As Afternoon Tea Week draws to a close, cake-lovers nationwide are breathing a sigh of satisfaction – and none more so than Janet Thornton.
These days she spends her days dreaming up lavish tea parties, then serving up a treat to everyone from wedding guests to charity fundraisers.
It’s all very different from her life just a few years ago...
Janet, of Richmond in Sheffield, spent 16 years in sales before making a career change at 40 when she joined a recruitment agency. Over the next 25 years she became a specialist in the legal world, recruiting staff for law firms across the region.
During this time she also indulged in her hobby, baking cakes, and put her talents to good use by selling the results to raise money for charity.
“One year I raised over £1,200 – which was a great achievement considering it meant selling 1200 pieces of cake at £1 each!” says Janet.
That planted an idea in her head. So when the time came to retire at 65, Janet had other ideas, and decided on another career change instead.
“I wasn’t ready to retire, but I’d always made cakes for all occasions, so I thought I’d simply ‘up’ my cake making and do what I really enjoyed.”
This also coincided with a friend’s wedding – an elaborate affair, which reminded her of younger days...
“It wouldn’t be anywhere near as expensive for young people to have a wedding in a community centre, nicely decorated, with beautiful vintage crockery and an afternoon tea, like we used to. So A Bit of A Do was born!” she says.
Janet’s only formal training was a cake decorating evening class, run by a Sheffield College tutor at a local cake shop. But she has become an expert over the years at judging the perfect mix for a light Victoria sandwich or a rich fruit cake.
Husband Roy, a part-time wedding photographer, was keen to support her so his skills were added to the mix.
Together they drew up a package that included afternoon tea with a two-tier wedding cake and all the photos supplied on a disk.
Janet also set about buying vintage crockery and has now amassed more than 100 china cups, saucers and plates along with matching cake stands and platters.
“The business took off very quickly – and not only doing weddings,” says Janet. “I’ve also done funerals, fundraising events and children’s tea parties.”
Her favourite recipe is this no-cook cheesecake: “It’s so simple and it tastes delicious. It’s also great to make with children as they love licking out the bowl – and they don’t have to wait too long before they can eat it.”
200g milk chocolate coated digestive biscuits
200g white chocolate
2 x 200g tubs full fat cream cheese
2 tblsp lime juice
2 x 125g punnets of raspberries or other soft fruit
ie: strawberries, blueberries are also fine
Line the base of a 20cm round loose-bottom cake tin with greaseproof paper.
Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs, using a rolling pin.
Place butter in a saucepan over a low heat, until melted.
Remove from heat and stir into the biscuit crumbs.
Pour crumb mixture into the lined cake tin and press into the base.
Place in the fridge and leave to chill while preparing the filling.
Break 175g of the chocolate into squares.
Place into a bowl over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the bowl to touch the water) and leave to melt.
Place soft cheese in a bowl.
Add melted chocolate and the lime juice; beat together thoroughly.
Gently fold in half of the berries.
Spread this mixture over the base.
Place in the fridge and chill for 2 hours.
Carefully remove cheesecake from the tin and peel off lining paper.
Shave curls from remaining chocolate using a peeler.
Top cake with remaining raspberries and shavings.