Jewels: Hey all – Tatjana is still visiting for one more week and I won’t see her again until June, so Alison Hay has graciously written another of her fabulous guest blog posts to keep you entertained. I just discovered we have yet another thing in common – a penchant for floral delicacies!
One more thing Alison and I share in common - we love roses - whether smelling them, wearing them, or eating them

Penchant for all things floral – whether smelling, wearing, or eating them!

Alison: From childhood I’ve always had a fascination with roses; big, blowzy, natural blooms. I’d gather fallen petals and, with no knowledge of distilled oils, attempt to capture the fragrance by brewing them in water. I was crestfallen when all that resulted was a jar of muddy brown sludge. As a teenager I discovered Tea Rose perfume, for me the closest thing to a pure rose essence. I doused myself in it liberally and must have wandered along emanating a heavy cloud of roses.
The doyens of Agent Provacateur
When I worked for Agent Provocateur in Los Angeles, 2000 – 2006, I revelled in the sensual, rose, amber and musk based signature perfume but since everyone around me wore it, and we liberally sprayed the inside of the shop with it daily, I became immune and could never smell it. One morning the owner of the company, visiting from London, accompanied me on errands. As she climbed into The Beast (my temperamental ’65 Chrysler with the personality of Agnes Moorehead), I exclaimed with surprise, ”What perfume is that you’ve got on? It’s wonderful!” Her face was a picture of disdain. ”What do you think it is?” she asked sarcastically. ”Oh.” I was red faced. “Right.”

I was delighted when Vera Wang brought out Truly Pink, surely made with me in mind, with its top note of pink rose. If I’m not sporting roses in my hair, or on a hat, I’m wearing them elsewhere. But my obsession with roses didn’t stop at fragrance; I discovered I also adore the taste of them too, which was a revelation when it happened. I had no idea there was anything rose flavored in the world!

Discovering you could inbibe and eat roses was a revaluation!

Discovering you could in fact imbibe and eat roses was a revalation!

The year was 1985. Some people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot – typically, I remember where I was when I first tasted roses. Roy and me were en route to Venice by car and had stopped for a few nights in Milan on the way down. We were recommended a restaurant, Gualtiero Marchesi, by a friend. The owner chef, then unknown to us, is considered to be the father of modern Italian cuisine and was the first Italian to receive a Michelin Star. The restaurant, his first solo venture, was nothing special particularly, quite plain and modern inside, but the food was incredible. As coffee was served after dinner, Signore Marchesi, who luckily had taken a bit of a shine to me, came to the table and presented me with a liqueur. In a tiny glass, and delicately pale pink, it prompted me to ask what it was. He explained it was called Rosolio and was a traditional, home made liqueur brewed in houses in Northern Italy. It tasted of alcoholic roses and was absolute paradise. I asked for more. Although on subsequent visits to Italy I always enquired after it, nobody ever seemed to have heard of it. I longed to have some again.

Cut to 1993, Los Angeles. I am in the cocktail bar of the Sunset Towers, my favorite Art Deco bar in the world. I can’t decide what to have and I scan the shelves for inspiration when suddenly I see a bottle marked Gualtiero Marchesi and forget to breathe. Could it be? The barman confirmed it was a rose liqueur and said he occasionally added a dash of it to liven up a glass of champagne. Sacrilege!  The bottle was only half full. I told him I didn’t care what price he named, I had to leave with that bottle and whatever remained in it. He caved and I exited triumphantly with my prize, spending the next few months rationing it out in thimble sized shots to make it last.

Delighted to find the precious rose liqueur again at the Sunset Towers

At long last, the beloved rose liqueur resurfaces in Los Angeles

My next obsession became Fortnum & Mason Rose and Violet Creams – dark chocolates with cream centers of either rose of violet flavor and topped with a fragment of crystallised petal. I’ve tried all kinds, but those who know me well understand that these particular ones are the utmost of quality and my personal crack. They don’t get offered around. Oh no. Nobody gets any but me, I bogart them like Gollum with a ring.  I would trample old ladies and babies without the slightest qualm to get to a box. If I was pressed I’d have to admit that for me, it’s actually better than having sex.

Of course, in the Middle East, they have used it’s flavor for centuries. To my joy I discovered rose jam and rose soda when I lived there, and of course, the standard Turkish delight was plentiful. I even tried rose flavored Shisha (my spell check is alarmed at Shisha and bossily suggests correcting me to Hamish). For those of you that don’t know, Shisha is a form of tobacco that comes in a lump and is placed, burning like incense, atop an elaborate water pipe called a Hookah. Just like in Alice in Wonderland, bringing me neatly to remembering that when I lived off Wonderland Avenue in LA, Boy George’s nickname for me was Malice-on Wonderland. But I digress. Unfortunately, despite being quite the champion smoker, a Hookah was always too strong for me and I’d cough like an amateur at each toke. I tried valiantly though.

The Beast in full length glory

The Beast in full length glory

These days, if out walking and serendipitously passing a rose bush, that cliché never fails to run through my mind – stop and smell the roses – and literally, I do. To date my luck has held and I remain unarrested for suspiciously lurking in the gardens of strangers. Now back in the UK, I have to content myself with an annual pilgrimage to Fortnum & Mason’s hallowed food hall to treat myself to the legendary chocolate, jam and even rose and violet cookies, but the secret is out. I can be bribed laughably easily to do practically anything, if you know how, oops! Alison Louise Hay.

Jewels: NOW I know how to get you back to LA more often, madame! How about some Pink Grapefruit & Rose Scented Cupcakes? BTW, If you’re interested in my secrets and tools to turning your dinner impossible into Dinner Accomplished (and hundreds more of my easy but scrumptious, healthy recipes) please join here.

Pink Grapefruit & Rose Scented Cupcakes

Pink Grapefruit & Rose Scented Cupcakes

High tea happens to be one of my favorite services that I offer my clients. It’s perfect for wedding and baby showers, and these light airy clouds of fragrant rose and pink grapefruit angel food cupcakes look so beautifully feminine on a platter with the colorful edible flowers on top.

Servings: 12
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup egg white approximately 6 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose extract
  • 2 teaspoons pink grapefruit zest grated

For the Icing

  • 1 stick unsalted butter softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon low fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon low fat 1% milk
  • 2 tablespoons pink grapefruit juice
  • edible flowers to garnish

Directions

Rose & Pink Grapefruit Angel Food Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 12 muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Sift together flour and powdered sugar (I repeat this several times to make sure it is well incorporated) in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat egg whites with salt with a mixer on high speed until frothy, 1-2 minutes. Add cream of tartar and mix until soft peaks form. Add sugar a little at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.
  4. Sprinkle a little flour mixture in at a time, and fold gently. Fold in rose extract and zest. Using an ice cream scoop to get even cupcakes, fill the 12 cupcakes. Bake for 20 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden brown. Remove and let cool completely on a rack.
  5. When cupcakes are cool (you will need to frost cupcakes as soon as icing is ready), beat the butter for 5 minutes. A little at a time, add the powdered sugar, scarping down the sides with a spatula as necessary. Add cream cheese, milk, and pink grapefruit juice. Adjust flavor and consistency to taste by adding more milk, pink grapefruit juice, or powdered sugar if desired. Spread icing onto each cupcake and use edible pansies to decorate.

Serving Suggestions

These cupcakes are a showstopper every time, especially when served with edible pansies on top. The perfect spring and summertime birthday cupcake.

Variations

Storage: Store in a covered, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days, or frozen for up to three months. Remove from refrigerator thirty minutes to an hour before serving, so the icing softens back up at room temperature again. Avoid leaving in direct sunlight or extremely hot room, or the icing will melt.

Notes

Rose extract can be found in restaurant supply stores, specialty stores, or ordered online. If you can’t find rose extract, use vanilla extract instead.

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  • January 22, 2013
    11:10 am

    What a wonderful post Alison! I love roses so much, the fragrance of each different colour is like the different centres of chocolates in a beautiful box. Pink roses do have a lovely sweet scent, but, if you can, ask a florist if they have Sonia roses in stock. The spicy scent is unlike any other bloom! White roses are also sweet, but there is a variety called Bridal White that has a scent very much like hops, i.e. beer. Making wedding bouquets with those particular blooms always made me chuckle wondering if any one else noticed the scent. I just might have to head out and pick up a few blooms to put on my table. A word to the wise – pick up a few blooms now before the price skyrockets. With Valentine’s Day coming in a few weeks, you can expect the price of all flowers to go up, but roses in particular will really jump. I tend to pick up a little pot of miniature roses tbo grow on a sunny windowsill until Molly decides to toss them to the floor to tell me that windowsills are and will remain her domain. No debating the issue!

    I’ve got to try making these cupcakes! Some friends have finally decided to get married and if there is a shower, I suspect that these would be perfect to add to the dessert table. Or, maybe if they are over for a visit, I can whip up a batch or two. One for nibbling on and one for them to take home. :)

    Reply
  • January 23, 2013
    5:06 am

    Thank you, darling Jewels for the cupcake recipe and the incredible picture of you rosed out to the nines. Actually, all it would take to get me back would be your red velvet pancakes and I’d be there like a shot. However, I’m going to make red velvet cake today in your honor, you’ve inspired me, as ever. Lovelovelove

    Reply

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