It’s tea-time, a few minutes of quiet in the mid-afternoon since I can remember, a break from my homework to be spent with mum, grandma and Claudia. Often an elbow was leaning on my books, the Greek translation or the marketing manual, while the other was struggling to have space on a colourful place-mat between a cup of tea and some biscuits. Those minutes have always been precious, to spend some time together and talk and comment on our day so far. But the tea-time has a meaningful sense even when I’m alone, just my cup of tea and me, following the drawings of the sun on the kitchen floor, to clear up my mind and recharge myself with new energy, dreaming about what would have happened if…
…what would have happened if she had pursued her dream and had turned the tea-time, the moment that she preferred in the day, into her life, to live a never ending tea-time, to stop the clock at that moment when the kettle whistles, your eyes go through the many teas on the shelf to find a suitable flavour for your mood and the cake looks inviting on the table.
IT’S MY CUP OF TEA
Giulia had thought about it for a long time, had weighed up the pros and cons. Job security on the one hand, on the other one risk and adventure: every time she poured the tea into her favourite cup, sometimes amber, sometimes dark and deep, sometimes a transparent and refreshing green, she depicted her dream with vivid colours. A tea room in the neighbouring town, the days spent baking cakes and biscuits to be served in the afternoon, a selection of tea to travel around the world sitting comfortably in an armchair.
Then one afternoon, clutching her cup of steaming tea, she got lost in the wisps of steam rising from the cup, she felt nursed by them, she felt good and safe, and she made her decision. Many days, banks, checks and sleepless nights later, she hung proudly her wooden shop sign over the glass door of her tea room and went back inside into the smell of butter, sugar and vanilla, waiting for the bell above the door to ring as the first customer would step inside. That silver tinkling was not late to come and in the following days it was a symphony of bells.
It worked: she was offering simple things, good for your soul. A quiet, friendly, unpretentious place, where everyone could feel at home, with armchairs of all shapes and sizes, colourful chairs, small tables scattered on a wooden floor that creaked gently under each step. Her tea room was the ideal place for those who wanted to read a book in a peaceful scene, talk for hours with a friend, work on the beloved project or just find themselves, clutching a cup of steaming tea, just as had happened in that afternoon when she had made the decision that changed her life.
She was proud of her glass jars full of cookies: chocolate, lemon, dried fruit and oriental scents, or simple shortbreads for those who wanted to rediscover the taste of childhood in a bite. On the counter there were four or five cakes of the day, they changed in colour, fruit and frosting with the seasons. But there was one cake that was there everyday, being it sunny or rainy, the white chocolate and lemon cake, the one she had served to the first person who stepped into her tea room and, in the very same day, into her life.
Every day, before opening the shop in the afternoon and starting the dance of cakes, cookies and clinking china cups, she treated herself with a cup of tea and a slice of cake, often the lemon and white chocolate cake, to live again the excitement of those black eyes who smiled at her ordering that lemon cake and kept smiling at her every day since then. Chasing her dream and finding the courage to turn it into reality, she had received a gift far more precious than she had dared to hope.
This Giulia’s favourite recipe, a lemon and white chocolate pound cake. In winter, garnished with caramelised oranges or cinnamon pears, it is the perfect match of a cup of steaming tea. During the summer, topped with the most beautiful seasonal red fruit, goes perfectly with a glass of iced tea. It has a very strong citrus hint, softened by the presence of the white chocolate in the dough: the mascarpone and red fruit frosting is attractive and fashionable, but I do assure you the cake is worth a try even on its own, with a dusting of icing sugar.
POUND CAKE WITH LEMON & WHITE CHOCOLATE
The recipe is the well known pound cake and, therefore, weigh the eggs with their shells and use the same weight of flour, sugar and fat. In this case, the fat component is given by the butter and the white chocolate. I have also slightly reduced the amount of sugar not to have an excessively sweet cake. Choose organic lemons in order to use their peel light-heartedly.
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- 4 medium eggs, at room temperature (about 260 g)
- 200 g caster sugar
- 100 g white chocolate, melted
- 150 g butter, melted
- 3 organic lemons, grated peel and squeezed juice
- 250 g plain flour
- about 8 g of baking powder
- 250 g mascarpone cheese
- 100 ml cream, whipped
- grated peel of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- strawberries and cherries
- mint leaves
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler and the butter on a very low heat or in the microwave.
- Beat the eggs and the sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Pour in the melted butter and white chocolate and whip the batter.
- Add the flour, the baking powder, the sieved lemon juice and the lemon peel. Stir until everything is evenly mixed.
- Pour into a rectangular cake tin, previously greased and floured. Bake for about 1 hour until golden and dry in the centre (use a toothpick to check). Let it cool down completely before unmould.
- Make the frosting: whisk the mascarpone cheese with the whipped cream, 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and the finely grated zest of a lemon. Spread the mascarpone frosting over the cake, then decorate with plenty of strawberries and cherries and a few mint leaves. Serve immediately or store the cake in a cool place until ready to serve it.
The tea. I chose my favourite tea of the moment, bought in London at Greenwich market. It is Wilkins and Edwards’ Notting Hill, a black tea flavoured with mango, passion fruit, orange and marigold. I love it steaming hot and black, without adding any sugar, or cold with a slice of lemon. It is strong, energizing and fruity, a perfect match with a slice of this pound cake.