A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake

A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake


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.


Best Salad…. Evah!

Best Salad…. Evah!

To prove it, I open with a photo of a nutritious rainbow on a cookie sheet. This dish is fun to work on with the grandkids, or as a solo project sometime when you want to make an extra healthy dinner. The recipe I’m about to share stands behind what I say on the Nana Network ALL THE TIME: “Eat a rainbow!” This is one of the best ways to do just that. The secret to perfectly roasted veggies, is to pre-cook them before you roast them. I use a microwave oven to do this, but placing the veggies into your steamer, or into boiling water and then an ice bath will work just as well. Cooking first guarantees that your roasted veggies will have a crunchy outside and a tender inside; the perfect bite!

Your veggies can grace any variety of lettuce or spinach you have on hand. There are so many robust winter varieties of lettuce, and Good Housekeeping has an excellent photo gallery of lettuces for the next prime pick at your local market.

But rainbows aside, I’ve always maintained that the real magic happens when it’s time to make the dressing. This recipe will leave you with extra dressing for salads throughout the week. I use Meyer lemons for an uber citrussy taste in this dish. These are becoming more readily available in your grocery store. They are slightly sweeter than regular lemons and add that little bit of tang needed to balance the heartiness of the veggies.

Use your favorite veggies to create a salad that your whole family will love – like I did here.

Roasted Veggie Winter Salad
With Meyer Lemon -Basil Vinaigrette
Serves a crowd
45 Minute Cuisine

For Roasted Vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup
3 whole beets, tops removed
1 bunch carrots, tops removed, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
12 new potatoes, cut into fourths
12 Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, about 3 cups
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

For salad:
1 large shallot, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon, about ¼ cup
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh basil
Six cups lettuce or spinach
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled, about ½ cup

Preheat the oven to 400°. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place into the oven. Roast the beets until soft, about 45 minutes. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large baking sheet with rim. Smear the mustard into the bottom of the baking sheet. Add the Parmesan cheese to the baking dish. Place the carrots into a microwave safe bowl. Add two tablespoons water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Drain the carrots and place into the baking sheet. Repeat with the potatoes, Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. Use your hands to coat the vegies with the seasonings in the bottom of the baking sheet. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Roast until the vegetables are just beginning to turn golden, about 20 minutes. You can use a spatula to flip the veggies about halfway through cooking, if you like, but it’s not necessary. Remove the beets from the oven and cool. Peel the beets and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Place the shallots into a small bowl. Add the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and honey. Drizzle in the oil, whisking to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the basil.

Lay the lettuce into a shallow bowl. Pour just enough vinaigrette over the leaves to just moisten them (don’t drown your lettuce!) Place the roasted veggies on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle the Gorgonzola cheese over top. Drizzle a little more vinaigrette over the top.