Posted by: njbrown | August 1, 2011

Afternoon Tea – Tea Sandwiches, Chocolate Zucchini Bread and Cream Scones

Afternoon Tea – Tea Sandwiches, Chocolate Zucchini Bread and Cream Scones

In the early 50s, my family took a day trip from Seattle where we were living to Vancouver Island.  Canada seemed very exotic to us, and very British.  We had heard that the British loved afternoon tea, and when we peeked into the beautiful Empress Hotel, we saw well dressed people being served their tea at elegantly set tables.

Many years passed without another exposure to afternoon tea, but when George and I were living just outside New York City, we went to the Plaza to have tea in the Palm Court.  I don’t remember if the bill was $15 each, or $15 total, but it seemed a very expensive tea in 1973.  Today, the Plaza is operated by the Fairmont hotel group that still operates the Empress (now the Fairmont Empress), and afternoon tea continues to be served in both hotels.

Recently(2013) we had the opportunity to have afternoon tea at the Princess Hamilton in Bermuda.

Once we moved to Canada, there were many more opportunities to have afternoon tea, and I always enjoy it, but tend to come away hungry because the beautiful little sandwiches, scones and desserts are indeed little.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread and Cream Scones

This post on afternoon tea started by an encounter with a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread.  Like Topsy, it grew from making chocolate zucchini bread to making three types of tea sandwiches, two kinds of mini-scones, chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate zucchini bread.  I had been skeptical of any kind of zucchini dessert, but this is absolutely fabulous – wonderfully chocolatey, and incredibly moist.  We think it is better than any brownie we have ever had, and can’t recommend it too highly.

Typically, a three-tiered cake stand is used for afternoon tea with sandwiches being on the top, scones in the middle tier, and desserts on the lowest.  I don’t have a three-tiered stand and really couldn’t justify the expense for one post, so I used an antique silver basket that had been my grandmother’s.

For those who like history, this was taken from the Festiviteas Website:

According to legend, one of Queen Victoria’s (1819-1901) ladies-in-waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope (1783-1857), known as the Duchess of Bedford, is credited as the creator of afternoon teatime. Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from “a sinking feeling” at about four o’clock in the afternoon.

At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs. Adopting the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o’clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for “tea and a walking the fields.” The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.

During the second half of the Victorian Period, known as the Industrial Revolution, working families would return home tired and exhausted. The table would be set with any manner of meats, bread, butter, pickles, cheese and of course tea. None of the dainty finger sandwiches, scones and pastries of afternoon tea would have been on the menu. Because it was eaten at a high, dining table rather than the low tea tables, it was termed “high” tea.

My menu:

Tea Sandwiches:

Tea sandwiches tend to have light fillings – cucumber, watercress, egg salad, salmon, etc.   The explanation is that the upper classes were able to eat food with little nutritional value because of their relatively inactive lifestyle.  Firm-textured bread, sliced thin is best to use.  Freezing makes it easier to cut the crusts off.  Triangles or round shapes are traditional.  My sandwiches were:

  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese with dill tied with strands of chives
  • English cucumber, mint and cream cheese
  • Watercress with pecan cream cheese

Cream Scones:

Scones – pronounced either scawns or scohns to rhyme with bones – are similar to, but not the same as American biscuits.  Cream scones are made with cream and are richer and flakier than scones made with milk.  Scones may be eaten with Devon Cream, whipped cream and/or jam.

  • Cranberry orange
  • Plain

Cream Scone Recipe:  (I divided my dough into two batches, and put about 1/2 cup of dried cranberries into one batch.)

  • 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream


Cream or Milk


Cream Scones:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place the rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  4. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, two knives, or with your fingertips. (The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.)
  5. In a small measuring cup whisk together the milk or cream, beaten egg and vanilla.
  6. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix.
  7. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently four or five times and then pat into a 7 inch (18 cm) round.
  8. Using a lightly floured cutter round cookie cutter cut the dough into rounds.
  9. Place the rounds on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing a few inches apart.
  10. Brush the tops of the scones with a little cream. (This helps to brown the tops of the scones during baking.)
  11. Bake for about 15 – 18 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.
  12. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with Devon cream or softly whipped cream and your favorite jam.
  13. These scones are best the day they are made but can be covered and stored for a few days. They also freeze very well.
  14. Makes about 10 – 2 1/2 inch (6.5  cm) round scones or about 15 mini-scones.

Read more:

The Joy of Baking has a demonstration video for cream scones:


Chocolate Zucchini Bread (makes one loaf)


  • 1 1/2 cup shredded raw zucchini
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we used Ghirardelli)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a loaf pan (9x5x3) with nonstick cooking oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt, then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer beat the oil, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract and coffee granules for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the shredded zucchini to the dry ingredients and then in batches add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; use a spatula to incorporate everything until just mixed.
  5. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 55 – 65 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the bread and then be removed clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

My thanks to Inspired Taste:

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries


  1. Melt about 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate bits with small amount of cream (or soy milk).
  2. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Dip strawberries into chocolate and place on waxed paper until chocolate is firm.


  1. Lovely post, Nancy. Very informative. Thank you!

    • So glad you liked it!

      Best wishes,


  2. Greetings! I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great work!

    • Thank you so much for letting me know! I really appreciate it.

      Best wishes,


  3. Alyssa and I are planning a tea party and were delighted to discover your interest and some recipes that look intriguing, especially the chocolate zucchini bread we plan to try. Alyssa and friends enjoyed a tea party while in New Zealand and is looking forward to sharing with friends and famlly.
    Your other culinary passions are also worth noting, having tasted a wonderful piece of your strawberry tart (I think this is what we enjoyed at Isabel’s home church meeting in July).

  4. How delightful! You’ve created such “food porn” as George would say. Beautiful table! I can’t believe how much effort you put into this. You simply must host a tea party my dear. 😉

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