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Canadians welcome summer as they celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday

This is a glorious Tea Tuesday in Canada as we count down to one of our most loved long weekends: Victoria Day, celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria, our first sovereign queen.  May 24th marks her official birthday, but the holiday falls on the last Monday before May 25.  While still proud of our English heritage, this holiday takes on a special meaning marking the changing of the seasons.  The fear of frost has passed so many will be planting their gardens–which is what I will be doing–and city dwellers will be fighting horrific traffic to enjoy Canada’s beautiful lakes, mountains and forests.  Also known as the May Two-Four referring to the Queen’s birthday and the Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a “two-four”), a drink popular during the long weekend.

Tea Time Ritual Recap

Each week I host Tea Tuesday, a virtual tea party which was inspired by Christine, a follower who lives in France, who was curious about English tea traditions.  The British may have failed miserably in other culinary areas, but they excel in the tea ritual.

What to Serve at Tea

The following are the types of items you will find at tea which might inspire you for your own tea party.  I offer a new recipe each week, so check out and bookmark Online Guide to Afternoon Tea to keep up to date.  Here is a sample of what we have prepared:

God Bless our Queens

Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years (June 1837 to 22 January 1901), a period we know as the Victorian Era.  After she died Edward VII, was left the keys to the throne, and partied his way through the Edwardian era until his death in 1910 from a double heart attack.  I often refer to this period of history as Eddie’s Era, a decade of decadence and frivolity for the wealthy land gentry which would end with the First World War. It was a great party while it lasted.

RCMP join Jubilee celebrations photo: PAUL HACKETT/Reuters

Queen Elizabeth II is Queen Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter, celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this year, and by the looks of things is well on track to surpass Victoria’s 63 year reign; she certainly has been a more dignified ruler than her great-grandfather.

Canadians can be proud that our renowned RCMP Musical Ride team participated in one of the first major Jubilee celebrations this past week at Windsor Castle.  I have seen them perform many times and the precision of this team always amazes me.

As a bonus, our Canadian Tenors performed Hallelujah (written by Leonard Cohen, another great Canadian) at the Queen’s request.

Victoria Sponge Cake

If you recall our earlier lessons on the origins of Afternoon Tea, it was one of Queen Victoria’s Lady’s in Waiting who came up with the great idea of having food with tea in her chambers to bridge the gap between lunch and late dinners.   After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria withdrew from society, but was eventually encouraged resume her civil duties by hosting her own tea parties at which a sponge cake would be served. The cake was named after her and became fashionable throughout Victorian England, and has been passed down through generations.  Perhaps Queen Victoria’s reintroduction to society through tea and cake was the secret to her longevity.

This is a great dish for beginners since you don’t have to worry about icing.  A traditional Victorian sponge consists of jam and whipped cream sandwiched between two layers of sponge cake.  The top of the cake is generally not iced or decorated, except for a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar, sometimes over a doily to create a lacy pattern.

Guilt Free Victoria Sponge Cake

Victoria Sponge cake

Traditional sponge cake is loaded with fat calling for equal amounts of butter and sugar.  Whipping the egg whites separately gives the cake that light fluffy texture.  Cornstarch acts like custard powder without any preservatives or artificial yellow food coloring.

This is a great light cake you can take up with you to the cottage this weekend and assemble when you get there.  It can be filled two different ways, with jam (no sugar versions, please) or with strawberries and greek yoghurt which replaces the original nasty whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup sucralose or other sugar substitute
  • ½ cup corn starch
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Sliced fresh fruit or jam
  • 1 cup non fat greek yoghurt, mixed with honey to taste.

Method

  1. Separate eggs. Beat egg whites and salt until stiff.
  2. Add sugar gradually and beat until stiff and sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add egg yolks. Beat until well blended.
  4. Sift together cornstarch, flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.
  5. Pour into a (8 inch) greased and lined cake tin. If you have a smaller tin you will get a thicker cake.
  6. Bake at 190c (350 F) for 15-20 min or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
  7. Leave in cake tin for 10 min before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  8. Slice cake in half so you now have two layers.  A long serrated knife will do the trick.
  9. Spread your preferred filling on the bottom layer (jam or strawberries and cream) and top.
  10. Dust icing sugar on top.