Local Specialties dessert tea culture foodie UK

Tea And Cakes: Top 10 Mouthwatering British Desserts

Carol
Updated Nov 07, 2016

Go anywhere in the UK and you’ll find a tea room selling tea and cake. We Brits love a good tea room and even our garden centres have expanded to include space to chill out and eat. Perhaps it’s easier to imagine how your garden will look if you are sipping tea, while glancing at the flowers and foliage. Whatever the reason there are a number of cakes and sweet things that are quintessentially British, including the Chelsea Bun, Welsh cakes and Eton Mess. Here’s a guide to ten of the best.

1. Eton Mess

Eton college quadrangle gm178370618 20493128
Source: iStock

Eton is most famous for Eton College independent boarding school for boys, which is among the top ten most expensive in the country and British prime ministers are among those that have been educated at this distinguished college. Geographically, it neighbours Windsor Castle and therefore has very aristocratic connections. Eton Mess was also created here, but the story of its creation is, unfortunately just that, a story, but it does make for a good one. It involves a cricket match, a picnic involving strawberry pavlova, and one Labrador. If I tell you that Eton Mess is basically broken meringue, strawberries and whipped cream, then it doesn’t take a genius to work out what happened, but the Labrador sat on the picnic basket containing the pavlova and Eton Mess was discovered. The first recipes included either bananas or strawberries, but the dessert has evolved to contain any fruit, broken meringue and cream tossed together to create the ‘mess’.

Eton Mess - such a pretty and yummy mess #etonmess #onlyinmelbourne #brightonbaths

A photo posted by Susan Witek (@susan_witek) on

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2. Chelsea Bun

Source: iStock

Following on from the aristocratic Eton Mess, the Chelsea bun was created in the posh London area of Chelsea, home to the famous football team of the same name, too. The Chelsea Bun is a currant bun, with lemon peel, cinnamon or mixed spice and was originally created in the 18th century at the Bun House in Chelsea. The buns look like a spiral of dough and currants, glazed with sweetness. Although the original bun house no longer exists, the street names nod to their history. Bunhouse Place, situated near Sloane Square Station is as close to the original bakery as you can get. Examples of this type of bun can be found all over the country, but perhaps a visit to the nearby Borough Market in Southwark Street would be the first place to try out this local treat.

Another of my faves. #englishbrekkie #chelseabun #chelsea #london #feelslikehome

A photo posted by Andrea Mathews (@dreadawn206) on

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3. Eccles Cake

Source: iStock

This small round pastry filled with currants is named after the English town of Eccles near Manchester. The word Eccles means ‘church’ and it’s thought that the first Eccles cakes were sold at a church within the town. Again, the original bakery has since been demolished but the brand manufacturer ‘Real Lancashire Eccles cakes’ are situated near Ardwick in Manchester. They claim to use a family recipe handed down from generation to generation in the production of their cakes.

#yorkshiretea & #lancashireecclescakes

A photo posted by Andrea Grindrod (@grindyrodders) on

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4. Shortbread

Source: iStock

Although not unique to the UK, shortbread originated in Scotland, and the familiar tartan colours are frequently used in their packaging. Although not a dessert, shortbread is more of a biscuit made with three simple ingredients: sugar, butter and flour. The first recipe in print was from a Scotswoman back in 1736, but its history goes back to Mary Queen of Scots time. A popular souvenir, they are definitely recommended for those with a sweet tooth and variations on the theme, including the addition of raisins, nuts and chocolate make it a definite sweet treat.

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5. Welsh Cake

Source: iStock

Welsh cakes are a traditional cake made from flour, butter, currants, eggs, milk and spices and are similar to the scone, although looking more like a pancake with their flattened shape. They are known by a number of names including ‘griddle cakes’, ‘Welsh tea cakes’, and ‘Welsh miner cakes’ and originate from Wales. Favoured as a treat by the Welsh mining community, the cakes were cooked on a griddle and not baked in an oven like other traditional cakes. Eaten hot or cold, these hearty little cakes give scones a run for their money in the taste department and although I would recommend seeking out local Welsh bakeries in order to taste them, these cakes are also available from some of the top London retailers such as Fortnum & Mason, Fenwicks and Harrods. These stores are supplied by Tan Y Castell Welshcakes, which are baked to a traditional recipe in Pembrokeshire itself.

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6. The Bath Bun

Source: Pixabay

With production still occurring in the Bath area, this sweet, doughy bun made with fruit has been referred to as far back as 1763 by Jane Austen who referenced it in a letter. The source of the first Bath Bun can be traced to a historic house in Bath, known as “Sally Lunn’s”. This tea house and kitchen museum tells the story of the refugee Sally Lunn who came to Bath from France in 1680, bringing with her a recipe that led to the creation of the Bath Bun. The bun’s creation is also attributed to one William Oliver, although no matter what story you hear you can rest assured the bun almost certainly originates from this beautiful city and a visit here isn’t complete without trying one.

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7. Victoria Sponge

The most British of all cakes, the Victoria sponge, popular during Queen Victoria’s reign, was supposedly Queen Victoria’s favourite of all cakes. It is simply a sponge cake made of eggs, flour, sugar and butter in equal measure that is sandwiched together with raspberry jam. It is said that the cake was created for children as it contained no choking hazards such as raisins, nuts or seeds. The recipe has a few of its own nuances that bakers chose to include or discard and there’s no doubt that the recipe will continue to change slightly with time but if ever there was a reason to visit any of the huge amounts of tea rooms in the UK then finding the perfect Victoria Sponge is surely it. Great British Bake Off, eat your heart out!

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8. Sticky Toffee Pudding

Source: iStock

The sweetest of all desserts, the sticky toffee pudding is a moist sponge cake made with chopped dates and drizzled in toffee sauce. Its exact origin is unclear, and despite the pudding’s history possibly being rooted in Canada, the dessert was served in a hotel in the Lake District in the 1970s and has been linked to a recipe from Lancashire. Cartmel Village near the Lake District is home to the company of the same name that have produced handmade desserts for the last twenty years or more. The village of Cartmel is actually situated in Cumbria, and it’s sticky pudding has launched it into a not so sleepy little remote country community. This dessert is best served hot, so with winter on the way, perhaps it’s the ideal time to get tasting and what better place than near one of Britain’s greatest national parks.

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9. Mince Pies

Source: Pixabay

We Brits have quite a tradition when it comes to Christmas foods and the mince pie is just one of them. They no longer contain meat, despite this being their original recipe, but they are a sweet fruit based pastry pie served predominantly at Christmas. Even as far back in history as the time of Samuel Pepys, Christmas dinner included mince pies and love them or hate them, they are the mainstay of a traditional English Christmas dinner. It was not until the 19th century that the modern sweet mince pie had evolved and is said to be as a result of the import of cheap sugar. Now packed with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, their flavour isn’t the only thing that has changed over time, they have also changed shape. No region of the UK is more home to the mince pie than any other, but rest assured wherever you go at Christmas, you will find the good old mince pie.

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10. Sussex Pond Pudding

Source: iStock

A pastry, lemon and sugary dessert, with its origins in the English county of Sussex. When cooked, this pudding oozes all of the ingredients nestled in the middle, creating an island surrounded by the juice of the lemon, butter and sugar. There is some speculation about where the ‘pond’ part of the name originates, although I don’t believe the best one is that the oozing sauce looks akin to pond water, but wherever the name comes from it’s not a dish that can be created quickly. It takes over 3 hours to steam the pudding to ensure that the lemon concealed inside is baked sufficiently. A recipe for this old English dish was found written in 1672 and, although like many of the desserts, things have been added over time, it’s for you to decide which methods you prefer. So get tasting this tasty sweet treat.

There is a restaurant in docklands called The Gun that sells this, along with other traditional English desserts.

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The sweetest things in life

It seems that the UK does have quite a lot to offer on the sweet treat front, and whether you fancy the above for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea one thing is for sure, you’ll have fun trying them out. Foodies, eat your heart out on these great British cakes and desserts. Have fun exploring the towns and cities that are home to some of these great British delights, but be warned they are all so delicious you might go home a little heavier than when you arrived.

This article was originally published on Nov 07, 2016

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Carol is a self-professed travel addict. A fairly late starter to travel she took her first trip abroad when she was 18, but has been making up for lost time since and has set foot on all but one...Read more

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