Queen Elizabeth Cake Recipe

Ever wonder about the history of old vintage recipes?  I so wish that accurate records existed about the origins of some of the old nostalgic recipes like the one for Queen Elizabeth Cake, for example.

Queen Elizabeth Square
Queen Elizabeth Cake

This is one recipe that has some history to it but just how much is fact and how much is fable, myth, or folklore is up for certain debate.

Queen Elizabeth Cake is, next to a plain white vanilla or simple chocolate cake, probably one of the most basic, nondescript cakes you could come by. Made with a simple batter with some dates and mild spices mixed in, its glory comes from the topping made of butter, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and coconut that almost borders on toffee. Yes, this will remind you of a cold version of sticky date pudding.

Now, sometimes, you may see this referred to as Queen Elizabeth “Square” versus “Cake”. However, I think it most closely resembles a cake more so than a square. This is because the texture is light and tender, the crumb an even grain, and the body of the cake has a springiness to the touch. This is in contrast to what defines a typical square (or bars) – i.e., a dense texture and chewy consistency. I would class this cake as a hearty, substantial cake.

Queen Elizabeth Square
Queen Elizabeth Cake

So, just where and when did Queen Elizabeth Cake originate?  This is where fact and fiction intertwine and become somewhat blurry.  I did quite a bit of research on this cake. One intriguing story is that it is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s own recipe from which she made cakes herself and sold them for charitable purposes. This claim suggests the recipe originated in Buckingham Palace after the 1953 Coronation. I could find no information or evidence to substantiate this claim and neither could I find any reference to this history on the Buckingham Palace website.

In the June 1953 issue of the Canadian magazine, Chatelaine, a recipe for Queen Elizabeth II Cake was published. Chatelaine’s April 20, 2016, online posting which shared a photo of the 1953 published recipe claims it “was created specifically for the Queen’s Coronation” but gives no indication of who the actual creator was or any detail about how or why the specific ingredients were chosen.

Other information suggests the cake may have been created much earlier to commemorate Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s popularity and her historic visit with her husband, King George VI, to Canada in 1939.

Yet, other information suggests the cake was appearing in local community cookbooks in the 1940s when it was known as “Princess Elizabeth Cake” and there is suggestion that the name may have been changed to “Queen Elizabeth Cake” after the 1953 Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

So, all this to say, I could not definitively, with any degree of accuracy, determine the exact origins of this cake. I do personally recall childhood memories of this cake appearing at community and church events in the 1960s and 1970s in the part of Prince Edward Island in which I grew up.  Plates of sweets inevitably always had this cake on it, although I believe it was referred to as Queen Elizabeth “Square”.  I am reasonably certain of the specific ladies who would, most likely, have been the makers of this cake but they have, unfortunately, all passed on, taking with them whatever memories they may have had associated with the Queen Elizabeth Cake/Square.

Queen Elizabeth Cake
Queen Elizabeth Cake

Granted, I’ll admit the Queen Elizabeth Cake is not the most attractive cake but, boy oh boy, do the flavor, moist texture, and the kicker topping more than make up for it! This is one cake that, as the old saying goes, you ought not judge the book by the cover!  While this is not a cake that my mother made, she does have it in a handwritten recipe “scribbler” that was started in 1963. There is no indication on the handwritten recipe whose it was or where it came from. It cryptically lists the ingredients but contains no method, baking pan size, or baking temperature. This is typical because cooks, in years gone by, simply knew how to pull together a cake and, from whomever the recipe was gotten, it was probably baked in the cook’s wood stove oven (I’ll never know how they regulated the temperature in those). My mother says the cake was probably popular because it needed no frosting/icing since the topping is the “dressing” on the cake.

Queen Elizabeth Cake
Queen Elizabeth Cake

I have taken the basic recipe, adapted some of the ingredients and proportions, added some additional flavoring and spices (the recipe I adapted this one from had no spices listed) and tested the recipe out using different baking pan sizes, writing down the instructions as I worked. What has resulted is this recipe for one of the most tasty tray/slab cakes imaginable given that it is made with such simple, basic kitchen staple ingredients.

Some tips on making Queen Elizabeth Cake:

  • You may think there isn’t enough batter for a 9”x13” cake but there is – there is 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and soda so this cake will rise to a nice height in this size of pan. I tested it first in a 9″x9″ pan but found the cake was too tall in it.
  • The pan may be greased or it may be lined with parchment paper (or even greased tin foil). If using either of the latter, make sure you leave enough paper or tin foil overhang which can be used as “handles” to lift the cake out of the pan. Hint – This method makes both the cutting and removal of the cake from the pan easier than doing so while it is still in the pan.
  • Let the date mixture cool completely at room temperature. Adding it to the dry ingredients while it is either hot or warm can make for a “gummy” texture or soggy cake.
  • Mix the wet and dry ingredients using the rule of 3 parts dry and 2 parts wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  • Mix the ingredients well but don’t beat them as this may create a “tough crumb” cake.
  • Use cream to make the topping. I used 18% cream but 35% cream will create an even more luxurious topping (but also add a few more calories!).
  • Start checking the cake for doneness at the point where the cake has been baking for 30 minutes then, if it is not baked, check it every 4-5 minutes after. The cake will be done when the cake tester, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out completely clean and dry.
  • When the cake tests almost baked (about 5 minutes before it is expected to come out of the oven), start making the topping. It needs to go on the warm cake that will go back in the oven for 3-4 minutes after the topping has been added.
  • The topping is a little bit like making candy. It can set up really fast. Don’t leave it unattended. Stir the ingredients as they boil gently for the 3 minutes. Watch it carefully – if you see if starting to “set up” and thicken really fast (even if it is before the 3 minutes of boiling is up), remove it from the stove and stir in the vanilla and coconut. The mixture should be of the consistency that it can be poured from the saucepan and spread over the cake with a knife. If it becomes too thick, it will be too sugary and won’t be of spreading consistency.

Splendid, no matter its history or how it’s served, this cake pairs particularly well with a spot of tea…. perhaps Earl Grey blend.  This is a smooth black tea that has citrus notes that complement the sweetness of the cake. With its high concentration of tannins, it’s also a great tea to cleanse the mouth after each bite of the cake so that every bite of this moist and flavorful cake tastes as good as the first one!

Queen Elizabeth Square
Queen Elizabeth Cake

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

Queen Elizabeth Cake

 Ingredients:
1 cup dates, chopped
1 tsp soda
1 cup boiling water

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch allspice

¼ cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla

Topping:
3 tbsp melted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cream (18%)
½ tsp vanilla
2/3 cup shredded coconut

Method:

Cake:

Place dates and soda in medium-sized saucepan.  Add the boiling water. Simmer for about 4-5 minutes then cool completely at room temperature.

Position oven rack in centre of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 9”x13” baking pan or line with parchment paper (or even greased tin foil).

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together. Set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg, orange extract, and vanilla. Transfer mixture to cooled dates. Stir well.

Transfer one-third of the sifted dry ingredients to the mixer bowl.  Beat in one-half of the wet ingredients. Add another third of the dry ingredients. Blend well. Mix in the remainder of the wet ingredients.  Finish by incorporating the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well to combine. Don’t overmix.

Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan.  Transfer to preheated oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven.

Topping:

About 5 minutes before the cake is due to be removed from the oven, begin to prepare the cake topping.  In medium-sized saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter.  Blend in the brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the vanilla and coconut. Pour and spread this mixture evenly over the warm cake and return it to the oven to brown slightly for 3-4 minutes. Remove cake from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely before cutting and serving.

This cake freezes well.

Yield:  1 – 9”x13” single layer cake

Queen Elizabeth Cake

Yield: 1 - 9"x13" cake

This moist and flavorful cake is made with dates and spices and features a delectable toffee-like topping

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch allspice
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Topping:
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cream (18%)
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut

Instructions

  1. Cake:
  2. Place dates and soda in medium-sized saucepan. Add the boiling water. Simmer for about 4-5 minutes then cool completely at room temperature.
  3. Position oven rack in centre of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9”x13” baking pan or line with parchment paper (or even greased tin foil).
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together. Set aside.
  5. In bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, orange extract, and vanilla. Transfer mixture to cooled dates. Stir well.
  6. Transfer one-third of the sifted dry ingredients to the mixer bowl. Beat in one-half of the wet ingredients. Add another third of the dry ingredients. Blend well. Mix in the remainder of the wet ingredients. Finish by incorporating the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well to combine. Don’t overmix.
  7. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan. Transfer to preheated oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven.
  8. Topping:
  9. About 5 minutes before the cake is due to be removed from the oven, begin to prepare the cake topping. In medium-sized saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter. Blend in the brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the vanilla and coconut. Pour and spread this mixture evenly over the warm cake and return it to the oven to brown slightly for 3-4 minutes. Remove cake from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Notes

Please refer to entire blog posting for hints and tips on making this cake.

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Queen Elizabeth Cake

Queen Elizabeth Cake

The Bunnies Are Ready For Easter Breakfast Tablesetting

The Easter Bunny's Breakfast Table
The Easter Bunny’s Breakfast Table

It’s all about whimsy, springtime, and bunnies in this earthy-themed tablesetting for Easter morning breakfast.

Pussywillows
Pussywillows

Simple stalks of pussywillows are casually contained in a glass vase and secured by colorful Easter eggs at their base. Easter eggs are  strewn about the table in and among whimsical little green moss bunnies. I really think the trio of green bunnies is on an Easter egg hunt!

Easter Bunny
Easter Bunny

These little fellas are so cute!

Scamper
Scamper

The green faux-moss bunnies are kind of a refreshing change from the traditional pastel colored bunnies.

Green Faux Moss Bunny
Green Faux Moss Bunny

In a departure from traditional placemats, I have used squares of imitation moss. The white dinnerware pops atop the green moss mats. White dinnerware works for any occasion and really is a good investment. I’ve used very plain flatware in keeping with the informal tablesetting.

Faux-Moss Placemats
Faux-Moss Placemats

Simple napkin rolls are held in place with pewter napkin rings that feature springtime daffodils. These were made by Seagull Pewter in Pugwash, Nova Scotia.

Seagull Pewter Napkin Ring
Seagull Pewter Napkin Ring

This setting is meant to be fun and informal.

Easter Breakfast Placesetting
Easter Breakfast Placesetting

The bunny eggcups keep the bunny theme going.

Easter Bunny Eggcup
Easter Bunny Eggcup

Little Easter chocolate bars adorn each cup but are easily set aside and replaced with a boiled egg, if desired, at breakfast. Who says you can’t have chocolate for a breakfast treat!

Easter Chocolate
Easter Chocolate

I have added a couple of larger faux moss-covered whimsical bunnies to my dining room mantle to coordinate the theme throughout the room.

Easter Bunnies
Easter Bunnies
Easter Breakfast Table
Easter Breakfast Table

Joyeous Easter!

For more Easter-themed tablesetting inspiration, click on the links below:

Tulip Time Tablescape
Tulip Clusters Springtime Tablescape
Tip Toe Through the Tulips Easter Tablesetting
Springtime Yellow Tablescape
Peter Cottontail Tablesetting for Easter
Easter Tablesetting
A Casual Tablescape for Easter Brunch

src=”http://myislandbistrokitchen.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Easter-Breakfast-Tablesetting.jpg” alt=”Easter Breakfast Tablesetting” width=”1000″ height=”3000″ />

Easter Breakfast Tablesetting

 

Luscious Lemon Curd

Homemade Lemon Curd
Homemade Lemon Curd

I adore lemon curd – luscious lemon curd –  that wonderful balance of lemon’s acidity and tartness with the sweetness of sugar. I love it so much that it’s a staple in my refrigerator.

Lemon Curd with Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Lemon Curd with Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Not to be confused with lemon pie filling, which is a different recipe altogether, this versatile heavenly creation known as lemon curd has so many uses – sandwiching cakes together, spreading on scones and biscuits, filling cookies, eclairs, macarons, and tarts, stirring into (or topping on) Greek yogurt for quick parfaits, as a topping on gingerbread or pancakes and, well, you get the picture – uses of lemon curd are limited only by your imagination, creativity, and your love for this divine creation!

Lemon Curd on Scones
Lemon Curd on Scones

Oh, heck, if I’m being honest, I have been known to eat it by the spoonful straight from the jar!

Homemade Lemon Curd
Homemade Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is made with only four (4) ingredients – lemons, sugar, eggs, and butter. While the basic ingredients won’t vary, the amounts of each used and the methods for making curd may differ.  Some cooks favor using only egg yolks, others claim best results using whole eggs, and then there is me who uses both egg yolks and a whole egg. Some wait until after the curd is cooked before adding the butter and lemon zest while others include these at the beginning of the cooking process. Some leave the zest in; others strain it out after the cooking process is complete. Some will cook the curd in a pot directly over the heat while others use a double boiler.

Fresh Homemade Lemon Curd
Fresh Homemade Lemon Curd

I have been making lemon curd for years and have tried different methods of cooking it and different amounts of the core ingredients. The recipe I am including with this posting is the result of many testings which allows me to share my tips for successful lemon curd making.

Lemon Curd Tart
Lemon Curd Tart

Lemons
Always use freshly-squeezed lemon juice – never bottled – for making lemon curd. Choose lemons that have a little spring to them when gently pressed – these will yield more juice than a lemon that is rock solid hard.

Wash the lemons really well in hot, soapy water and scrub them with a vegetable brush to remove any wax that is often applied to lemons before they reach the supermarket shelf. Rinse the lemons really well and dry them.

How many lemons will be required for this curd is difficult to say with certainty because it depends on the size of the lemons and how juicy they are.  The aim is to get ½ cup minus 1 tablespoon of juice (i.e., 7 tablespoons) AFTER it has been strained and the pulp and seeds removed. I can usually extract this amount of juice from 2½ to 3 average size lemons.

Use a lemon zester to zest one of the lemons, ensuring the lemon is blemish-free (now you understand why it’s important that the lemons be thoroughly scrubbed clean – the zest is going into the curd). This should yield about 2½ teaspoons of zest. This zesting process will release the wonderful aromatic oils from the lemon and will enhance the flavor of the curd. When zesting the lemon, take care only to remove the thin outside yellow skin of the lemon and not the underlying white pith which is bitter.

Lemon Zest
Lemon Zest

Cut the lemons in half and squeeze them to extract the juice. Strain the juice through a very fine wire mesh sieve to remove the pulp and seeds. Measure out 7 tablespoons of juice after this process, not before.

Eggs
I have made curd using just egg yolks, just whole eggs, and by using two extra-large egg yolks and one large whole egg.  I find the latter is my preference. I like the lemon curd to be soft but not overly runny or too thick – it should more or less stay in place when a dollop of it is added to the top of yogurt or dropped on to a scone, for example. My experience with making the curd using only egg yolks is that some of the soft texture of the curd is lost and it’s more of a gelatin-type texture and consistency. Using all whole eggs resulted in a curd that was too soft and runny for my liking, most likely because there was too much egg white added.  However, when I use two egg yolks along with one whole egg, the consistency is a lovely satiny creamy texture that is neither too runny or too solid.  The one egg white adds just enough fluidity to produce the desired consistency.

The problem that often occurs with adding egg white(s) to a curd is that the whites, or parts of them, coagulate before being fully incorporated into the curd meaning they go from liquid form to a solid. The whites cook faster than the yolks so, no matter how much stirring, one can still be left with little bits of the coagulated egg white in the curd because, once they have turned into solid mass, they can’t be liquefied again. This is easily remedied, however, by straining the cooked curd through a fine wire mesh sieve to remove any little bits of egg white remaining. You would think the thickened curd would not drip through the sieve but it does! Don’t skip this step.

Lemon Curd with Greek Yogurt
Lemon Curd with Greek Yogurt

Sugar
I have made the curd both with regular granulated sugar and with caster sugar which you may know by any of the following names: Fruit sugar, instant dissolving sugar, berry sugar, or super fine sugar. This sugar is super-duper fine. It dissolves much faster than granulated sugar and is commonly used in making simple syrups used in cocktails because it leaves no “gritty” texture at all. Regular granulated sugar works fine in lemon curd. The caster sugar does, however, provide a smoother textured curd so, if absolute perfection in this regard is your goal, I recommend using the caster sugar.

Lemon Curd on Biscuits
Lemon Curd on Biscuits

Method
Making a quality lemon curd takes time. This isn’t something I’d recommend starting 10 minutes before the curd is needed. I know some cooks do make the lemon curd in a pot directly over the heat source. However, I don’t go that route because it is very easy to scorch the curd with the amount of sugar in it and I think it cooks the curd too quickly causing potential curdling as it’s more difficult to regulate the heat.

My preference is to use a double boiler. If you don’t have one of these sets of pots, simply set a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and “simmering” is the operative word.

It’s very important that the top pot/bowl in the double boiler not touch the water in the bottom pot. Before beginning to cook the curd, I recommend setting the pot/bowl over the water and lifting it to check to ensure the water is not in direct contact with the top of the double boiler/bowl. The curd cooks from the steam heating the top saucepan of the boiler, not by contact with water. About 2” of water in the bottom of the pot is all that is required. Heat this water to the simmering point (around 200°F) and do not let it boil as this will cook the eggs in the curd too fast. This is when curdling can occur and the mixture will become lumpy and lose its smooth texture. The water should be kept at this temperature throughout the cooking process.  I recommend periodically lifting the top of the boiler to ensure the water is not boiling. (Note that temperatures for the simmering water may need to be adjusted according to altitude.  The important thing is that the water not boil.)

I add the lemon zest at the beginning of the cooking process because that’s when I think the zest can do the most to enhance the flavor of the curd. Some cooks add the zest at the very end after the curd has cooked. However, in my opinion, that’s too late for the zest to release the lemon’s flavorful oils and to have much impact on infusing the curd’s flavor.  Some might argue that having the lemon zest in the curd during the entire cooking process could lead to a bitter taste in the curd. However, I do not find that to be the case as the curd is cooked gently and ever-so-slowly and away from the direct heat source. Simply stir the lemon zest into the sugar then whisk in the lemon juice.  Mix the egg yolks and the whole egg together in a small bowl, using a fork to lightly break them up. Whisk the eggs and softened butter into the sugar-juice mixture. Place this pot/heatproof bowl on top of the pot of simmering water.

The mixture needs to be stirred regularly as it cooks – lemon curd is not something that can be left unattended on the stove to do its own thing.  A whisk or a wooden spoon can be used to stir the curd. Be patient. Very patient. This cooking process can take 20-25 minutes for the curd to thicken. Resist the urge to increase the heat to speed the cooking process along. The curd, when cooked, will coat the back of a wooden spoon. But, the most accurate test is to use a candy thermometer – the curd is cooked when the temperature reaches 170°F.

The curd needs to be strained through a very fine wire mesh sieve to remove any bits of the coagulated egg white along with the lemon zest. The zest has done its duty by releasing flavor into the curd. There is no harm in leaving the zest in the curd; however, if the goal is to have a perfect satin finish to the curd, the bits of zest gotta go! In my view, it just really is not all that pleasant to be enjoying the creamy curd and suddenly bite into a chewy piece of lemon zest!

Luscious Lemon Curd
Luscious Lemon Curd

Color and Texture
The color of the cooked curd should be a natural brilliantly bright sunshiny yellow. The color comes from the egg yolks, lemon juice and, to some degree, from the lemon zest. The texture of the perfectly cooked curd should be silky smooth, very creamy, and the curd should bear a slightly glossy sheen.  Lemon curd will thicken slightly more as it cools.

Sunshiny yellow lemon curd
Sunshiny yellow lemon curd

A true curd does not have any thickening agent (e.g., flour or cornstarch) added to it. The egg yolks are what naturally thickens the curd. This is a key difference between lemon curd and lemon pie filling. Pie filling has a more gelatin-like consistency and is thickened with either flour or cornstarch. In contrast, lemon curd is softer, smoother, and of spreading consistency. Lemon curd also has a more intense lemon flavor than does the filling for a lemon pie.

Lemon Curd with Biscuits
Lemon Curd with Biscuits

Storage
Transfer the strained curd to a hot sterilized jar.  Immediately place a piece of plastic wrap on the exposed surface of the curd in the jar, pressing it gently to ensure it is in direct contact with the entire surface of the curd. This will prevent a skin from forming on the curd as it cools.  Let the curd cool to room temperature then remove the plastic wrap, cover tightly with jar lid, and store in the refrigerate for up to a week….if it lasts that long! Now, where’s the spoon…………

A spoonful of lemon curd
A spoonful of lemon curd

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

Luscious Lemon Curd

Ingredients:
¾ cup caster* sugar or granulated sugar
2½ tsp lemon zest
7 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained (apx. 2½  – 3 lemons, depending on size)
2 extra-large egg yolks
1 large egg
3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature

Method:
In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat.  Place sugar in top of double boiler or heat-proof bowl.  Mix in the lemon zest.  Whisk the lemon juice into sugar.

In small bowl, lightly beat the 2 egg yolks and the whole egg together with a fork, just enough to break up the yolks and blend with the whole egg.  Whisk the eggs into the sugar-lemon juice mixture. Add the soft butter.  Place this pot or bowl over the simmering water. Stir the mixture continuously as it cooks until it is thickened and the temperature of the mixture registers 170°F on a candy thermometer.  Be patient as this may take 20-25 minutes. Make sure the water in the bottom of the boiler does not boil and stays only at the simmer point.

Remove curd from heat and strain through a mesh strainer to remove any of the egg white that may have coagulated as well as the lemon rind.  Pour strained curd into a sterilized bottle.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent it from forming a skin on top. Cool at room temperature. Remove plastic wrap. Cover jar tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Yield: Apx. 1 cup

*caster sugar may also be known as fruit sugar, berry sugar, super fine sugar, or instant dissolving sugar.

Note:  Altitude may affect the temperature at which the water reaches the simmering point. The important thing is that the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not boil or touch the top of the double boiler/heatproof bowl during the cooking of the curd.

Luscious Lemon Curd

Yield: Apx. 1 cup

Sweet and tart, this luscious lemon curd is a wonderful addition to scones, parfaits, and pastries

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup caster* sugar or granulated sugar
  • 2½ tsp lemon zest
  • 7 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained (apx. 2½ - 3 lemons, depending on size)
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature

Instructions

  1. In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat. Place sugar in top of double boiler or heat-proof bowl. Mix in the lemon zest. Whisk the lemon juice into sugar.
  2. In small bowl, lightly beat the 2 egg yolks and the whole egg together with a fork, just enough to break up the yolks and blend with the whole egg. Whisk the eggs into the sugar-lemon juice mixture. Add the soft butter. Place this pot or bowl over the simmering water. Stir the mixture continuously as it cooks until it is thickened and the temperature of the mixture registers 170°F on a candy thermometer. Be patient as this may take 20-25 minutes. Make sure the water in the bottom of the boiler does not boil and stays only at the simmer point.
  3. Remove curd from heat and strain through a mesh strainer to remove any of the egg white that may have coagulated as well as the lemon rind. Pour strained curd into a sterilized bottle. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent it from forming a skin on top. Cool at room temperature. Remove plastic wrap. Cover jar tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Notes

Please be sure to read entire blog posting that accompanies this recipe as it contains important information and tips on successfully making lemon curd.

*Caster sugar may also be known as fruit sugar, berry sugar, super fine sugar, or instant dissolving sugar.

Note: Altitude may affect the temperature at which the water reaches the simmering point. The important thing is that the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not boil or touch the top of the double boiler/heatproof bowl during the cooking of the curd.

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Luscious Lemon Curd

Luscious Lemon Curd

Tulip Time Tablescape

Living in Atlantic Canada, it’s not unheard of to still have snow in April. That’s one reason why I like to use springtime elements in my tablesettings beginning as early as possible – if I can’t see spring outside, I can at least create a spring zone in my dining room which is what I’ve done with this tablesetting.

Easter Tablesetting
Easter Tablesetting

I love paying a visit to the retail outlet at Vanco Farm greenhouses in Mount Albion, PEI, a short drive from Charlottetown. They grow fabulous tulips all winter long in their big greenhouses. If you haven’t already read the story I wrote about Vanco’s tulip-growing operation, click here.

Double Flowered Tulips
Double Flowered Tulips

Sometimes, I have a particular color scheme in mind when I make the drive to Vanco’s. Other times, however, I go with an open mind in search of a color or type of tulip that will inspire my creativity in developing a tablescape. This is what occurred with this tablesetting.

When I arrived at the greenhouses, they had these spectacular double flowered tulips in a coral pink shade with a soft ivory/pale yellow edge.  They resemble peonies because they are packed with layers of petals. They were too delightful to pass up so they became the focal point of this Easter tablesetting and inspired the color theme.

Double Flowered Tulips
Double Flowered Tulips

If you are a regular reader of my food blog, you will recall that I sometimes like to corral the elements of my tablescape into a container such as a basket or tray. This keeps the table clean and nondistracting. This is also a good choice if you plan on removing the centerpiece from the table during the meal and replacing it with a ham or turkey on a platter. It’s much easier to pick up one container off the table than several individual items.

Corralled Tablescape
Corralled Tablescape

What I have used today for the base of the centerpiece is actually a silver mirrored bathroom vanity tray — I’m a big fan of repurposing items I have around the house.

To keep the focus on the flowers, I have used a white milk glass vase. This conceals all the tulip stems so they are not competing for the eye’s attention and the colorful tulip blooms just pop above the white vase. The plain white vase also coordinates well with the dinnerware.

To add some interest to the centerpiece, I’ve also placed a bird’s nest on a small companion piece of white milk glass and added a small Easter figurine. Adding elements that connect and enhance each other is a trademark of effective tablescape creations.

The little bunnies, like the one in the photo below, are actually egg cups but I use them to hold decorative eggs, small chocolate bars, or even flowers in tablesettings other than those prepared for breakfast.

Easter Bunny Eggcups
Easter Bunny Eggcups

If desired, add some colorful Easter eggs casually strewn about the table to complete the seasonal tablescape.

Easter Tablesetting
Easter Tablesetting

If you can only afford one set of dinnerware, I recommend buying plain white in the best quality you can afford. White is so completely versatile. I maintain you can’t set a poor looking table if you go with white dishes! There are so many styles, shapes, textures, and colors of white dinnerware. There are blue whites, grey whites, beige whites, and brilliant whites. I have three sets of white dishes and none of them are the same shade or made of the same material. The ones in this tablesetting are made of porcelain and are a contemporary design.

White Dinnerware
White Dinnerware

With white dinnerware, it can be paired with solid or patterned colors for table linens and the look is easily changed completely, sometimes by simply switching up the charger plates. And, the best part of white dishes is that food looks really appetizing against the white background. In today’s setting, I have used basic pale pink/mauve charger plates to frame each placesetting and to give the air of a well set table.

For glassware, I have chosen some pieces of cut glass to add some sparkle to the table.

I rarely use paper napkins in a tablesetting. However, these matched perfectly so I used them for that reason and also because they are stiff enough to be able to stand in the design I have chosen for them. Cloth napkins, particularly my large dinner napkins, would have been unlikely to have had the same effect.

Because this is a casual tablesetting, I have opted to place the mugs atop the plates, allowing them to form a leaning post for the napkins. This gives a great pop of color to the white placesettings and also keeps each placesetting clean and simple. This is a casual tablesetting so it works. I would not, however, choose this arrangement if I was setting a very formal table.

The only table linen I have chosen to use in this setting is a short runner made of handmade Belgian lace that I brought home from a visit to Bruges. Using minimal linen on the table keeps the look airy and casual.

For other Easter and springtime tablescape inspiration, click on the links below:

Tulip Clusters Springtime Tablescape
Tip Toe Through the Tulips Easter Tablesetting
Springtime Yellow Tablescape
Peter Cottontail Tablesetting for Easter
Easter Tablesetting
A Casual Tablescape for Easter Brunch

 

Tulip Clusters Springtime Tablescape

If you are looking for a tablesetting that is casual and contemporary, consider using single flowers in individual vases as opposed to the traditional floral centerpiece. This is an easy-to-do tablescape for anyone, even those who are not knacky with floral design. If you can fill a vase with water and place a flower in it, you can do this tablescape!

Springtime Tablescape
Springtime Tablescape
Vases

White milk glass has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years and remains, at time of writing, quite trendy.  It’s clean, unobtrusive, and nondistracting on the table. One of the things I like best about milk glass is that it’s opaque meaning the flower stems are not visible. The other great thing about milk glass is that it’s inexpensive and often available at thrift shops for very little money. In addition, it’s easy to mix and match milk glass shapes, sizes, and textures and still have the tablescape work and look aesthetically pleasing.

In this setting, I have used a mixture of heights and designs of milk glass bud vases because this makes for a more interesting tablescape design. Always opt for an odd number of vases versus even numbers as this is more pleasing to the eye.

Milk Glass Vases
Milk Glass Vases
Positioning of Vases

The vases can be interspersed along the center of the table as shown in the photo above.

Or, as demonstrated in the following photo, they can be grouped into clusters of two and three and strategically placed in the center of the table.

Clustered Bud Vases
Clustered Bud Vases

The vases can also all be clustered close together in the center for a real concentrated burst of color making this a very versatile style of tablescape.

With this type of tablescape, it’s easy to adjust the number of vases according to the size of the table. For example, if the table seats 12 or 16, add more clusters of vases here and there down the length of the table.

Springtime Tablesetting
Springtime Tablesetting
Flowers and Greenery

I have chosen tulips for this design because it’s springtime and I love tulips! However, any single bloom flowers will work – roses, Gerbers, daisies, carnations, etc.  Two blooms can be added in one or two of the vases but try to keep the whole setting informal, simplistic, and not too contrived or equally balanced. It’s also attractive if the heights of the tulips are varied, too.

Setting the Springtime Table
Setting the Springtime Table

To add more interest and some visual weight to the look, I have added a small sprig of salal to a couple of the vases, but not them all. Adding salal to every vase is starting to cross over into the zone of trying to have every vase identical. Also, adding some wispy bear grass adds texture and interest so long as not too much is added.

The tulips were greenhouse-grown here on Prince Edward Island at Vanco Farms in Mount Albion. Click here to read the story I wrote a few years ago on their tulip production.

For unity, I recommend going with all one color of flower for all the vases as it’s less distracting to the eye and looks more coordinated.

Tulips
Tulips
Table Linens

In modern, contemporary and casual tablesettings, it’s very common to forego tablecloths and, as shown in this setting, to let the wood of the table be visible. It gives a lighter, more airy, and less fussy look to the table than if a full tablecloth was used. I have opted to use basic white placemats simply to “ground” each individual placesetting.

Placesetting
Placesetting

I’m a big fan of high-quality plain white napkins because they go with almost anything. In this setting, I have chosen the pure elegance napkin fold and placed it in the center of each plate. Because the top plate in the setting is patterned, the plain white napkin keeps the setting more simplistic and less distracting than if a patterned napkin was used. This napkin fold dresses up the setting, giving it a wee bit of height. Placing the napkin on the plate keeps each place setting neat and tidy.

"Pure Elegance" Napkin Fold
“Pure Elegance” Napkin Fold
Dinnerware

I advocate for the use of white dinnerware because it shows food to its best. However, I also like to set a pretty table with my formal Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” china.  But, sometimes, the china can be a bit formal for the occasion. In these situations, I pair pieces of my china with my white porcelain everyday dinnerware as I have done here.

Royal Albert "Lavender Rose" Pattern
Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” Pattern

Pale pink charger plates have been used to frame each setting topped with the white dinner plate and then the Lavender Rose salad plate on top. This salad plate gives color to the setting and the colors match the tulips. By mixing the plain white with the patterned china, it makes for a more interesting setting without becoming overly formal.

Glassware

The wine glasses I have selected for this setting are quite tall. They have a simple sleek shape, almost reminiscent of the tulip shape. These work well with a contemporary/modern tablesetting.

Tulips
Tulips
Flatware

Because I have gone with a more casual contemporary look for this setting, I have used a simple design of flatware. I have not included the dessert fork and spoon because those can be placed on the table along with the dessert course. Foregoing them in the initial setting helps to keep the look of the table clean and simple, particularly when there are five vases as opposed to one single floral centerpiece.

I hope you have enjoyed viewing this springtime tablesetting! It’s great to see bright cheery colors after a long winter!

For other springtime and Easter tablesettings, click on the following links:

Tip Toe Through the Tulips Easter Tablesetting
Springtime Yellow Tablescape
Peter Cottontail Tablesetting for Easter
Easter Tablesetting
A Casual Tablescape for Easter Brunch

Springtime Tablescape
Springtime Tablescape
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