Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Perfect for a Princess: English Sweets and Treats for the Royal Wedding

The venue: Westminster Abbey

Everyone, it seems, has caught the Royal Wedding fever and with the big event only days away, I'm caving to the pressure with a London Foods themed post. There's something exciting and almost fairytale-like about the idea of a commoner-turned-princess - and, of course, I'm always eager for an excuse to rave about British sweets!

The pastry case at Harrods

It's been almost two years since I was last in London, visiting my sister and her husband in September 2009, but our family visited often during our years in England. We also had a few brushes with the Royal Family - I met Prince Philip at a presentation at St. James' in 2003, and my mum even appeared with Princess Diana on a national magazine cover. Before my decision to return to the States for college, I was accepted into the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where William and Kate met. I'm sure St. Andrews had a record number of applications during those few years, so I don't have too many regrets about resigning my place to another princess-hopeful!

Cream tea in the garden

I'm not sure if I'll be watching the wedding live (Matt and I are sharing a hotel room and he's none too excited about waking at 3am to watch TV) but I'll certainly catch some of the coverage and possibly celebrate with a tasty treat or two.  We've been informed that the royal wedding cake will be traditional English fruitcake, but I can think of several tastier options for a viewing party - many of which can be obtained or recreated right here in the U.S.A. Here's a round-up of some of my favorite British baked-goods and bon-bons:

My 'secret stash' of English favorites includes treats from Cadbury
Cadbury Chocolate: I've already confessed my love of all things Cadbury, but I think I've yet to admit that Cadbury Mini Eggs might just be my favorite food in all the world. I love the warm, strongly vanilla flavor of their chocolate and can't imagine an England - or a childhood - without it.  I visited the Bournville factory on a school trip as a child and still vividly remember that wonderful day! For a more sophisticated choice, pick up a box of Cadbury Fingers or serve a rich, slightly bitter Cadbury Flake with a scoop of sweet vanilla ice cream.

Cream Tea at The Orchard in Grantchester
Cream Tea: When Americans think England, they usually think cream teas, and for good reason - they're quite tasty.  They may not be my favorite English sweet, but there's something richly satisfying about a still-warm, crumbly scone topped with thick, buttery clotted cream and a smear of fresh jam. There's some debate about whether the jam or cream goes on first, but there's an easy way to solve that dilemma - just eat two!

My favorite flapjacks, topped with chocolate
Flapjacks: Not to be confused with the pancake-like American version, these oatey, caramel-y confections are probably my favorite baked British treat. I spent several months last year optimizing my traditional flapjack recipe - which resulted in several batches of flapjacks for me to eat! I have plans to share this recipe in the future, but if you're looking for more immediate gratification, check out their American cousin - the Oatsie. They're simple, rich and satisfying. Cover them with a thin slick of chocolate or a drizzle of caramel for a more elegant indulgence.

Cupcakes at Harrods
Fairy Cakes: These dainty baked treats are a smaller, more delicate relative of the American cupcake.  Usually made of sweet sponge cake, they're often decorated with a glossy icing or dusted with colored sugar and topped with edible flowers or decorations.

Streetside meringue treat at the Borough Market, London
Meringue: What could be more ethereal and fairytale-like than delicate, deliciously sweet meringue? This sweet is very popular in England, both on its own or as a component of pavlova - a meringue, fruit and cream dessert that originated in New Zealand.  Meringue was one of the first things I learned to make as a child in England, and I still have a fondness for the process and the product - fraglie, sweet, and equally appropriate for a royal occasion or for simply elevating an ordinary day.

If William and Kate's wedding menu looks anything like my list of favorites, they have a sweet future ahead of them!


  1. Rachel! I am now very homesick for British sweets! I love your list and agree with all your opinions! :)

  2. Sorry to pass on my homesick cravings! I think I'm always subconsciously thinking about Cadburys and flapjacks - I'd dedicate an entire blog to them if I though anyone would read it ;)