle. You could also include the very traditional coronation chicken - purportedly created in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation which was originally made by poaching chicken with aromatics, then dressing the cooked, cooled and shredded meat in a combination of softened onions, curry powder, tomato puree, wine and water, seasoning, sugar and lemon juice which is simmered and cooled, then has mayonnaise and apricot puree folded through and finished with whipped cream. The more modern version is rather easier where the chicken is coated with a blend of mayonnaise, mango chutney, curry powder, lime or lemon zest and juice and seasoning.
This spread is almost certainly more than I could have dreamed of as a child, but creating it now allows me to get that little magic spark back. Like Roald Dahl said “those who do not believe in magic will never find it”, and with this vintage-inspired tea party I definitely believe in magic and I hope you will too.