This Valentine’s Day I decided to make my boyfriend afternoon tea. He’d never had afternoon tea before, and I’ve never really wanted to suggest we go for afternoon tea because it is really expensive (especially as we are students) and I’ve always worried that he would be underwhelmed by sandwiches, a scone, and a few cakes considering the cost. However, in creating my own version of afternoon tea, filling each layer with food he adores, I truly learnt exactly how much time and effort goes into creating something that seems so simple, and just how much potential there is for it all to go horribly wrong!
I have to admit that the bottom layer was the least of my worries. Whilst most afternoon tea specialists provide cute little cucumber sandwiches, I had long decided that my boyfriend would much prefer mini bacon & cheese burgers, hot dogs, and fried halloumi bites. This was also by far the easiest layer, as all I had to do was cut up a block of halloumi cheese and fry it; boil some frankfurters, which were then cut in half to fit into the mini buns; and make mini burgers by mixing beef mince, chopped parsley and garlic together. Also, these only took 5 minutes to fry. Unsurprisingly, this was my boyfriend’s favourite layer, and he has raved about our ‘fast food themed afternoon tea’ ever since!
The second tier was also very much centred around my boyfriend, especially as I had no idea whether he liked scones or not and I was not prepared to do afternoon tea without them! His favourite chocolate bar is Twix, and so I decided to make chocolate chip scones and serve them with chocolate ganache and caramel sauce in order to create a ‘Twix Scone’. (The caramel sauce, as you can see in the picture, turned out rather dark because I had to use dark muscavado sugar rather than brown sugar, but it still tasted delicious.) These were a big hit, even though he admitted that he didn’t think he would like them, so I was very happy!
My favourite tier, obviously, was the top tier. This tier took the longest to make. In fact, the whole thing took me 7 or 8 hours! The sweet tier consisted of gingerbread men decorated with regal icing to look like us, heart-shaped chocolate fudge cakes, banana splits, and orange meringues. The banana splits were actually the hardest to make out of all the desserts, as they required hollowing, but keeping the outside intact, so that the filling, which was a blend of condensed milk and banana pulp, did not spill out. I also found that it is easy to avoid the mess and time of making meringues by buying a carton of readily prepared egg whites (I ordered mine from Waitrose). The hardest part of making everything was the sheer volume of food that I was making and the time constraint in making it. I messed up the ingredients on nearly every single recipe (for example, I completely forgot about the buttermilk in the chocolate fudge cakes, I added twice the amount of orange I was supposed to in the meringues, and those bananas were my fourth or fifth attempt)! Luckily, everything still managed to taste great though! It can actually be quite stressful trying to get everything done in time, as well as to a good standard. Restaurants may have teams of chefs working on different aspects of their afternoon teas, but I can honestly say that after making my own I can fully respect, and, in the future, will take the time to appreciate, the time and effort that goes into each and every little detail of every afternoon tea.