If you want to know what is served at afternoon tea in England, check out our homemade afternoon tea recipes to create the perfect English high tea party. Start with savoury afternoon tea recipes including finger sandwiches, delicate shrimp and salmon open sandwiches and posh scotch quail’s eggs. After a sophisticated palate cleanser, make a batch of scones to serve with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd (or why not serve crumpets instead).
A cake stand filled with pastries, biscuits and sweet afternoon tea treats can be prepared ahead and brought to the table in an impressive way. Finally, we suggest serving a slice of cake for your afternoon tea guests to finish with or take home with them.
To learn about how to serve afternoon tea from the best (for example how The Ritz’ afternoon tea is assembled), visit one of the best afternoon teas in London to pick up tips.
Savoury afternoon tea recipes
Finger sandwiches usually form the first round of afternoon tea. We have included some recipes for open sandwiches, scotch eggs, muffins, tea cakes and more to serve along with your classic finger sandwiches.
This simple prawn open sandwich is courtesy of executive chef Henrik Ritzén at Nordic restaurant Aquavit, London. If you can’t get fresh horseradish, use 1 tbsp of horseradish sauce instead.
There’s something really comforting about teacakes and this recipe for Earl grey teacakes takes them to the next level. Smother them in butter and add a little lemon curd to bring out the flavour. You can shape the teacakes on a baking sheet, but using a traditional Yorkshire pudding tin gives the teacakes a classic flat-bottomed look.
Smoked salmon sandwiches are an afternoon tea classic. Try our open avocado on toast with smoked salmon and a tomato dressing for a little twist for your high tea.
Our crab scotch quail’s eggs with mustard mayo are a dainty, posh savoury afternoon tea snack. They’re easy to make but look impressive.
Amaranth is an incredible little seed that’s gluten-free and high in protein, calcium and vitamin C. This cheesy, herby flapjack makes a filling and wholesome afternoon tea snack.
If muffins with muffin tops are what you are after, don’t use paper cases, just butter the muffin holes. These work perfectly well without the saffron if you don’t have any – you could add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg instead, if you like.
A palate cleanser idea
If you want to copy some of the most sophisticated hotels that serve afternoon tea, this is an easy way to add something special. Our boozy granita makes a great palate cleanser to serve between your sweet and savoury rounds of afternoon tea.
Scones are often considered as the most important element of afternoon tea, as they are simple to make but a real tell tale of the quality of the tea. We have plenty of scones recipes here, but included a classic scone and some savoury cheesy scones below to try. Serve your scones with plenty of clotted cream and a range of jams. We also have a recipe for homemade lemon curd to make your tea extra special.
Making your own scones is so easy with this quick and simple recipe. Make a batch for your afternoon tea spread, jam first or cream is up to you.
Making your own lemon curd to spread on your scones is easier than you think with this recipe and give you a really fresh, zesty curd.
American shortcakes are more like scones than biscuits. Usually filled with strawberries and cream these pink rhubarb ones are a great British twist to serve at high tea. Try our rhubarb recipes for more British sweet treats.
Our freezable cheese scones take just 30 minutes to bake and make a great emergency snack that cooks straight from frozen. The toasted walnuts give them a little extra crunch.
We’ve taken these crumpets and given them a zingy makeover. Drenched in lemon and sugar they are great with your afternoon tea.
Want to serve an interesting tea with your scones? Try this recipe…
Turmeric is said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and has been used as a culinary medicine in India for centuries. This chai tea is really simple to make and perfect if you have any leftover turmeric.
Pastries and sweet afternoon tea treats
Serve your sweet afternoon tea treats on a cake stand to create an impressive spread to carry to the table. You can assemble the pastries, biscuits and cakes ahead and bring out the afternoon tea stand after a couple of rounds of scones. If you want to spruce up your pastry skills, here are our best patisserie recipes to try.
Take your éclairs to the next level with step-by-step help from the olive test kitchen. Craquelin is similar to a crumble mix, and when baked on top of the choux buns, gives a crackly, crisp top, typical in classic patisserie.
Our cherry bakewell tart is an exceedingly good tart – serve with a cup of builder’s tea for a proper English teatime treat. Try our favourite sweet tart recipes here.
Master the art of French patisserie with the classic mille feuille. Delicate layers of puff pastry, fresh summer berries and sweet Calvados cream make this tea time treat a show-stopping recipe to serve to your friends and family.
They’re a bit of a labour of love, but macaroons aren’t that difficult to make and everybody will think you are a genius. The powdered egg white gives you a crisp light finish and the raspberry and white chocolate flavours make them the perfect afternoon tea treat. Or try our Nutella macaroons for something a bit more chocolatey.
Our simple lemon and blueberry bars are seriously moorish, gooey on the inside and crunchy on the out, the ideal summertime afternoon tea treat.
This matcha mille crêpe cake looks really impressive but is also easy to make. Create this beautiful green tea inspired cake using layers of crepes and custard cream and dust with some matcha powder to finish.
Our light and airy strawberry éclairs are a fantastic summery twist on the classic chocolate. They’re a little effort, but look stunning – they’ll be a hit with adults and kids alike. You can get strawberries all year round now, but they’re at their best from June until August, so make the most of them.
This fruity earl grey tea loaf is a great way to use up any over-ripe bananas you have lying around. And the hazelnut streusel topping adds a lovely crunchy texture to the loaf – perfect for afternoon tea or with your next cuppa!
Our favourite delicate afternoon tea recipe. Bite-sized rosewater cream buns, designed to impress. A new way to use choux pastry, these crumble-topped treats are a doddle once you’ve mastered the choux.
Dust off your madeleine tin and try this spicy twist on the classic French madeleine. Our easy recipe has a surprisingly distinctive ginger finish, divine with a cup of tea.
Easy pinwheel biscuits: made with cocoa and pistachio, these nutty treats are quick to bake and will add a pretty touch to tea time. Make plenty they won’t last for long when the rest of the family spots them. Make one of our favourite biscuits recipes here to add to your afternoon tea spread.
Lamingtons, originally from Australia, make a delicious high tea treat. Mini cakes, decorated in cherry jam and desiccated coconut, topped with a fresh cherry.
These apricot and pistachio sticky buns are hard to resist. They’re perfect with a cup of tea.
Afternoon tea cakes
When you go to a proper afternoon tea at somewhere like The Ritz or The Savoy, you have a final sweet course on top of the pastry stand. Some afternoon tea connoisseurs bring out a cake trolley and cut a slice for you at the table, while others have a choice of one or two cakes to enjoy as a final treat before you go home. Our British cake recipes are ideal to serve at your afternoon tea.
A classic, simple Victoria sponge is one of the recipes that you should have in your repertoire. This traditional sponge cake uses an all in one method making it super quick, easy and the perfect party cake. Once you master this, afternoon tea will no longer be daunting, and making variations will be easy.
Love the zingy flavour and creamy texture of lemon curd? Us too. It’s even better in a cake, when you can use lemon curd as one of the key components in a really indulgent icing recipe. Just sandwich each sponge layer together with a normal lemon buttercream (butter, icing sugar and fresh lemon juice and zest), remembering to top the buttercream with a healthy swirl of lemon curd before adding the next sponge layer. We’ve used a whole jar of lemon curd for this recipe, but you can always reduce that amount if you haven’t much of a sweet tooth. Find our lemon curd recipe above. Check out our other show-stopping cake recipes here.
Classic coffee cake is one of our all-time favourite afternoon treats. In this recipe, we’ve given it a modern twist to include deliciously crunchy pecan brittle.
Sneak some of your five a day into your bake with this recipe for avocado, courgette and lime drizzle cake. The avocado gives a subtle silky feel to the sponge. Here are our other favourite loaf cake recipes to bake.
A lovely light pistachio cake with strawberry icing that’s worth the extra effort. When strawberries smell good, they should be at optimum ripeness and have flavour – perfect for this cake.
A family favourite, this tea loaf is packed with almonds, sultanas and glacé cherries. Cherries and mixed peel are soaked overnight in rum to ensure your fruit is extra juicy.
An easy-to-make springy sponge cake layered with the tangy, fresh-tasting sweetness of a passion fruit icing.
olive magazine podcast ep65 – Who will win the great scone debate? Jam or cream first?!
On this week’s podcast the team explore the British tradition of afternoon tea, sharing their favourites in London, and get into a debate on which is the right way to serve scones. (Psst, cream is the right way.)