Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Betty's of Harrogate - With a Slight BBC Twist

I received an email a few weeks ago from a very polite journalist called Adam asking me if I would be able to help him with a radio documentary he was producing about Afternoon Tea and the history & etiquette of this fabulously British ritual. I agreed to chat and he continued to advise me that it was to be produced for the BBC and would be recorded at Betty's of Harrogate with a full afternoon tea tier to bribe me. 
Adam had won a competition with BBC Radio 4, through his university studies and as a keen radio producer, he had won the chance to produce and have played a documentary on a subject of his choice. 

You Should all know me by now... Never would I pass up the opportunity to try out afternoon tea at Betty's Tea Room with a friend or family member, let alone as a special guest of Betty's PR team - I went straight back into my office and asked for the day off from my day job so that I could attend!

Never have I seen 5.30am in the pitch black, following a gig the night before of which only allowed me 3 hours sleep ( I NEED my sleep or I am a troll!), which was of poor quality as I squatted on my mums sofa for the night, as staying at her house would shave 45 mins off my travel on the day of the feature! 
So off I trotted to Stevenage train station in the bitter cold, coffee in hand to wake me up (Buzzzzzzzzz) wearing (stupidly) my summer jacket. Stupid, stupid girl.
I actually ended up buying myself a brand new winter coat on my short walk from Harrogate train station, of which I needed anyway, so it was a bonus I found one today of all chilly days! It had even started to snow in Leeds on my way up, so it was needed for sure.


I did feel as though I had cheated on Betty's Tea Room slightly, as I firstly went to a pretentious coffee shop called "Jakes", with a very rude waiter for a pick me up before I headed over to meet Adam! - Sorry hehe!

I met Adam outside Betty's at just before 11am, being the first time I've met him, we got on like a house on fire, even the lovely Louise from the Betty's PR Team, who had been warming our seats to ensure we got a window seat (and lovely it was too : ) said that she thought from the way we were chatting we had known each other ages. It was lovely, as I so often find with other afternoon tea fans lately, we get on well naturally. Either that, or I'm becoming a much better people person...potentially hehe.  

I don't know why I was so shocked to see the queue outside the door at that time of day, Betty's is a British institution and does afternoon tea proud. More than proud!
It's one of the best afternoon teas I've ever had the privilege of enjoying. I haven't been paid to say this, or bribed, I actually went along preparing myself to be disappointed if I'm honest.
I had a few people on social media telling me that it wasn't all that and a bag of chips... They were wrong. Today it was freshly prepared, all sandwiches freshly made on the premises and cakes and sweet treats made in their main kitchens freshly every morning from 1am....Yep, you heard me right, 1am! 


Loose leaf tea is served in dainty silver ware, with a choice of milk or lemon asked of you by your waitress when you order which is a nice touch. You are also provided with hot water to top up without having to ask, I like that very much too. I've never been offered this, I've always had to ask previously at other establishments.


Finger sandwiches were cut into crustless triangles and included four different fillings including Salmon, egg mayonnaise & watercress, chicken breast finely sliced and a delicious ham & mustard filling.
A huge fruit scone was served on the middle tier, with plenty of strawberry jam and clotted cream. It was delicious and I think to was my favorite part of the tier, no matter how gorgeous the petit fours were on top. It was moist, warm and melt in the mouth, no dry crumbs to be seen.  Most importantly, no fuzzy tongue after eating.

I also was lucky enough to try one of their Fat Rascals, of which they are renowned for making, even offering online for you to have posted to you, they are amazing!
Even I was surprised, as a fussy eater, I'm never really a fan of fried fruit in cake, but these are delicious, buttery and sugary, with a light fluffy scone-like texture in the middle and a crisp sugary shell around the outside. They are decorated with glacĂ© cherries and almonds, they feel heavy to hold, so was surprised at how light they actually were inside. I've never tried anything like it before, I wonder how easy they are to make?... I'm sure there is a knack to it that may take a while to perfect! 


The cake tier was stunning to look at, with a beautifully piped chocolate brownie, a perfectly round pink macaron and fresh fruit tartlet which helped me to cling onto the very last of our summer, however short it has been. It was all too much for my retrained stomach to handle, no thanks to my weight lossplan, so I had the top tier packed away in a doggy box to enjoy at home with a cuppa curled up on the sofa with a satisfied snooze before heading out again for the evening.

I could have chatted to Louise all day about the history of Betty's and the events they are planning, even she said that she can't get enough of their menus and she works there all week! Hehe I loved her to bits. She was treating her husband to dinner there (they don't just offer afternoon tea) on this particular evening, as they are hosting a special 1950's evening with entertainment in their private room upstairs. 


In fact, Adam, as well as broadcasting, is also a pianist, playing at The Ritz, The Savoy and The Dorchester on a fairly regular basis. This guy is one talented gent, so should you be lucky enough to have tea at one of these venues, it could be well be him entertaining you during your visit. I still haven't been to any London venues other than Fortnum & Mason, so I must get down one day soon for a treat!

Anyway, get yourself to one of Betty's six venues, including two in Harrogate, Ilkley, Northallerton and two in York afternoon tea is a must. And, if you are like me and enjoy a good tipple with something sweet, treat yourself to a champagne Tea, you won't regret it.


Not forgetting that Betty's also has a fabulous shop to buy your favorite tea blend or cakey treat, even freshly baked bread to take home with you. I had a birthday to buy a cake for, so I actually purchased some naughty looking French Fancies (no thanks to the Great British Bake Off Final helping me along with the craving) and Halloween Owl Brownie treats as an alternative in a cute little box - Perfect : )

Betty's also have a cookery school, which is next on my list of cookery schools to try out, I may have to save my pennies right away to get myself booked for their 2013  "Betty's Experience Weekend" which offers a behind the scenes tour of their Craft Bakery, with plenty of tutorials to learn some of their secrets from the Cookery School tutors. With recipes to learn such as scones, Swiss tortes and bread, this is a winner for me, I am DESPERATE to join this one!

They also host special events in the "Imperial Room" at Harrogate, with anything from live Jazz or a pianist playing whilst you enjoy your Afternoon Tea, to Floral Design tuition to educate you over an afternoon. Their breakfasts also looked very good and had I not decided on the Champagne Afternoon tea tier, I would have easily chosen their salmon & scrambled eggs which looked like an amazing start to the day!

I am no expert in Afternoon tea history, neither am I an expert in Afternoon tea Etiquette, however, I am fairly knowledgeable with all things cake and Afternoon tea related and I do have a real passion and thirst for knowledge in this area, so if you ever fancy a chat or even learning about this fascinating subject in further detail, why not drop me a line or even book on my upcoming "Afternoon Tea Etiquette" workshops with William Hanson, both in Cambridge and in London for 2013...

Miss Sue Flay 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Homemade Soup & Crumpets

I'm going to share a recipe with you...

With autumn well and truly here and my bike rides in the countryside becoming colder and damper by the week, it's now time to swap my salads with some warming soups for a good old winter warmer. 

I don't want to turn to the wrong sort of comfort food, I'm trying not to eat too much meat or fast foods (or cakes, eek!), so it's the perfect time to get my big old saucepan out and get bubbling.

One of my favorite and simplest soup recipes is a Butternut Squash and Pepper soup, best served with a nice freshly made bread roll, or more lately, I have been toying with crumpet recipes.

Nothing beats a bit of crumpet ; )

Really... Homemade crumpets are THE best thing...EVER! And I have been playing with a few different recipes, finding that the beautiful Jo Wheatley has the perfect crumpet recipe and it's fool proof, it's easy to whip up, just needing an hour for the dough to prove.
Her book is actually a fab read and I plan to review it on my blog in the near future, but I highly rate that you get to Sainsbury's before then to buy her book as it's a must have for any baking fanatic!

Butternut Squash & Pepper Soup Recipe:

1 Butternut Squash
2 Orange Peppers
2 Red Peppers
1 Large Onion
  2 Pints of Vegetable Stock
A pinch of Paprika or Chilli Powder
Salt and Pepper to season

Ensure that the Butternut Squash, Peppers & Onion are peeled, De-seeded and chopped into inch sized cubes/pieces, then place them all in a large saucepan. 

Boil the kettle and make up the vegetable stock (If using stock cubes, you will be fine with 1.5 cubes per pint) with 2 pints of water, adding to the pan of vegetables, ensuring that everything is submerged in the stock.
Bring to the boil, until the vegetables are soft when a knife is pushed into them and they slide off the knife easily. 

Add the seasoning to your taste, you won't need much of the Paprika or Chilli Powder, but if you prefer a kick, you may wish to add a couple of pinches. 

Serve with a dollop of low fat Creme Fraiche should you wish for a creamier soup.

The Weightwatchers value of this soup is in fact zero points... So you can get away with having it served up in a bowl or mug with a side of warm buttery crumpets to dip in : )

It makes a large pan too, so it is a very economical recipe, allowing for at least 6 decent sized bowlfuls, which are perfect for lunches, quick dinners or a sleepy afternoon filler.

Bon Appetite! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Tea Guest: The English Cream Tea Hamper Wrapped With Love

Today at The Secluded Tea Party, I have a guest blog post from the Chief Scone maker at The English Cream Tea Company, Jane Malyon. 
Based in Saffron Walden, Jane posts out her fabulous Afternoon Tea Packages to your office or home for any occasion. 

I have loved every photo she has posted on Facebook & Twitter throughout the summer, especially of her customers enjoying their afternoon tea at the races and on civilised picnics across the country. It's such a fabulous idea and Jane's passion shines through, giving afternoon tea and the home made tea the justice it deserves. 
She has even broken a world record, hosting the largest cream tea which will be featured in the 2013 Guinness World Records, I love her work!

Over to the lovely Jane... 

Of all the gifts in the world, the exciting, beautifully wrapped arrival at your door of a perfect afternoon tea hamper, must surely rate amongst the best!  For a start, who’s expecting that?  Yes, we’ve all seen ‘normal’ hampers - but how many people have opened up a courier-delivered box to find chilled, ready-to-eat goodies plus some charming items to keep too?  Well, we’ve been preparing and sending out hampers that are so unique, delicious and n-i-c-e, people sometimes CRY on opening it!  Good cry that is, not bad cry.  In fact, our hampers are described as a hug in a box.  And that’s why we think every company should be sending these boxes out to their clients (and hey, why not to their staff too) - not to make them cry, but to show how treasured they are instead!  In these challenging times, there’s nothing more important than showing clients and staff they’re special.  We’re not talking the price of a cruise.  We’re talking about giving a gift that represents a hug!  How irresistible is that. 

Think about it. Sending chocolates?  It’s not the same.  Flowers - not really unisex gifts. Bottles aren’t always ideal either (though they can form a nice addition to afternoon tea!).  Nope.  It has to be one of The English Cream Tea Hamper Boxes to show you care!
Actually, I’m not really being tongue in cheek. I wrote a blog called English Cream Tea Could Save The World - and I mean that too!  It’s all about spending quality time in rapport with people...and sharing afternoon tea does just that.  It’s the perfect vehicle for listening, smiling and creating memories. 

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of ‘old-fashioned’ behaviour in business either.  I’ve written a book: Play Nicely! Best Behaviour in Business - and it’s all about returning to the ‘rules‘ or values we were taught as children. You know - all those things Mummies and Aunties etc drummed into us: share, play nicely, don’t tell lies, say you’re sorry etc.  Well, recently I did a survey of the qualities we want to see in others with whom we do business...and not one person mentioned ‘cheap goods’.  Everyone said words like Honesty, Integrity, Trustworthy-ness, Decency, Kindness and so on.  It’s a big fat No to greed-based cheating and a giant Yes to nice-ness.

I also mention in the book that I still remember a meeting hubby and I went to over 25 years ago - memorable because it was so charming.  It must have cost the business hosts all of £1 - yet what did they do that was THAT nice, it makes me smile to this day?  They brought out piles of hot buttered toast with mugs of tea to share around a table together before getting on with business.  Whilst they had me at ‘toast’, the actual key word there is ‘sharing’.  It was a completely bonding experience and told us everything we needed to know about that company’s values.  Awesome.  And that’s one of the best thing about afternoon tea: it’s a sharing experience.  Lunch, dinner - not the same.  You get your plate of food and it’s just that, your plate of food.  But afternoon tea hampers (ooh, and we make picnics too) you’re talking - literally!  They require offering, smiling, sharing, eye contact, listening, chatting and being in rapport.  And cakes and scones are all about treats!  Who doesn’t want to be sent a treat that’s says ‘we care about you’?!

Indeed, if your business hasn’t handled something quite as well as you or your customer might have wished... then these hampers are the perfect ‘we’re sorry’.  Really: perfect. The We’re Sorry Hampers can even come with a sweet little History of Sorry (can you name 10 songs with sorry in the title?!) that will make the recipient smile too.  No-one can stay mad over fresh plump scones, clotted cream, jam, tasty sandwiches, cakes and pastries!  And when they put the kettle on and sample the premium tea leaves we include (thanks to the two lovely lasses from Kandula Tea)...the world will be put to rights again.

So how are we helping businesses to say sorry, thank you, Happy Christmas, get well soon, welcome to England or just plain - we love you?  Well, if they buy blocks of hampers from us at a time, then we’re branding the hamper boxes specifically to represent the sender’s company.  No, they don’t have to send a block of hampers all at once...but just commit to buying the block - and in exchange, we’ll liaise with the business to brand each box with their corporate colours, logo and essence with tags, silky ribbon, images and even the colour of the teapot that’s included, if you wish! 

Think of it as a joint venture.  Well be delighted to work in partnership with any business that thinks it’s a good thing to show their clients they treasure them.  Yes, we can get our boxes to all mainland UK...but let’s especially make this part of East Anglia the nicest place of all to do business.  It will be our privilege.

Jane Malyon 
(Chief Scone Gnome) 

T. 01279 876661   

NB - This is not an advertisement or paid blog post, it's purely support and love for fellow bloggers and business people that I allow them to post a "Guest Blog" post onto The Secluded Tea Party Blog. I love the diversity it brings and allows my lovely friends and followers to see and meet other passionate people who have the same love of tea, cake, blogging and business that I do. 
Should you wish to submit a blog post, so long as it's fitting, I would be delighted to chat, just email Miss Sue Flay at for a natter. 
Please note, no sales-like emails will be tolerated or replied to, only interested & engaging parties welcome.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Great British Bake Off Tea Party

After a very exciting email and phone conversation with a researcher at the BBC One Show offices last Friday afternoon, I was asked to rally the troops and get 4 or 5 Clandestine Cake Club members from our Cambridge club for a filming opportunity this Monday evening. It was all in the name of the Great British Bake Off Final and with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry planned to be in the BBC One Show studio on the Tuesday (the evening of the Great British Bake Off Final), they wanted to film some Cake Club members talking about how the show inspires them, etc.

With the next Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club being hosted on the Tuesday night, hosted by myself, in a pub in the centre of Cambridge, we had planned to be watching the final with our home baked cakes, all inspired by the show and the contestants, so this is why we were picked up for said feature on the BBC One Show, it was very exciting for all involved.

The small group of us that were going to be part of it used the weekend to preen, clean our homes, bake a cake impressive enough to appear on the goggle box and wow the judges in the studio... however, a small issue arose on Monday afternoon... Paul Hollywood couldn’t make the studio on the night of the Final, so he pulled out of the feature, which meant we weren’t going to be filmed. A real shame, but, it didn’t dampen the Cake Club spirits...

We still hadn’t heard from the show and we weren’t sure what was happening, until an email at around 4pm told us they wouldn’t need to film... gutted, both for Lynn at the CCC (as it would have helped drive more people to her fabulous free cake club, get yourself on their now if you love cake!!) as well as for the lovely ladies who had agreed to take part and who had baked and cleaned as much as I had done so over the weekend in anticipation, with none of us knowing who’s house they wanted to visit, it was unorganised and rushed to say the very least.
Good old BBC haha.

After a quick chat with the lovely Lynn and some encouragement to not let this fine cake display go to waste, it was only natural that the hostess in me would kick in and invite these lovely ladies over to my house after work for a mini tea party of our own to celebrate the Great British Bake Off Final.. a warm up to the main event the next night, helping us to limber up and get into the swing of cursing our least favourite of the judges and moan about the Bake Off challenges and concoctions.

Queue Cambridges’ smallest Clandestine Cake Club so far, 3 guests with simply 2 cakes baked by our very own fair hands, with my 3 layer Raspberry & Vanilla Cream cake with Plum Jam and the lovely Kelly’s Lemon Drizzle Pound Cake which was an American recipe handed down to her by her grandma, it was gorgeous. Rachel also came along and helped to tuck into the cakes (it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it ; ) and my two new American friends (it was bizarre for all that they were both American as we didn’t know anything about each other until we met!) told me the best places to go for Bagels in the US and in the UK.. noted on all scores! Food was, of course, the conversation from start to finish and I have loads of research to do for next time I’m in Liverpool and need somewhere to eat, hurrah!

Another Rachel, who couldn’t make it in the end, but had baked as well, enjoyed eating her cake from afar, whilst she revised for an upcoming exam. She sent me a photo in honour of our little celebration and we missed her dearly, she is a fab guest from our previous Cambridge Cake Club meets and we missed her dearly - Good luck in your exams missy!

As well as some savouries chucked into the oven at short notice to feed my hungry guests straight from work, I made sure there was some chilled out music and “Amelie” on the gogglebox in the background for a little ode to everything I love about coffee, tea and cake.

I love the fact that a TV programme, such as “The Great British Bake Off” can bring a room full of cake bakers (and eaters) together in a passionate evening of cake geekery. No, scrap that, TWO passionate evenings of cake geekery.

The cake was BBC’s loss, our gain, as well as our office and families afterwards ; )

Miss Sue Flay

See more on the Great British Bake Off Themed Event the following evening here:

Clandestine Cake Club - Great British Bake Off Final

My name is Miss Sue Flay and I am a bake-a-holic!

I am usually found hosting events and activities based around afternoon tea in Cambridge and soon to be London and anywhere in between. I have an infatuation with afternoon tea and all things cakey, I even have a tattoo of a cake on my foot, of which I am not proud of from time to time, due to my new detest for the cake in question haha.

However I also, for fun and frolics, host the Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club, which is part of a national franchise of free cake clubs, of which Cambridge was one of the pioneering clubs back in early 2011. It’s so exciting to see it growing every week, with over 100 cake clubs now running across the country, there is one in every town and city pretty much (And if you don’t have one in your neck of the woods, contact the lovely Lynn at the CCC to discuss running your own) and now we are seeing clubs overseas too in countries such as Canada, France, New Zealand and even the Cayman Islands - Cake rocks!

On Tuesday evening, not only was the Great British Bake off being watched on many screens across the county, but one in particular was being watched at a secret venue full of nearly 30 cake bakers and enthusiasts, all meeting at The First and Last” Pub on Eden Street, Cambridge, which was announced to booked guests a few days prior to the day to keep it exciting. I can’t thank the guys at the pub enough for switching the football off (Which got rained off anyway haha) in place of the politest viewing they have ever seen in their fabulous city pub!

A couple of the lovely guests had been to my house the night before for a mini cake club, due to a cancellation from the BBC One Show, no thanks to Paul Hollywood haha... so we got a second chance in a row to meet and chat over cake in a week which was fab! 

But that's another story that you can read about HERE ; )

22 cakes were proudly placed on the tables, wine or tea and coffee was enjoyed with a few slices and we all sat in near silence watching the Great British Bake Off as part of the theme for this evening. All the cakes baked were inspired by the BBC one baking competition and we had everything from Mary Berry’s Coffee & Walnut Battenburg to a Hummingbird Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream, there was a Cheesecake and even an Apple Pie Cake, it was a cakey paradise.

I also got to make my first ever Bundt Cake, which, if I am allowed to say so, was delicious and very much a fun recipe to try out. I completed it with bunting and a banner for my fave Bake Off contestant ; )  
You can check out a National Bundt Day competition which I entered it into.

I have been watching the GBBO avidly for the last few months, noticing a trend of people Tweeting and Facebooking their comments throughout each weeks’ show, so I thought it would be a fantastic idea to host a cake club night whilst we all watched it together in one room, however tough it was to find a venue that would let us bring cake in, give us a TV for the evening and serve us drinks... the pub was a natural decision, thanks to the lovely Deepa at Lazy Giraffe who suggested that we do this on the night of the final, it was a fab idea that worked fantastically : )
I thought it would get the conversation going throughout, but as it was the final, the guests went very quiet, very quickly, with the odd shriek, chuckle or gasp as James dropped his cake batter or Paul Hollywood used yet another cake innuendo. Mary Berry raised the most laughs with her comments and quips which had no doubt been edited for our viewing pleasure – soggy bottoms anyone?...

You could hear a pin drop, it was hilarious, yet tense all at the same time. The winner was cheered, with a few mixed emotions, we all agreed that John deserved it the most. Although, I wanted Brendan to win deep down, I did manage to hold back the tears ; ) 

We also had a quick visit from a photographer at the Cambridge Evening News, which should be in this Thursday's paper, so watch out for our geekery! 

The Clandestine Cake Club is free to members, they just sign up to the national website, locate their local club and they will be the first to know when a new Clandestine Cake meet will be heading their way.
All you have to do is bake a cake, usually to a theme set by the host, bring along an eating guest if you wish, as there is so much cake to go around, we like people to come and eat too!

We usually host these events in our homes or in local coffee shops, pubs, village halls, bars, restaurants, etc with prior agreement. We bring the cake and then buy beverages to help them make money, fill a space that might be empty at a particular time or day of the week and help them to gain new customers and interest so it benefits the businesses greatly too.
Word spreads quickly with the help of the CCC website, blog posts written up afterwards and the hundred of photos that end up going out on social media sites, it gets tongues wagging to say the very least, it’s a huge amount of fun!

I am ALWAYS on the lookout for new venues that might be able to accommodate us, so do get in touch if you can offer a space for a CCC meet.
We arrange meets from anywhere between 5 members to 50 members, it really depends on the venue and the location, as I like to take it into Cambridge City Centre as well as into the countryside to appeal to everybody in the area one way or another. Anything goes.. we have hosted events in local coffee shops, a cookery school, a Spanish restaurant and even in my own home.

What’s most important about the Clandestine Cake Club is that it brings people to together over one passion that we all have in common. It’s a common ground to get conversation started and with the beauty of Twitter and Facebook, it helps people to connect in person where they may have been Tweeting for months or years, but never met. I can’t tell you how many times I make introductions through the club to people who have never met but have been Tweeting one another for ages, it’s a fantastic way to meet new people and try new recipes and eat cakes that you may never have thought have eating!

The leftovers, oh boy are there leftovers, are divided up at the end and guests can take slices away with them to enjoy with a cuppa and their friends and family later on should they wish to do so. Needless to say, it never goes to waste!

We get men too, it’s not just ladies, men up and down the country are baking and enjoying our Clandestine meets, including in Cambridge.
Last night we had a gent who made the most amazing cheesecake I’ve ever tasted! Bring on more men I say, you can even find a “Men Who Bakes” Section on the Clandestine Cake Club Website.

New members are always welcome, either alone or with an eating guest, just sign up and await news of the next event, which should be in November fingers crossed. Just remember.. no cupcakes, brownies, traybakes or the like -  it’s all about the cake : )

You can follow me on Twitter for local updates and photos, etc @thesecludedtea or the Cake Club at @clandestinecake

And sign up here now if you are keen to join us:   

See you soon!

Miss Sue Flay