The 5 Most Popular National Trust Tearoom Cakes

A Cream Tea at a National Trust Tearoom

Visiting National Trust properties is not only enjoyable because of their beauty and history, but also because most of them have excellent tearooms. Some are quite unique – for example housed in old stables, like the tearooms at Osterley House not far from where I live – and others may be located within the house itself or in an outbuilding on the property. All are worth a visit for their welcoming atmosphere and delicious food, but it is their reputation for yummy cakes that draws people to a National Trust tearoom.

When talking about the popularity of National Trust tearoom cakes, the proof is in the pudding. Collectively, over half a million slices of it are served every year – together with 22,000 cups of tea and 15,000 scones!

You will always find a plentiful variety of lovely cakes on offer at a National Trust tearoom, and here is a list of their most popular ones:


The 5 Most Popular National Trust Tearoom Cakes


Lemon Drizzle Cake

#5 Lemon Drizzle Cake – 52,000 slices served per year

A French recipe from the 1930s, Lemon Drizzle Cake is a long-standing teatime favourite that, traditionally, contains a wee bit of rum. I love this Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe from The Tea Rooms in London.




Carrot Cake

#4 Carrot Cake – 96,000 slices served per year

Carrots have been used in cakes since medieval times, when sweeteners were expensive and scarce; they contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet. During World War II, Carrot Cake became immensely popular in England due to sugar rationing. Here’s an article from The Guardian on how to cook perfect carrot cake.




Coffee and  Walnut Cake

#3 Coffee & Walnut Cake – 102,000 slices served per year

Ancient Romans considered walnut the fruit of the gods, possibly for its promise of virility. Compared to certain other nuts, such as almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts, walnuts contain the highest total level of antioxidants. Nigella Lawson’s Coffee and Walnut Cake recipe sounds (and looks) scrumptious.




Chocolate Sponge Cake

#2 Chocolate Sponge Cake – 108,000 slices served per year

This recipe goes back to 1764 when Dr. James Baker ground cocoa beans between a millstone to create baking chocolate. If you are American, you are no doubt familiar with Baker’s Chocolate.




Victoria Sandwich

#1 Victoria Sandwich – 171,000 slices served per year

The quintessentially English of all English cakes, the Victoria Sandwich was named for Queen Victoria. Apparently, it was her favourite cake, and it’s my favourite as well. This is usually the one I choose when visiting a National Trust tearoom. The Victoria Sandwich is a sponge cake, and is sometimes also referred to as a Victoria Sponge. It is a tearoom classic, and quite easy to make. I had rather good success with this Victoria Sandwich recipe from Betty magazine.


What about you?

Are any of these 5 cakes a favourite of yours? What other cake recipes are you fond of?




Tea and Scones with Pat and Debs

Keep Calm and Bake These Scones

Pat and Debs live on opposite sides of the ocean. They’ve never met one another, but both of them know how to bake  (they really know how to bake) and both of them love and appreciate  a proper cup of tea. Pat used to own a popular, successful tearoom back in Maryland. Debs, an American expat living in Devon, owns the popular, successful blog Debs Dust Bunny.

Once upon a time, early in my tea journey when I lived in the States, I had a dream of opening a tearoom. I used to make Pat’s day drive Pat bonkers with question after question about how to run a tearoom. She was – as she still is – gracious and kind and always more than happy to share her knowledge and expertise with me. We even met in person when she traveled all the way down to South Carolina to help me with a tea event. Tea friends are the best.

That tearoom dream of mine never came to fruition – but I did gain something invaluable from Pat: her scone recipe. It is flawless and perfect and the only scone recipe I have ever used. It has never failed me.

Recently, Debs has been experimenting with scone recipes and blogging about her results, so I knew that I just had to share Pat’s scone recipe with her. If you’d like to see how it turned out (and get a copy of the recipe for yourself), pop over to Debs Dust Bunny and read all about Pat’s Decadent and Delicious Scones.


The Victoria Sponge – its history and a recipe

Victoria Sponge Recipe

The Victoria Sponge is a sponge cake sandwiched together with raspberry jam and dusted on the top with caster sugar*. It is a quintessential English teatime treat and became popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. You will encounter a Victoria Sponge in most tearooms in England. It will be a friendly encounter. I have rarely met a Victoria Sponge I didn’t like.

The ingredients in a traditional Victoria Sponge (sometimes called a Victoria Sandwich) – eggs, flour, sugar, and butter – should be of equal weight; the eggs are weighed in their shell. There are a number of Victoria Sponge variations including using strawberry jam instead of raspberry; adding buttercream or whipped double cream instead of just jam; and dusting the top with icing sugar rather than caster sugar.


History of the Victoria Sponge


It is widely written that the Victoria Sponge was Queen Victoria’s favourite cake.  That may well be true, but I was listening to English food expert Clarissa Dickson Wright on telly the other night and she said that the Victoria Sponge originated at the nursery tea. She explained that afternoon tea cakes in early Victorian days would have consisted of a fruit cake and a seed cake. For safety reasons, it was believed that children should not eat a cake containing pieces of fruit or seeds, so the light, harmless Victoria Sponge was created as their teatime treat. It wasn’t until later that the Victoria Sponge made its way to the adult tea table.


 Finished Victoria Sponge batter Pour batter evenly into prepared tins Cool sponge cakes on wire rack

Buttercream Spread jam on one cake, buttercream on the other, then sandwich together Victoria Sponge

Ever since seeing the cute Victoria Sponge recipe in Betty magazine, I have been wanting to try it and this past week-end was the perfect opportunity. The directions were very straightforward and easy to do, and the cake turned out beautifully. I only had one hiccup with the recipe as written and that is that it yielded way too much buttercream for the cake – and I carelessly used it all. (Mr. Tea says that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.) Next time I will eat the extra buttercream myself halve the amount.


A slice of Victoria Sponge and a cup of tea


Here is a page with the Victoria Sponge recipe in case you’d like to give it a go. Do you have a Victoria Sponge story or recipe you’d like to share?


*An authentic Victoria Sponge, according to The Women’s Institute



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Lemon Cake recipe from The Tea Rooms in London

Lemon Cake using recipe from from Secrets of the Tea Rooms Those of us who love frequenting tea rooms (you know who you are), just can’t help ourselves from obsessing over their decor, teapots, cups and saucers, and food. And although we wouldn’t dream of ever giving up the pursuit of the perfect tea room, we do enjoy re-creating one or more aspects of our favourite tea room once we’re back home.  Whether it’s sourcing their beautiful china for our own tea table, buying a tin of their popular house blend, or having a go at trying to bake their cakes or scones, we want the tea room experience to go on within our own familiar habitat long after it has ended at the one away from home.

The Tea Rooms, 153-155 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0UH

The Tea Rooms, London

But when it comes down to baking that cake or those scones, the problem is that some tea rooms want to keep their recipes a secret. Drat. Luckily, some tea rooms don’t mind sharing their recipes and even go so far as to publish them. The Tea Rooms, Stoke Newington Church Street, London is one of those, and I recently had a chance to review their cookbook, Secrets of the Tea Rooms – Recipes for Traditional British Cakes and Savouries.

The Tea Rooms, 153-155 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0UH

The Tea Rooms, London

The Tea Rooms opened in 2007 and are owned and operated by mother and daughter team Anne Wilkinson and Isabelle Allfrey; Isabelle is a professional chef. The tea setting is traditional (LOVE those bentwood chairs), with an emphasis on quality homemade cakes and confectionery. Who wouldn’t like a cookbook filled with quality recipes from a tea room with a professional chef, huh?


Secrets of the Tea Room contains a variety of great sounding recipes – scones; cakes and pastries; soups; savoury pastries; biscuits and batch bakes; and Christmas cooking –  originating from family members and cookery books and adapted for the tea room. Measurements are given in imperial and metric, so the book is suitable for cooks on both sides of the pond.

Handy tips are sprinkled throughout as are colour photographs, making it an immediate winner as far as I’m concerned. There is also a brief history of tea in Britain – always a good sign.

I am certain that I will eventually try each of the recipes in this book: they are solid, traditional British tea fare. But I did have to narrow it down to just one for the blog post, so I decided on the Lemon Cake. With the days drawing in, I have been in a mood lately to drink more Earl Grey, and Lemon Cake and Earl Grey tea are an excellent pairing.


Lemon Cake

For one small loaf cake, made in a tin about 9 in (23cm) long. This loaf cake is made extra tangy with lemon syrup poured over the cake, straight from the oven.


Collected ingredients for the Lemon Cake recipe from Secrets of the Tea Rooms


1 lemon
5 oz (140 g) plain flour
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tblsp dark rum (I did not have any rum or rum extract, so I used vanilla extract)
6 oz (175 g) caster sugar
2 oz (50 g) melted butter
3 oz (75 g) double cream
2 oz (50 g) icing sugar



Set the oven to 180°C (350°F) or Gas Mark 4, and prepare a small loaf tin by greasing lightly and lining with baking paper.

Grate the zest of the lemon (the skin without the pith) or use a zester. Add the zest to the eggs, salt and sugar, and whisk together, without overworking. Stir in the cream. sieve the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture. Then add the melted butter and rum. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 7 minutes at 200°C (400°F), Gas Mark 6. Then lower the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4, and bake for a further 33 minutes.

 Warm Lemon Cake just out of the oven, dotted with holes, ready for lemon syrup to be poured over

While the cake is baking, heat the juice of the lemon and the icing sugar together, until dissolved.

Tip: Do not let the lemon syrup boil, otherwise it could taste bitter.

The cake is ready when it is springy to touch and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven, but leave in the tin. Prick all over with a skewer (I didn’t have a skewer, so improvised using a matchstick) and then pour over the lemon syrup while the cake is still warm. Turn out when cold.


Lemon Cake using recipe from Secrets of the Tea Rooms

The Lemon Cake looked and tasted fantastic. The recipe was easy to follow, and I already had everything on hand. Baked in small, individual loaf tins, the Lemon Cake recipe from Secrets of the Tea Rooms would be perfect for holiday gift-giving to friends, neighbours or work colleagues, together with a festively wrapped copy of the book itself.

Visit The Tea Rooms website for opening hours and more information about their tea room, teas, bespoke cakes, venue hire, and home tea party service. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.


The Tea Rooms logo





155 Stoke Newington Church Street
London N16 0UH



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Betty Magazine is just my cup of tea

Tea & Cake Feature from Betty Magazine

It has been a long time since I have been excited about a magazine.  The last magazine I fell in love with was the original Victoria, way back in 1987.  But Victoria was eventually sold and re-published and was never the same.

The good news is that I am once again excited about a magazine – and it’s no Victoria. No, no, far from it. It’s Betty, and I love it.  Betty is fresh and colourful, youthful and fun and (at the moment) virtually free from advertisements. Can I hear a collective, “Yay!” ?


Betty Magazine


Betty Magazine

Betty never really officially launched but instead has been a “natural progression of a hobby” according to the magazine’s founder and editor Charlotte Jacklin. You won’t find any weight loss or diet tips there, they don’t play on people’s insecurities: their philosophy is for people to embrace who they are and celebrate it. When you enter the world of Betty you will find fashion, music, culture, and lifestyle content plus everything in between.

Betty is my new best friend and the best part about that is that I have never had a best friend so much younger than myself! The magazine is clearly designed for girls young enough to be my daughter a different age group than my own, but despite the generation gap, I have found plenty to like about Betty…beginning with the fact that a regular feature of the magazine is called Tea & Cake. Really now, Betty, how could we not become best friends?


Victoria Sponge Recipe, Betty Magazine

But there is much more to Betty besides Tea & Cake. The latest issue contains local Out & About event information; a charming article about falling back in love with the bicycle; an interview with the Vice-President of the Dalston Darlings Women’s Institute (honest!) who have started their own craft parties to ensure that all those lovely things they pin on Pinterest don’t just stay there; easy recipes (including the one above for Victoria Sponge); Life Skills tips (“Dry homegrown herbs in the microwave between sheets of kitchen paper. Put a mugful of water in at the same time to prevent burning.”); hair, fashion and make-up advice; a feature about a graphic designer working on a 365 project entitled Daily Teacup; and lots more – including stylish photographs and enchanting illustrations.

Visit Betty magazine’s website and blog to learn more about their talented team and to meet my new best friend – who has brought Tea & Cake & a breath of fresh air into my life.


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