As much as we'd all like to indulge in afternoon tea on a regular basis there are times when our purse strings just won't allow for it, but just because you can't throw caution to the wind and pop out for afternoon tea whenever you like, that doesn't mean that you can't host your own afternoon tea in style at home!
We all know how the perfect afternoon tea goes, with the perfect tea stands, crockery and pretty place mats bringing together the treats in perfect style. Piecing together the perfect afternoon tea set needn't be pricey, and when you'll be using these items time and time again, the first initial cost of buying those tea stands and sets won't be so much of a burden next time around.
Places like vintage shops and fairs are perfect to find some unique vintage tableware pieces, but many high street shops have lovingly re-created vintage styled tea sets if you'd prefer to go for a brand new set. If like me, you already have several tea sets and stands to hand, then you'll find setting up your afternoon tea a breeze. Two and three tier cake stands are perfect to place your afternoon tea selection on, but don't dismiss single tiered cake stands either, they're perfect for serving up a cake to share!
Essential items like patterned napkins and doilies are perfect to finish off the table amongst your stands and tea sets. I use paper doilies myself, as these can be easily disposed of so there's no need to worry about any rogue cake crumbs staining your best lace doilies.
Sandwiches are a must for any afternoon tea, making it yourself means that you can make your preferred selection of sandwiches, as well as catering for any dietary needs. Classic afternoon tea choices include smoked salmon with cream cheese (go for a lactose free or dairy free alternative if needed), egg mayonnaise & cress, cucumber with cream cheese and dill, but you could add you own choices instead.
The perfect sandwich for an afternoon tea is usually sliced into rectangles with the crusts removed, but you could go for a fancy twist and cut your sandwiches into triangles. It doesn't have to be just sandwiches either, try adding small sized versions of classic savoury treats to the selection, such as Welsh rarebit and mini quiches.
No afternoon tea is complete without a selection of scones! Opt to make your own, or cheat and use a packet of store bought ones (I won't scold you for cutting corners here, it does save some time!), go for classic plain or sultana scones, or add a Yorkshire twist to your afternoon tea with some fat rascals, try my recipe here. Serve them with jam and cream on the side to your taste, or if your going for the fat rascals, warm them up before serving and add a bit of butter for a tasty treat.
A selection of dainty cakes and tarts always go down well with any afternoon tea, petite bakes such as madelines are the perfect bite sized treat, alongside dainty fruit tarts. Try these damson tarts for a lovely sweet treat, they can easily be made with slices of your favourite fruit instead of damsons if you prefer. Macarons are another bite sized treat to bring to the selection, save time by buying a selection to place on your stand, but if you fancy making your own, try my recipe for Earl grey and gin macarons for a lovely light treat.
Cupcakes are a lovely way to add a pretty touch to your selection of small cakes, go for classic plain vanilla or lemon cupcakes for a light bite, during the summer months you may want to try these strawberry and cream cupcakes for a tasty seasonal treat, try the recipe here. For a really retro twist to your afternoon tea, coffee and walnut cupcakes are perfect, try the recipe here for a distinctly vintage treat.
If cupcakes aren't your thing, why not try baking a classic sponge cake to serve up for your afternoon tea, a victoria sponge cake can't be beat for an afternoon tea treat.
You can't have an afternoon tea without a brew to hand, serve up pots of freshly brewed tea, classic breakfast blends, earl grey and darjeeling teas are perfect to accompany your afternoon tea. Serve it up in a tea pot with dainty tea cups and optional sugar and milk on the side.
If you prefer your afternoon tea with a boozy twist, go for prosecco or champagne on the side for a decadent treat. Light cocktails and boozy fizz may be more your thing though, try classic cocktails such as sloe gin or ginger fizz for a refreshing tipple, or simply add a dash of gin to some elderflower cordial and tonic water for a lovely light drink.
Serving in vintage style.
Any good afternoon tea is served in classic style on tiered cake stands, place your starters and sandwiches on the top layers of the stands, with light treats and bakes on the lower stands. If you prefer to mix it up and let your guests help themselves, why not place your starters on cake stands and small plates, with sweet treats on the tiered stands.
Place your decorative pieces nearby and around the stands, with napkins to hand and pretty vintage table ornaments. Finishing off with small plates for your guests with dainty cutlery, you could look out for vintage serving forks and cake forks to really bring a touch of vintage style to your setting, with tea cups and glasses placed at the side of the plates.
At first it may sound like a lot of effort, but you could save time by using pre made and shop bought bakes and treats for your afternoon tea, besides who has time to make an abundance of macarons and cupcakes when you could be making an early start on the tipple!