There she is in all her glory, the winning Jubilee pudding, offered up in a single serving portion as part of the Jubilee-themed afternoon tea service at The Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
We’re not royalists, but we do like a good afternoon tea, and as food history nerds, we were itching to get a taste of the winning dessert, without having to make it ourselves, because, well… trifle. Ultimately, it’s soggy cake, right? But also, as Canada barely offered a nod to this milestone, who the heck else could we convince to eat soggy cake with us? So we certainly weren’t making a whole massive trifle for the two of us.
The ballroom at The King Edward is like being inside a wedding cake, walls and ceilings are covered with intricate plaster work. Tastefully arranged, a bit of commemorative tat in the form of Union Jack bunting was draped over floral arrangements off in the corners of the room. Elsewhere, a slideshow of images of Queen Elizabeth was projected onto a wall.
Tea started off with a flute of Pimm’s cup, a cocktail made with a gin-based liqueur and typically served mixed with lemonade. Ours came blended with Prosecco, which was a shame, because, well, Prosecco.
After that, and not on the extensive menu, was a shot glass of a cold leek and potato soup which was creamy and well-balanced and in the perfect portion size.
That’s a lot of food!
Sandwiches included (from left to right) the “ubiquitous” cucumber and cream cheese. “Ubiquitous” reads as slightly derogatory, as if the chef had fought to omit it and failed, but this was a lovely, delicate, open-faced version made sexy with the inclusion of a couple types of radishes and radish greens. This is a keeper for cuke sandwiches at home.
Next, Sunday Roast… a roast beef sandwich with pan gelee and horseradish. Good but redundant, because we’re holding out for the Wellington on the next plate.
Third, Coronation Chicken, the sandwich version of the dish created 70 years ago for the coronation of Elizabeth II. The original dish is your typical mucky, 1950s fare and the various bastardizations over the years, especially as a sandwich filling, have much improved the thing. Not as good as my homemade version, but still decent.
Finally, crumbled stilton rarebit with pear and port relish on walnut bread. Comfort food at its best.
The plate of savouries is meant to honour some of Britain’s most memorable dishes. From top left:
Cornish pastie with lamb, served with mint jelly. This was a good’un.
Wee scotch egg with Branston pickle.
Beef Wellington – if you’re in Toronto and are craving Wellington, you can do no better than the version at the King Edward. Lovely rare beef, flavourful duxelle, flaky pastry.
Smoked salmon on lemon dill sconelet – this was so perfectly balanced, it made us smile. Slightly sweet pastry, an almost peaty smoked fish, plus a punch of green from the dill and balanced acid of the lemon.
Finally at the bottom, mushy peas with mint, battered cod and a teeny potato chip. Even served cold, this was brilliant and the peas were so good we licked the little spoons clean.
On to desserts. Yes, we were getting full by this point, and some of this came home with us as leftovers. From the upper right, because I’m leaving the jubilee pudding for last…
Orange jaffa marmalade macaron – filled with chocolate and marmalade, this was good, but like all macarons everywhere, kind of underwhelmed. But a nice nod to the popular jaffa cake biscuit.
Victorian muddled berry sponge… was neither especially muddled or spongy. Rather it was a crisp delicate shortcrust filled with a berry compote and cream.
Her majesty’s favourite chocolate biscuit cake. Apparently the whole royal family digs this one, and we’ve seen it made on British cookery shows in the past. Basically biscuits in ganache. Thumbs up. Would eat again.
Earl grey and lavender Battenberg cake. Her Madge reportedly loves the floral flavours, and Battenberg is a UK classic. This was mildly flavoured, with the almond marzipan being the strongest flavour note. Great texture, a delight to look at.
Now, let’s get to that trifle.
Chosen as the winner of a contest with over 5000 entries, Jemma Melvin offered up a dish based on royal history. The trifle includes lemon curd Swiss roll, custard, amaretti and mandarin oranges. The lemon and amaretti are nods to dishes served at the Queen’s coronation. A TV special aired to show the top 5 puddings, judged by celebrity chefs and famous food folks including Monica Galati, Mary Berry, and Rahul Mandal from Bake-Off.
Other entries included some dishes that looked, and probably tasted, great, but the trifle won out, likely because of how ubiquitous trifle is in the UK, despite the fact that a lot of people don’t care for soggy cake. It seems to be one of those British desserts, like Christmas pudding, that people only think they like, but enjoy having for a big celebration. And also because of how easy it is to cheat on any (or all) of the various elements, making it easy to replace or use store-bought for any part of the dish.
The version we had at The King Edward was pretty accurate based on what we had seen of the recipe, with a few small changes to accommodate the single-serving presentation instead of a huge trifle bowl. (Sadly, while I took a dozen photos, I seem to not have one showing the Swiss roll at the bottom.) And it was a really refreshing combination of sweet, creamy, crunch from the amaretti, and zingy citrus. It was rich, and given how much we had already eaten, the portion size was perfect. Even the cake at the bottom, soaked with jelly, was delicious.
Finally, there were scones. We took these home and ate them for breakfast the next day. Because despite how we might think of afternoon tea as being just a little bit of a snack with a cuppa, this particular collection of dishes, even in small portions, added up to a very full meal.
And of course, The King Edward has an extensive selection of teas, including offerings from Toronto tea company Sloane.
We didn’t wave a Union Jack, or buy a corgi tea-towel to celebrate, but we feel as if we did our part to celebrate Betty Windsor’s special day.
The King Edward Hotel serves afternoon tea on Saturdays and Sundays. The regular menu differs from what we had here, but it’s a lovely, fun, and delicious way to spend an afternoon.