Here at Planet Elldrew we never need much of an excuse to throw a party, so Mama Elldrew’s spring High Tea birthday was in fact the perfect excuse.
With a rather cold and grey winter behind us and spring having sprung in a typically English “sprung a leak” rainy kind of a way, we wanted to make a tea party that was bright, cheery and also reflected Elldrew’s style and taste (centred around the birthday girl of course!).
We toyed with a few different ‘current’ themes; a vintage tea party which played on chintz and flowery china (not really our thing), a Summer Fair style (but we just couldn’t see bunting strewn throughout the house), or a monochrome/black&white Great Gatsby direction, but we felt that didn’t sit well with the gloomy weather, so we decided to look a little closer to home – our home in fact – and play on our rustic and industrial interiors. When you have a masculine palette of greys and browns in your home the best way to make a party theme stand out is to naturally adopt feminine pinks and greens! Colours sorted, now the work really began.
Anyone who has thrown a party at home will tell you that you can go mad and spend money on so many items that will never be used again. To ensure our princess tea party didn’t come with a princely price tag, we searched high and low, in lofts and back of cupboards to pull together items that would work on the day. Vintage sweet containers and preserving jars made a perfect alternative to display items in, our black cast iron Le Creuset casseroles complemented our slate cheese boards, creating perfect serving platters. We purchased little touches to bring the theme colours to life; pink and green twine was tied around jars, we chose very ‘on trend’ insect/animal patterned paper napkins and we even filled spare pots with boiled sweets and marshmallows (they were not necessarily there to be eaten, but to create effect). We also designed “blackboard style” food labels (we had looked at purchasing place card holders but went for a simple A-frame printed thick card to label food and beverages).
One of the most important items were in fact the flowers, as we wanted soft colours that were feminine but with delicate buds, to soften the home. We went with a classic mix of peonies, roses and stocks. Pulled together in a deconstructed ‘just picked from the field’ arrangement, anything too perfect or contrived just wouldn’t have worked. We made sure we did a couple of large arrangements then dotted smaller arrangements around the house.
Next step was planning the menu, not so easy when you’re as particular as us, but we knew everything had to have a place and purpose (as well as a perfect balance between savoury and sweet).
The easy part was hiring simple, classic, elegant white bone china (we don’t have enough tea cups for 30 people)! The second easy part was ordering the sandwiches – buttering bread and filling sandwiches for 30 people didn’t sound like fun. And our caterer kindly added in some staple high tea favourites, scones, for a little bit of extra money, perfect.
We also quickly decided that, alongside English tea, we should serve English sparkling wine (after it all it is getting better reviews than French champagne these days) and for the drivers and kids, pink lemonade (which we served in mini milk bottles with green and white stripped straws). Getting the perfect pink lemonade colour was a challenge and required a few tests – with us ultimately diluting Belvoir’s Raspberry & Lemon Cordial with cloudy lemonade to get the right hue. And Elldrew’s handy hint #1 here is to keep the drink cool by pre-freezing lemon slices and mint sprigs (for cooling without diluting!).
The hard part was everything else. We wanted a table of baked goods that could incorporate the pink and green colours (without going over the top), so being the home bakers that we are we were adamant these items would be done “in-house” – an alternative way of saying we cooked everything else! Just to make the challenge a little harder we needed enough to feed 30 hungry tummies; we wanted them to be mostly bite sized with a nice selection of flavours and textures. After careful consultation from a range of baking bibles we finally came up with the following menu items:
- Donna Hay’s Beehive Cupcakes – we made these mini-sized, decorated with a delicate meringue frosting and green sprinkles.
- Hummingbird Bakery’s Red Velvet Cupcakes – we also made these mini-sized but decorated them with a tangy cream cheese frosting and pink sprinkles.
- Green Pistachio Macarons with pistachio ganache filling and Pink Macarons with a dark chocolate ganache filling – who doesn’t enjoy a macaron? Check out this recipe from a ‘Great British Bake Off’ Finalist.
- Anneka Manning’s Vanilla Meringues (with green swirls) and Pink Rose Meringues – the perfect treat that can easily fill display jars, they not only look impressive but they taste great too.
- Mary Berry’s Anzac Biscuits (I know, we used an English recipe for an Australian dish and, yet, we took Australian recipes for several other items, that’s how Planet Elldrew keep you and ourselves on tippy toes). These simple biscuits can be enjoyed by all ages and we decorated them with pink and green royal icing squiggles.
- Hummingbird Bakery’s Lemon & Thyme Drizzle Cake – easy to make and best made on the day, this cake packs a lemon flavoured punch to cut through all the other sweet items.
Virtually everything was carefully baked over 3 weekends and then frozen so they’d be ready to decorate just before the party. Planet Elldrew’s handy hint #2 (if you’re considering taking on such a challenge) is that most cakes (and macarons) can be frozen undecorated & unfilled in advance – it makes things so much easier than trying to bake everything in a 24hr period!
The pièce de résistance had to be the birthday cake. We’ve recently done a rainbow cake for another tea party, and due to many guests being Planet Elldrew followers, we needed to pull off something with just as much impact, but with an air of sophistication, after all this is Mama Elldrew we are talking about! Our initial inspiration was Donna Hay’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake but despite a spectacular seven layered interior, the plain white outside didn’t work with the theme, and we were already using cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cupcakes. Instead we went with Donna’s recipe for the seven layers of chocolate cake but frosted it with a pink buttercream based on Mich Turner’s Rose Cake – the butter cream was divine, not overly sweet, it balanced the overall cake layers and flavours perfectly.
Overall a party success, everyone enjoyed themselves and most importantly, so did the birthday girl…and on reflection that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, seeing the smile on a loved ones face. That’s when you know you have done well. Planning and preparation is the key so as you start thinking about your next party remember, no, after so many requests, Planet Elldrew are still not available for hire. We are too busy thinking about our next blog! Oh, and handy hint #3: pinky finger must always be pointing away from the body when holding ones tea cup.