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Blog > April 2013
Today's post is from our fabulous editorial assistant, Roberta Dymek.

Having heard good things about afternoon tea at Warren House and after making contact with the team to find out more, Jennifer and I were kindly invited to come along and try it for ourselves.

A remarkable Victorian architectural accomplishment set within four acres of immaculately kept gardens, Warren House is undoubtedly one of few quietly celebrated classic mansions dotted across the English landscape.  An unexpected marvel, it comes as a surprise somewhat that such a gem could be found in such an unlikely location, just a stone’s throw from Kingston town, its perch on Kingston Hill.  From the upper floors there is a captivating view of the south west London suburbs; and on a clear day it is possible to see landmarks like the Gherkin along the capital’s skyline.  This country house is everything but rural, astoundingly central whilst maintaining the integrity expected of a country estate: beautiful gardens, a peaceful atmosphere and coseted seclusion from the outside world.

Cake Tier Meringue The Lounge

On arrival we were given a warm welcome and swiftly seated in the lounge bar. A very attentive team of staff bestowed upon us a beautiful tiered selection wholly characteristic of a classic English afternoon tea: sandwiches, scones, meringues and fresh cream cakes, amongst other memorable delicacies.  An uncomplicated yet enticing elegance.  Freshly prepared and lovingly presented, not one item, sweet or savoury, failed to deliver.  Positioned by the window and looking out onto the courtyard, you could easily imagine a terrace ravaged with laughter and the buzz of visitors in summertime. Inside the lounge is warm and inviting; rich, deep hues have been carefully selected for the furniture upholstery and add to the sense of comfort.

The Persian Fireplace The Ballroom Feature Bedroom

Once we were unable to eat any more, corporate sales executive, Sarah Barker, gave us a quick tour.  She had huge enthusiasm for and fabulous knowledge of, the property’s exciting history and ongoing redecoration.  It seems difficult to imagine, given its grandeur, that until relatively recently; this remarkable building was used as a training centre by Imperial Chemical Industries.  Having been under private family ownership since 2005, each of the exceptional feature rooms carries with it a historical legacy.  Despite being well looked after by its new owners, its continued use as a conference centre does it little justice compared with my imaginings of its past as a grand reception for balls and dinners.  It is reassuring however that the house is also available for use as a wedding venue which I imagine must be quite a magical setting. 

Our experience at Warren House was a pleasant reminder of everything truly British about the custom of afternoon tea.  It’s a treat for any occasion and Warren House offer a variety of themed afternoon teas, as well as providing a savoury alternative for those with less of a sweet tooth. This really is the perfect country afternoon tea within easy reach of central London.

The Traditional English Afternoon Tea is priced at £23.50 per adult and £11.75 for children aged between 3 and 12 years.  Great Cake Places were guests of Warren House.

Posted: 22/04/2013 12:32:39

Planning to visit Bath for a romantic holiday?  Or a girls’ weekend away?  If you’re not, you should be.  The city is truly stunning and full of wonderful cake shops, cafes and tea rooms; perfect ingredients for romance or girly fun.  As are wonderful spas and fantastic hotels, of course, both of which are also abundant in Bath.  Bath is the only city in England that is entirely a designated World Heritage Site and it is deservedly so.  It really does feel like walking around in a Jane Austen novel.  Especially if you walk along the street of the Jane Austen museum and bump into one of the staff in their costumes!
If you haven’t yet been to Bath then perhaps our tales of cakes to be found there might encourage you.  Here are our recommendations for the best cake shops in Bath:
Sam's Kitchen & Deli, Bath

Sam’s Kitchen and Deli
Open and relaxed and centred around one large communal table this is one of those cafes that just implores you to sit for hours and read the newspaper.  The cakes are made on site by the pastry chef who likes to experiment with unusual flavours.  Every day you’ll be forced to choose from more than eight different cakes filling the counter as you walk in.  I challenge you to walk past without buying a slice of at least one.
Jika Jika
Known primarily for lunches, brunches and coffee, it’s also worth popping in to Jika Jika for a slice of one of their homemade cakes. Not only are the cakes made in house, but so are the breads and the

Bertinet brownies in Bath 

Bertinet Bakery
Probably the most famous place for bread and tarts in Bath, Bertinet also make a selection of cakes to accompany the sourdoughs, vienoisserie and brownies.  The apple tart is ridiculously moreish and the layer cakes are exceptional.  More varieties are available on the weekends.
The Pump Room
The Pump Room is a glorious hall and museum on the site of former Roman baths in the square at the base of Bath cathedral.  Your high tea or cakes will be accompanied here by a classical pianist, taking the edge off an otherwise cavernously large room to dine in.  It is the ultimate in elegance.
Hands Tea Room
This tea room in the centre of town might look simple and outdated from the outside, but these are very well made, classic cakes at affordable prices.

Sally Lunn, Bath 

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House and Museum
The oldest tea room in Bath, it’s likely you’ll have to queue to get a table in here. Whilst not strictly “cake” I would urge you to look over the cake options on the menu in favour of the traditional Bath buns with cinnamon butter; comforting like nothing else. Not the tourist trap it might seem.
Bath Cake Company
This shop is more about cake supplies to make and decorate your own but there are always a few cupcakes and a cake available to tame your sweet tooth.  The Bath Cake Company also supply a variety of cafes and restaurants across Bath.  Look out for their Bakewell Cake – layers of almond sponge, sandwiched with raspberry jam and topped with white icing and glacé cherries.
Cafe Lucca cakes in Bath

Café Lucca

A large tea room and Italian cafe on the edge of a furniture and lifestyle shop.  They create their enormous display of cakes from three local suppliers, including the Bath Cake Company (above).
Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms
One of the newer tea rooms in Bath, this is a cute place to enjoy scones or a slice of homemade cake and loose leaf tea. Served on pretty china by charming waitresses dressed in 1940’s fashion, they are welcoming of children and in the basement offer knitting lessons, poetry readings and 1940’s make up classes.
Jacob’s Coffee House
Just opposite the Pump House, this little coffee shop’s windows are filled with gorgeous and unusual sounding cakes, especially an intriguing selection of Bakewell Tarts, including white chocolate & cherry.

CoraqlQuay Cafe in Bath 

CoralQuay Café
A fair trade café and shop with cultural collections from lands far away this is a lovely place to pick up an unusual present or to enjoy one of a range of excellent cakes.  Specialising in gluten free options and everything fair trade.
Tea House Emporium
Hidden below this shop selling all manners of tea and tea-making equipment, in the 18th Century cellars are the tea rooms, quite literally several small rooms serving wonderful tea with a selection of delicious cakes, some made by the owner’s mother and a variety of very popular honey cakes imported from continental Europe.

Colonna & Smalls, coffee & cake, Bath 

Colonna & Small’s
Undoubtedly the best coffee in Bath, if not the UK.  The owner, Max Colonna-Dashwood  was the 2012 Barista Champion.  They also serve up a small selection of excellent sweet treats to accompany your coffee.
Indulgence Café & Patisserie
On the other side of the river this little deli and café is more about cakes than fine patisserie you might expect from the name.  A great spot if you’re staying on this side of town.
Jamie’s Deli
There are Jamie's all over the places these days, but that's not a bad thing.  The cakes here are pretty fabulous and it’s a very pretty little store with fantastic food on offer and a few small tables to enjoy them inside.
Afternoon Tea at the Royal Crescent Hotel
I was fortunate enough to stay in the beautiful Royal Crescent Hotel, the most surreal experience of staying in what feels like a luxurious mansion home, overlooking stunning landscaped gardens, yet being just a five minute walk from the edge of the centre of town. 

Afternoon Tea at the Royal Crescent Hotel

Whilst there I also indulged in their afternoon tea.  An afternoon tea like no other, it includes the infamous Bath Buns as well as the scones you would expect.  The pretty selection of petit fours style selection of cakes spans all sweet preferences, my own being met by the rose and raspberry meringue.
If you think one of these shops deserves to be included in the Great Cake Places Britain Book or if we’ve missed one that does, you can let us know in the comments below or, if you want a chance to win £100 of Salter baking equipment, you could also fill in the short survey here.

Posted: 16/04/2013 10:27:02

International Cake Show

The highlight of the Cake International Show is viewing the incredible talent of cake decorators in the competition display. A great number of tables at the back of the hall display awe-inspiring creations of sugar craft and cake architecture amongst a variety of categories, including students and, of course, international entries.  Here's just a small selection:
International Cake Show competitionInternational Cake Show competitionInternational Cake Show competitionInternational Cake Show competition

If you're keen on sugar craft or creating cakes of beauty and interest, then there will be a stand selling something just perfect for you. Cake tins, biscuit trays and chocolate moulds of all shapes and sized; sugar paste and chocolate couverture in every colour and consistency; books and classes to learn more skills; holders, carriers and display stands. Literally everything except the kitchen sink (though maybe I wasn't looking hard enough...).
Experts are on hand at many of the stands demonstrating how to use their products so you are certain to pick up a few tricks and tips whilst there as well.
Around the edges of the halls are the stages and hands on kitchens to take part in live classes. We didn't have time to take in any of these but the descriptions sound fabulous for any cake lover!
There are still tickets available online or on the door.

Posted: 12/04/2013 15:26:32

That’s right, another cake show.  At first I thought they were all connected.  They’re not.  They do share a lot of the same cakelebrities.  The benefit of so many cake shows is that it’s likely you’ll be able to attend at least one!
Mary Berry, John Whaite and Paul Hollywood

So why should you go to this one?  For starters, it’s at ExCel and that is an impressive venue.  Shows I’ve attended there in the past have well-prepared stands with interesting companies.  Cake International promises to have an array of international companies as well – great for getting you ahead of the cake trend curve.  Most importantly to potential attendees, I’m sure, is that the nation’s beloved Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood will be there, along with their latest protégée, the much-fancied winner of 2012’s Great British Bake Off, John Whaite.  They will be attending a question and answer session so you can approach them with anything! (Maybe.)
There’s still time to enter one of the Competition Classes to demonstrate your own baking prowess, or you can step up and compete live on the day.  If you’re in the learning stage of your cake journey, the Bakery Theatre will have demonstrations all day or, most excitingly, the Baker’s Dozen! Theatre has 12 cooking stations for you to get hands on for your learning.

The Timetable for the Bakery Theatre:
Cake International Bakery Theatre Timetable
Let us know in the comments below if you're planning to go and what you're most excited to see and do!

Posted: 05/04/2013 10:19:13

Great Cake Places Blog

Jennifer Earle

Welcome to the Great Cake Places blog. I'm Jennifer Earle, the Content Director for Allegra Publications. I love cake. All kinds of cake. Lemon drizzle, coffee & walnut, chocolate, ginger, carrot… I love trying new cakes and baking them too. I’'m particularly obsessed with chocolate and quite partial to cheese scones, straight from the oven, spread with real butter. This job makes me a very happy girl. Please do register for access to discounts we’'ll be adding and say hi in the comments of the blog!

A little about us

Right now we'’re travelling the country researching our new book, Great Cake Places Britain.  We will be updating this blog every few weeks with new pictures, recipes, shop openings and general cake-related news.  If you would like to write a guest post, please get in touch.

If you know a great cake place or own a great cake place, please tell us about it here.

You can also find out more about us by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.

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