The Tea Room Blog

Sugar Sugar

Let me introduce you to the world of sugar. You may have noticed that some English recipes use several types of sugar not normally seen in America. They go beyond the usual soft brown and granulated types and ask for light muscavado, dark muscavado, caster and demerara sugar.

Before you start experimenting with English recipes it is probably good to know about the different types that are used. For instance do you know the difference between granulated and caster or brown sugar and light muscovado?


You can always rely on the English to over complicate things, and trust me life would be far easier if there were just a couple of sugary choices to make. But then we wouldn’t have the crunchy topping on a crumble, the extra deep rich flavors that come courtesy of the muscavado sugars, or the finer texture in cakes that comes from using caster sugar.

Continue reading Sugar Sugar


What is clotted cream?

In two words clotted cream is wickedly delightful. It is where two worlds collide, those two worlds being whipped cream and butter to create a little pot of goodness that is so utterly wonderful you just wish you could smother it on everything.

Okay, so that may be a little extreme, but once you have tasted the real thing you will never look back.


Also known as Devonshire cream, clotted cream is a thick cream that originated in the Southwest of England. It has become so deeply rooted in the culture of South West England there is a constant battle between the counties of Devon and Cornwall to claim the rights as to where it originated, and which county makes it better.

Clotted cream was originally made by farmers to reduce the amount of waste from their milk. There is evidence that the monks of Tavistock Abbey (located in Devon) were making clotted cream in the early 14th century. A local regional cookbook, in 1658 ‘The Complete Cook’ had a recipe for ‘clouted cream’ and it is even mentioned in local folklore –

The Shepheardes Calendar, a poem by Edmund Spenser in 1579:

‘Ne would she scorn the simple shepherd swain,
For she would call him often heam,
And give him curds and clouted cream.’

Continue reading What is clotted cream?

The 3 Tea’s – afternoon tea, cream tea and high tea.

You can never have too much tea, but it can get a little confusing. When I lived in England it would be very common for me to say ‘it’s time for tea’, or ‘what’s for tea’, or ‘its on at tea time’…trust even us Brits can get confused by the many uses of the word ‘tea’.

In essence the word ‘tea’ can relate to the drink, a meal or a party, and the difference can be quite substantial. But don’t feel bad, a lot of people don’t know the difference including some tea rooms.

So lets start from the top with the biggest difference between an afternoon tea, a cream tea and high tea.

tea timeBasically it all comes down to class. Afternoon tea and cream tea, (particularly at the turn of the 20th century) were predominantly a white collar experience consisting of delicate sandwiches, little cakes and scones served on silver trays and bone china around 4 pm. Where as high tea was traditionally thought of as a blue collar meal (particularly in the north of England), generally consisting of a variety of meat dishes, puddings and cakes – this traditional evening meal (served around 6 pm) was the perfect way to end a long day.

To cut to the chase, if you were a member of the Hoi polloi you would burst through the door at 5pm, look at your wife and say ‘what’s for tea’?

However if you were one of the well-to-do ladies of a certain class you would summon your butler at 3.30 pm and say ‘Geeves, it’s time for tea’.

Or if you grew up in England in the 80’s (like me), and you were looking forward to watching the A-team’, we all knew it was on ‘at team time’ every Saturday.

I think that covers it, but I will break it down into further detail with a brief description for all 3 events.

Continue reading The 3 Tea’s – afternoon tea, cream tea and high tea.

Recipe – Irish cream and chocolate cheesecake

English Cheesecake is slightly different from the classic New York Cheesecake in that it is not baked and the base is made from Digestive biscuits. This celebration cheesecake features smooth cream cheese, chocolate, and the wonderful creamy Irish cream liqueur – Baileys. Go on spoil yourself and your guests.

Click here for the Full Recipe


Fudging it up – part 2

Last week I told you all about the disaster I had when making fudge, and the many valuable lessons I learned from the experience. This week I continue with my tale of woe with three more baking mishaps.

Steamed Pudding

I was so looking forward to my steamed pudding with jam. I pulled out my tried and trusted Mary Berry cookbook, added all the ingredients and waited patiently while it merrily steamed away.

As an American my husband had never had a steamed pudding before and I was trying to get him excited by the prospect. I chatted incessantly for an hour about how wonderful this creation would be on a cold winters night, and everyone in England just loves a good steamed pudding.

After an hour the timer went off, I raced over to the cooker, took the pudding basin out, got a plate, turned the whole lot upside down and watched as the pudding slipped beautifully out of the bowl, onto the plate and looked just like it did in the cookery book.

Sadly though that was where the similarities ended, my husband took one mouthful and pulled a face. “So do you like it”? I asked enthusiastically. He pointed to the plate and asked if it always tasted like that? So I took a mouthful and that was enough for me. My beautiful jam steamed pudding was basically a salt bomb, so salty that my husband and I could barely eat a second bite.

Now, many English recipes call for self raising flour (aka self-rising flour in the US), and it turns out self rising flour in America contains salt…around 1/2 teaspoon per cup…and there was me thinking it was just the name that was different. Given I had added additional salt as per the recipe, it was a disaster.

Lesson learned, but I will make it again.

Continue reading Fudging it up – part 2

Fudging it up – part 1

So many baking blogs and websites show the perfect photo of the perfect cake, with the perfect ingredients set on the perfect plate…it is after all a perfect world, isn’t it?

Sadly no, things are good but they are not always perfect and so I wanted to share some of my own personal stories with you of when things are not perfect and go horribly wrong in the kitchen. We are not just talking a little wrong here, I am talking throw it away and never want to make it again wrong.

For me it is more than okay when things don’t work out quite as I had hoped or planned in the kitchen.  My many baking ‘mishaps’ have taught me a great deal – what went wrong, why it went wrong, which recipe books to avoid and things I never want to try ever again, not ever, in particular making fudge.

It is with this particular disaster in mind I have chosen to title this post ‘fudging it up’.

Continue reading Fudging it up – part 1

Christmas – Baked In England – part 2

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas if you didnt stuff yourself silly over the festive season.

After wanting to explode from eating far to much Christmas pudding and Christmas cake there are the additional Christmas tea time treats to look forward to. Once you get past the cold meats, the sausage rolls and the Christmas cake then comes the Pièce de résistance the yule log and the mince pies.

Yule Log
The Yule log, a great alternative to Christmas cake, or if you like me look forward to enjoying both.

The Yule Log (or bûche de Noël) is a traditional dessert served near Christmas, especially in France. Of course, the English decided that just having one form of Christmas cake wasnt enough so we stole the idea from the French and now the Yule log (as we know it in England) is a cake that is found on most tables during the festive season.


The Yule Log (or chocolate log) is essentially a roulade. It is made from chocolate sponge, filled with chocolate buttercream, rolled to form a log shape then covered in rich chocolate buttercream. A fork is then dragged through the frosting to create a bark like texture and it is often decorated with a sprig of holly or powdered sugar to resemble snow.

Continue reading Christmas – Baked In England – part 2