How to Throw an Easy Afternoon Tea

By Elizabeth Atia

An Afternoon Tea is one of those quintessentially British things to do, isn’t it.

It’s not just the chance to drink Prosecco in the middle of the day either (an optional extra, mind!). The whole ritual of eating dainty sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, cakes, pastries and drinking tea poured from an actual teapot into dainty bone china cups is a tradition that is not to be missed. Preferably outdoors in the garden, with the summer sun shining down.

With less of us going out these days, you might be tempted to throw your own Afternoon Tea, but where do you start?

Afternoon tea doesn’t need to be a complicated affair. You could buy everything ready-made and just lay it out all fancy like, but if you’re in the mood for a little extra (manageable) home-made effort, here is how I throw an Afternoon Tea.

We enjoyed our Afternoon Tea earlier this year after we were all vaccinated and my boyfriend’s parents were finally allowed to come into our house again after more than a year of social restrictions.

It went down rather well.

For four people, you’ll need:

Ingredients to bake a Victoria sponge cake with jam and whipping cream.

Ingredients for an easy traybake or two – we made Nanaimo bars and chocolate tiffin, because they keep well for a few days and can be made in advance.

Ingredients for scones, a good quality strawberry or raspberry preserve and some clotted cream.

2 x half loaves of good quality bread, one white and one brown and sandwich fillings, at least three. I like egg and cress, ham, apple and cheese (see recipe below) and smoked salmon with cream cheese. Cucumber, cheese and pickle and simple ham and mustard are other favourites.

Tea! Traditionally, either tea grown in India or Ceylon is served, but whatever you fancy will work. It has to be served in a tea pot though.

Prosecco, chilled (optional).

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The day before:

1. Make your traybakes, and keep them in an airtight container until they are needed.

2. Hard-boil your eggs and make the egg mayonnaise (see recipe below) for the egg and cress sandwiches. Chill in the fridge.

3. Put the Prosecco in the fridge to chill too.

Early morning on the day:

1. Start with the Victoria sponge cakes. Victoria sponge tastes better on the day of baking, so pop it in the oven first thing. If you want to learn how to make the perfect Victoria Sponge, join Harrod's Cake designer Rosaline Miller in her Cake Baking & Design course today and learn how to create stunning cakes for any occasion.

2. Make your scones (prep them while the Victoria sponge is baking in the oven, so they’re ready to go in when the cakes come out) and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

3. Assemble the sandwiches, one of each of the three fillings with white bread and another in brown. Cut off the crusts and cut the sandwiches into four fingers, depending on the size. Use cocktail sticks to keep the sandwich layers together, if desired.

4. Assemble the Victoria sponge cake, preferably on a fancy cake stand. Don’t forget to dust the top with icing sugar!

Just before the guests arrive:

1. Set the table with your finest china and cutlery.

2. Arrange the cooled scones (uncut) on a two-tier cake stand along with the sandwiches and traybakes.

3. Serve little bowls of clotted cream and jam on the side, so guests can choose whether to put the jam or cream first.

To serve:

1. Warm your teapot by first rinsing it with hot tap water. Then, fill your teapot ¼ full with freshly boiled water and swish it around so that it warms up the inside. Discard this water and fill the teapot again with freshly boiled water to make your tea. Don’t forget the tea cosy!

Easy egg mayonnaise sandwich filling

3 hard boiled eggs, cooled

1 heaped spoonful mayonnaise, or more, to taste

1 tbsp pickle juice

½ tsp celery seed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ham, apple & cheese sandwich filling

2 slices bread

1-2 slices of good quality thick cut honey roasted ham

½ apple, cut into 5mm thick slices

1 slice Gouda or Edam cheese



Wholegrain mustard

Rocket or salad leaves

1. Butter one slice of bread and spread with a little of the wholegrain mustard.

2. Add the ham, cheese and sliced apple.

3. Top with rocket or salad leaves.

4. Finish with the second slice of bread with a thin spread of mayonnaise.

5. Cut off the crusts and slice the sandwich into four fingers.

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View courseAll Food & Drink courses

Elizabeth Atia

Mum, daydream adventurer, ex-pat Canadian & quite possibly Britain's most northerly award-winning food blogger. Calls Shetland home.

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