I always fancied living in another era, it probably comes from secretly reading too many bodice ripping romance novels or, not so secretly, reading Jane Austin or maybe even watching too many episodes of “Downton Abbey”. I can quite imagine myself as Elizabeth Bennett the first time she clapped eyes on Mr Darcy or as Lady Mary swanning around the vast corridors of her stately home in all her satin finery. I think I could become quite a master at casting a gimlet eye at the hapless servants as they scurry about with their dusters and coal buckets while I swanned off to afternoon tea. However, knowing my luck if I lived in that time I would be the one more likely to be carrying the coal bucket or serving the overlarge tray brimming with ‘cakey’ goodness while at the same time cowering under the acid tongue of the Dowager Duchess … so much for my delusions of grandeur.
I recently discovered that “high tea”, as we call it in Australia, was not originally the delightful gathering of ladies sharing gossip over a leisurely cup of tea with some dainty cucumber sandwiches and tiny bite size cakes. It was, in fact, a custom from Victorian times where the working class of Britain would come home after a day of back breaking work to partake in more substantial fare more akin to an evening meal. The term ‘High’ comes from the height of the table where tea is served, high being a dining table and low being a coffee table.
Anna the Duchess of Bedford is credited for the popularity of the afternoon tea. It was common practice at that time (1800s) to have a late evening meal so by the time 4 o’clock rolled around hunger pangs were starting to set in. Anna would counter this by having tea and biscuits served in her rooms to keep her going until dinner time – clearly she is a woman after my own heart. Anna began sending out invitations to her friends to join her for afternoon tea and it soon became such a popular way to socialise that other middle and upper class households also began adopting the practice of an at home afternoon tea.
Nowadays high teas, or afternoon teas, are more likely to be held in hotels than in your own home, but if you fancy recreating your own version of Downton Abbey and inviting some friends over to revive a tradition this raspberry and vanilla cake would be perfect for your own “at home” afternoon tea. Now I just have to wonder what Mr LG would look like in a butler’s uniform…hmmm.
Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine Issue 76.
- 120gm unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 220gm caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 225gm plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 125ml milk
- 100gm frozen raspberries
- vanilla sugar.
Preheat oven to 160°C. Spray a 26cm loose based tart pan with oil. Line the base with baking paper.
Mix flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, vanilla extract and caster sugar together until light and smooth.
Add eggs one at a time mixing well between additions.
Remove bowl from mixer. Add flour and then milk in two separate additions mixing with a spatula until fully combined,
Scrape batter into the tart pan and smooth the top with a knife or palette knife.
Press frozen raspberries into the top of the batter.
Sprinkle with vanilla sugar
Place pan on a lipped baking tray in case batter leaks from the tart pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely in pan before turning out.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.