Elana and I love hosting theme parties. In college, we had a few at our apartment: the Guacamole Competition, where three very fine contestants competed to make the best guacamole for the party guests to judge in a blind taste test; the Pirates and Pinatas party, where people had to dress up in pirate gear and bring Mexican food; and of course, the Cupcake party, which was legendary for 1. the number of guests that actually brought cupcakes 2. my boss’s arrival and desire to try all the baked goods and 3. a secret kiss.
This year, we decided to host a tea party. We sent out a tea-party themed evite for “The Very Proper End-Of-Summer Brooklynian High-Tea Party.” We bought a delicate, flowered tea set. For 6 hours, we baked and baked and baked. We made maple scones, lemon blueberry tarts, orange-almond cupcakes, and carrot cake. We brewed loose leaf Darjeeling tea, sent from India by one R. Whelan. We served clinking bottles of other amber brews. Our guests brought flowers, got full, and had fun. The tea party was a smashing success, thanks in part to our two most popular desserts: the Lemon Blueberry Tarts and the Carrot Cake. I’ll post the recipes here, both from Rose Carrarini’s Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, in case you feel inspired to have a tea party of your own.
Lemon Blueberry Tarts:
Serves 8 (we made about 16 tarts)
1 prebaked 11 inch Sweet Tart case*, glazed with beaten egg.
scant 1 cup lemon juice
generous 3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup light cream
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
For the blueberry mixture:
1/2 cup cherry, raspberry, or strawberry jam
4 cups blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake the tart case for 5 minutes. Remove and keep the oven switched on.
In a bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the sugar until well mixed, then beat in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time.
Add the cream and whisk well, then whisk in the flour.
Strain the mixture into the tart case and bake for about 30 minutes or until the lemon cream is just set, with no bubbles or puffing up. Take out and leave to cool.
To make blueberry mixture, put the jam in a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until bubbling.
Add the blueberries and continue stirring until they just begin to give off a darker color- about 3-4 minutes.
Remove from the heat immediately, and pour over the lemon cream. Each berry must be shiny and glazed.
The Carrot Cake
Serves 8 (for some reason, ours served about 15 people multiple times).
unsalted butter, for greasing
generous 1 cup superfine sugar
1 1/4 cups sunflower oil (but we used safflower)
9 medium carrots, finely grated (we grated these carrots by hand, since we don’t own any helpful baking equipment. It was fun.)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
For the icing
generous 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
generous 1 cup cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, depending on how sweet you like your icing (we used 1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 9 inch cake tin (we used an 11 inch tin) and line its base with parchment paper (we didn’t use parchment paper, just butter.)
Beat the eggs and superfine sugar till they are light and fluffy but not too white and meringue-like.
Pour in the oil and beat for a few more minutes.
Fold in the carrots and then the flour with the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Finally fold in the walnuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared itn and bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the tin before taking it out.
To make the icing, beat the butter with the cream cheese for a few minutes till the mixture is smooth.
Add the vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar.
When the cake is cold, ice the top with the icing- it can be as smooth or rough as you like.
*Sweet Pastry (the dough for the tarts)- We felt very ambitious and decided to make the pastry for the tarts from scratch, but it’s not necessary.
Enough for 2 eleven inch tart cases (we used cupcake tins and made about 18 tarts).
31/2 cups all purpose flour
generous 2/3 cup superfine sugar
scant 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (10 minutes out of the fridge) plus extra for greasing
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
If you are using a food processor, process the flour, sugar, butter and salt for about 10-12 seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Otherwise, put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl, cut the butter into pieces and work it into the flour with your fingertips.
Now make a well in the middle of the flour and butter mixture and add the egg, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Stir with a folk to incorporate the flour evenly until you have to begin using your hand.
Using one hand only, bring the dry and wet ingredients together (this might take more time in the winter).
Dust your work surface with flour, then remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on the floured surface for a few minutes until it is smooth and homogeneous.
It is now ready to be rolled.
*The Prebaked Sweet Tart Case
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease 2 eleven inch tart tins with butter.
Prepare the dough (see above), then cut into two. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and set it aside in winter or put it briefly in the fridge if it is a hot day.
Flour your work surface well, then roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
Carefully lift it up with the rolling pin as it does tend to break, and ease it into the tart tin. If it does break, don’t worry- just patch it up with extra dough.
Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Now you have to chill the tart cases for at least 30 minutes before baking, or you can freeze them if you wish to use them later.
Bake blind with any weight system you have (they used foil filled with beans, I used foil filled with macaroni- this is to ensure the tarts keep their pouch-like shapes) for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is just turning golden.
Leave to cool before filling.
Tartlets: for individual tartlets, cut smaller pieces of dough and roll enough to fill your size tin. Just ease it in and cut off the excess bits. (Again, we used cupcake tins.)