Tea is buried deep into the culture of Britain and since that’s what I’m most familiar with, it’s where I’m starting. The first reference to tea in England was in a newspaper in 1658: that ‘China Drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alias Tee’. Charles II’s marriage to Catherine of Braganza was the start of a revolution in our households. She was a Portuguese princess, and a tea addict. Anything that our royal family would popularise rapidly became high fashion and it was not long before tea became a household necessity.
The seventh Duchess of Bedford was to thank for the phenomenon of afternoon tea. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon and since evening meals would often not be served until eight, she would have tea with bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon.
Now afternoon tea is something of an occasion and one around which many businesses have been built (Betty’s to name just one in my adopted home town). Afternoon tea tends to be rich but light and dainty and by far the most suitable accompaniment is a treat from my childhood: the predecessor to the somewhat bigger and more robust cupcake.
Early Grey Lemon Drizzle Fairycakes
For the cakes
zest 1 lemon
250ml early grey tea (brewed about 3 minutes and allowed to cool)
200g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
24 cupcake cases
For the lemon drizzle
juice 1 lemon
For the buttercream
50ml earl grey (brewed about 3 minutes and allowed to cool)
75g icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a cupcake tin with the cases.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and lemon zest, then stir in the cooled tea. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in.
Spoon about half a desert-spoon full of batter into each case and bake for 15 minutes.
For the lemon drizzle, heat the lemon juice, sugar and water in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
When the top of the cakes bounces back if you press it gently, they are done. Take them from the oven, and with a sharp knife, cut a circle about 1/2 cm from the edge of each cake. Cut down about 1/3 of the way into the cake and use a teaspoon to remove this section from each. Set these aside next to the cakes.
Into the hole left, spoon 1 teaspoon of the lemon drizzle. Now leave the cakes to cool completely.
For the icing, simply cream together all of the ingredients until light and fluffy and leave to chill in the fridge.
Once the cakes are cool, place 1 teaspoon of the icing into each hole. Slice in half the tops and place onto the fairy cakes like wings.