Saturday, September 17, 2022

Weekend Cooking/Cook the Books: Alice in Wonderland

This month's choice for Cook the Books is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It is such an interesting choice for Cook the Books as it isn't necessarily a book that you would consider foodie, but it is absolutely full of food references. It was also a fun read to revisit as an adult, especially when you consider that the book itself is over 150 years old, and yet it is timeless.

Reading this again reminded me of the White Night event that was held in Melbourne back in 2015. In honour of the 150th anniversary of the book being published, one of the themes for the event was Alice in Wonderland, with many of Melbourne's building being transformed into giant canvasses for projections. Here are a few of the Alice related pictures I took that night.

The adventures that Alice has after she follows the white rabbit down the rabbit hole are zany, and yet apart from the fact that the game of croquet is something that kids today might not be familiar with, pretty much everything else is still easy for us to understand. Although, I did tend to skip through the poetry but I do that in books like The Lord of the Rings too.

cookthebooksThe most well known food reference is probably the mad hatter's tea party, but there were so many others, and I had several ideas of what to make.  I  ended going with something that wasn't directly related to the story. If you google for ideas there are so many elaborately decorated items - topsy turvy cakes, giant tea pots etc. Unfortunately my decorative skills do not extend to such skilled designs. I do taste good, not necessarily looks amazing!

Some of the ideas I considered were a big cake surrounded by small cakes to represent the food that Alice ate that had the effect of either making her grow big or small. I also thought about making a treacle tart or an onion tart. There were so many options.

So what did I make? We were having our first guests here for dinner at the new house, so I wanted to make something dessert worthy. I also love making chiffon cakes, so once I found my tin in one of the still packed boxes, I decided to make an Earl Grey Chiffon Cake, inspired by all the tea references in the book.

I ended up adapting a recipe which was made with French Earl Grey tea. I only had a couple of bags of French Earl Grey, and I really wanted to use just normal Earl Grey (British I guess) tea instead. The original recipe also called for orange to be included but I didn't have any. I also took some inspiration from a couple of other recipes that I found online by including some of the tea leaves in the cake mixture.

I do love making chiffon cakes (also known as angel food cake). I have made a lemon flavoured one before and a coffee cream cake that isn't called chiffon cake but uses exactly the same techniques. I might try to make a chai flavoured one next. (editted to say....the next one will be a vanilla one as per my husband's request)

The flavour might have been stronger had I used more teabags, but you could definitely taste it, particularly on the second day. There wasn't a lot left for the second day as all the family loved it, especially my nephews who both came back for seconds!

A couple of important things to note when making these kinds of cakes. Firstly, you do not butter the cake tin. You want the cake mixture to stick. It is important that the cake is left to completely cool whilst still upside down. This prevents the cake from collapsing in on itself and ensures that the texture is extremely light.

Earl Grey Tea Chiffon Cake

4 Earl Grey teabags
160ml ( ⅔ cup) boiling water
185g (1¼ cups) self-raising flour
30g (¼ cup) cornflour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated
200g caster sugar, plus 110g (½ cup) extra
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100ml vegetable oil
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Place an ungreased 21cm angel food cake tin on an oven tray. You can also use a bundt tin.

Place the tea bags in a small jug, pour the boiling water over and set aside to infuse until the water is warm.

Sift the flour, cornflour, cream of tartar and salt.

Whisk the egg yolks and 200g caster sugar on high speed until thick and pale then whisk in the vanilla.

Squeeze the tea bags so that you get as much flavour as possible into the water. 

Cut one of the teabags and add the leaves to the egg and sugar mixture.

Add 125ml ( ½ cup) of the tea to the oil. The tea should still be warm but not hot. Add the oil mixture to the egg mixture and whisk on low speed until well combined. 

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Set aside. 

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the remaining caster sugar and whisk until thick and glossy and the sugar has dissolved. Add about a third of the egg whites to the yolk mixture and use a large metal spoon or spatula to fold through until well combined. Add the remaining egg white mixture and fold until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the ungreased tin and gently smooth the surface with the back of a metal spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Immediately turn the cake upside down still in the tin so it is suspended, for a minimum of 2 hours. If you are using a bundt tin for this, you can invert the cake over the top of a bottle to have the same effect.

When the cake is completely cool, run a small knife around the side of the tin to release. 

Dust with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream and strawberries. 

I have also linked this post up with Foodies Read hosted at 

 Weekly meals

Saturday - Out for dinner
Sunday -  Roast Pork
Monday - Beef Chilli with sweet potato wedges
Tuesday - Hainanese Chicken with bok choy and rice
Wednesday - Chicken enchiladas with rice and beans
Thursday - Out for dinner
Friday - Prawn Paella

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. I love angel food cakes! This one sounds good with the tea flavors. I too tend to skim over the poetry and songs in books; glad I'm not the only one.

  2. What a beautiful creative dessert! That was a fun book to read and what a trip.

  3. Bergamot is definitely a flavor people like or dislike! I am not a big fan but I notice that when I am in restaurants and ask for hot tea servers often think Earl Grey is a treat, whereas I prefer a plain black tea or English Breakfast.

    1. I am having fun experimenting with different flavours at the moment. There's a company here that is doing many variations on breakfast tea. My favourite is one called New York breakfast.

  4. What a perfectly delightful treat for the tea party! And now I'm wondering what's the extra flavor in that New York Breakfast?

    1. This is the description from the website

      A pancake-inspired tea made with full-bodied black tea, maple syrup flavours and cinnamon.

  5. Love the "tea" cake idea. I enjoyed revisiting this book as well.

  6. This sounds lovely. I love the essence Earl Grey gives. (Made some Early Grey infused gin once.) Thanks for participating in CTB!

  7. Now I am wondering about the flavor of Earl Grey in the cake. I like that tea, though sometimes the balance of flavors is not right. Your cake looks beautiful. Thank you for the nice tips in the recipe :)



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