With spring, and the first signs of sunshine, comes afternoon tea! It has been a national tradition in this country for decades and is still extremely popular today with some hotels charging over £100 for tea and a selection of cakes. To get into the spirit (and not break your budget) here are three recipes perfect to serve with a cup of tea in your best china, at around four o'clock.
Lemon and clotted cream cake
Serving size 6
1 Tablespoon melted butter, for greasing
225 grams butter, at room temperature
225 grams caster sugar
225 grams self-raising flour, sifted, plus 1 tablespoon extra for dusting
4 large free range eggs
4-6 tablespoon lemon curd
150 grams clotted cream
Preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C/gas 4.
Grease two 18 cm cake tins with the melted butter.
Line the base of each tin with a circle of greaseproof paper.
Place the butter in a mixing bowl and add the sugar.
Beat together with a whisk for a few minutes until the mixture is very light and fluffy.
Mix together the flour and lemon zest in a bowl. Beat the eggs into the butter mix one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour mix with each one.
Fold in the remaining flour with a metal spoon until you have a soft, smooth cake batter. Divide the mixture between the tins, and level the tops with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 25 minutes and then leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes.
Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
When cool enough to handle, slice each cake in half.
Place one cake slice upside down on a cake stand or plate.
Spread with the lemon curd, sandwich with another slice of cake and spread with a thick layer of clotted cream.
Top with another slice of cake and spread again with lemon curd.
Top with the final cake and sandwich together.
Dust the top with icing sugar and the lemon zest and voila!
Brightly coloured macaroons
Serving size 12
125 grams icing sugar
125 grams ground almonds
90 grams free range egg whites
2 tablespoons water
110 grams caster sugar
desiccated coconut, for sprinkling
150 milliters double or whipped cream, whipped
Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 5 and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Put the icing sugar, ground almonds and 40 g/1½ oz egg whites together in a large bowl and mix to a paste.
Put the water and caster sugar in a small pan and heat gently to melt the sugar, then turn up the heat and boil until the mixture starts to go syrupy and thickens.
Whisk the remaining 50 g/2 oz egg whites in a small bowl until medium-stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl, then pour in the sugar syrup, whisking until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny.
Add a few drops of food colouring. Tip this meringue mixture into the almond paste mixture and stir gently until it becomes stiff and shiny again.
Spoon into the piping bag. Pipe a little mixture under each corner of the baking paper to stop it sliding around. With the bag held vertically, pipe 4cm/1½in flat circles onto the lined tray, about 2cm/¾in apart, twisting the bag after each one.
Sprinkle with desiccated coconut if you want.
Leave to stand for 30 minutes to form a skin then bake in the oven for 12–15 minutes with the door slightly ajar until firm. Remove from the oven, lift the paper off the baking tray and leave the macaroons to cool on the paper.
When cool, sandwich the macaroons together with whipped cream.
Serving size 8
125 grams mixture of dried fruit
75 milliters brandy or whisky
200 grams butter, plus extra for greasing
150 grams caster sugar
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
3 free range eggs
250 grams flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Line the base of a 20 cm/8 in cake tin with greaseproof paper and rub the sides with butter to grease it.
Place the dried fruit and alcohol in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for a few seconds and then pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat, then add the oil and the eggs one by one, beating constantly.
Gently stir in the sifted flour, baking powder, salt, fruit and alcohol.
Transfer the cake batter into the prepared tin, smooth the top and cook in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake centre comes out clean.
Cool slightly before removing the cake from the tin and finish cooling on a wire rack.