Good Food Blog
How to throw an afternoon tea partyPosted at 12:00PM, 05 March 2013 by Natalie Hardwick - Web assistant, bbcgoodfood.com
Enjoying afternoon tea while perched on a gilded hotel armchair is a fine British tradition, but hardly sustainable as a regular pursuit. Throwing your own afternoon tea party means you can stick to your own budget, plus you can select your favourite finger food.
With Easter and Mother's Day on the approach, we've put together our top tips for pulling off an afternoon tea party with panache.
The basic kit
If you own a tiered cake stand, dust it off and use it as the centerpiece of your table. Otherwise, use your best crockery and make it a little more special with lace-like doilies, folded napkins and name place signs.
If you want to go all out, charity shops are a good source for reasonable floral Chinaware - don't worry if the patterns are mismatched. Don't forget your teapot, teacups, cutlery and cake slices for serving.
Setting the scene
Extend your table and throw on a table cloth - if you don't have one handy, fabric shops sell cheap spotted, floral and striped material by the metre. String up some bunting or, if you're feeling ambitious, bake up some edible bunting biscuits.
While you're at it, you could make some place-name cookies and ice them with your guests' names. Pop them in paper bags so your guests have a little present to take away - or just snaffle them as an entrée.
Coconut & cinnamon place-name cookies
Edible place name biscuits
Make sure the sugar and milk is set on the table ready to pour your guests a cuppa as they sit down. Try to provide a variety of tea - Earl Grey, peppermint, camomile, fruit, herbal and, of course, English Breakfast.
Iced tea makes for a more refreshing tipple in warmer weather, and adding a touch of Pimm's will really break the ice. You could also crack open the fizz and serve up a sloe gin royale or orange juice-based mimosa- all the better if you have time for a nap before dinnertime.
There aren't any rules when it comes to the food, but a standard afternoon tea comprises a layer of sandwiches, a layer of cakes and a layer of scones or teacakes. However, you could also throw in pastries, petits fours or biscuits.
Don't wear yourself out by taking on too many ambitious bites, but if you feel like a challenge make sure you get your timings right.
These require minimal effort, but get ahead by preparing your fillings in advance and assembling just before proceedings begin to avoid the dreaded soggy sarnie.
Selection of summer sandwiches
Best-ever crab sandwiches
Fab sandwich fillers
Carrot & raisin sandwiches
Smoked salmon & avocado open sandwich on rye
Scones are best eaten on the day and don't take long to whip up but if you want to get ahead, freeze a batch and defrost them in a low oven. Serve warm with lashings of jam - decant a pot of homemade preserve into a pretty bowl.
Classic scones with jam & clotted cream
Strawberry compote with sugared drop scones
Gingery buttermilk scones
Cheddar & sweetcorn scones
Apple scones with blackberry compote
Apricot & orange blossom jam
Angela's flexible jam recipe
Teacakes and buns:
These should be served split and buttered - try glazing with some apricot jam to give them a professional finish.
Keep it simple:
Easy hot cross buns
Easy iced buns
A little effort:
Earl Grey teacakes
Hot cross buns
Mango tea loaf plait
Shortbreads, cookies, ginger nuts… take inspiration from your childhood biscuit tin. These recipes all take less than an hour, so you can make them in the morning.
Peppermint petticoat tails shortbread
Custard & white chocolate biscuits
Chocolate chunk pecan cookies
Just the mere mention of Parisian-standard pastry is enough to send shivers down the spine of your average home cook. If you're willing to take them on, prepare the pastry or biscuits the night before.
Raspberry almond bites
Raspberry, white chocolate & pistachio profiteroles
Vanilla custard slices
Individual portions are the key here, so avoid making a large cake and bake up something dinky.
Little fig & almond cakes
Little coffee cakes
Have you thrown your own afternoon tea party? Share your tips with us below. Or if you still need inspiration, take a look through our afternoon tea recipe collection.