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Meet Carole Our Resident Cake Maker

Ok…I must confess, she’s my nan. But she’s a blooming good cake baker at that and from now on will be our resident cake maker giving us lots of tips and advice on what cakes are great for the time of year and what she recommends.

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As spring has finally sprung we asked Carole what cake is great for the warmer months and what tipple goes great with it.

“Well I make a nice almond slice which is quite cheap to make, although it’s got almonds in it it’s actually almond essence and then you just sprinkle the almonds on top. Very similar to a bakewell tart but you don’t put the icing on top, and that will keep for weeks and weeks in an air tight tin, it’s very light, and you can take it on picnics and it’s lovely for afternoon tea.”

What ingredients do you put into it?

“YOu put a base of shortcrust pastry onto he bottom and cover that with your favourite jam, strawberry or raspberry or whatever jam you like. And then you make a sponge mixture up and you can put fruit and raisins in it if you wish, and then almond essence to give it the almondy taste, spread that over the top of the pastry and the jam and then flaked almonds on top of that and then pop it in the oven and bake until cooked.”

Why do you recommend almond cake for this time of you?

“Because it keeps, and it’s not a creamy cake so it won’t go running and sickly. And all my family love it.”

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What other cakes do you suggest for this time of year?

“My chocolate crunch. You used to have it when you were at school with pink custard, but I just make a crunchy brownie mixture and I put chocolate on top on mine which keeps lovely n the fridge. My son was in the army, and my nephew was in the army and whatever country they were in, the chocolate crunch got posted to, they always insisted that I send chocolate crunch. So it’s been all over the world from Cyprus to Ireland, Afghanistan, Germany, Cyprus and Hong Kong.”

What do you think of the current trend of afternoon tea?

“I think it’s wonderful, I think it’s here to stay. It’s a lovely civilised thing to do especially with cream and jam scones.”

And what beverage would you have with it?

“Pimms probably, or Amorreto, or blackcurrent in a nice cool cold glass. In terms or tea I stick with traditional breakfast tea, I’m not one for all those ponsey teas.”

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Black Books Cafe Stroud

It’s a Sunday, our good old roast was delayed and I was in need of a frame so popping into Stroud was essential after my country walk around the village to get the Sunday newspaper. How very prim and proper. The reality of it was that I was woken up by a text message at half six in the morning and in need of some decent coffee, of course the other bits were on the list too but I was more interested in my caffeine fix. After seeing my cousin Kelly over Easter she was telling me about her latest venture in Stroud, The Black Books cafe, which has been around for quite some time now.

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And after hearing all about it I thought to pay a visit and appreciate just what a brilliant idea it is. Coffee, cake and books – you’re onto a winner. Dragging my mum to the top of town in the old Soap and Suds building, which is a beautiful art deco extraordinaire, I walked into the cafe in amazement at just how big it was and how unique it was. Old leather sofas, kitsch decorations, books from ceiling to floor and a tea list the size of Manhattan it really is a treasure of Stroud.

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Opting for a vanilla coffee and mum an orange juice we revelled in the classical music and diversity of people in the Black Books Cafe. Computer enthusiasts making the most of the free wi-fi, family, arty types and then the two peas in a pod (me and mum) it just goes to show that Stroud really is a melting pot of culture.

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The coffee was creamy but not too sweet and I was certainly eying up the cakes on the counter a treat, I’ll just have to stop by another time. The gingerbread syrup is also on my next to try list. The tables were decorated with colourful old pages and the chairs were so comfy you could sit there for hours. Not too pricey and it certainly beats going to a chain coffee shop, sticking by the ‘shop local, be local’ ethos. Definitely worth the trek up to the top of Stroud. At the end of the day I never did get that frame, but I certainly got some lovely indulgent coffee.

 

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Afternoon Tea at Cowley Manor

As a belated Mother’s Day present I treated my dear mum to afternoon tea at Cowley Manor. It’s something she’s wanted to do for a while and as a newbie myself until earlier this year I’ve come to appreciate the tradition of afternoon tea. It’s something us British do very well, especially in the Cotswolds, and after toying between two different locations I came to decide on this one. Featured in Vogue magazine for its best boutique outside of London, award-winning spa and its five star rave reviews as one of the hot-spot hotels in the are, the contemporary interior with a classic exterior invited me in with its bright colours and modern decor.

Pulling up the driveway of the manor house it soon came to my attention that this surprise location was no surprise to my mum, for she had visited the manor house in her childhood days as a brownie, but of course since its multi-million pound renovations some years ago, Cowley Manor is quite the ticket. Allured by its cow print seats, how very fitting, and paper mache faux animal figurines it had a certain charm to it that I’d never seen before.

Choosing a pretty petite table in the bar-cum-dinning area we didn’t foresee the size and scale of the afternoon tea to come. Unlike my previous visit to Ellenborough Park where you could hand select what tea you wanted, at Cowley Manor you were stuck with traditional Earl Grey, but champagne was on the menu of course if you wanted (shame I was driving, otherwise it would have made for quite an experience). Served up on a three tier cake stand, just how it should be, we indulged in four types of finger sandwiches; egg, ham and mustard, cucumber and my favourite cream cheese and salmon, this afternoon tea had a twist in the form of an espresso cup-sized mushroom soup which was delicious. Next it was onto the traditional cream and jam scones, fresh from the oven and still warm they crumbled in your mouth with lashings of toppings, complemented very well by the copious amounts of tea. And for the pier de resistance the selection of cakes and fancies, this was by far the best part. Food envy by all the onlookers with there skinny salads, the luminous pink battenburgs and mini chocolate eclairs were presented with a unique take on a classic, with the millionaires shortbread and bakewell tart forming a delicious quartet of sweets that mum couldn’t quite finish off. That’s the thing with afternoon tea, the portions look minuscule upon first glance but after finishing each later one by one you soon before rather full, but with a sweet satisfaction in the most stunning of locations.

Going for a post afternoon tea stroll we glanced at the manor house shop that stocked local produce and had a peek at the spa and outdoor pool that looked simply inviting. I can only imagine what kind of relaxation treatments you would walk away with from the famous spa. Then heading back to the car my eyes were fixated on the dozens of Hunter Wellingtons waiting to be borrowed for country walk, these are definitely on my wish list so my form of borrowing would last a little longer than a weekend break (I jest of course). Despite the down pour of rain afternoon tea at Cowley Manor was a delight for the eyes and the tummy, and definitely sits on my must visit list of the Cotswolds – especially if your from the bustling city in need of a country retreat.

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