A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake

A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake

The New York Times food section has raved about this cake (I saw it get tens of thousands of likes on Facebook), and I understand why completely.


I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey in preparation for this blog post, and what I came away with is the very British idea that there’s no right or wrong here, there’s just afternoon tea. This is an excellent time to mix and match flower patterned china and silverware. Be whimsical when you set a table for Mom! Fill an old watering can with pretty, fresh picked flowers or a seasonal bouquet; garnish cold Italian sodas with fresh mint; set out a photo of the two of you together, propped up with a teddy bear or two. When you load up a tiered platter with goodies, it’s acceptable to use boxed ones or store bought cupcakes, so long as there’s at least one thing on the table that your heart and precious time really went into.


A well-made cake, yummy berry-loaded parfaits in cute glasses, crustless cucumber sandwiches – something like that. Pink lemonade makes a fine beverage in addition to the teas, as well as a bottle of champagne in case Mom wants to indulge. Keep in mind that green teas pair well with starchy breads and black teas are best with fruit cakes and scones.

I went combing through my most delicate pastry recipes and scones, and what I decided should be the premier recipe at my Mother’s Day Tea is a great big cake! And not just any cake…a Meyer lemon olive oil one, which appears in the sweets chapter of my upcoming book Canvas & Cuisine.  It takes me to my own personal happy place: Sorento, Italy. I remember sitting in an orchard there, glass of wine in hand, watching the sun dip in the blue sky, and breathing the air scented with fresh lemons. Meyer lemons are the closet ones I’ve found to remind me of the rich, fragrant lemons grown there. I can’t speak for your Mom’s own happy place, but she can borrow mine on May 13th!


Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

with Thyme

serves a crowd

60 minute cuisine


For Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup natural cane sugar

½ cup olive oil

2 large eggs

Juice of 2 Meyer lemons, about ¼ cup

Zest of 2 Meyer lemons, about 1 tablespoon

2 teaspoons chopped, fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup whole milk

For the glaze:

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

Juice of 1 medium Meyer lemon, about 2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray again. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine the olive oil, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme and vanilla until creamy. Mix in ⅓ of the flour, followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk is incorporated into the batter. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely. Remove the cake from the pan and place onto a serving platter

Place the confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cake. Garnish the platter with fresh lemon slices and thyme sprigs.


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