Anyone for tea & cake…?

Oh we do love our cupcakes! This recipe uses Earl Grey tea, giving a lovely light and fragrant freshness to the cakes. The recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery and the cupcakes really were delicious – I can’t wait to try the peppermint tea version too!

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

For the sponge:

  • 3 Earl Grey teabags
  • 3tbsp just-boiled water
  • 80g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 280g (10 oz) caster sugar
  • 240g (8½ oz) plain flour
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 200ml (7fl oz) whole milk
  • 2 large eggs

For the frosting:

  • 50ml (1¾ fl oz) whole milk
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar
  • 160g (5½ oz) unsalted butter, softened

One or two 12-hole deep muffin tins

  1. Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5, and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.
  4. Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
  6. While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.
  7. Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.
  8. Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife.


Peppermint tea cupcakes:

Make as above but use 3 peppermint teabags instead of Earl Grey.

Fruit tea cupcakes:

Make as above, but with 3 fruit teabags of your choice, such as summer fruits, mixed berry, strawberry or raspberry, and top the frosted cupcakes with fruit to match, such as summer berries or slices of fresh strawberry.




The Forager’s Kitchen

Hedgerows are always a source of fascination, they are so full of flora and fauna. At the moment, they are dotted with glossy blackberries, and I can never resist picking them as I pass. My mother, the queen of preserves in our family, is already making jam and there has been talk of a blackberry and apple crumble coming our way too…!

My level of hedgerow foraging is fairly basic, but there is lots of ‘free’ food out there if you only know what to look for. My friend Julia Horton-Powdrill is a great forager and it was through her excellent Facebook page that I came across ‘The Forager’s Kitchen’ a truly fascinating cookery book that contains over 100 easy recipes from savoury to sweet, written by a Scots lady called Fiona Bird.

Don’t be put off by the title – this book is absolutely fascinating just to sit and read even if you have no intention of going and collecting any of the ingredients yourself. Not only does Fiona provide lovely (and easy) recipes, she gives lots of additional information about wildflowers, herbs, fruits and berries and more. Should you feel inspired, she also tells you how to forage, essential ground rules (how to avoid misidentification!) and a range of lovely little ‘wild notes’ with really useful hints and tips.

The book is divided up into sections – Flowers & Blossom, Woodland & Hedgerow, Fruits & Berries, Herbs and Sea & Shore. There’s a huge range of recipes – from Christmas Tree Cookies (using Douglas fir needs) through Carrot & Clover Cake to the most gorgeous looking Violet Macarons with Primrose Cream. Fiona writes very well and, whether you live in a city, the countryside or by the coast, if you follow her advice, you will find more ingredients growing in the wild than you could imagine!

Our ancestors knew what to pick and I do think it’s a shame that most people today are so ‘disconnected’ from the countryside and, indeed, wary of it. There is so much beauty in nature and such bounty out there if we only know what to do with it.

Fiona Bird is a mother of six children. She is a self-taught cook and past Masterchef finalist who has always had a passion for cooking and her approach to food is based on her knowledge of tight budgets and limited time. You can follow Fiona on her Facebook page. 



Delicious light, savoury bites

Most of the time I tend to show you sweet things, so I thought we should redress the balance with something savoury! These smoked salmon and cream cheese bites are delicious and easy to eat if you are balancing a glass in one hand – or if you tend to have more casual family gatherings as I do –they can just be arranged on a plate as part of a cold meal. But do give them a try!

I also ended up making some tiny chocolate éclairs – for the simple reason there was too much choux pastry just to make the salmon bites… and my mind obviously went to chocolate (oops)!

Savoury choux buns

Choux buns:

  • 75g butter
  • 200ml cold water
  • 125g plain flour
  • 3 eggs


  • 200g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives
  • 50g smoked salmon (diced)

Preheat oven to 200ºc.

Melt the butter in a pan with the cold water and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, using a wooden spoon, until well combined (about 3 mins). Add the eggs a little at a time whisking constantly. Put the mixture into a piping bag/gun and pipe 3cm balls onto a non-stick baking tray, leaving a space double that size between each one. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 mins.

For the filling combine cheese, chives and smoked salmon then once choux buns are completely cooled cut off the tops and pipe in filling.

Mini éclairs:

As I had enough choux mixture left over I made some mini éclairs, I piped 5cm lengths instead of balls and baked for the same time, then once cooled filled with fresh cream and topped with chocolate.



Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread

These biscuits are quick and easy to make and judging by the reaction here, will go down a storm. Ideal if you are having someone very smart to tea … or actually just something nice to have in a tin in case of emergencies like ‘Oh must have a biscuit’ times! 


  • 250g plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 220g butter
  • 220g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Grated rind of 1 orange
  • 100g dark chocolate


Preheat oven to 175ºc and grease or line baking trays.

Cream butter and sugar, add the egg and orange rind and mix, then fold in the flour, salt and baking powder until combined.

The mixture can then be piped onto the baking trays using either a piping bag or a biscuit gun, leave about 1 inch between the biscuits as they will spread a little during baking.

Once cool melt the chocolate in a bowl and dip in biscuits, place on parchment paper until chocolate hard.


Lemon Drizzle Cake with Cream Cheese filling

I was so thrilled how well this cake turned out and the fruit decoration looks stunning but more importantly it goes really well with the cake. The addition of the fresh fruit can lift it from a tea time treat into a lovely pudding… err with some clotted cream? No OK, maybe that’s too many calories!

The filling is delicious and not overly sickly as it’s a Philadelphia base – so try it!


  • 210g Caster Sugar
  • 210g Butter
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 160g SR Flour
  • 50g Ground Almonds

Preheat oven to 180ºc/160ºc fan, grease and line an 8” tin.

Beat sugar and butter until creamy, mix in lemon zest and then the eggs one at a time, fold in the flour and ground almonds until just combined. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for about 30-40mins.


  • 75g Caster sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons

Mix together until sugar dissolved. Once the cake has cooled, prick the top and drizzle over the liquid.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 1 tub (300g) Philidelphia cream cheese
  • 100g Icing Sugar
  • 1 Lemon (juice & zest)

Mix all together until smooth, use as much or as little icing sugar depending on how sweet you would like it to be and add lemon juice a little at a time, to ensure mixture does not get too runny.

Split the cake in two, spread with the filling, finish by dusting with icing sugar and lemon zest. Then decorate with fruits as in the icture, or choose strawberries, raspberries or any other fresh fruit of your choice.