What Is a Cream Tea?
The warming cream tea originates from the southwest of England in Devon and Cornwall, however it can be found all around the UK. It quite simply is a baked scone with jam and clotted cream, served with a cup of tea to compliment it. They are traditionally enjoyed in the afternoon, often after lunch time.
Outside of the UK, it can be hard to find British scones, so below is a traditional English scone recipe. If you wish you can add sultanas (raisins) to the cake mixture; this adds a sweetness to the scone.
Traditional English Scones
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- pinch salt
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup raisins (optional)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 egg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
Add the butter and use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins, if using.
Whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Reserve a few teaspoons of the liquid to brush on top of the scones.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir in quickly until a soft dough forms. Don’t overwork it! the dough should be a little sticky.
On a well-floured surface, use your hands to form the dough into a round about 3/4 of an inch thick.
Using a 1 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter or water glass, cut out your scones and place them about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Re-roll the scraps and cut out the rest of the scones. Brush the tops with the reserved milk and egg liquid.
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the tops are evenly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
You simply can’t have a cream tea without the clotted cream. Clotted cream is a rich and thick cream with the consistency of butter. It is made from unpasteurized milk that has been warmed through and is then left to cool down, allowing the cream to rise to the surface; this is what gives it its yellow coloring. Sourcing clotted cream outside the UK is difficult and certainly expensive.
However, there is an easy way to make clotted cream at home. Beat 8 ounces of cream cheese until fluffy, then whisk in 4 ounces of sour cream and 2 tablespoons of icing sugar. Put into a serving bowl and chill until ready to use.
When choosing the right tea for your warming cream tea, it really is a matter of preference. The English traditionally drink black tea or Earl Grey with their scones. However, not everyone likes caffeinated tea and would rather opt for herbal tea, and these can be a perfect fit, too. Popular choices of herbal teas to accompany your scones include chamomile, mint, or hibiscus.
Serve It the English Way
If you wish to serve your cream tea in a truly traditional English way then it’s a must to set the table with a pretty tablecloth, beautifully quaint cup and saucers, and a side plate for each person. Ensuring that you have a matching tea pot and milk jug if serving black or Earl grey tea is also important. Place the cream and jam in a decorative bowl. Set the table with a knife for each person to be able to slice their own scone and spread their own jam and cream. Some English people, including myself, enjoy a little butter on their scone, too, so you may want to have this handy.
The only real quandary is the age-old national debate in England: Which do you spread first, jam or cream? According to a previous employee of the Royal Palace, the Queen apparently enjoys hers with jam on first, but I'll let you decide.