Waitstaff 1

Tea Time at Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast.

IRELAND HOPPING By Margaret M. Johnson

The evening of April 14, 1912, was a freezing, moonless Sunday night in the north Atlantic. At 11:40 p.m., “R.M.S. Titanic,” the largest, most luxurious ship ever built, struck an iceberg; less than three hours later, at 2:20 a.m., “the ship disappeared beneath the surface of the Atlantic,” making the event one of the most fascinating and legendary of the last century. More than 1,500 people lost their lives on the maiden voyage of the ship considered “unsinkable.”

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One hundred years after the ship’s initial launch, Titanic Belfast opened to the public on the site of Harland & Wolff Shipyard where it was designed, built, and launched. It was one of the most dramatic tourism projects opening anywhere in the world in 2012 and Northern Ireland’s largest ever tourism project. Since opening, Titanic Belfast has welcomed over 3 million visitors, received ringing endorsements from around the world, including “Titanic” movie director James Cameron, and has restored Belfast to a central place in the global story. The six-story building features nine interpretive and interactive galleries that explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of “Titanic,” the city of Belfast, and the people who made her.

Wait staff at teatime.


A visit there is one of those “musts” when traveling around Ireland, and if you’re a fan of afternoon tea you “must” visit on a Sunday when “Titanic Afternoon Tea” is served. Set in the opulent surroundings of the top-floor Titanic Suite — an enormous banqueting space complete with a replica staircase from the ship (and the movie) — the tea evokes a period of luxury, elegance, and white-glove service you’d expect from the famous ship. The tea menu changes seasonally, and during my visit in autumn the first course (sandwiches and savories) offerings included smoked salmon mousse with dill cream on Guinness wheaten bread, Causeway coast bacon, lettuce and tomato on white, and pumpkin velouté with chive creme fraiche. Buttermilk scones and cinnamon bread followed, and sweets ranged from hedgerow berry macaroon to Armagh apple strudel to orange and poppy seed cupcakes. The finale is the cake cutting station at the base of the grand staircase where two tea loaves — nutty dark chocolate and banana pecan — were cut to order. For your own special tea, you might like to try these adapted recipes. For full details on hours, ticketing, and tea reservations, visit www. titanicbelfast.com.

Signs advertising voyages available.



For the cupcakes

1 stick butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon poppy seed

For the icing

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

  1. Make cupcakes. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray wells of a standard muffin pan with baking spray with flour.

  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in orange zest and orange extract.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk, and beat at low speed until just combined; fold in poppy seeds.

  4. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean.

  5. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack, return to upright, and let cool completely.

  6. Make icing. In a large bowl, combine butter, confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until nearly incorporated and then increase speed to medium and beat until smooth. Spread or pipe icing onto each cupcake.




5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large overripe bananas, peeled and mashed

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped pecans, plus 2 tablespoons more for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with baking spray.

  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat to combine. Add bananas and beat again.

  3. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt; mix just to combine. Fold in 1 cup pecans.

  4. Transfer to prepared pan, sprinkle with remaining pecans, and bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until top is browned and skewer inserted into center comes out clean.

  5. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out onto rack, return to upright, and let cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into slices.



For the cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup chopped almonds

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup canola oil

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

For the glaze

1/4 cup milk

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

  1. Make cake. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 7-inch loaf pans with baking spray.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugars, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir in walnuts, pecans and almonds.

  3. In another large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Pour into flour mixture and stir to combine; stir in chocolate chips.

  4. Transfer to prepared pans and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack, return to upright, and let cool completely before drizzling with glaze.

  5. Make glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over loaves and leave until set before cutting into slices.


Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit here.