by Stephen Andrews
If you live in Britain, you may have seen the popular TV programme Bake Off. In it, contestants are challenged to bake different kinds of cake each week. It’s one of Shigeri’s favourite programmes and is one of the most-watched programmes on TV. This isn’t surprising, because Brits just love baking sweet things of all kinds.
Of course, cake is always served alongside sandwiches and a nice cup of tea at teatime. So what are the favourites cakes and other sweet treats on the British tea table?
Possibly the most classic British bake. Named after Queen Victoria, who used to enjoy it at teatime, it's a vanilla sponge cake that is sandwiched with sweet strawberry jam and soft, pillowy buttercream (or whipped cream) filling, with a dusting of icing sugar on top. Apparently, during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations back in 2022, more Victoria sponge was eaten in Britain than ever before!
Lemon Drizzle Cake
This tasty cake is made of sponge, which has lemon syrup dripped (or ‘drizzled’) onto it, to give the whole cake a delicious, zingy lemony flavour. Apparently, 40 percent of British people claim that lemon drizzle cake is their preferred choice of teatime treat, beating even the adored Victoria sponge.
The Bakewell tart is a classic made of shortcrust pastry with layers of jam, frangipane, chopped almonds and icing. It dates back to the 19th century when a woman named Mrs Greaves, who was the landlady of a pub called the White Horse Inn in Derbyshire, created the Bakewell pudding, which has the same flavours as Bakewell tart, but is made with sponge. Thanks Mrs Greaves, what a great idea!
Not strictly a cake, but it is a British classic. It was invented during the 2nd World War due to the rationing of ingredients. In order to make food go further, the dessert was made with stewed apples and topped with a crumbly mixture of margarine, flour and sugar, then baked until the top was crispy. Smothered in custard, it makes a comforting treat. Just as popular is the apple pie, which is very similar to apple crumble, except that it consists of apple segments, covered in pastry and baked golden brown.
Coffee & Walnut Cake
A sponge cake made with coffee, usually instant, and containing chunks of walnut. The cake is often filled with flavoured butter icing and topped with more butter icing and walnuts.
Cheesecake consists of one or more layers. The main, thickest, layer is made of a mixture of a soft cheese (typically cottage cheese, cream cheese or ricotta), eggs and sugar. The bottom layer, or base, is crushed digestive biscuits or pastry. Many people think that cheesecake is American, but the name actually dates back to the 15th century in England and it’s said that the first cheesecake was made in 5th century Greece. Cheesecake is totally my favourite cake ever!
Also known as Passion cake, carrot cake uses carrots as a sweetener, instead of sugar. It usually consists of three layers separated by a creamy filling and coated with an iced frosting on the outside. In Britain, it’s often said that carrots improve your eyesight, but the only reason you really need to eat carrot cake is that it’s so irresistible!
Everyone loves chocolate, right? And the same is true for chocolate cake. It’s two layers of chocolate-flavoured sponge, filled with a cocoa infused buttercream. Around that, goes a thick, gloopy icing also made with – you guessed it – chocolate. Basically, it’s a chocolate lover’s dream, which you can eat if you’re happy, sad, or whenever you like. Go and get one now!
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Again, not strictly speaking a cake, but definitely a British classic, sticky toffee pudding consists of a moist sponge covered in a waterfall of sticky and sweet toffee sauce. Very scrumptious, it’s usually served with custard or ice-cream.
Not a cake either, but I couldn’t miss them out. The scone, originally, from Scotland, is a pastry that is the centrepiece of the British cream tea. Served with jam and clotted cream, it just wouldn’t be a proper tea without them! There’s a lot of debate in the UK about the proper way to eat scones, with a rivalry between the counties of Devon and Cornwall. In the Devon method, you split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream and finally add strawberry jam on top. With the Cornwall method, the warm scone is first split in two, then spread with strawberry jam, and then topped with a spoonful of clotted cream. To be honest, they’re really tasty either way.
Fancy having a go at making these wonderful treats yourself? You’ll find recipes for most of them at bbcgoodfood.com