Monday, April 1, 2013

Princess Tea

The spouse and I are seriously contemplating starting a business doing party planning and catering. As kind of a dry run, we did a princess tea party for a friend's daughters' birthdays. The spouse did a great job with all the party stuff. She made custom handmade invitations, extravagant goodie bags, table settings, and came up with interesting, fun games. I focused on the food.

I made a modified afternoon tea. There were tea sandwiches, scones, and cupcakes. There was a mock Devonshire cream to go with the scones.

The tea sandwiches were fairly boring. They were what the girls wanted, however. There was peanut butter with strawberry preserves, American cheese, and turkey. The kids seemed happy, however. I had sandwiches for fourteen, and the eight kids ate all of them. They were cut in cute shapes, so that may have helped.

The kids had asked for three kinds of scones; plain, chocolate chip, and caramel apple pie. I think I have implied that the scone recipe I got from Chef James Foran is a good basis to riff on. So, I want to explicitly state that his cream scone recipe is the best I've ever tried. I will be including the plain recipe here, so that you can play with it yourselves. The chocolate chip scones are the same, with six ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips added just before the wet ingredients. Any dry garnishes, like dried fruit, candy, chips, or nuts can be added without changes. Moist or wet ingredients may require adjusting the liquid to maintain the same texture.

The plain scones were dusted with pink sanding sugar, in keeping with the pink and purple color scheme of the party. For the chocolate chip scones, I garnished the top with mini chocolate chips. I cut them round to evoke a chocolate chip cookie vibe. The caramel apple pie scones are the same ones I served at the Black Hat Tea, with the exception that I used two granny smith apples instead of one gala.

The cupcakes were chocolate marbled. I used different recipes for the yellow and the chocolate
batters. The yellow cake recipe is based on this one. I like this recipe. It is quite moist, and lighter than most yellow cakes. I attribute that to the use of cake flour over all purpose flour.

The chocolate batter was based on this recipe. I essentially used the ingredients, but re-arranged the process to bring it more in line with my understanding of the creaming method. It makes a much more fluid batter than does the yellow cake recipe.

To make the marbled cupcakes, I alternated batters in the cupcake liners for four layers (yellow/chocolate/yellow/chocolate) then used a fork to give one or two big swirls through the batter.

I can't take any credit for the decoration, that was all the spouse. She is much better at that sort of thing than I am.

We also made a couple of little cakes, so each birthday girl had one to blow the candles out on. One was chocolate marbled, the other plain yellow cake. Again, the spouse gets complete credit for the decoration.

I used to think that the whole cake/pastry/all purpose/bread flour thing was a scam. My experience in the pastry class has convinced me otherwise. All purpose does live up to its name. It does an adequate job for either pastries or breads. However, if you want the best pastries, a lower gluten flour will make a lighter, moister product. Conversely, for bread, a higher gluten flour will rise better, and provide for a chewier mouth feel. Cake and bread flour are both more expensive than all purpose. So when baking, you have to decide if the improvement in quality is sufficient to justify the added expense.


Basic Scone Recipe

1 lb. 3 oz. all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
3 1/2 oz. by wt. sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 oz. by wt. chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
16 oz. by vol. cream

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter until it resembles course meal. Add cream. Stir until dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out to one inch thick. Cut into desired serving size and shape, and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Brush with cream, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a 375 F oven for 12 - 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

For chocolate chip scones: Add 6 oz. by wt. semi-sweet chocolate chips just before adding cream. Brush tops with cream, sprinkle with miniature chocolate chips.

Yellow Cake Batter

1 cup butter

2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/2 cup hot water2 tsp. instant espresso powder
4 large eggs
Dissolve espresso powder in hot water. Set aside, let cool to room temperature.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next. Mix in vanilla.
Combine espresso and milk.
In three or four stages, add dry ingredients, alternating with milk mixture, letting each addition fully incorporate before adding the next. Start and end with dry ingredients.

To Make Marble Cupcakes:

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Alternate layers of yellow and chocolate batters until liners are 2/3 full. Use a fork to give batters one or two good swirls.
Bake in a 350 F oven for 25 - 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Happy Eating!


  1. No question that the kind of flour makes a difference. Bread flour makes a HUGE difference in making bread, especially when you're talking about how easy the bread is to knead. It is much, much easier to knead bread made with bread flour than it is will all-purpose.

    Flour makes a big difference for pasta, too. You can use all-purpose if you want to, but it comes out too gummy for my taste.

  2. Brands of flour make a huge difference, too. We should get you a copy of Cookwise for quick reference :-)

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