How to recreate afternoon tea at home

The perfect Mother's Day surprise

When we think of British classics to dine out on, the traditional afternoon tea is one of the first to come to mind. It combines sweet and savoury like no other British dish does and, although there’s quite a lot of food, all in all it’s a relatively light meal.

Dining out for afternoon tea is a popular choice for a Mother’s Day treat for two, or perhaps the whole family. Afternoon tea is also a lovely gift idea for mum to enjoy with her friends. If you don’t fancy eating out this Mother’s Day, then why not create the perfect afternoon tea at home?

Set the time and the place

Your place or mum's? Snuggled into the sofa with your array of sweet and savoury treats presented on the coffee table, or laid out on the dining table? Will your guests arrive early and stay beyond the meal, and does this impact where you choose to sit and if you want to consider other entertainment?

Afternoon tea is traditionally served between 2pm and 4pm, but as host it’s entirely your choice. A breakfast cream tea isn’t out of the question! We can picture breakfast muffins, poached eggs and a selection of meats, with fruit to follow.

Plan the menu

At home, you can not only surprise mum with a beautifully presented selection of treats (on a serving platter of your choosing), but you can also make sure that those treats are her carefully selected favourites.

Does mum prefer fruit or plain scones? Or perhaps she prefers toasted tea cakes to scones? When playing host, the choice is yours.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • 3 ingredient plain scones (sugar free)
  • Easy fruit scones
  • Blueberry scones
  • Miniature bite-size scones
  • Apricot and almond whipped cream scones
  • Spring onion and bacon scones

Find out your guest’s favourite sandwich fillings, their preference on white or brown bread, crusts or no crusts (traditionally served without crusts). Our favourite fillings are:

  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Coronation chicken
  • Toasted ham and cheese

And how sweet is their sweet tooth really? Does mum prefer fruity desserts or chocolate ones? You can then perfectly tailor your menu perfectly for yourself, your mum and any other guests you invite.

Store bought v home-made

Now this is the question! Whilst some people can work their culinary magic in the kitchen, others are somewhat lacking in the baking department but still want to recreate that traditional afternoon tea experience at home. If that’s you, then of course you can buy a variety of, incredibly delicious, sweet and savoury treats from your local bakery or supermarket.

Many people opt for a mix of home-made and shop-bought to simplify things whilst still creating a visual wow factor.

If you opt for shop-bought then you may want to indulge a little more in decoration and the cake stand.

If making home-made sweet treats then we recommend a mix of larger cakes as well as smaller bites. Larger cakes are much easier to prepare in advance and slice on the day, whereas smaller sweet treats can be fiddlier and more time-consuming. Make life easier for yourself if you can.

Our lemon meringue pie recipe is delicious and our easy chocolate mousse is a rich, indulgent yet simple-to-make treat.

How to set the scene

Glasses/mugs/cups

If you want this to feel like a special affair then break out the finest china. These double-walled coffee glasses are an alternative to the typical china mugs, and are a lovely way to serve hot drinks, be it tea, coffee, hot chocolate or perhaps even a liquor coffee.

You could even theme your home-made afternoon tea - opt for a summer theme or even a festive tea if your Christmas plans were disrupted last year.

Are you making this a sparkling afternoon tea (i.e. with prosecco, champagne or some other alcoholic ingredient)? If so, we recommend some stylish glasses fit for the occasion.

A cup of twee

If you’re not normally a tea drinker but would like to buy a tea pot set for mum’s afternoon tea, then there are lots of reasonably priced, very pretty, tea pot sets online. Perfectly twee, if that’s the look you’re going for. Of course, you don’t need to buy anything special at all. Mum is coming to see you, regardless of your mismatched plates and saucers.

Decorations

You may want to go all out with bunting, balloons and the like. Or perhaps you’d rather go for the classic look and let the quaint picnic tablecloth with napkins and beautifully laid table speak for itself.

How to create a cake stand effect

Perhaps you already have a selection of ‘best’ plates, cutlery and tupperware to showcase your homemade afternoon tea, or perhaps you’d like to buy some affordable or even disposable one-time-use presentation plates and stands.

You may even have some quaint coasters or other items around the house that would be perfect for your display of sweet treats.

You can pick up a cardboard cupcake stand for around £10 from either local craft stores or next day delivery on Amazon. And perhaps buy some paper doilies for that nostalgic touch. If you’re making cupcakes, you can pick up some pretty cupcake cases in most supermarkets.

Reusable cake stands are typically made of plastic, slate or glass and aren’t dissimilar in price to the cardboard equivalent, so we’d recommend spending those few pounds extra so you can reuse the stand for future afternoon teas. Cake stands are also a great way to present a cheese board.

Failing that, you can of course just use the plates you already have at home. Accompanied by some paper doilies and bunting, mum will still be presented with a beautiful afternoon tea at home.

What makes a quintessential British afternoon tea isn’t the cake stand itself, it’s the combination of sweet and savoury, and the varied flavours of those delicious small bites enjoyed in fabulous company.

Be prepared

You want to enjoy your perfectly prepared afternoon tea so we recommend preparing everything in advance of your guests’ arrival. That means, confirm a time for them to arrive and make sure you have everything laid out ten minutes before.

Save the prep (and the washing up) and take mum out for afternoon tea!

Save the prep (and the washing up) and take mum out for afternoon tea!

At Audley restaurants, we'll be serving a Mother's Day Afternoon Tea over Mother's Day weekend and a special Sunday lunch on 27th March. To make a reservation or view the menu please choose an Audley restaurant.

If your guests are arriving at different times, keep everything covered until you are ready to eat. You could either keep everything in airtight containers and then lay them out when you are all ready to eat, or (depending on the cake stand(s) you have used) cover everything tightly with clingfilm.

Keep anything refrigerated in the fridge until you’re ready.

Before you start on the presentation of your table, get yourself ready. As with any event you host, you’ll find yourself far more relaxed if you only have the table and final-touches to the food to prepare on the day, so get on top of any housework and cooking the day before. And make sure you are dressed and ready a couple of hours before your guests are due to arrive. Once you are dressed in your hosting best, you can then get to work on the table.

Waste not want not

Although considered a lighter alternative to a full dinner, the 3-course afternoon tea can still weigh heavy and therefore your guests may like to save some treats to take home for later. Have some simple Tupperware ready to transport any leftovers to be enjoyed later.

Looking for an alternative to afternoon tea?

Looking for an alternative to afternoon tea?

Try some of these delicious recipes, with all the flavour of a fine-dining restaurant, to be prepared and enjoyed at home.

Read more recipes from our esteemed Chefs in Audley restaurants.