Quick Recipes and Easy

The Great British Tradition of Afternoon Tea… Still Very Much Alive And Thriving!

Some fantastic British traditions are most certainly worth holding onto, and in my opinion, traditional afternoon tea is one of them! Although it may not be appropriate for most of us on a daily basis, it can certainly be loved for special occasions with friends and family when given as an Afternoon Tea Party.

But as will all parties, the key to success is down to sound plotting. Let me share a few tips with you:

Do not invite more guests than you can comfortably cope with. I would personally never attempt to cater an afternoon tea for more than say a dozen guests unless I had some help.

If you are catering for more than say 50 guests, consider either hiring professional caterers or possibly a personal chef.

Excellent timing is critical for the perfect afternoon tea party. Do as much preparation ahead of time as possible but don’t be tempted to make the sandwiches more than an hour before serving.

Ensure that you have a plentiful supply of boiling water – hire in an electric tea urn if necessary.

Ensure that you have adequate stocks of excellent quality china, serving platters, tea pots, cutlery, furniture and tablecloths. Hire additional stock if necessary.

If you are plotting an outdoor garden event, always be prepared for a change in weather.

If time and kitchen space are in small supply, don’t be worried to buy in a selection of fine quality cakes and pastries from you favourite bakery or online supplier.

As for the food, keep it simple and keep it fresh. A traditional afternoon tea menu should comprise a excellent and varied selection of dainty, bite-size sandwiches (crusts removed), a choice of cakes and pastries (preferably home made), freshly bakes scones with jam and whipped cream, and ofcourse, an endless supply of properly made tea. Here are my top 10 tips for making a really excellent cup of tea:

Firstly, choose your tea/s. You really do not need more than 2 or perhaps 3 varieties and it’s wise to stick with the well loved choices such as Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Assam or Lapsang Souchong.

For a tea party, I would always choose to use leaf tea rather than teabags……but that is very much a matter of personal choice.

Use a ceramic teapot in preference to metal as the latter can adversely affect the taste of the tea.

Bring a kettle of fresh cold water nearly to the boil. Pour a small of the water into the teapot to warm it, and then discard the water.

Now add the tea to the pot – 1 teaspoon per cup, plus 1 extra spoon “for the pot”.

Pour the near boiling water over the leaves and replace the teapot lid. Leave the tea to brew for 3 to 5 minutes depending on how strong you like it.

Pour the tea through a tea strainer into a teacup which is sitting on a saucer. Don’t overfill the cup.

Offer fresh milk or lemon, and sugar cubes for sweetener.

If the tea becomes too strong, you can dilute it with more near boiling water.

Empty the teapot after about 15 minutes otherwise the tea will become “stewed”.

Finally, I want to share with you a recipe for my all-time favourite afternoon tea cake……..a classic Victoria Sponge Sandwich. If time permits, for a perfect result, bake the sponge on the same day that you intend to serve it and fill it just at the last moment. Pure heaven!



Serves 8 to 12

knob of butter, melted

8oz/225g butter, softened

8oz/225g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

8oz/225g self-raising flour, sifted (you may need a bit extra)

For the filling:

6 tbsp excellent-quality strawberry jam

280ml/10 fl oz heavy/double cream, lightly whipped

To serve:

icing sugar, for dusting

For this sponge cake recipe, you will need two 15cm-17.5cm/6in-7in cake tins


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Gently heat the knob of butter in a pan and brush two 6in-7in/15cm-17.5cm cake tins with the melted butter. Line the bottom of the two cake tins with a circle of greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, using an electric whisk or a wooden spoon. Beat well to get lots of air into the mixture (this should take a couple of minutes).

Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add a tablespoon of flour if the mixture curdles.

Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon. Be careful not to over-mix it.

Pour the mixture equally between the two cake tins and level off the top with a spatula. Make a slight dip in the centre with the tip of the spatula if you don’t want them to be pointed in the middle.

Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently with a finger and are pale golden in colour.

Remove from the oven and take them out of the tins after about 5-10 minutes

Place them on a wire rack to cool completely (for about half an hour).

Spread the sponge with the jam and the whipped cream, then carefully sandwich together.

Dust with icing sugar and serve.

You can get find lots more information, tips and further afternoon tea recipes from my website gourmet-food-revolution.com/afternoon-tea-party.html Gourmet Food Revolution.com.

Robert Jackson has worked all of his life in the hospitality business. Now at gourmet-food-revolution.com/ gourmet-food-revolution.com/ he shares his views, thoughts, tips and guidance on entertaining at home…….with style, and ease!

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