Festive Afternoon Tea at Panoramic 34

Panoramic 34 afternoon tea cakes

I finally finished maternity leave in September to return to work part-time. To say life has been chaotic is an understatement. Due to time and financial pressures that come hand in hand when you have a young family it can be tough to find quality grown-up time that isn’t interspaced with partly eaten rice cakes and the dulcet tones of Mr Tumble.

panoramic 34 liver building view

It’s a well-known fact I have a soft spot for Afternoon Tea. For both mine & Hub’s birthday my sister decided to treat us to afternoon tea at a venue of our choice with babysitting thrown in to boot. One wet and windy November weekend we headed to my homeland of Liverpool, LB safely wreaking havoc at the grandparents, for a spot of fine afternoon tea with views for miles and a celeb on the neighbouring table.

stawberry mojito mocktail and rose nyetimber

Before long we were taking the quick ride up in the lift to the 34th floor for the fanciest afternoon tea since Le Manoir. We were greeted with views over Liverpool that didn’t disappoint. There is something cosy about sitting 34 floors up with rain lashing against the window full in the knowledge that everything was ok because you had a glass of sparking rose Nyetimber in hand.

As my sister paid for our meal in gift vouchers we had a bit to spare so a strawberry mojito mocktail it was. As Hubs was driving I also had his glass of sparking rose. I’ve barely touched alcohol over the last 2 years so I decided two glasses of bubbly plus a cocktail would probably push me over the edge.

panoramic 34 Christmas luxury vintage afternoon tea

Panoramic 34’s festive afternoon tea launched a few days before we visited and it was popular choice among other tables there.

For sandwiches we had egg, turkey & cranberry, salmon, pork pâté. Fusspot me doesn’t eat smoked salmon but tha was no problem for them, they simply swapped the salmon starter for a blue cheese and poached pear salad and the salmon sandwich for cheese and caramelised onion chutney.

panoramic 34

I’m always pleased to see when the sweet course on an afternoon tea as a good choice of different treats. Although 3/4 of the sweets featured chocolate they were so delicious this didn’t matter. The chocolate tart was just pipped to the post by the cheesecake as the favourite sweet of the day.

As for the celeb on the next table? Now that would be telling, but she did comment to us as to how fabulous our lunch looked.

Rabbit 1st Birthday Cake

1st Rabbit Birthday Cake

How fast has the last year gone? 12 months ago I was welcoming LB to the blog and wondering how on earth us foodie selves would cope with a little one. Well here we are, we survived… Just.

birthday cake to table

Some people take their little ones to a farm or zoo for their first birthday, we took her to a restaurant. Start as we mean to go on.

ELC Wooden Activity Kitchen

All little foodies need a kitchen. Little kitchens for 1 year olds are not the easiest to find, but I happened to stumble across this fantastic wooden one from Early Learning Centre. It doubles up as a walker and the storage underneath is great for the tea set she was given. However some poor unsuspecting teddies and wooden animals have been “cooked” in the kitchen already.

Digging Rabbit First Birthday Cake

There are only a few days between mine & LB’s birthday so we decided to celebrate with a BBQ for family. We were certainly blessed with the weather. All first birthdays (or any birthday for that matter) need a birthday cake.

The inspiration behind the cake was this rabbit cake from the Asda magazine. The week before the BBQ I discovered the wonder of Nigella’s custard birthday cake. A soft, fluffy sponge cake that keeps well, can be made in the food processor all while a nearly one year old is demanding your attention? yes please.

rabbit close up

You can buy and hire tins for number cakes, but I found this crafty graphic on pinterest that shows you how to make numbers 0-9 using just square, loaf or circular tins. This method leaves a few offcuts that are perfect for coconut haters, *stares at Hubs*. Do note though I picked up the wrong sized cake board and ended up having to hack my number to fit on the board.

LB cake rabbits

As I wanted a layer of jam in the middle I find it’s often easier to bake the layers separately to ensure the cake cooks through evenly rather than cutting a cake in half. Although many of my cake tins are meant to be the same size, they aren’t. This isn’t too much of a problem if you’re going to shape the cake then smother in icing. I ended up using two disposable square tins. A bit of crafty maths to help with scaling the recipe up and we were good to go.

1st Birthday cake

What you don’t see here is that I was awake 5am the morning of the BBQ making sugarpaste rabbits, trying to remember to take photos in the dawn light in between stages while trying to get everything else sorted. Not my best set of photos, I know. LB approved though. After a few strawberries, she decided the rabbits were what she wanted

First Birthday Rabbit Cake

For the sponge

  • 300 g plain flour
  • 4 heaped tbsp custard powder
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 6 large eggs
  • 340 g soft butter
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 3 – 4 tbsp milk
  • Raspberry jam (roughly half a jar depending on how fond you are of jam)

For the buttercream

  • 500 g icing sugar
  • 120 g custard powder
  • 300 g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 tbsp  recently boiled water

For the decoration

  • 150 g desiccated coconut
  • green food dye
  • sugarpaste (white and tiny amount of pink)
  • Black sugarcraft pen
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C then butter and line the bottom of two 20cm / 8 inch square sandwich tins.
  2. Put all of the sponge ingredients, except the milk and jam, into a food processor. Process to a smooth batter, and then add the milk a tablespoon at a time to make a soft dropping consistency.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake (ideally on the same shelf) for 20 minutes. The cakes are ready when golden in colour and spring back to touch.
  4. Let the tins sit on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before turning out and removing paper liner. Allow to cool before assembling.
  5. While the cake cools make the decorations. To colour the coconut put it in a ziploc bag with a small amount of green food dye. Seal the bag, remove as much air as possible, then massage the contents until the coconut is green and evenly covered.
  6. To make the rabbits roll three pieces of white icing. One the size of a small sprout (body), one of a pea (tail) and the third the size of a small grape (head). Roll the body into a ball then squash very slightly. Take the head ball and stick this to one end of the body with a small amount of water and press slightly into the body. Stick the tail ball at the other end. Take two small pea sized pieces of the white icing and roll into pear shapes. Press these on top of the body near the head. and flatten. These are the ears. Add a tiny amount of pink icing for the nose and mark the eyes with a black sugarcraft pen.
  7. Forget sieving the icing sugar and custard powder just put it in the food processor and blitz to get rid of any lumps. Then add the butter, processing again to make the buttercream come together. Feed the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running to make the icing easier to spread.
  8. Now is the time to start constructing the cake. First sandwich the two layers together with jam and cut in to thirds, like the picture above.
  9. Using a small amount of buttercream stick the pieces of cake on to the cake board in the shape of a number one. Unless you are going to ice the cake straight away cover closely in clingfilm to stop the cake drying out.
  10. As this is a light spongy cake the buttercream can pull off the cake. The best way round this is to do a crumb coat. Using a pallet knife carefully put a thin layer of buttercream over the cake and filling in any gaps. Don’t worry if some cake crumb gets stuck in the buttercream, this will be hidden in the next layer. Put the cake in the fridge for 10-20 minutes to allow the icing to set. This is when you grab your first and last cup of tea of the day and worry if the postman is going to deliver the last minute eBay purchase of party hats (he doesn’t).
  11. Once the crumb coat is set, spread on the rest of the buttercream. Before this final buttercream layer has set press the green coconut into it. Secure the bunnies and flowers with leftover buttercream.
  12. Sit down, drink that cuppa that has now gone cold and clean up the chaos.

Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before beginning.

Christmas Pudding Krispie Cakes

xmas pudding krispie

This Christmas is going to be very different for us. Last year was spent it telling our families of the impending arrival of Little Baker (LB) by giving the future grandparents this book and counting the seconds before the penny dropped and tear/squeals started. This year 5-month-old LB will be joining us at the dinner table, not to eat as she’s not quite old enough yet, but to preside over the feast. How long she’ll be happy in the high chair before wanting to sit on someone’s lap is another matter.

Looking back I seem to have a thing about making food christmas pudding shaped. These are simply rice krispie cakes with some fruit added for good measure. They are quick to make, cheap and perfect for that moment when you realise you’ve forgotten to make something for the charity Christmas cake stall stand. Alternatively if Hub’s birthday bake goes wrong today he may get these.

They are not the most photogenic to make. Or should I say I struggled to make my batch (made by me, a 30-something who’s usually a perfectionist) not look like a 7-year old had made them. If you wear disposable gloves it is possible to roll this mixture into balls, but it is easier to spoon the mixture directly in to a paper case.

I got the holly & berry sprinkles used on these cakes as soon as they appeared in Sainsbury’s back in October. I’ve spotted them appearing in Morrisons and cake decorating stores too, but be quick as they seem to disappear fast.

So as another Christmas rapidly draws closer have a very merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Pudding Krispie Cakes

Makes 12

  • 100 g milk chocolate
  • 60 g rice krispies
  • 25 g dried mixed fruit
  • 50 g white chocolate
  • holly and berry sprinkles (You could also make them from sugarpaste or glacé cherries & angelica)
  1. Melt the milk chocolate.
  2. Stir the rice krispies and mixed fruit in to the melted chocolate until well coated
  3. Share the mixture between 12 paper cakes
  4. Melt the white chocolate then drizzle this over the krispie cakes.
  5. Decorate with the holly and berries then allow the chocolate to set.

Christmas Pudding Rum Truffles

christmas pudding truffles

These truffles are based on a rum truffle recipe I used to make and eat as a child. Often we would visit Mellors, a local bakery, and pick a cake. My favourite was a rum truffle and I can remember it being the size of my fist. Of course I now know that rum truffles are a cheeky way of using up leftover cake.

This is such a simple, no-bake recipe. It can be adapted in many different ways to incorporate different themes and flavourings. I find rum flavouring works better than real rum in these truffles. The rum flavouring can be sometimes be a bit difficult to find (Silver Spoon do one) so when I spot it I buy it.

From an educational point a view this is a fabulous recipe to teach ratios. It’s essentially 1 part cocoa powder:2 parts icing sugar :4 parts cake crumbs and as it makes 12 truffles when using 100g cake there are many factors relating to the number 12. This makes the recipe easy to scale up and down or work out the ingredients if you only a given amount of cake crumbs.

Christmas Pudding Truffles

Makes 12

  • 100 g cake crumbs (more or less any sponge cake works, even stale cake)
  • 50 g icing sugar
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp flavouring (I like rum flavouring or orange extract)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 3 tsp icing sugar mixed with 1 tsp of boiled water to make glace icing
  • holly made from small amount of coloured sugarpaste. You could also use glacé cherries and angelica or holly sprinkles.
  1. Mix together the cake crumbs, icing sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Add the flavouring and milk. Mix until the ingredients are well combined and stick together.
  3. Using your hands mush together the mixture until it is almost evenly coloured. Wash your hands. The next step is easier with clean hands.
  4. Pinch off a small sprout sized piece of truffle mixture. Roll into a ball and set to one side.
  5. Drizzle a small amount of the glace icing on to the top of the pudding, then decorate with the fondant holly. Chill for an hour to allow to set.

Saturn (tomato & basil) rolls

cottage cheese rolls

Cottage cheese purchases are often on a healthy kick whim. It’s opened, spooned on a jacket spud then the rest of the pot risks being forgotten about at the back of the fridge. This recipe uses up this languishing pot and is perfect for a quick lunchtime bread as no yeast is required.

As part of my work (well when not on mat leave) I take recipes and adapt them to fit a topic or make them more suitable for the client’s needs. In this case these rolls linked with a school’s Space topic. The mixed herbs in the dough represented the rocks in Saturn’s rings and the cottage cheese the ice. It’s for Primary-aged children to make and they had 1.5 hours to make, bake and clean up. In this short time frame it’s very difficult to make proper bread so these made a great compromise. The original recipe for these rolls uses a food processor, not ideal with a class of children with minimum kitchen facilities, so by using value/basics cottage cheese that is usually less chunky than more expensive brands you eliminate the use of a blender.

cooked saturn rolls

The cottage cheese gives the bread a lovely fluffy texture. Something you wouldn’t expect with bread made with no yeast. If you are using a thick, chunky cottage cheese I recommend you put it in a blender to make it smoother. Low fat cottage cheese also works well.

Saturn (tomato & basil) Rolls
Based on Tomato Pesto Rolls in What Shall We Cook Today?
Makes 6 small rolls 

250 g self raising flour

1/4 tsp salt

125 g cottage cheese (if your cottage cheese is very chunky put in a blender for a few seconds)

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

1/2 egg

60 ml milk

3 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

6 basil leaves

olive oil

1) Pre heat oven to 190°c. Cover baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment or fine sprinkling of flour.

2) Put the flour, cottage cheese, salt, mixed herbs, egg and milk in a bowl and mix until you have a soft dough. If the dough is a bit dry add a splash more of milk.

3) Turn out on to a floured worktop and knead twice so it looks smoother.

4) Divide the dough into 6 pieces, roll into a ball and place on baking tray.

5) Make a deep hole in each roll. Push a basil leaf and tomato half into the hole.

6) Drizzle with olive oil then bake for 15-20 until rolls are risen and golden.