c September 2013 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Whitworths Great Office Bake Off - September Loaf Bakes #GOBO

Carrot Cake
With the Great British Bake Off back on our screens it seems the whole of the UK has got baking mania again. So when Whitworths Sugar told me all about their Great Office Bake Off,  how could I and my work colleagues resist joining in the challenge. To be honest there are lots of bakers in our office so we needed little encouragement. 

It was easy to organise using the Whitworths  Great Office Bake Off #GOBO Toolkit, so if you think your office wants to join in be sure to visit the site to find out more. You can also follow Whitworths Sugar on Twitter, and share your bakes via a tweet.

It has all you need :-
  • a poster to advertise your #GOBO
  • voting slips
  • tournament table
  • bake sale labels
  • #GOBO certificate for winner 
Apple and Spice Tea Loaf
A Loaf Bake was the September theme of our #GOBO, a staggering eleven members of staff entered. There was a real variety of bakes, even two savoury bakes and one multi coloured rainbow cake!
An impressive number of entries!
Here is a full list of the bakes:-
  • Lemon Drizzle Cake  - three entries
  • Carrot Cake
  • Apple and Spice Tea Loaf
  • Rainbow Vanilla Cake
  • Banana and Walnut Loaf
  • Plum and Almond
  • Blackberry and Cinnamon
  • Vegetarian Savoury cake
  • Sun dried tomato and mozzarella
Plum and Almond Cake
There were nine judges, who all seemed to enjoy the tasting and scoring. I have to say the voting slips made this nice and easy, it also made adding up the scores to find the winners straight forward.

The winners are:
              1st Place -  Carrot Cake
              2nd Place  -  Apple and Spice Tea Loaf
              joint 3rd Place - Lemon Drizzle Cake
                                Plum and Almond Cake

Now there is an element of delight and slight embarrassment when I tell you that I baked the Carrot Cake, but I can assure you the judging was totally impartial.  For those interested I used the Whitworths Carrot Cake recipe, the ingredients were enough to make one and a half loaves. You can see photographs of all the bakes on the Whitworths Facebook app.

Rainbow Vanilla Cake
We sliced up all the cakes and sold them to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The October #GOBO will be a technical bake where all entries will bake to the same recipe, but nothing too tricky.

Disclosure: I was sent Whitworths sugar for baking and compensated for this post.
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Sunnycroft National Trust Day Out - Tea, Cake and Vintage Clothes

Sunnycroft, National Trust property in Shropshire is virtually on my doorstep, in fact I volunteer there but that is a story I will share with you another time. On Friday I was there as a visitor and had taken a friend along to treat her to tea and cake. 
Best National Trust Tea Rooms Sunnycroft
Sunnycroft Tea Room
Sunnycroft is an Edwardian gentleman's suburban villa and is one of the very few villas to have survived, with its own mini estate and largely unaltered contents and decoration. There was a special exhibition of Gladrags and Handbags on Friday, which was one of the reasons we planned our visit. 

Obviously with clothes dating back from the 1890's to the 1940's on display there were also some furs, of which everyone has their own opinion on. However I did not realise that prior to using silk to make gentleman's Top Hats originally they were made from Beaver fur. Which to look at them you would never think was the case. Sorry I do not have a photo of the Top Hat, the room in which it was displayed was well protected from the light and obviously flash photography is not allowed. I confess that I took fewer photographs than anticipated mainly because my friend and I were chatting so much!

Ladies evening scarf, bag and gloves
There were some wonderful dainty ladies gloves to look at, oh my their hands and fingers must of been so slender years ago. 

Ostrich feather fan
From a gardens point of few there are some wonderful glasshouses, flowers, orchard and a croquet lawn. But for now there was more talking to be done, so we headed for the tearoom! 

Coffee set in the drawing room
The tearoom is quite different to your average National Trust Tea Room, it is situated in a room in the house and you really do feel as though you are enjoying tea and cake as a guest and not a paying visitor. Each table has a tablecloth, sugar bowl and sugar tongs, and the tea is served in lovely fine china tea cups and saucers. We found our selves a small table with a wonderful view of the garden and glasshouse. When we were not talking we indulged in the Lemon cake and Coffee and Walnut cake, which are all made by hand locally at Ludlow, Shropshire.  

So if you are ever visiting Shropshire be sure to visit Sunnycroft, it really is a gem of a property and tearoom.

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Whittard Tea for One - Giveaway (closed)

To celebrate the launch of Whittard of Chelsea new Bampton range of china, I have rather nice giveaway for one lucky reader of Garden Tea Cakes and Me.  Whittard are kindly offering you the chance to win a Bampton Spot and Stripes Tea for one set, along with a box of Whittard English Breakfast loose tea to enjoy in your new teapot and teacup.

You can find out more about Whittard English Breakfast tea from my review last month.

How to enter
To be in with a chance of winning this lovely prize confirm your entry using the Rafflecopter widget, for extra entries complete the additional tasks. If you can not see the Rafflecopter widget below, you may need to refresh your page using F5.

Remember if you enter the competition by tweeting be sure to include the link to your tweet.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions
  • There will be one winner, who will win one Bampton Spot and Stripe Tea for One RRP £20 and one Whittard English Breakfast Loose Tea Pouch RRP £5.25 supplied directly to the winner from Whittard of Chelsea.
  • The winner will be notified by email, they will have ten days to reply before a new winner will be selected.
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A cake, a mug and a giveaway!

Cake and a cuppa and a to do list in the making!
How do you like my mug, do you remember back in 2013 the year of the Olympics and Jubilee I made a very patriotic Union Jack cake. Well a few weeks ago I entered a competition (I do that quite a  bit) to win a personalised mug from The Gift Experience Company  on their Facebook page and was selected as the 'lucky winner'.  It took me a while to decide, although I knew I did not want a photo of a person and we all know how well tea and cake go together.  So my Union Jack cake photo it was. 

If you fancy a chance of winning too, The Gift Experience run the Monday Mug Competition well every Monday of course! Well little did I know until I won but they are a Shropshire based business too. 
Union Jack Sponge Cake
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Handmade Flower Seed Tags

You may remember back in June I blogged about my Charity Cake Sale for Scoliosis UK, one of the items other than cake I made to sell on the day were some Sweet William plantable seed tags. These fabulous little gifts of seeds were so easy even my 6 year old niece, with a little adult assistance can make them.
Make your own seed tags
I had plenty of Sweet William seeds I had saved from last year, I also had a stash of paper that had been used as stuffing from a new hand bag. With this little project I get to combine crafting with my love for gardening. 

You can use almost any seeds you save from flowers in your garden to create these gifts.

How to make flower seed tags 

You will need:-
  • flower seeds
  • paper 
  • water
  • pastry shape cutters
  • tray
  • bowl
  • blender
Step 1 - rip up the paper into pieces, and add to a bowl of water allowing them to get nice and soggy
Step 2 - scoop out the soggy paper into a blender, drain away any excess water then blitz into a fine pulp
Step 3 - now you need to squeeze the water from the pulp, use either a sieve or tea towel whatever you have to hand.
Step 4 - mix in the seeds
Step 5 - place a piece of baking paper on a tray, take your shaped pastry cutter place it flat onto the paper.  Taking a small hand full of the seed mixed paper pulp push the pulp down with your fingers or knuckles, you do not want it to be too thick.
Step 6 - Leave the seeds shapes somewhere warm to dry, such as a airing cupboard or sunny greenhouse. You do not want the seeds to remain wet too long, 24 hours should do it.

Step 1
Step 2

Step 2
Step 5
Step 6

A great little gift

I have wrapped mine in a small cellophane envelope with a few growing instructions to give as a gift, they are the perfect size to pop inside a birthday or Christmas card for a gardening friend. But it is not ideal to package seeds in cellophane, they need to breath.

The inspiration to make these came from a blog post to make some Forget Me Not seed tags at Just the way we want to

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Rose Iceberg Floribunda Gardening Express - Review

Rose Iceberg Bloom
I have never ordered plants online well except for some flower bulbs, I have always been a walk around a garden centre touch and feel plant purchaser. So when I was approached by Gardening Express and asked if I would like to browse or virtual walk around their website and choose a plant, they certainly had my interest.

Selecting a Plant
Before I hit the website I had a walk around the garden to see what was missing. What did I need? There is an area of the garden that is quite green in colour at this time of year, the Apple tree, hedge and lawn. In Spring it has the wonderful blossom of the apple tree but in Summer it is missing a touch of delicate colour. 
Apple tree
Having browsed around the virtual plants on the website. Which is helpfully split by type of plant such as Patio Plants, Ferns, Roses, Shrubs, Trees etc. I settled on looking into detail on the Roses, which is further split by types of Roses e.g. Bush and Shrub Roses, Patio Roses, Standard Rose Trees, Flower Carpet Roses, David Austin Roses.  I knew now I wanted a climbing rose, that could meander its way through the apple tree. There are thirty three different climbing roses to choose from on the website. I decided I wanted a rose colour that would standout but not clash with other plants in the border below, so settled on Rose Climbing Iceburg Floribunda. Which has beautiful delicate white roses with almost thornless growth, and is supplied as a very strong plant in large 5 litre container.

I confess to being most sceptical about having a large plant delivered, and it arriving in good condition. I received text message from the courier advising me my parcel had been dispatched and a tracking number to follow its progress online. The parcel arrived as promised by a very jolly deliveryman, the box was very sturdy and the plant well protected.  

Unwrapping the delivery (click photo to enlarge)
Rose Climbing Iceberg Plant
As I took the scissors to the box and started to unwrap the plant, it almost appeared to grow out of the top.  The plant was not crammed or stuffed into the packaging, the plant was in excellent condition and healthy with just one leaf snapped. There was no soil tipped from the container. To be fair I suspect that had I purchased this plant at a garden centre and transported it home myself it would be unlikely to have arrived in such a great condition.
Rose Iceberg Floribunda
There were over 20 rose buds on the plant and the leaves were lovely glossy and green. I had not expected the Iceberg Rose to have any buds on it let alone so many. Now with me still not feeling so great a few weeks ago and really only up to sitting in the garden, I decided in the short term to have this wonderful rose placed on the patio.  This way I could enjoy the Roses as they started to bloom. When the rose is planted, it will need pruning to start trailing up the tree and being so close to the end of the flowering season I wanted to enjoy the roses now. The scent from the flowers is subtle, sweet and fragrant - very nice indeed. This looks like it is going to be a very pleasing plant that will offer much enjoyment for years to come. Can not wait to share with you its progress next year.

I was asked to select a plant from the gardening express website, which I was supplied with free of charge for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Whittard Tea - Review

Whittard tea selection
Lovely, lovely tea to review. Which I have been slowly sipping my way through over the last few weeks. In fact it's helped distract me from a chest infection that I have struggled to recover from, hence the reason of so few blog posts of late. 

There is an amazing array of teas to choose from on the Whittard website, I selected three different teas to try along with an individual tea strainer.

The packaging of each tea details suggested brewing times specific for each tea, this will help to achieve the perfect pot of tea. It is also clearly shown on the front of each box the type of tea eg. Strong Traditional along with details of teabag of loose which I would think would be helpful when you have a shelf of teas in front of you in the shop.

Organic English Breakfast teabags - English Breakfast is one of my preferred blends of tea, I would say this is my daily tea of choice. During the last few weeks I have been drinking the Whittard brand with milk alongside another well known organic brand of tea. My personal choice Whittard just has the edge, based purely on taste. Not that the other tastes bad indeed it tastes great after all I have been drinking it for years. Teabags, no disputing the convenience of these a truly genius invention!

Whittard Original black tea loose - I was tempted by this tea having read some of the reviews on the website. A tea blend with a slight fragrant taste to it, nothing over powering, quite subtle. I drank this tea black.

Whittard 1886 black tea loose - this is the first tea blended by Mr Whittard back in 1886. A tea described as smooth with a malty sweetness, or to me it tasted like Fig Roll biscuits but without the calories. A very nice cup of tea indeed, which I drank with milk. 

Loose tea, for some reason this makes me want to stop, sit and savor my tea. I don't know why it just feels like it is something a little special.  You can choose to brew your tea in a teapot and use a strainer when pouring your tea into your teacup. Once opened you are best to store your tea in a container to help maintain its freshness, although the Whittard packs do have a sticky to seal the pack just be careful not to split the pack when you first open it.

I used the long handled tea strainer I was sent perfect for making individual cups of loose tea. It was very easy to use and achieved its aim - to keep all the tea leaves in and let the flavour out. The simple one handed strainer had a strong spring and the long handle made scooping the loose tea free from mess. Make sure the strainer is dry, if you get it wet and then try scooping you will bet into a mess. This strainer will be moving location and following me to work! 

Long handled tea strainer
If I had a Whittard store nearby I would definitely be popping in to get my English Breakfast teabags, but sadly they closed my nearest store around 6 years ago of course I can still order online.

Tea Tip - don't forget to pop your used tea leaves into your compost bin. Or if you do not have a compost bin sprinkle them around the base of your Roses. 

The tea and a tea strainer was provided free of charge from Whittard for the purposes of this review, all opinions are my own.
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