Time for tea


Mint tea and herbal infusions are now an essential part of afternoon tea


I wanted to bake the perfect cake for afternoon tea. Who better to ask than Irene Gorman, Head of the Tea Guild. According to Irene, afternoon tea is now a big business. Thanks to the Tea Guild, it’s getting bigger. The Guild is in its 25th year and promotes the crème de la crème of afternoon tea venues across the UK –  from The Ritz to ye old village tea-room.

 The days of plain old cucumber sandwiches are out – you’ll find smoked salmon and wasabi cream fillings at The Connaught in London while ‘Plump Pilgrim cakes’ – ‘a cross between scone and shortbread biscuits stuffed full of currants, orange zest, and a cherry on top’ – are best-sellers at Tiny Tim’s Tearoom in Canterbury.

 These are two of the newest venues to join The Tea Guild; both will be put forward for the prestigious Tea Guild Awards (described as the “Oscars” of the tea world) which are announced next month. Categories include the Top Tea place Award (out of London), the Top London Afternoon Tea Award, and Awards of Excellence. Winners are judged by secret tea inspectors.

 After a lovely chat to Irene about all things tea (for the record, her milk goes in after pouring), she concluded that amongst the scones and slices of Victorian sponge cake, a ‘good coffee cake’ would rate highly in her perfect line up.

I turned to Mrs Beeton’s Cookery and Household Management Book 1960, which, first published in 1861, is a comprehensive guide to running a household in Victorian Britain. It still seems unbelievable that Mrs Beeton, one of the most famous cookery writers in British history, started writing this book when she was 21 – she was to die in 1865 aged just 28 years old.

Mrs. Beeton’s coffee cake



Perfect for any afternoon tea - Mrs Beeton's Coffee Cake



  • 4oz butter/marg
  • 4oz castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 1 tsps baking powder
  • 2 tsps soluble coffee powder
  • 3 tbsp milk

(For the mocha icing)

  • 2 tsps soluble coffee powder
  • 2oz chocolate
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 3oz butter/marg
  • 1lb icing sugar


  1. Cream the fat and sugar until very light and add the eggs one at a time with a dessertspoon of flour – beat well
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and coffee powder and fold lightly into the mixture with the milk
  3. Pour into 2 greased sandwich tins and spread evenly. Bake in a fairly hot oven (375F, Gas mark 5) for 35-40 min. until firm. Cool

To make the mocha icing:

  1. Dissolve coffee powder and grated chocolate in the almost boiling water
  2. Cream the margarine and 2 tbsp of the sugar. Beat well
  3. Add the rest of the sugar and liquid alternately, beating until smooth and easy to spread
  4. Cut the 2 cakes across in half, and sandwich the halves together with some of the icing, spreading the rest of the icing on the top and sides and frost or ‘rough up’ with a fork

  • There’ll be afternoon tea blog special next month following the announcement of the Tea Guild Awards Winners 2010
Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 6:37 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Jessica,
    Have just been looking at the recipes on here – they all look scrumptious! Think I’ll make myself a cup of mint tea now, actually…
    Take care,
    Carol. xx.

  2. Your pictures and recipes are causing me severe hunger pangs.

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