During my school days, I remember how we would have “canteen days” to raise money for our school. Each class (of approximately 30 students) would work together to set up a stall selling a variety of food and drinks. Our school was smart, and always had some sort of informal competition amongst the classes where a prize was given to the class with the largest profit margin… Which when you think about it, was an inspired idea because what child doesn’t want to feel like they have achieved something?
I remember my class selling a variety of things, from popcorn (which we popped on site, mind you!), iced lemon tea (which was very popular seeing as Malaysia is always hot and humid), satay, coconut water, sandwiches… And that’s where my memory starts to fail me. Appalling really, considering this was only about 10-15 years ago. What I do remember though was how much fun we would have working together throughout the day, whilst shamelessly promoting the items on sale. I can’t even remember if our class ever won, but I do remember the disastrous first few rounds of popcorn making attempts! Ah, memories.
So when I heard about Marie Curie’s Blooming Tea Party fundraising initiative, I was immediately transported back in time – and knew that I had to figure out how to throw a tea party of my own to raise money for them.
For those of you who haven’t heard of this organisation: Marie Curie Cancer Care consists of nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals. They help to provide care for terminally ill patients in the community and in Marie Curie hospices, thus making it possible for these patients to spend their last days at home instead of in a hospital. They also provide support for the patients families through a time which can be very distressing and difficult. They do a fantastic job, and I certainly have only heard good things about them from patients and their families.
But yes – on to the actual event. After a fair bit of planning, I managed to get a venue and a date. Then came the hardest bit – deciding what food to make! I had so so so many ideas, and I kid you not when I say I stocked up my kitchen extremely well just in case I changed my mind at the last minute (or in case something went horribly wrong!).
Now that it’s all over, I can happily say that everything went really well, which I am very pleased about and am thankful for.
These were the things I served: (apologies for the substandard photos!)
Vanilla cake with raspberry frosting – this was the most popular item on sale, I’m not sure if it was because it was cake, or because the frosting was pink! This was the first time I’d used this recipe, but seeing as it was a recipe by Bill (whose praises I have sung many many times), I’m not surprised that it didn’t disappoint. The cake had a perfect crumb, and rose beautifully in the oven. I honestly think he must test his recipes tens of times, because how else have none of his recipes failed me? The frosting was something I made from the leftover royal icing from my sugar cookies (see below), milk, butter and some homemade raspberry jam.
Chocolate cake balls – I’ve made cake balls/pops several times, and love making them as they’re relatively simple yet very impressive. You can make them with any biscuit or cake – think oreos, tim tams, lemon biscuits, digestives… The list is endless really. This time round I decided to make them from chocolate cake, because 1) they looked cuter than a whole cake, and 2) it would give some variety. I used this chocolate cake recipe.
Sugar cookies – I started venturing into sugar cookie decorating a few months ago, as I was sucked in by the prettiness of it all. I also suspect the precision and patience needed to decorate them appealled to my inner OCD. I chose to use yellow as my theme colour (to match Marie Curie’s logo), and then worked from there. Because I had a ridiculous number of cookies to get through (I think it was approximately 120?) I kept it all relatively simple, with marbled designs. I also attempted to recreate the Marie Curie logo in icing, but can safely say that that bit didn’t go too well. Cookies still tasted good though! ;)
Chocolate cornflake clusters – I was so surprised at how well this went down, considering that it was so wonderfully simple to make. All you do is mix some melted chocolate (I used a mix of dark and milk) with regular cornflakes, then spoon them into muffin cases. Ta-dah, you have chocolate cornflake clusters!
Sausage rolls – because I felt there had to be something savoury on the menu. I originally planned to make curry puffs, but worried that they would not taste good when cold. I then remembered that I once saw Nigella making some sausage rolls on one of her tv shows, and went for that instead. The filling was made from sausage meat (I bought sausages and removed the casings), chopped onions, a dash of curry powder, salt and pepper. This was then wrapped in puff pastry, cut into little pieces, then baked in the oven.
Egg and cheese sandwiches – the other savoury item. I just felt that it wasn’t a true ‘tea’ event if there were no sandwiches… To keep it simple and accessible to more people, I decided on an egg/cheese/watercress filling. This was probably the least popular item on offer, and in retrospect I should have just baked another cake instead. Next time. :) Thankfully managed to sell most of it though, so there was no food wastage.
Fruit squash – I had to resort to this for drinks as I was advised to not serve hot drinks due to health & safety regulations. A bit of a shame, as it made this a ‘tea party’ without any tea.
Writing about it now, it seems like there wasn’t very much food at all (primarily because there was only so much I could carry and transport!). I must say that it still took pretty much an entire weekend of baking, and I was completely exhausted post-event. Every single table surface in my flat was covered with cookies or cakes of some sort, which is something that I’ve not experienced before. Having said that, I would definitely do something like this again – especially since it was for such a good cause. Next time around I think I’ll forgo the savoury dishes, and stick to the sweets.
I set a fundraising target of £500, and am happy to say that I have reached this. A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone that has donated so generously (both online and offline), as I could not have done this without you all. A special word of thanks also goes to my friend Neal, who helped me on the day of the bake sale/tea party – it definitely brought me back to the days when we used to work together! :)
I am however still trying to get more donations, because at the end of the day, the more I can raise for Marie Curie the better. If any of you have benefited from the Marie Curie nurses, or if you simply want to help – please donate by clicking on the button below. Every donation counts, and you will help to make a difference to someone out there. :)