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Platinum Jubilee Afternoon Tea

BY SOPHIE COLCLOUGH 

Afternoon Tea

British people don’t need much persuading when it comes to making the most of summer, so with the Platinum Jubilee fast approaching, lots of us are planning to take our festivities outdoors. If, like us, you’re planning to host a garden party for our nearest and dearest, you might be looking for some afternoon tea ideas. Here at The Chinashop we’re always happy to help, so we’ve put together some ideas for what food to serve, from a classic Cream Tea to a traditional Victoria Sponge cake. We’ve even included some free, easy to make recipes to take the stress out of hosting an afternoon tea that’s fit for a queen.

We have everything you’ll need to throw a truly royal celebration, from gold-painted tea sets to handy afternoon tea recipes. Pour yourself a cup of tea and feast your eyes on the sumptuous snacks we’re serving up here in Canterbury – it might even give you some ideas for a menu of your own!

Jubilee Celebrations

Before we tuck into our cake, read on to find out a little bit more about what it is we’re celebrating in the upcoming bank holiday weekend. Queen Elizabeth II is fast approaching her Platinum Jubilee, which celebrates her 70 years on the throne of England. She is our longest reigning monarch to date, having reigned for seven years longer than her predecessor Victoria, making her the first British monarch to reach this momentous milestone.

To celebrate this historic occasion, events are being set up across the country, with people planning anything from a small afternoon tea party for their family and friends to larger scale neighbourhood street parties. While official celebrations have been happening for several months, the country’s main celebrations are all culminating in an extended bank holiday from the 2nd to the 5th of June. To read more about the official celebrations on the Royal Family’s website, click here.

Charities across the UK are hosting events to boost community spirit and raise money for worthy causes. The Eden Project is hosting a special Jubilee Big Lunch, which aims to help communities get to know each other a little better. There’s still time to sign up to host an event with them and receive a a free pack to help you get started on your afternoon tea ideas! It can be anything from sharing a cup of tea with the people next door to getting your whole neighbourhood together in a local greenspace for a picnic at tea time. Click here for more information.

An image of a muffin from above, resting on pink and white fabrics with a bunch of pink flowers in the top right corner. The muffin is on a small white and grey plate with a white and gold pastry fork on it.
A fresh scone on a pink and white plate, sitting on pink and white fabrics with a bunch of pink flowers behind it

Savoury Afternoon Tea Ideas

Traditions dictate that you should always start your meal with something savoury, and afternoon tea is no exception. Whether you opt for humble dishes such as sandwiches and sausage rolls or refined treats such as a vegetable tart and salmon en croute, there are plenty of savoury afternoon tea recipes for you to sink your teeth into.

Salads

A fresh salad is always welcome on a warm June weekend, whether you make a light green salad with cucumber ribbons, shredded lettuce and a light lemon dressing or opt for a a vibrant rice salad that’s packed with rainbow vegetables, there are plenty of ways to incorporate some healthy options into your menu.

Scones

Cheese scones are great for beginner bakers, and make a wonderful savoury alternative the classic cream tea. They can be served with butter or cream cheese spread on them, or topped with a range of sliced meats and pickles. There are plenty of recipe suggestions online for cheese scones, such as this one from BBC Good Food. Any leftover scones are delicious when dipped in a hearty vegetable soup, which is another great way to use up leftover vegetables from a roast dinner or to enjoy fresh produce from the garden. 

Bread

Bake your own mini bread rolls to really impress your guests! You can use them to serve miniature burgers if your afternoon tea is a more informal affair, or fill them with decadent fillings such as smoked salmon and cooling cucumber, which is perfect for a hot summer’s day. Options that fit with the Jubilee theme include classic British pairings such as roast beef and English mustard or egg and cress sandwiches, which feel elegant inside a petite bread roll. BBC Good Food has an easy bread roll recipe here if you’d like to give them a go!

Quick and Easy Ideas

If home baking isn’t your cup of tea, most bakeries or supermarkets stock a range of savoury treats like bite sized buns, mini quiches or pork pies that are quick and easy to serve up to hungry guests! Below is a list of the best savoury afternoon tea ideas:

  • Vegetable Tarts
  • Cheese Twist Pastries
  • Potato Salad
  • Cucumber, Carrot & Pepper sticks
  • Baked Camembert
  • Smoked Salmon Blinis
An afternoon tea, laid out on white, pink and blue fabrics, served on green and grey cake plates and in white and pink teacups and saucers.
A plate of sandwiches on a green and gold cake plate, set on layers of pink and white fabrics with a bunch of pink flowers in the background

Finger Sandwiches

Our go-to savoury dish for a tea party is a selection of dainty finger sandwiches. These are quick and easy to make, and helps to fill up your guests before you bring out the main attractions of tea and cake. They’re easy to whip up in advance, taking some of the stress away from the day itself. If you’re looking to host your afternoon tea on a budget, these can be a lifesaver, with the average loaf of bread costing around £1.15. Most filling options won’t break the bank either, and are also available ready-made from most stores.

To help you get in the mood for Jubilee festivities we’ve chosen some royal-themed sandwiches! A coronation chicken filling has become a classic since its invention nearly 70 years ago for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.

If you have some vegetarians in the party, treat them to some light and refreshing cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches. While this isn’t necessarily a royal filling, they are a British invention that are commonly associated with the upper classes. Lactose free or vegan soft cheese is also readily available, making this a great option for those with dietary requirements too.

If you’re serving your food as a buffet we would recommend using a stylish sandwich tray such as the one pictured to the left. Alternatively for a more intimate celebration you can arrange your finger sandwiches on the bottom layer of a three-tiered cake stand

Sweet Afternoon Tea Ideas

If, like us, you have a sweet tooth, for you the best part of an afternoon tea will be the desert. The formality of your afternoon tea will inform the style of food that you serve, from comforting slices of lemon drizzle loaf cake to dainty bite sized biscuits.

Macarons

These almond-meringue delights are a delicate alternative to biscuits, commonly associated with decadence and luxury. Macarons are available in all kinds of flavours, from white chocolate and lemon to more exotic pistachio and rose options, making them the perfect way to finish off an elegant tea party. They are often sandwiched with a sweet buttercream, ganache or curd, giving them a delicious balance of sweet and sharp flavours. The majority of macarons are also gluten free as they are made with almond flour rather than wheat, making them a great option for people with gluten allergies or intolerances.

If you agree that baking macarons from scratch is a little too daunting, you can pick a selection up from most supermarkets or bakeries across the country. To dress up your macarons you can add a drizzle of melted white chocolate across the top, or brush them with flecks of gold leaf. Their pastel shades make them look beautiful on a plate, so we’ve served them as the finishing touches on our three-tiered cake stand.

A three-tiered cake stand that is green and gold, filled with muffins, scones and macarons. It is on layers of white and pink fabric, with a bunch of matching flowers next to it.
An afternoon tea, laid out on white, pink and blue fabrics, served on green and grey cake plates and in white and pink teacups and saucers.

Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake

This classic loaf cake is a nostalgic favourite for many of us in the UK. The zesty lemon flavour is perfect for serving in the summer with a crisp gin and tonic. They are made with a rich syrup topping and is best served warm from the oven. A lemon drizzle cake is easy to whip up and stores well, making it ideal for preparing ahead of time, allowing you to relax once your guests arrive.

Sweet Pastries

Nothing beats biting into a fresh pastry. Lots of popular options like egg custard tarts and chocolate éclairs are available at a reasonable price from supermarkets and bakeries, making them great options for busy hosts who may not have time to bake their own treats ahead of time. You can also buy glazed fruit tarts from several local bakeries, which look beautiful on a table spread. You can also find miniature danish pastries in a variety of styles and flavours, from maple-pecan plaits to beautiful cinnamon swirls. 

Caramel Tarts

For some stress-free home baking, why not whip up some caramel tarts? You can use handy tricks to make these quickly and easily before your event. Mini pastry cups can be found down most home baking aisles, and you can easily buy tins of thick caramel from the majority of stores. Spoon your caramel into the pastry cups and top with grated chocolate, then warm in the oven for 5-10 minutes – nobody will be any the wiser!

 

Afternoon Tea Recipes

If you do have the luxury of time on your hands, baking is a lovely activity that you can do to unwind or to exercise your creativity. All of the recipes below are aimed at beginner bakers, although there’s nothing stopping a more experienced cook from going back to basics every now and then!

Mocha Muffins

To start building our layered afternoon tea display we’ve opted for a contemporary mocha muffin. These are the bigger, Americanised cousins of our classic cupcakes, and are perfect for finishing with fruit, icing or even a meringue topping. These single-serve cakes are great for making with children, helping the whole family get involved with the preparation of your afternoon tea. You can also make this recipe without the coffee to turn it into a kid-friendly chocolate option.

Muffins and cupcakes are a classic for all kinds of occasion. They are a go-to option for classic kid’s parties, tea time treats and weddings alike, and once you’ve mastered the basic sponge recipe you’ll keep coming back time and time again!

If your afternoon tea party is aiming to raise money in the form of a bring-and-share bake sale, these muffins are also a great option as people can easily take them home; something that’s much harder to do with a slice of cake! These sweet treats are also perfect for those who aren’t very confident with baking as the recipe is quick, easy and reliable, while still sure to impress your guests!

A side-on picture of a muffin on a plate with a pastry fork, sitting on white and pink fabrics with a bunch of flowers behind it
A picture of a cup of tea, a teapot and a muffin on a plate with matching pastry fork and teaspoon

Mocha Muffin Recipe – makes 12-16

Ingredients: 

For the cakes

  • 6 oz Margarine

  • 6 oz Caster Sugar

  • 3 Large Eggs

  • 6 oz Plain Flour 

  • 3 tsp Baking Powder

  • 1 oz Cocoa Powder

  • 1 bar Milk Cooking Chocolate 

  • 1 tsp Instant Coffee (optional)

For the icing

  • 3 oz Margarine

  • 7 oz Icing or Powdered Sugar 

  • 1 tsp Instant Coffee (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius
  2. Line your muffin tin with paper cases
  3. Melt the chocolate, either in a double boiler or a small bowl in the microwave, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn. Avoid getting it too hot, stirring the last few lumps until they melt. Take off the heat and allow it to cool.
  4. Beat the margarine and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time. The batter may start to separate here, but will recombine when you add the dry ingredients.
  6. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder gradually, folding into the batter to preserve the airy texture of the batter.
  7. Mix the coffee and water together until the granules have dissolved.
  8. Gently stir the cooled chocolate and coffee mixture into your batter until thoroughly combined.
  9. Spoon the mixture into 12 muffin tins, filling each case about 2/3rds of the way full.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until they spring back when lightly pressed.
  11. Allow the cakes to cool completely, taking them out of the tins after around 10 minutes and transferring them onto a wire cooling rack.
  12. Once the cakes have cooled you can make the icing. Start by mixing together the instant coffee and hot water, then set aside to cool.
  13. Sift the sugar into a bowl, then add the butter. Beat butter and icing sugar until light and smooth.
  14. Add the coffee mixture and combine thoroughly. If your icing starts to separate, add a little more sugar to balance the texture.
  15. Pipe the icing onto your muffins in an even swirl and dust with a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate to finish.

Fresh Scones

What afternoon tea would be complete without a some fresh scones? Whether you choose a savoury option such as a cheese scones with lashings of butter or a classic cream tea with fruit or plain scones that are piled high with jam and clotted cream, these pastries are always popular. 

Here in the UK there is a widespread debate over whether you should spread the jam or cream on your scones first, with the fiercest opinions coming from the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall. We’ll be putting up a poll on our Instagram so you can tell us which way you apply your jam and cream!

To make these scones yourself, use the recipe below.

 

Sweet Scone Recipe – makes 8

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz Plain Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3.5 oz Caster Sugar
  • 5.5 oz Butter
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 150 ml Milk
  • Egg Wash & Granulated Sugar to finish
A picture of a teapot with a plate of fresh scones, served with jam and cream next to a bunch of flowers

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  2. Lightly grease a baking tray with butter. You can use oil here but I find that it often leaves a residue or flavour on the base of the scones, so I recommend using butter instead.
  3. Mix all of your dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Add the butter and rub together until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs.
  5. Beat the egg and combine with the milk.
  6. Form a well in the centre of your dry ingredients, then pour in your wet ingredients. Stir gently until you have a pliable dough. If the mixture is a little wet, add additional flour a spoonful at a time until it is manageable.
  7. Flour your work surface and rolling pin, then roll your dough out until it is approximately 4 cm thick.
  8. Cut out rounds using a 9-10 cm cutter and place them on your greased tray.
  9. Brush the top of your scones with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  10. Bake for approximately 22 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
  11. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
A Victoria sponge cake with strawberries and cream in the middle, dusted with icing sugar on the top. It sits on a grey cake plate with a matching porcelain and gold cake slice, on a background of pink and white fabrics.

Victoria Sponge Recipe – Serves 12

Ingredients: 

For the cake

  • 6 oz Margarine

  • 6 oz Caster Sugar

  • 3 Large Eggs

  • 6 oz Plain Flour 

  • 2 tsp Baking Powder

  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract 

For the filling / topping

  • 150-200 ml Whipping or Double Cream

  • Strawberry Jam (smooth is best)

  • 6 oz Fresh Strawberries (optional)

  • Icing Sugar to decorate

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius
  2. Grease and line two 8” cake tins
  3. Beat the margarine and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, then add your vanilla extract. The batter may start to separate here, but will recombine when you add the dry ingredients.
  5. Sift in the flour and baking powder gradually, folding into the batter to preserve the airy texture of the batter
  6. Gently put the batter into the two cake tins, dividing evenly. Make sure that the mixture is spread flat and reaches the edges of your tins.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until golden. The cake should spring back when lightly pressed.
  8. Allow the cakes to cool completely, taking them out of the tins after around 10 minutes and transferring them onto a wire cooling rack.
  9. While your cakes are cooling, whip the cream until it stands in peaks.
  10. Once your cakes are cold, place one onto your cake plate or board and spread strawberry jam over the top.
  11. Slice the strawberries in half and arrange in circular patterns around the cake. It is important to place the points of the strawberries towards the centre, this will make cutting your cake much easier!
  12. Spread or pipe a layer of whipped cream over the strawberries then cover with the second cake.
  13. Dust the top with a fine layer of icing sugar.

Top Tips

This cake is best eaten on the day you make it to ensure that the cream and strawberries are enjoyed at their best. This light and fluffy cake is perfect for pairing with a cup of tea on a hot day, and looks elegant on a footed cake plate like the one shown on the right from Sara Miller London. It’s so delicious that it’s hard to resist having a second slice!

Happy Jubilee Weekend!

If you’re inspired by any of our afternoon tea ideas or make any of our recipes, let us know by tagging us on Instagram using @the_chinashop when you post your fabulous creations! To keep up to date with what’s going on here, you can also follow us on social media or sign up for our mailing list.

From our family to yours, have a lovely jubilee weekend!

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