If you're like me, this time of year can get a little bit stressful. The hustle and bustle of cooking, baking, traveling, shopping, and working a full-time job can take a toll on one’s sanity. I really do love the holidays, but it's hard to achieve the perfect work-life balance this time of year, which is why it's important to take time out of your busy schedule and do something fun and rejuvenating for you and your loved ones.
A great way to accomplish this is to gather your friends and family and attend one of The Chopping Block's Holiday Tea Party classes this December! Whether you're out and about downtown, or milling around the charming and historic neighborhood of Lincoln Square, we invite you to take a breather and join us for a fun and interactive Tea Party while spending quality time with your friends and family. The best part? You don't have to dress up and hold out your pinkie for this tea party! Come as you are, and enjoy your break from reality.
Upon arrival in our kitchen, you'll be greeted with an assortment of tea sandwiches and an approachable DIY tea bar. After you've had some time to enjoy the food and beverages, you'll work in groups to prepare:
- Vol-au-Vent (Puff Pastry Shells Filled with Chocolate Mousse)
- Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes Filled with Buttercream and Jam
- Currant-Ginger Scones
Our chefs will have Mini Quiche Lorraine and Chicken Salad prepared ahead of time to add to the spread at the end of this hands-on class.
Did you know that Victoria Sponge Cake, a two-layer sponge-like airy cake that's filled with a layer of jam and whipped cream, is considered the quintessential English teatime treat? I was unfamiliar with the origins of traditional English teatime, so I did a little investigating.
Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, is credited as the creator of teatime because she was hungry! The noon meal had become skimpy, leaving the Duchess with “a sinking feeling”, so she started inviting friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o’clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. Queen Victoria adopted the new craze for tea parties, and this simple cake, being one of the queen’s favorites, was named after her.
Mini Victoria Sponge Cakes
Yield: Approximately 30 mini sponge cake sandwiches
Active time: 40 minutes
Start to finish: 50 minutes
For the cakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk, plus more as needed
Strawberry or raspberry jam
1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter and flour mini muffin tins, and set aside.
2. In a medium-size mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract.
4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
5. Using a large spatula, fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just incorporated.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filing then half way.
7. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 10 minutes.
8. Allow the mini cakes to cool for 2 to 3 minutes, and then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
9. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, powdered sugar and milk until smooth. If the buttercream is too thick, add a very small splash of milk until you have a spreadable consistency. Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a medium, round tip.
10. Using a serrated knife, cut the mini sponge cakes in half crosswise.
11. Pipe a small dot of the buttercream in the center of the bottom cake halves, and pipe 4 to 5 more dots around the center. Spoon a dollop of jam on top.
12. Place the top cake halves on top to make little sandwiches.
13. Place the cakes on a platter, and top with a dusting of powdered sugar.
So, don't forget to take care of yourself this holiday season. Enjoy a relaxing break in your day noshing on sweet and savory treats and sipping hot, fragrant tea while picking up several holiday baking tips along the way.
Holiday Tea Party
- Sunday, December 17 10am Lincoln Square
- Sunday, December 17 2pm Lincoln Square
- Friday, December 22 12pm Merchandise Mart
We hope to see you in our kitchens this holiday season!