It may be true that you can't always judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you certainly can! That was true on a recent antiques run with my mom when I saw the pretty cover of this 1995 National Trust book, "Celebrations," by Simone Sekers with illustrations by Joanna Isles Freeman. I have yet to see a publication from the National Trust which doesn't at least mention tea, so I had a hunch this one would as well. Let's just say it was $3.50 well spent!
Indeed, there is an entire chapter on Fine Teas, including a Yachting Tea, A Cosy Kitchen Tea, A Polite Tea, Holiday Tea and Nursery High Tea.
The artwork borders are simply beautiful, and of course who wouldn't be intrigued by something called "A Polite Tea"?
I was eager to try something from the book, and since it was my turn to bring the refreshments at Bible Study last week, I augmented my usual grocery store chips-and-dip routine with this easy and yummy Century Cake. My biggest fear was that someone would ask me what it was and I would have to say "a fruitcake," because although many of us like fruit and many of us like cake, for some reason the combination of the two usually results in that gummy, brick-shaped loaf that is the butt of so many Christmas jokes. This is NOT that cake! In fact, this one calls for plumping the dried fruits by boiling them in a cup of strong black tea. The cake met with good reviews, no one asked what it was, and it got a thumbs-up from one of the guys, who thoroughly blessed my heart by getting an extra piece to take home with him!
This is a dense and deliciously rich cake, and in case you'd like to try it yourself, here is the recipe as I made it.
1 cup strong black tea, infused and strained
2 cups assorted dried fruit (I used currants and cranberries)
1 cup light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup ground nuts (I used pecans)
Grated zest of 1 orange
Pour tea and fruit into a saucepan, bring to a boil, let simmer about 5 minutes, then let cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake tin and line with foil or parchment paper. Cream butter, sugar and orange zest. Add eggs one at a time, sprinkling with just a bit of the flour each time. Stir in the soaked fruit (with tea), remaining flour, ground pecans and mix. Pour in cake tin and bake for 1-1/2 hours. Lower heat to 325 and cook for an additional 15-30 minutes, just until the cake has shrunk from the pan. Let cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Cut into 12 wedges and serve.