Thursday 30th June 2016
In the year 1840, Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, decided something was needed to alleviate the hunger and ‘sinking feeling’ she always felt late in the afternoon.
And so, afternoon tea was born. For most of us it has never been part of our daily routine. Rather it’s an occasional ritual which includes daintily cut sandwiches and bite-sized cakes, a temporary abandonment of our casual modern manners, and the seemingly magical power to make an everyday brew taste like the most deliciously refreshing thing in the world.
As Henry James put it, ‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.’
So why not schedule an afternoon tea yourself, whether for your friends, your family or even just for yourself? We’ve put together some ideas for little treats to make your next afternoon tea even more special.
Many of our imaginations run straight to Alice in Wonderland as soon as the phrase ‘afternoon tea’ is mentioned. So let’s start with something inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic.
These Queen of Hearts strawberries form part of a beautiful Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea spread, submitted by Anne-Marie Wallace.
Make them by simply dipping fresh strawberries into white chocolate and later using red fondant icing to add the little hearts.
Since afternoon tea originated in the UK, it seems fitting to include a patriotic treat.
To decorate your cupcakes with our national flag, you’ll need navy blue, red and white ready-to-roll icing. Start by kneading the blue icing until it’s pliable enough to roll. Then use a circle-shaped cutter to cut out the bases and place them on your cakes. After that, it’s just a case of preparing the red and white icing, cutting strips and adding them carefully until your Union Jacks are complete. Perfect!
There’s nothing wrong with piling biscuits onto a plate as part of an afternoon tea. It’s an easy way to fill up the table, especially when everyone’s in the mood to indulge themselves for a special occasion.
Why not make your own shortbread instead of buying biscuits this time? Homemade shortbread is easy to make and utterly delicious. The satisfying crunch provides a nice contrast to the soft texture of the sandwiches and cakes, and you can decorate them however you like.
These dipped sprinkle-decorated biscuits will add some nice colour to your afternoon tea spread, and they’re nice and easy too.
Bite-sized treats are great for afternoon tea, but nothing quite beats seeing everyone’s eyes widen as they spot a satisfyingly hefty centrepiece of a cake on the table. Lemon drizzle cake does the job perfectly. It’s not difficult to make and the decoration can be as simple or complicated as you like.
For some reason, this zesty classic always tastes best in the summer, and it’s especially ideal for an al fresco afternoon tea.
Click here for a full lemon drizzle cake recipe.
Since we only have one chocolate option in our list, to satisfy chocoholics we’ll have to make sure it’s as chocolatey a treat as possible. How about these triple chocolate brownies? They may not the be the daintiest of afternoon tea treats but you can always cut them half the size as you would normally (and of course eat twice as many!)
Have a look at our recipe for triple chocolate brownies here.
Everyone should pause to enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea once in a while. We hope you’ve taken some inspiration from these recipes and ideas, and we’d love to see your favourite treats to add to this ‘agreeable’ meal too.