I am a major lover of all things British, from beans on toast to Mr. Bean. My ethusiasm has recently extended to the upcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, although on that front, my excitement has more to do with Princess Diana than it does Prince William.
Lady Diana Frances Spencer married Prince Charles on July 29, 1981, and I was born less than 2 weeks later…perfect timing for a childhood of princess-worship. I used to pore over photos of her in the women’s magazines at my Nana’s house, totally in awe of this glamorous real-life princess with sparkly tiaras and fancy gowns. She wasn’t a cartoon princess – she was real!
No way was I passing this bottle up when I saw it in a charity shop in Edinburgh in 2003.
As I got older, I especially admired her for her work educating the public on HIV and AIDS in the earlier days of the disease, and for bringing critical and widespread awareness to the plight of those suffering from eating disorders - something she knew about firsthand.
Diana was insecure and never seemed to figure out what she needed to be happy, and I have a soft spot for that kind of loneliness. I experienced a weird crush of grief when she died. I was 16 that summer and I was glued to the television for weeks. It was only last year that I finally threw away the enormous pile of commemorative magazines and newspapers I had saved.
So yes, my friends, I will be cheering on April 29th. I will be celebrating for my favorite childhood princess, for the history nerd in me that can’t get enough of the ritual and tradition, and of course…for the food.
I am going to attempt to make a few British dishes over the next few weeks. First up is the very British Earl Grey Tea Cake from “Eating Royally”, the part-cookbook, part-memoir from royal chef Darren McGrady. A full 3/4 cup of tea leaves is steeped in 1 1/4 cups of boiling water for an hour to get a serious spot of Earl Grey goodness.
This cake proves it’s even more British by also calling for 4 CUPS of raisins. FOUR. That is a heck of a lot of raisins.
As a result, the sides look like they were designed by Whack-A-Mole machine.
Add some butter and honey, and you’re ready for a Royal Wedding. Especially since it starts at 6 AM in New England. You’re going to need some breakfast with your mimosa, especially if you’re going into work afterwards.
This cake smelled unbelievably good with the Earl Grey bergamot essence mixing with the raisins (the many, many raisins). It tasted good, too. The ground almonds enhance the nuttiness from the walnuts, so the whole thing is a fragrant, raisiny, nutty slice of class on a porcelain plate.
Do you care at all about the Royal Wedding? Were you a Diana fan?
Have I once again totally isolated my readers? I hope not!
Pinkies up, everyone!
Earl Grey Tea Cake
Adapted from “Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances From A Palace Kitchen” by Darren McGrady
3/4 cup loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 stick unsalted butter (8 Tbsp.)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
4 cups raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Pour the boiling water over the tea leaves in a large bowl and set aside to steep for at least an hour. Strain the tea and discard the leaves.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment. Butter the parchment.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Then add the raisins and walnuts.
- Finally, add the tea and mix everything together.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. I tented mine with foil halfway through because it was already quite brown, but not yet done.
- When done, remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
- Serve with butter and honey, or creme fraiche.
The author says this wonderful scented cake will keep moist for weeks. Always a handy thing to know…