Friday, 4 May 2012

Vintage tea party in Cambridge

Vintage tea party at the Cambridge & County Folk Museum: a Secluded Tea Party success
I had a lovely afternoon at the Cambridge Folk Museum on Sunday. Who cares about the rain when you can talk and eat cake? The event was mostly female, bar one brave male who came with his partner (good for him!). 

Amazing almond cakes
The event, catered by Sue Flay of Secluded Tea Party, was opened by a talk by Education Officer Tamsin who regaled us with a social history of baking. She whittled down the months talking about traditional celebration cakes – what they were called, why they were baked, what ingredients they contained… Most had lots of spices – such as a whole grated nutmeg (I have a cough attack just thinking about it) and they weren’t saving on the eggs – from a dozen up to 18 for a single cake! Most were basically fruit puddings, a bit like the traditional Xmas pudding but with more spices and fat. And my beloved but very downtrodden lardy cake was in too…  Shame on you, supermarkets for banning it because it has a high fat content, after all you still sell lard.

Fabulous filled sponge, so light and delicious
Many of these cakes were quite basic, kind of sweet breads or even sweet loaves but without the sugar (only currants for sweetness). There were class distinctions too, cakes baked for the poor and even harvest cakes for labourers were basic, but if you were baking for your guests or the top farm table, then you’d put more sugar, eggs, spices. So richer ingredients for the rich really, which seems hard on poor labourers who were paid very little and counted on the harvest celebrations to eat a nice meal. 

After the talk and a wander in the museum following a foodie trail, we went back to the pretty tearoom with lovely bunting and scoffed the cakes provided by Sue Flay from the Secluded Tea Party. Just have a look at more of her photos (thanks Sue for sharing them on Facebook). If your mouth is watering as much as mine (even in retrospect), visit  and book the next event. There will be another museum tea on 1st July with a different talk and an event for parents and children in late august. Visit the  Cambridge & County Folk Museum 's site for more info on those.

Terrific teapot-shaped ginger breads

PS: All these lovely vintagey pics belong to Sue Flay, contact her if you want to use them and give her a credit!  Visit her Facebook page for more pics... And if you want more info about the recipes and the talk, visit her blog.