A Cream Tea is a special treat, much anticipated and usually taken at a leisurely pace when on holiday in the UK. Some cream teas have stayed long in my memory: a seaview cafe at Lyme Regis in Dorset, the Lee Abbey Tea Cottage in Somerset… I particularly recall a sunny afternoon birthday Cream Tea we booked for my father taken on board the Pride of Lee, whilst leisurely drifting along the River Lea on the borders of Essex and Hertfordshire. What exactly is a Cream Tea? Usually it comprises sweet scones with thick cream and strawberry (or another flavour) jam (sometimes butter too – choose all or some) plus tea to drink, apparently the idea could date back as far as the 11th Century. I knew this was exactly what I wanted to include as part of the Mothering Sunday Afternoon Tea I prepared this year. The cakes were made in advance, leaving enough time to finish the ‘baguette bite’ sandwiches and make the scones on the Sunday afternoon.
On this occasion I chose to make plain scones, which are actually very slightly sweet, using Delia Smith’s recipe for Devonshire Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes. It was a simple fairly standard recipe, as far as I could see, but without the added instructions to egg-wash the top of the scones for a golden brown shiny finish. I am sure this could be done if wished, but it was an extra job on a busy afternoon I was glad not to have to do (especially as my guests were about to knock on the door). Scones just have to be made fresh on the day they are eaten: they are not the same the following day. However, a tip from my grandmother, slightly sour milk can be used for scones. This does work, but I usually don’t have time to make them when the milk is off! Speed and a light touch are essential: a heavy handed approach leads to solid scones. Some cooks even recommend that the dough is cut with a knife rather than using cutters. On this page there is first this basic recipe for a plain scone with just a little sugar for sweetness, but eventually other sweet variations will appear here, including scones with fruit (raisins/sultanas or cherries), treacle scones, for example. There will eventually be a separate post – Basic Recipe: Savoury Scones for those containing cheese and other savoury ingredients.
(Makes 10-12 scones)
8ozs/225g self-raising flour, sieved
1½ozs/40g butter, at room temperature
¼pint/150ml milk (slightly soured is fine)
1½level tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
40zs/100ml clotted cream
¼pint/150ml whipped double
Jam – usually strawberry, raspberry or blackcurrant
1. Preheat oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7. Grease a baking tin.
2. Sieve the flour into a bowl and quickly rub in the butter using fingertips. Stir in the sugar and the pinch of salt.
3. Using a knife mix in the milk a little at a time. When combined gently bring the mixture together with floured hands into a soft dough. If it is a little dry then add a drop more milk.
4. Gently shape on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands until about ¾-1inch/2cm-2.5cm thick. There are mixed views over whether using a rolling pin is a good idea: Delia Smith uses a lightly floured one but I was always taught to use my hands.
5. Cut rounds with a 1½-2inch/4-5cm fluted pastry cutter (but without twisting to avoid misshapen scones). Once as many as possible have been cut then gently bring the dough together and cut again. Try to roll out as little as possible to avoid toughening the scones. Alternatively, the squares can be cut with a sharp knife.
6. Place the scones on the greased baking tin and dust each with a little flour. Bake near the top of the oven for 12-15 minutes. When done the will be risen and golden brown.
7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat soon – slightly warm is lovely. Serve spread with butter and/or cream and/or jam – all three if you wish.
Alternative recipes for sweet scones (untried):
Treacle Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Wheatmeal Date Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Scones with dried fruit: sultanas/raisins/cranberries/dates/apricots/figs …
Quick & Easy Fluffy Scones (like the idea of yoghurt in the mix) Normal in London (E17)
Fruited Scones – sozzled (fruit soaked in liqueur) – Good Food Channel
Fresh Strawberry (or other fruit) scones via Arugulove
Lavender Scones – All recipes
Rose Petal Scones (with Rosewater) – Good Food Channel
Ginger Beer Scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Lemonade Scones – Fig Jam & Lime Cordial
Lemonade Scones – Good Food Channel
Oat and Maple Syrup Scones – Smitten Kitchen via Cake, Crumbs and Ccoking
Vanilla Almond scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Chocolate Scones via Chocolate Log Blog
Apple Scones via Lavender & Lovage
Cherry Scones – CWS Family Fare
Ginger Scones – CWS Family Fare
Honey Scones – CWS Family Fare