Back to the Kitchen: Recipes for the Best Tea Party Ever

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I can always tell when it is Spring because of the many inquiries I receive about afternoon teas for bridal and baby showers, birthday parties and girls reunions. I am also bombarded with requests for tea recipes.

I can’t think of a nicer way to celebrate the season than with an afternoon tea. High tea, as it is often referred,  can be a meaningful way to share time with friends in the mid-afternoon. It is also a prime opportunity to try new tastes and not be locked into a meal. An outdoor tea is lovely if you have a blooming garden. You can be formal and bring out classic china or do a more casual buffet style where everyone gets cozy in the living room. Traditionally, well at least for me, there are three courses. Starting with the scones, then the sandwiches, finishing with the desserts, sweet breads and fruits. You can scale it down a bit and only do one course or just a little nibble of pastry and nuts.

I like an assortment of both herbal and hearty teas . I enjoy  my tea with cream, but some prefer lemon and sugar.

I invite you to look at all of the beauty that surrounds us and celebrate and create a wonderful and cozy afternoon for those that you love.  Here are some of my old favorite recipes as well as some new ones that I have developed since the last time the blossoms were in bloom.

The Scones

The Ginger Scone is by far my most requested scone. At the end of the recipe I’ll give you variations, but be creative! I also like to create a basket of assorted minis so that the guests can experience many flavors.

Ginger Scones

2 1/4 cups flour

1/3-cup sugar

1-tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into fine pieces and frozen*

1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

1-cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones

In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder and mix on low. Add the lemon zest and butter, and pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the ginger. Make a well in the center and pour in the cream. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inches thick. Using a three-inch cookie cutter (or smaller if doing minis) cut out rounds. Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together, and cut out the remaining dough. Place the scones 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream. Bake in a pre heated 400-degree oven for 12 to 16 minutes, until they are pale browned. Let cool on a rack

Note* If you take your butter and grate it with the large wholes of a cheese grater before freezing, you will get the butter more evenly distributed. This works really well with pies as well


Replace the ginger and the lemon zest with:

Cranberry orange scones- juice of one small orange, 2 teaspoons orange zest and one cup dried cranberries.

Rosemary garlic scones- four cloves garlic chopped fine and sauté until golden. Add with the flour with 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary.

Chocolate chip scones-add with the flour one and a half cups mini chocolate chips.

Freezing baked scones: When the scones are cool, wrap airtight and hold at room temperature for up to one day or freeze to store longer. To reheat, unwrap scones and place onto a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degrees oven 8 to 10 minutes or until warm.

Freezing unbaked scones: When the dough is made and patted into circles or cut into 8 wedges/circle, place on a cookie sheet and place, uncovered in the freezer. It will take about an hour for the dough to freeze firm. Once the dough is firm, put frozen scones into a zip-lock bag and return them to the freezer.

When you are ready to bake the scones, simply take out as many as you want to bake and let them sit on the kitchen counter on parchment paper while you preheat the oven. They should only be allowed to thaw as long as it takes the oven to preheat. Once the oven is preheated, place the scones onto a fresh sheet of parchment paper and bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden.

Welsh Teacakes

Cut together:

3 cups all purpose flour

3-teaspoon baking powder

1/4-teaspoon salt

1-cup butter

3/4-cup sugar

Then add:

3 beaten eggs

Mix well. Place on parchment paper and lightly need and flatten to one inch thick. Cut with cookie cutter or glass top. Add a little milk if dry. Pan fry at 375 on an electric skillet or medium heat on a traditional griddle. When raised and golden brown on the bottom turn over. Serve with butter and jam.

Clotted Cream

Once when we were doing a tea I spoke to a chef friend and asked if he knew how to make real clotted cream. He said you add a splash of vinegar and let the cream sit out for three days. Even though I love to do everything from scratch and I was dying to impress my girlfriends, this process scared me. This is a very nice “mock version.” You can also use  real whipped cream. Serve with tea breads or scones

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2/3-cup sour cream

1-tablespoon powder sugar

Bring whipping cream and sour cream to room temperature. Whip cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sour cream and sugar to bowl and beat until mixture is very thick.

Fruit Butter

2 sticks butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cup preserves (strawberry, raspberry or orange marmalade)

Beat until light and fluffy.

Lemon Curd

3 eggs

6 tablespoons melted butter

1-cup bakers sugar (super fine)

Juice and zest from 3 lemons

Beat the eggs and melted butter. Add the sugar and beat thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and zest and combined well. Place in the top of a double broiler and stir constantly until thickened. Chill overnight.

Quick and Easy Strawberry Jam

2 pints fresh strawberries

1-cup sugar

1 envelope Sure-Jell No Cook jam pectin

1/2-cup warm water

Hull and crush strawberries, yielding to 2 cups of prepared fruit. Mix together, prepared fruit and sugar in a large bowl. Let set for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Slowly pour the pectin into the warm water, while stirring constantly. Then add to the fruit mixture. Stir for 5 minutes. Pour into three – one cup containers, leaving about 1/2 inch (2.5 cm.) space from top. Place in refrigerator and cool for 24 hours before using.

Tea Sandwiches

These are some of the favorites, but again I say be creative. You can keep it as simple as ham with Coleman’s mustard on raisin bread or tuna or chicken salad on rye. Even peanut butter and jelly is fun especially if you are including the kids.

Curried Chicken Sandwiches

I use raisin bread with the crusts cut. When quartered on the diagonal it makes wonderful tea sandwiches.

3 pounds chicken breasts, poached, cooled to room temperature, cut into 1/4-inch chunks*

2 granny smith apples, finely chopped

3 celery ribs, finely chopped

2-4 tablespoons curry powder

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Juice of one lime

16 slices raisin bread

In a small bowl whisk together curry, ginger, limejuice and mayonnaise. In a large bowl mix the chicken, celery and apples. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the chicken mixture and coat evenly. Divide 8 ways and place on raisin bread and quarter each on the diagonal. Makes 24 tea sandwiches

*Note: Whether it is for chicken salads or pasta or green salads, this is the simplest way to cook chicken breasts. (It even works for the frozen breasts in a bag.) Everyone says that my chicken is so tender. Place the breasts in a pot. Fill to cover with cold water. Add whatever you have and like to season — garlic, salt, pepper onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, white wine. Bring to a boil and remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes. It will be the most tender, amazing chicken ever.

Carrot Ginger Tea Sandwiches

3 grated carrots

6 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

2 teaspoons ginger, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

6 slices multi-grain bread

6 teaspoons unsalted butter

Alfalfa sprouts

In a medium bowl, combine carrots, cream cheese and ginger; add salt and pepper. Spread one side of each piece of bread lightly with butter. Top the buttered side of 2 slices of bread with carrot/ginger mixture (about 1/4-inch thick). Top with alfalfa sprouts and top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side down. Cut sandwiches in half diagonally and then cut in half again. Makes 24 tea sandwiches.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

1 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese

1/2 cup chopped watercress

16 slices white bread

Salt to taste

In a small bowl combine cream cheese and watercress. Spread on one side of each side of bread. Lay cucumbers onto the cream cheese on 8 slices of bread. Sprinkle with salt. Top the remaining slice of bread cream cheese side down. Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a sharp knife. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then in half again. Makes 32 tea sandwiches.

Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches

8 hard-boiled eggs

1/2-cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

3-tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped

20 slices white bread

Peel eggs and place into a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Add salt, pepper, mayonnaise and dill. Mix until well blended. On 10 slices of bread spread on 2 tablespoons of egg mixture and top with remaining sides of bread. Carefully cut off crusts and cut diagonally , then cut in half again. Makes 40 tea sandwiches

Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Fig Tea Sandwiches

8 ounces goat cheese at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons butter, softened

12 slices crusty French bread

8 fresh figs, trimmed and sliced lengthwise

1/2 pound paper-thinly sliced prosciutto

12 arugula leaves, tough stems discarded

Stir together the goat cheese and pepper with a fork. Spread butter on 6 pieces of bread. Layer the peppered goat cheese, figs, prosciutto, and arugula. Place the other six pieces of bread to make sandwiches. Makes 12 tea sandwiches

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches

1/4-cup mayonnaise

3 scallions, minced

1-tablespoon dill, minced

1-tablespoon capers, drained

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Pepper to taste

2 teaspoons butter, room temperature

8 slices pumpernickel bread

4 pieces smoked salmon

12 cucumber slices, sliced thin

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, scallions, dill, capers, horseradish, and pepper; set aside. Spread butter thinly over pumpernickel bread slices; spread mayonnaise mixture on each bread slice. Divide salmon and cucumber slices evenly over 4 slices of bread; top with remaining bread slices. Cut each sandwich in half diagonally. Makes 16 sandwiches.

Pear and Stilton Tea Sandwiches

6 very thin slices honey-oat Bread

2 tablespoons butter softened

2 ripe pears, halved and thinly sliced

Lemon juice

4 tablespoons crumbled Stilton Cheese

Spread each bread slice with the softened butter.Sprinkle the sliced pears with the lemon juice. Place 1/2 of the pear slices in a single layer on one slice of bread. Top with half of the crumbled cheese and the second bread slice. Repeat using the remaining pear slices, cheese and bread. Makes 12.

Desserts, Fruit and Sweetbreads

Lemon Lavender Strawberries

3 pounds fresh strawberries

¼ cup water

1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup dried lavender flowers

Whipped cream

Lavender Flowers

Rinse and drain strawberries. Hull and cut into halves or quarters into a large bowl and set aside. In small saucepan over low heat, combine water, lemon juice, sugar and lavender and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and lavender is infused. Remove from heat and strain syrup, discarding the blossoms. Pour strained syrup over strawberries and toss gently to mix. Serve berries and syrup right away in pretty glass bowls or stemmed glasses. Garnish with whipped cream and lavender flowers. Serves 10-12

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

8 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips

1 pound strawberries with stem, washed and dried completely

3 ounces white chocolate (to garnish half)

Place chocolate in heatproof pan. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowl of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth.

Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the dark chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set strawberries on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Melt the white chocolate the same way and with a fork drizzle over half of the strawberries for a lovely presentation. Makes a dozen

Miniature Fairy Cakes

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup Bakers Sugar

1 cup flour, sifted

4 eggs

1 cup powder sugar, sifted

Zest and juice of a lemon

Edible flowers, sugar flowers, lavender, sprinkles, Silver Ball Cake Decorations. Anything that matches your tea theme and is “fairy whimsical!”

Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 cupcake tins with pretty colored liners. (Or 4 mini cupcake tins). Beat the butter and sugar together until pale, fluffy and light. Add the zest and beat for a moment longer. One at a time beat the eggs into the sugar/butter mixture, beating hard, until all the ingredients are incorporated. Gently fold the flour into the butter mixture until everything is combined. Do not over mix. Using an ice cream scoop fill the cupcake liners have to ¾ full of batter. Bake for at least 17 minutes without opening the door. They should be golden brown on the surface once cooked. If still a bit pale after 17 minutes, turn the tray in the oven and bake for a further 3 minutes.Transfer mini cakes to a cooling rack. Meanwhile sift the powdered sugar and add the lemon juice, a small squirt at a time, beating hard, until all the sugar is blended into a thick fondant. Go gingerly with the liquid; you want it to be very thick. Stop adding lemon juice as soon as it reaches the fondant stage.

Carefully drop a dollop of the fondant onto the center of each little cake. Leave it to spread over the surface. You can guide the icing with a knife dipped in hot water if you want more control over where it dribbles. Top with a decoration of your choice.

Lemon Rosemary Pound Cake

I have  a large rosemary bush at my house, so I am constantly creating dishes to take advantage of this fragrant herb. I love lemon pound cake with poppy seeds , however, once when I didn’t have poppy seeds, I added rosemary. It out well, since people frequently request it.

1-cup butter

2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped

3 teaspoons lemon zest

4 eggs

1-cup sugar

1-teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup lemon juice

1-teaspoon baking powder

1/4-teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with bakers joy. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat butter, zest, and rosemary and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time then add vanilla. On low speed add flour baking powder and salt until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely.

Strawberry Bread

4 cups flour

2-teaspoon baking powder

1-teaspoon baking soda

1/2-teaspoon salt

2-teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 sticks butter, softened

3 eggs

3 cups fresh strawberries, thinly sliced

3/4-cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 loaf pans with Baker’s Joy. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Gently stir in the strawberries using a wooden spoon. Stir in one third of flour. Add 1/4-cup sour cream. Repeat twice mixing well after each addition. Divide the batter into the two loaf pans. Smooth the top. Bake for one hour until a toothpick inserted in to the center of each loaf comes out clean. Cool for 1/2 hour in pan and then remove and complete cooling on racks.


Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  

CLICK HERE to Learn from Gwen through her instructional videos featured on EHow.

Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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