As October finally began to cool down, we went ahead with fall plans for our autumn tea party, baked some more pumpkin desserts, indulged in a very special tea excursion, and prepared for National Bundt Day (November 15th.)
Let’s get to it!
Annual Fall Tea Party: Kristin hosted the fall tea party this year in the sunny living room of her French Gulch Victorian. I look forward to getting out the fall decorations, china, and linens each year as much as making the fall tea menu and enjoying the fall flavors we have come to know and love. The My Tea Planner autumn seasonal tea menu is one of my very favorites but I usually can’t resist adding a new recipe or making a twist on an old favorite each year. You’ll find the classic fall tea menu here: Autumn afternoon tea menu, I think it is a wonderful place to begin building your own tea menu. One item always on the menu is Kristin’s fresh pumpkin soup. This year, she substituted chopped butternut squash for the fresh pumpkin which saves lots of prep time and tastes just as heavenly. The easy recipe is here: Butternut sqush or pumpkin soup recipe
While you are scrolling through our website, remember many fundamental tea recipes are available for free download and can be customized to the season, if desired. Anyone interested in hosting their own tea gathering will enjoy having the basics in one place: Free basic tea party recipes from My Tea Planner I used our basic scone recipe to make these currant scones, cut into the maple leaf shapes of different sizes. During fall, you can find leaf-shaped cutters in stores. I use the small leaf cutters to decorate pie crusts or make small cookies to accent desserts and the bigger ones for sugar cookies or seasonal biscuits or scones. Suzi made the delicious apple hand pies, the crust from a favorite blogger’s recipe, here: Zoe's pie crust recipe I also like Zoe’s cake recipes; she is a great resource for interesting cakes. Finally, I highly recommend Libby’s website for pumpkin recipes including their moist pumpkin bread (to which I add fresh cranberries) and my favorite pumpkin roll recipe: Libby's Pumpkin Roll Recipe
French Gulch, California
Butternut Squash Soup, Filo Triangles with Caramelized Onions and Beef
Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Dried Cherries, Almonds, and Chives
Leaf-Shaped Currant Scones with Autumn-Spiced Butter
Shortbread Fingers, Apple Hand Pies, Pumpkin Roll
Harvest Chocolate Candies, PG Tips Black Tea, and Champagne
National Bundt Day, November 15th: As long-time readers know, I’m a sucker for a good bundt cake. Usually moist and unfussy to decorate, bundt cakes can feed a lot of people and most recipes keep well and freeze perfectly. Truly a cake style that fits a multitude of situations.
I have my time-tested favorite bundt recipes, many of which you can find on our website by using the search function at the bottom of our homepage, but I am always on the lookout for a delicious sounding new recipe to try. In that spirit, I found a recipe for a bundt cake that combines our fall pumpkin with the flan layer from the wildly popular ChocoFlan cake. Using a boxed chocolate cake mix and a few other ingredients, this method magically comes out of the oven with a luscious layer of creamy flan on top of a rich chocolate cake layer. Most chocolate lovers cannot resist it. I do like it but I don’t necessarily need chocolate with my flan. I heartily encourage you to make it though, as it is a big hit with the vast majority of humans. Here is the Betty Crocker version: Easy Chocoflan recipe
I was looking for that creamy flan with a more autumnal flavor when Southern Living magazine popped up with their "Pumpkin Spice Cake” recipe which just happeded to be a pumpkin cake with a layer of flan! It sounded so good that I tested the recipe and found that yes, indeed, it is fantastic. You get easy purchased caramel sauce dripping over a layer of flan with a gently spiced pumpkin cake underneath. The recipe is a true keeper. I sent sections of the cake to work with my brother and sister-in-law, Tiffany, and reviews came back with 100% raves. I used the cheapest caramel sauce at the market, Mrs. Richardson’s, and it was great. I’ve used Mexican cajeta sauce, fancy salted caramel sauces, Smucker’s ice cream topping, and all work perfectly fine. This cake really is divine and would make a huge splash on the Thanksgiving dessert buffet. I had some poached pears and apples in the fridge for another project so paired a slice of the flan cake with a few pear slices, more caramel sauce, and a wee little scoop of vanilla ice cream. I added flan to the title of the recipe, so you won’t forget to make this deicious cake: Pumpkin Flan Bundt Cake
DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend: I ran out of pumpkin spice when I was baking at Dad’s house. Luckily, he stocks lots of fresh spices from Penzey’s so I was able to mix my own. I don’t love lots of clove in my mix so I left it out. If you do like a little clove, add one quarter teaspoon to the following mixture. Whatever you do, don’t add too much clove as that will overpower all the other spices.
- Makes 3 tablespoons
- 5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly gound, if possble
- 1 teaspoon gound mace
- Mix all spices together gently so as not to create a spicy cloud that makes you sneeze. Keep in a little jar to use whenever you need pumpkin spice blend.
Where does one begin?
I’ll let them start. From their own website:
With its Honduran mahogany paneling, brass accents, etched glass partitions, and plush armchairs, the Wine Train also evokes the elegant glory days of luxury train travel of the early 1900s. You get to sit back, relax, and savor every delicious bite, every bit of extraordinary scenery, every taste and tour. There are lots of ways to explore Napa Valley. This one is an experience you will never forget.
It’s tea time on the Wine Train. Experience our newest Napa Valley adventure – Afternoon Tea service. Enjoy a 3-hour journey filled with all the delights of a traditional tea service but with our own wine country twist. Savor fine sips, delectable bites and glorious vineyard views on this elegant experience.”
Once outside of the city of Napa, the scenery becomes lush with oak trees and wineries of every description.Victorian farmhouses nestle between stone wineries, outdoor dining areas attached to storied restaurants, and quaint boutiques. The hostess points out the world-famous French Laundry restaurant as we pass through Yountville. We see the Oakville Grocery store that I remember from the 1970s, now with a big patio so people can enjoy the gourmet foods and wines they have aquired. The train passes through Rutherford, stopping to let off a group who will spend an hour tasting at Grgich Hills winery, on the west side of the train. At Saint Helena, we idle at Charles Krug winery before the locomotive is detatched from the now back of the train then led on a parallel track, past the train cars, to be reattached at the end of the train, which is now the front. We were confused, too, but we did start the slow journey back to Napa.
During all this viewing of beautiful scenery, courses of afternoon tea have been served at a gentle pace, removed, and replaced with another artfully plated course. A small bowl of tomato bisque is replaced with a leafy green salad, hiding chunks of golden and scarlet beets. A very generous three tiered tray of sandwiches follows, each one very fresh, creatively assembled, and visually pleasing. Lobster in a creamy sauce poked out of the tiniest vol-au-vent I’d ever seen. Tiffany has spoiled us by ordering each our own caviar service. If you like caviar, this is the most lavish treat imaginable. I do like caviar and it was indeed fabulous and decadent and totally satisfying. Who knew potato chips were the perfect foil for caviar?
Everyone in our car was having a wonderful afternoon. A handsome bartender brought bottles of bubbly in silver ice buckets and balloon wine glasses of local wine. We had more hot tea each time the hostess went by. The French group became more animated and it was such a lovely way to spend the day. The sweets tray arrived with perfect madeleines, lemon tarts, tiny fruited scones with blueberry preserves, macrons, exquisite tiny chocolates, with blush table grapes and Comté cheese. A little jewel box of a dessert course, an afternoon to be remembered. More information here: Napa Valley Wine Train