Like my life-long infatuation with glittering Christmas lights on a dark night, I will never quite lose my child-like passion and obsession with the indulgences of a high tea spread. I can stare for hours in wondrous amazement at all the petite cakes and sweets and treats, spellbound by the colours and sprinkles and beautiful promises held on ornate platters, cake stands and in dainty tea cups. When I heard that Sweet Cillie’s Cakery will be having their inaugural high tea at their brand new shop in Tokai, I simply knew it would be an incredible experience, especially with Cilla de Jonge in the kitchen.
After many years of cake-adventures that even landed her in America for a while, Cilla finally made a full circle and opened this flagship store on the popular stretch of Tokai Main Road at the end of 2017. She used to supply the ever-so-popular Lourensford and Blaauwklippen markets with her famous cheesecakes for many years, but these days she is kept so busy with the new cakery that she simply doesn’t have the time to do the market circuit anymore.
For Cilla, her food philosophy is very simple and clear as daylight once you have tasted her cakes and bakes: she wants to serve food that tastes really delicious. She honours family recipes made with honest ingredients, without taking any shortcuts. For her, it’s all about striking a balance in life, because who can imagine a life without cake?
Afternoon tea vs high tea?
There are many theories about where the idea of a high tea comes from, but the most popular of those originate in the working classes of industrial England and Scotland. For the upper classes, afternoon tea became a bridge between meals because they would have their evening meal quite late. It then evolved into a social event, where you would invite people over to have afternoon tea with you to encourage your social standing.
For the working classes, however, tea was seen as a luxury, and there was no time for such frivolities as an afternoon tea. Tea was expensive and by the time workers would arrive home quite late in the evening after a day or working at the factories, they would be starving! Thus, the working class evening meal evolved into what we now know as “high tea” seeing that the meal was eaten at a table, rather than its noble sibling – an afternoon tea was enjoyed whilst lazing in low, comfortable chairs or sofas.
The English High Tea usually involved a mug of tea, bread, vegetables, cheese and occasionally meat. Variations on high tea could include the addition of pies, potatoes and crackers.
Life’s too short to say no to cake, so I pretty much immediately cleared my schedule when I was invited to Sweet Cillie’s inaugural high tea on the 19th of May. I arrived at the intimate cakery to tables loaded with dainty tea services and a groaning table of incredible sweet and savoury treats. The warm smell of cake and icing permeated through the doors and windows, and it seemed like just the type of place I’d like to spend my Saturday afternoon.
We were personally greeted by Cilla herself, and I spent the next half hour appreciating the time, love, dedication and time Cilla and her team puts into their treats. To enhance the experience, Cilla teamed up with the beautiful ladies from Carmien Tea, who offered us a tea and chocolate pairing which added to the unique experience of Cilla’s high tea. The tea pairings have been handpicked to harmoniously compliment the array of sweet and savoury treats on offer, and the whole experience was truly educational and exciting!
The cakery’s kitchen is completely open plan, which offers one a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of such a sweet place. The shelves are filled with uniquely regional products, sourced from small local businesses; from teas to coffees to preserves, spices, biscuits and all other types of delicacies that would leave one’s mouth watering. There’s a handful of beautiful white washed country-chic tables scattered across the dining room, with large windows letting in streams of light and warmth into the already cosy space. Pretty cake-related artwork and paraphernalia adorn the walls without contending with its contemporary feel which is highligted by the hues of modern greys, pinks and vintage floral accents. The teacups are incredibly pretty and the coffee is ridiculously good. It’s really that simple.
The overall feel at Cillie’s is laid back, comfortable and down to earth, and here one does not worry about keeping hushed tones or whether you’re holding your tea cup correctly; here it’s all about the appreciation and celebration of heavenly desserts and the ritual that brings people together.
After the tea pairing and a few words from Cilla herself, we were invited to tuck into an example of what one could expect from Cilla’s high teas. I was highly conflicted about spending a couple of hours photographing the beauty of the tea table versus simply putting my camera away and focusing on my own total foodie satisfaction instead! I decided a healthy balance would be best.
The savoury snacks consisted of a range of home-made hand-pies, with beautifully flaky pastry and gorgeously creamy fillings. Cilla also served her twist on the usual cucumber sandwiches, as well as several varieties of mini-quiches with deliciously fresh fillings and velvety devilled eggs. My personal favourite savoury treat was a tray of smoked salmon roses on dark pumpernickel bread, served with a creamy cheese filling and beautifully tart caper berries.
Oh. Where to start with the sweets. A rainbow of gorgeously chewy macarons, mini-scones with cream, custard slices, chocolate brownies dressed in hundreds and thousands. Glittery eclairs that looked and tasted like fluffy chocolate clouds – so incredibly light, but super indulgent and rewarding at the same time. Stunningly decorated red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes, petite, but perfectly browned, lemon meringue pies and of course a cake-stand filled to the brim with an assortment of Cilla’s signature cheesecakes. And if that wasn’t enough – espresso cups filled with the most delicious crème brûlée I’ve ever tasted, served with a crunchy biscotti to lap up the last morsels from the bottom of the cup.
Best of all? The high tea also caters for vegetarians. And don’t forget about the optional tea-pairing!
Cilla will be opening her cakery for a unique high tea experience from 3pm on the third Saturday of every month after the shop has closed for the day. Bookings are essential as only 20 people can be hosted at a time at R245 per seat (children 12 and under R185). June and July have already been sold out, so the next spot is only in August! Please don’t snooze, because you will most certainly lose out on this stunning opportunity to indulge in the South Peninsula if you don’t book in advance.
The dates to look forward to are:
Saturday 18 August
Saturday 15 September
For more information or to book contact 074 192 8547, or follow / connect on instagram, twitter and facebook @SweetCilliesCakery.
Cape Town needs Sweet Cillie’s Cakery’s take on high tea. Cape Town needs a space where you can casually meet up with your girlfriends or bring your teenage daughter for a special outing. A place where you can have an intimate celebration, whether it’s a kitchen tea or a birthday party. A space where families can comfortable snuggle around the same table and enjoy these little labours of love that Cilla so passionately bakes and crafts in her kitchen. A high tea shouldn’t be an exclusive event; it shouldn’t be something where you feel compelled to put on your Sunday best. It should be the place where you spend your best moments and a few precious hours with those you love, indulging in all the little, glittery things Cilla brings into our lives and onto our plates.
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.