Rock cakes are another teatime classic, which I love. These are ideal for a beginner baker and taste a little like mini scones. These can be rustled up in no time at all and are perfect for a casual afternoon tea. There are recipes for rock cakes in so many of my vintage recipe books, but this one from the 1930s is my favourite. I’ve adapted it a bit to allow for modern measures, ingredients and ovens. 

Ingredients:

225g Flour

½ tsp Salt

2 tsp Baking Powder

85g Butter

85g Caster Sugar

1 Egg

115g Mixed Dried Fruit

A little milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 230ºc and prepare a greased baking tray.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar and mix well.

Add the egg, dried fruit and a little milk until it forms a stiff mixture.

Place the mixture in small rough heaps onto the baking tray.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at the top of the oven.

Cool on a wire rack.

If you try these delicious rock cakes, let me know what you think. I love seeing pictures of your versions of my recipes. I am really enjoying sharing recipes on here again. I have done so much experimenting and baking recently, so watch this space for its more. Also be sure to check out the Baking section of the blog for lots and lots of vintage recipes.

I have a new article in this months Vintage Life magazine. This time I’ve made my own Brownie in a Jar recipe, based on several vintage brownie recipes. Buy your copy of the magazine here.

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A few weeks ago I blogged about my trip to the Whittard shop in Kingston. Faye and I were treated to a tea tasting and were shown around the shop and taught about some of the teas and their origins. We were also given a goody box to take home.

The box contained lots of samples including tea bags, loose leaf tea, marmalade and biscuits. Since I decided I wanted to write about tea more, I thought I’d work my way through the box and let you know what I thought of the contents. I’m going to do a couple of teas at a time.

As I’ve said before, I prefer loose leaf tea to teabags. I really enjoy the ritual of spooning out the tea and watching it brew, so I was really pleased to see all the lovely choices in my box.

The first tea I tried was the English Rose. Rose is a very traditional ingredient in tea and was first blended during China’s Ming dynasty. Whiter currently have this tea in a gorgeous Alice in Wonderland tin, which I completely love.

This blend is beautifully well balanced with the rose. It is pale, aromatic and quite full flavoured while still being delicate and fragrant. There is a subtle hint of rose without being over powered. I found this tea to be quite refreshing and as recommended by Whittard this would be lovely for a summer picnic. I take mine with a little milk.

Another treat inside the box, was a little jar of Blood Orange Marmalade infused with Assam tea. I adore marmalade on toast so was very happy with this! This was very tasty and full of chunky yummy orange bits. The hints of tea are quite subtle and make this a great addition to my breakfast. I’m definitely going back to pick up another jar of this!

The other tea I tried was the Apple and Elderflower fruit infusion. This blend contains apples and elderflower, with sweet liquorice, vanilla and hibiscus with added rose and marigold petals.

This beautiful mix is tangy, fruity and fresh. It has a medium strength and smells absolutely divine. This can be served hot, which is how I had it or it can be made into a refreshing iced tea.

Recreate my breakfast look:

Hen Toast Rack – £22 – Laura Ashley

Cat Teapot – £8 – George at Asda

Gold Spoon (set of 4) – £20 – Laura Ashley (not currently available)

1953 Coronation Plate – Vintage car boot find

Bird Butter Dish – £22 – Laura Ashley

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Sometimes with dresses I experience love at first sight. I have felt that way so many time about dresses from Palava. Their range really speaks to me, not only are the designs beautiful, but the cotton is also organically produced and they are ethically made.

I’ve been wanting to buy a Palava dress for a really long time, but have always put it off because I just couldn’t decide which one to get. I’m so glad I finally decided to get the Beatrice dress and I went for the Chelsea Flower Garden print. The dress arrived in beautiful packaging, with its own little picture book which explains the story behind the print. Everything about it is adorable and as well as appealing to my love of pretty dresses it also makes me feel all nostalgic for the books of my childhood. The border of each dress tells a story and there’s something so lovely and adorable about knowing what the illustrations mean.

Palava is a small family business with an interesting history. The family’s shop Strickland and Holt has been selling various things since 1854. In the 70s the parents of Palava owner Bryony, came in to save the business. They also formed a company which produced bedding using their own designs and those of local artists. They branched out into clothing and the company was a big success. Sadly they had to close in 2000 after a fall in the popularity of prints and the further decline of British manufacture.

10 years later their daughter Bryony restarted the business, using her own illustrations. And so the beautiful dresses with the matching story books were born. The dresses come in both women’s and girls sizes.

The company is run with ethical values at it’s core. From the organic cotton to the European and British manufacture, Bryony ensures that everyone is fairly paid and that the company leaves no negative impact on the world. This is important to me as a consumer and I am happy to pay a little bit extra for that.

Back to my lovely dress, I couldn’t be happier with it. The cotton is super soft and the print is so beautiful and vibrant. The dress has a light cotton lining and is perfect for hot weather. I haven’t put mine through the wash yet, but the dresses are designed to wash well and be hard wearing, so that they can be enjoyed for years. As someone who wears their favourite dresses year after year, this is really important to me.

I went for my usual size 14 in this. I checked the detailed size guide on the website, to make sure it would fit. I really liked the cut of this dress which allowed plenty of room in the bust, while being quite fitted at the waist. The dress fastens with a side zip, like most 50s dresses and I find that really helps to achieve the perfect fit.

I’ve worn mine with a pair of shoes from Hotter, a vintage Enid Collins bag and a flower garland.

The quality is absolutely stunning and everything you’d expect from a dress in this price range. The dress costs £145.95 and for the quality fabric, beautiful design and construction and ethical values you definitely get what you pay for. I would like to invest in more Palava dresses in the future as I know I with love and wear them forever. Here are a few more of my favourite designs from the website.

Find the full range on the Palava website.

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Today I’m continuing my mission to share all of my original vintage dresses on here. Continuing from last week when I shared one of my original 1950s dresses. Today I’m featuring another of my very favourite dresses, this time its a Swirl. I talked about Swirl wrap dresses in a post a few years ago, when I wore my black and white one. They are one of my favourite brands to collect and this particular dress is the highlight of my collection.

I spotted this dress at Twinwood Festival back in August and it was love at first sight. I had absolutely zero shopping budget while I was there. I kept coming back to it though. I absolutely love anything with a fruit print and being a big fan of Swirl dresses I knew I couldn’t let it get away.

The stallholders kindly offered to bring it to the Mid Century Market in London the following month and had it waiting for me when I got there. I’m so glad I got to make it mine! I bought it from Shazam, who are best known for their incredible vintage style hair flowers. They also sell original vintage pieces at fair and festivals. It wasn’t cheap at around £80, but this dress is one that I plan to keep forever. Although most of my clothes are bargains, I will invest in special pieces for my collection if I know I will love and wear them for a long time.

I’ve worn the dress with my yellow Miss L Fire shoes, which I can’t stop wearing at the moment. They are such summery shoes, that I pair them up with everything at this time of year. I’ve also added a hair flower and a stack of bakelite – my go to accessories for nearly every outfit! Beppe the cat also wanted to be included, this is his OOTD debut and he I think he poses like a pro.

One of the things I love about Swirl dresses is their distinctive cut and style. They fasten with a button at the neck and wrap around the back, with ties at the front. The basic design of all Swirls is the same, but the finishes and patterns vary immensely. I particularly like the 50s versions which their big patch pockets.

This fabulous advert from the 50s shows how a Swirl is worn. Image from The Vintage Traveller (used with permission)

First produced in America in 1944 and manufactured well into the 70s, the design changed very little. This makes them a great type of dress to collect. Being wrap dresses the sizing can be a little tricky and I have been caught out before buying them a bit too small, so its always worth double checking the measurements.

You can find out a lot more about the company on The Vintage Fashion Guild website and The Vintage Traveller has some really informative posts on Swirls. I decided not to write too much about the history of the brand, as these two sources have done it so much better than me.

Image from The Vintage Traveller (used with permission)

Swirl dresses are very popular and collectible today. They are more common in the States than they are over here, but they do pop up on Ebay and Etsy from time to time. They aren’t usually ridiculously priced and if I see something I really like I’ll often get it from abroad. I find Swirls are generally in pretty good condition, as they were well made from good quality cotton and were designed to be worn and washed frequently. They have definitely stood the test of time and are still a handy and comfortable addition to a wardrobe.I am completely in love with this novelty print Swirl dress on Etsy at the moment, and just wish it was my size so I could buy it!

Heyday is the only reproduction company who do a style similar to a Swirl. Their Fleur dress is inspired by Swirls and comes in a lovely selection of prints. I’m wearing one in this post from a few years ago.

This patchwork print dress from Heyday pays tribute to the Swirl wrap dresses of the past. 

This lovely duck print dress from Heyday shows how both the Swirls and Fleur dresses fasten at the back.

 Writing this post had made me want to dig out my other Swirls and get some pictures, so watch this space and I’ll be showing them very soon as well.

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Once a regular feature of the British tea time, English Madeleines have gone out of favour in recent decades. They are however absolutely delicious and the make the perfect nostalgic treat, as part of a vintage afternoon tea. My grandma used to bake these regularly for her family and I’ve been enjoying making them myself and continuing the family tradition. 

They are quite straightforward to make and the only specialist equipment that you need is dariole moulds, which you can buy in most baking supply shops. I’ve found quite a few different versions of this recipe in various vintage cookbooks, but this one is by far my favourite.

How to Make

Makes 8 Madeleines

Ingredients: 

230g Butter plus extra for greasing.

230g Caster Sugar

4 Eggs

230g Self Raising Flour

To Decorate:

Apricot Jam

Desiccated Coconut

Glace Cherries

Equipment: 

8 Dariole Moulds

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 190ºc

Brush the insides of the moulds with melted butter.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale.

Add one egg at a time and beat into the mixture thoroughly.

Sift the flour into the mixture and fold in.

Divide the mixture between the moulds.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes.

Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Cut a little off the bottom so that they sit flat on a plate.

Spread the sides and top with warm jam.

Roll in the coconut and place a cherry on the top.

As always, please let me know if you try any of my recipes and tag me in pictures! I always love to see what you’ve been baking.

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