Mother’s Day is this Sunday in the US and Canada. Are you ready? My mom lives across the country so my preparation in minimal. I have my card in the post, and was given strict instructions not to send a gift. Now that she has discovered Skype, what she desires most on Mother’s Day is to see my face.
For those of you blessed to have Mother living within driving distance, it can be a struggle to decide how to celebrate the day with her. Since it is Tea Tuesday, might I suggest that you try a tea party. Your heritage might be somehow linked to the British Empire, but I think I am safe in saying that Moms generally appreciate any meal they don’t have to cook, particularly if sweets are involved. If you have siblings with little girls, you can gather the whole troop together, and let the kids experience a fun version of tea.
Tea Time Ritual Recap
Each week I host Tea Tuesday, a virtual tea party which was inspired by Christine, a follower who lives in France, who was curious about English tea traditions. The British may have failed miserably in other culinary areas, but they excel in the tea ritual.
- History and difference between Afternoon and High Tea
- Mind your manners: tea etiquette
- The English Tea Store Blog Quizzes: Are you a Serious or Smart Alecky Tea Drinker?
What to Serve at Tea
The following are the types of items you will find at tea which might inspire you for Mother’s Day. I offer a new recipe each week, so check out and bookmark Online Guide to Afternoon Tea to keep up to date.
Anatomy of a Tea Party
You don’t have to invest a great deal of money or effort in putting together a memorable tea for Mom. Sadly, if you have not already made a reservation at a tea house, you aren’t likely to get one. But they can be busy, rushed and not at all relaxing. I think the secret to Mother’s Day is to remember that moms generally just want to spend some time with you and the family.
Tea for Mum can be as simple as cream tea which is simply scones, served with clotted cream and tea. A nice table cloth, mismatched tea cups, plates and a nice pot of tea. My Abbey Cooks Scone recipe will have fresh scones on the table in 30 minutes, and the recipe can be adapted in a number of ways.
If you think you would like to attempt an afternoon tea, start with the scones, and try adding a few other recipes to build a tea tray. You can serve the tea meal on separate plates, but the tradition of the stacked tray still remains. The stacked tea tray is a trilogy of savouries, scones and sweets, and is generally organized in this manner:
- Top Level: The smaller top level holds the Scones.
- Middle level should hold the sweets and fruits.
- Bottom level holds the savouries and finger sandwiches
The order in which you eat from the tray is the order in which you normally eat your meal: savouries first, scones next and sweets last…UNLESS there are hot scones, and then the order changes to scones, savouries, then sweets.
You can likely manage the sandwiches easily enough, and if pressed can fill in the sweets level of the tea tray with your mom’s favorite sweets from your local bakery. The key is to ensure bite sized pieces.
The opening photo for today’s post comes from Bird’s Party who shared Enchanted Events and Design’s great ideas for a Mother’s Day Mother and daughter tea party. This will allow you to include three generations into the mix and perhaps your daughters will treat you to the same when they grow up.
I seem to have accumulated a hodge podge of tea cups, little plates and tea pots over the years, but if you have been inspired by the idea of tea for Mom, but don’t have the necessary cups or plates, don’t despair, help could be as close as your local Goodwill or other charity store. Great bargains and you are helping a great cause.
How to Make Tea
Don’t get too stressed about making tea, particularly since tea is now conveniently sold in tea bags. To distinguish yourself as a tea aficionado, just follow the time-honoured tradition of first warming the tea pot. Add a bit of boiling water to the pot, give it a swirl and pour it out before adding your tea. Then add the boiling water, and steep tea for 3 or 4 minutes and don’t let the tea steep too long or it will become bitter.
If you go with loose tea, the general guideline is to allow for 1 tsp per person, 1 tsp for the pot, and allow 10 ounces per person. Use a tea strainer and pour into cups. You may wish to fill your tea pot with tap water, pour into a measuring cup to determine how many cups your pot will hold.
There are many tea recipes which are quick and easy to make, including today’s recipe, Eccles Cakes. Not really a cake, but a puff pastry pocket filled with currants and mixed peel. If you are a stickler for tradition, this is a great recipe to give authenticity to your tea tray. If you watch Coronation Street they are always served at Roy’s Rolls. Lord D loves them but hasn’t had them in years…until I came along.
The name comes from Eccles, the town near Manchester where the cake was originally sold on a commercial basis. In 1793 James Birch’s shop on the corner of Vicarage Road in Eccles began selling small, flat, raisin-filled cakes. Rumour has it that he was inspired by the sweet patties recipe in The Experienced English Housekeeper.
More recently the question of origin of Eccles Cakes has been raised in Parliament. A question was tabled regarding the future of cakes made outside Eccles to the same ingredients. Could non Eccles-made cakes still be referred to (and sold) as Eccles cakes? Stay tuned.
You can be creative with the filling, but essentially a combination of currants and candied peel. Puff pastry does add fat calories, so be sure to find a butter pastry to make it worth it. I have taken fat and sugar out of the filling which helps. You can always make slightly smaller cakes if you are concerned with portion control.
- 375 g package of butter puff pastry
- 2 tbsp. applesauce
- Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp. candied peel, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp. sugar (or sugar substitute)
- 1/4 cup currants
Makes at least 6
Pre-heat oven to 425°F/220°C/Gas Mark 7
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and applesauce and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes until mixed together. Remove from the heat and add the add currants, candied peel and nutmeg.
- On a lightly-floured surface, roll the pastry thinly if it does not already come pre-rolled, and cut into rounds of about ¼” thickness and 4″ in diameter. I use my crumpet rings as a cookie cutter.
- Place 1-2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each circle.
- Dampen the edges of the pastry with a little cold water and draw the edges together over the fruit and pinch to seal.
- Turn over the cake over so the seam is now on the bottom and then press gently with a rolling pin to flatten the cakes.
- Snip a V in the top with scissors, or you can make 3 slits with a knife. I like the V since it looks like a little heart when you are done.
- Place on a greased baking tray. Brush with water and sprinkle with a little extra sugar.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned round the edges.
- Place on a wire rack and allow to cool.