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10 tips for making the BEST afternoon tea

by Sarah Alcock

To celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (as if we needed an excuse) we've rounded up our top tips to ensure your afternoon tea is the best (and tastiest) around! Now all you have to think about is whether to put cream or jam on your scones first...

1. Mix and match macaroons

Make your macaroons more playful by splitting your raw mixture in two (or four!) and colour each with a different food colouring. Bake and fill with ganache and sandwich the macaroons together using different coloured tops and bottoms.
Try Jo Wheatley's pineapple and coconut macaroons


2. Make mini Victoria sponges

Use a cookie cutter to stamp out individual-sized portions from your larger sponge cake. Much more refined than a slice!

3. How to cut your sponge evenly

Mark around the equator of the cake gently with a knife, not actually cutting it, but making a faint visible line. Stick four toothpicks in the cake, on the line, at 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock. To cut the cake, you can either use a very sharp serrated knife, using the toothpicks as a bottom guideline and cutting across in swift movements (do not use a sawing motion), or you can use a piece of thread. Place the thread around the cake, below the toothpicks, and cross over the ends. In one swift movement pull the two ends, don't hesitate or you will struggle to get the thread through.


4. This is how to make proper cucumber sandwiches

Peel the cucumber and cut it into thin slices. To draw out any excess moisture, put the slices in a sieve, toss gently in salt and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse (only if heavily salted) and pat dry using kitchen paper – they are then ready for the sandwiches.

5. ...and the best egg mayo

Put your eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for 6-7 minutes. Drain and put the eggs into cold water. Finely chop some chives and mix in mayonnaise and some white wine vinegar before seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a bit of Dijon mustard, to taste. Peel and mash the eggs, then add to the mayonnaise mixture.

6. Top your cupcakes to look like roses...

Fit a piping bag with a large curved tear-shaped rose nozzle and fill with buttercream. Point the nozzle straight down onto the top of the cupcake, and pipe a rose bud with gentle pressure – to do this, lift the pointed end of the nozzle upwards as you turn the cupcake 360°. Then, place the thick end of the nozzle slightly behind the end of the bud and, with gentle pressure, keep the thick end of the nozzle on the cake and swivel the nozzle to make a semi-circular petal. Turn the cake in a clockwise direction as you pipe, but pipe the petals in the other direction – this will make the petals open outwards. If you pipe the petals in a clockwise direction, the petals will turn inwards, creating a closed rose. Continue piping the petals around the cake, overlapping them each time. As the petals get larger you will need to lift the nozzle more, until you have covered the top of the cake. Watch our video

7. Instead of sandwiches, make a loaf!

Cut the top quarter off a rectangular loaf in 1 piece. Using a serrated knife, cut all around the inside of the loaf, then remove the middle part of the bread. You'll be left with a boat-like bread vessel! (Don't throw away the bready middle – you can chop this up, blitz it in a food processor and freeze it for breadcrumbs, or use to make finger sandwiches.) Stuff the inside of the hollowed-out bread with long layers of your favourite fillings (try cheese, pesto, ham, beetroot and chargrilled peppers). When well stuffed, pop the lid back on and slice into portions. Check out our recipe


8. Cutting out your scones – the most important bit!

When rolling out your scones, try to get as many out of the first batch as possible, as the more you re-roll your dough, the tougher the scones will become. Tap your cutter down sharply rather than twisting it; your scones will rise more evenly.


9. Why not serve ICED tea instead?

Here are some suggestions:
- Put some hibiscus tea bags, lime and mint in hot water, then leave to brew. Remove the tea bags and allow to cool. Serve chilled.
- Use a ratio of ½ tea, ¼ juice, ¼ water and mix with fruit slices and herbs. Serve chilled.
- If you have any lemon verbena growing in your garden, cut off some sprigs, wash it and brew it in hot water. It'll taste fantastic with some juice splashed in and sliced fruit. Serve chilled.
- Try serving them in this dispenser


10. Leftover cream... incredible in mashed potatoes. (N.B. not suitable for anyone on a diet!)

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