Dine Like Downton Abbey’s Crawleys
contributed by Ellen Easton
Editors’ Note: As we all wait in anticipation of the Sept. 20th release of the film version of Downton Abbey, you’ll be happy to know that the Official Downton Abbey Cookbook is being released in conjunction with the movie and you can pre-order the book on Amazon.
The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook presents over 100 recipes that showcase the cookery and customs of the Crawley household—from upstairs dinner party centerpieces to downstairs puddings and pies—and bring an authentic slice of Downton Abbey to modern kitchens and Downton fans.
Whether adapted from original recipes of the period, replicated as seen or alluded to on screen, or typical of the time, all the recipes reflect the influences found on the Downton Abbey tables. Food historian Annie Gray gives a rich and fascinating insight into the background of the dishes that were popular between 1912 and 1926, when Downton Abbey is set —a period of tremendous change and conflict, as well as culinary development.
Our tea expert, Ellen Easton recently met with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. We thank her for sharing this excerpt from the book.
Recipe excerpt from chapter AFTERNOON TEA & GARDEN PARTIES
While the Victorian Sandwich (page 77) is the most famous layered cake of the era, it’s by no means the only such cake to make an appearance at Downton.
Layered cakes appear in the background of lots of scenes, especially those set during afternoon tea, which at Downton is often taken informally in the library. Tea-taking also happens on the lawn, with the house itself in the background: in tearooms; and in other people’s houses. Both Isobel and Violet are regular afternoon tea-takers. Orange layer cakes were one of the staples of the period and appear in many books. This version, from Margaret Black’s Superior Cookery (1887), uses oranges and lemons and packs a very citrusy punch indeed
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Baking powder wasn’t invented until the middle of the Victorian Era. Before then, sponge cakes were raised by beating as much air as possible into the eggs. Many cooks looked down upon raising agents and resisted using them, fearing, like Mrs. Patmore, that such modern cheats were a slippery slope to the devaluing of cooks, eventually replacing them entirely.
ORANGE LAYER CAKE
Recipe Note: This cake rises quite a bit so don’t be tempted to use a smaller pan, even though the batter will barely cover the bottom of the 9-inch (23cm) pan when it goes in the oven. Both cake layers should end up about 1 inch (2.5cm) tall, and when sandwiched together, they make a lovely cake. Of course, if you really want to bowl people over, you could stack up four cakes ( in this case you’d need to make a bit more icing as well). Such a tall cake wouldn’t necessarily be in keeping with the delicate spirit of the times however.
INGREDIENTS: 1 or 2 small oranges; 2 lemons; ½ cup (115g) butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans; 1 cup (200g) superfine sugar, plus more for the pans; 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons (225g) flour, plus more for the pans; 1 ¾ teaspoons baking soda; pinch 1/8 teaspoon) of salt; 5 egg yolks.
FOR THE CANDIED PEEL: 1- cup (240ml) water; 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar.
FOR THE ICING: 2 cups (250g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted; pinch 1/8 teaspoon) of salt.
FOR THE FILLING: 2 tablespoons orange marmalade, pureed in a blender or by hand.
PREPARATION: Using a paring knife, remove the peel from the orange and lemons, leaving as much of the white pith behind as possible. You need the peel in strips, ideally about 3 inches (7.5cm) long and ¼ inch (6mm) wide, though chunks will do. Just don’t grate the zest.
Put the orange and lemon peels into separate small bowls. Now juice the orange and add the juice to the bowl of lemon peel and juice the lemons and add the juice to the orange peel. Leave the peels to steep for 1 hour, then strain the juices into separate small bowls and reserve along with the peels for later.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (18- degrees C). Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper. Dust the sides with a mixture of equal parts superfine sugar and flour, tapping out the excess.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk gently to blend.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and superfine sugar on a medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then beat for 10 minutes. The mixture should be pale and fluffy. On low speed, beat in 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture to prevent curdling, then add the remaining flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the reserved juice in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing well after each addition. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, spreading to the edges of the pan.
Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of each cake layer comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks. Using a blunt knife, loosen the edges of the cakes from the pan sides, then invert the pans onto the wire racks, lift off the pans, and gently peel off the parchment. Work carefully, as the layers are very light and delicate.
While the layers are cooling, candy the citrus peel for decorating the top of the cake. Put the orange and lemon peels into a small saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to a boll over high heat. Boil for a couple of minutes, then drain, discarding the water each time. And return the peels to the pan. Repeat twice, discarding the water each time. Meanwhile, line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
When you have boiled the peels three times, return them to the pan, add the 1- cup (240ml) water and the granulated sugar, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and simmer until the peels are tender and any pith has become translucent, 25-30 minutes. Drain well and use a fork to spread the peels in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan to cool. Finally, dry the peels in a gentle oven- 250 degreed F (120 degrees C) is perfect – until they are crisp but not browned, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
To make the icing, put the confectioners’ sugar, reserved lemon juice, and the salt into a bowl and beat together until smooth.
Place a cake layer on a serving plate and spread the top with the marmalade. Top with the second layer, then, using a palette knife or offset spatula, frost the top and sides of the cake with the icing. Sprinkle the top with the candied peel. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes to set the icing before serving.
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Ellen Easton, author of Afternoon Tea~Tips, Terms and Traditions(RED WAGON PRESS), an afternoon tea authority, lifestyle and etiquette industry leader, keynote speaker and product spokesperson, is a hospitality, design, and retail consultant whose clients have included the Waldorf=Astoria, the Plaza and Bergdorf Goodman. Easton’s family traces their tea roots to the early 1800s, when ancestors first introduced tea plants from India and China to the Colony of Ceylon, thus building one of the largest and best cultivated teas estates on the island.