Holiday tea to celebrate Ventfort Hall's new cookbook


LENOX >> Tip your teacup this Sunday to Ventfort Hall's new cookbook "Tea at the Mansion: Recipes from Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum."

Filled with high tea-worthy recipes, ranging from savory tea sandwiches to sweet cakes and delicate cookies, the book is a combination of the museum's best tea-time recipes, gleaned from staff, board members' and volunteers' kitchens.

"We actually chose recipes that had been served at teas here," said Linda Rocke, marketing coordinator at the Gilded Age museum. "It's not unusual for me or other people on staff to get requests for a recipe — somebody comes to a tea and they try something we serve and then they want the recipe. That happens quite a bit."

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Ventfort Hall is hosting "A Very Special Holiday Tea" to celebrate the publication of the cookbook, which is sold for $10 at the museum gift shop. Sweets like Pistachio Cranberry Cake, Walnut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Scones and Devonshire Cream, Swedish Spice Cake and Thin Sand Tart Cookies will be served, alongside sandwiches filled with roast beef and arugula, turkey and cranberries, ham and ginger and strawberry cream cheese. All of these treats' recipes are printed in the cookbook. Pianist Karen Tchougourian, who has been performing at Blantyre in Lenox since 2006, will play classical and contemporary music for entertainment.

"In a way, it's kind of our book launch party," said Rocke of Sunday's tea.

The book, which is in its second printing, was the brainchild of museum board member Birgit Vetromile, who oversaw the production of the cookbook and Sunday's tea.

Vetromile, a Swedish native who honors her roots by contributing a Swedish spice cake recipe to the mix, said she was always interested in teas.

"Going back to my Swedish upbringing, every afternoon around 3 o'clock we had our special tea or coffee with some nice little items to eat," she said. "And I thought it really would be great to do something for the museum."

The recipes are often family-tested, handed down through generations of cooks, said Rocke, who when asked which were her favorites replied "It's hard to pick. They are all really good." Of the recipes she contributed, the halfway cookies are a favorite, but she also loves Tjasa Sprague's recipe for Marzipan Sponge Valentines — heart-shaped cookies with a raspberry-cognac icing.

This time of year also makes the teas special, said Vetromile, who has been overseeing the annual holiday decorations at the museum.

"It's fabulous," she said of the holiday decor. "Where else can you go with four beautiful Christmas trees in the dining room?"

Serving tea and delicacies on elegant silver stands, with a fire lit alongside lavish holiday decorations provides visitors the opportunity to come visit the house and enjoy it, said Rocke.

"We like to think that when Sarah Morgan lived here she served tea to her friends along with sweets," Rocke said. "It's a way to enjoy that type of event that very few people do nowadays. We're preserving the past and bringing it into the future. And it's a wonderful way for people to relax and take time out to give themselves a treat."

Swedish Spice Cake

Courtesy of Birgit Vetromile


1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

3/4 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 cup sour cream


Cream shortening and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.

Sift spices with salt, baking soda and flour twice. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternating with sour cream. Blend well.

Butter a fluted 9 x 3-1/2-inch tube pan, or a loaf pan and sprinkle with fine, dry bread crumbs until inside of pan is well coated.

Spoon batter into pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes or until done.

Serving option: Slice and top with a dab of whipped cream and sprinkle with crystallized ginger.

Sour Cream Scones

Courtesy of Joanne DeRiggi


1 cup sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

4 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. sea salt

1 cup butter (room temperature) cut up into pieces

1 egg (room temperature)

1 cup raisins

Heavy cream and sugar for brushing


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease large baking sheet.

Blend sour cream, vanilla and baking soda together then set aside.

Blend together flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Stir in raisins. Stir in sour cream mixture and egg until just barely moistened.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Cut into wedges or use small biscuit cutter. Place on greased baking sheet. Lightly brush with cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown on bottom.

If you go ...

What: 'A Very Special Holiday Tea' to celebrate the publication of 'Tea at the Mansion: Recipes from Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum'

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

Where: Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum, 104 Walker St., Lenox

Cost: $40 per person

Reservations: For information or reservations, which are highly recommended, call 413-637-3206 or visit


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