Afternoon tea is a much-loved English tradition, popularised by the Duchess of Bedford in 1840. It started out as a social event for the upper classes but it is enjoyed by anyone and everyone in today’s society. Tradition dictates that it must consist of dainty sandwiches alongside sweet treats such as scones, cakes and even pastries. The cream tea, which is a combination of scones, jam and clotted cream, is arguably the most iconic element of an afternoon tea.
Cream teas are known to divide opinion among the English, due to various counties claiming to make the best cream tea. It seems the act of enjoying bread with jam and cream dates back to the 11th century in Devon, but Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset also vie for the cream tea crown.
It might seem tricky to enjoy afternoon tea as a vegan, but it’s actually super simple to make! The results are just as delicious too. No afternoon tea is complete unless you have all the best sweet & savoury elements to delight the taste buds. For our recipe, we cheated a little and used ready-made vegan cream to serve with the scones (let’s face it, cooking everything from scratch can feel like a hassle). We could only find vegan squirty cream in the shop, but if you can get hold of the Elmlea Plant Double Cream it’s far superior. I recommend baking the cupcakes first, followed by the scones and chocolates strawberries, leaving the sandwiches to be prepared last. If you’re more of a purist, aquafaba is a great option for homemade vegan cream.
For the cakes –
- 150ml cashew milk
- ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
- 110g vegan butter or sunflower spread
- 110g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 110g self-raising flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
For the buttercream icing-
- 125g plant-based butter
- 250g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- A few drops of vegan food colouring
For the scones-
- 350g self-raising flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- 95g vegan butter
- 150ml cashew milk
- Fruit jam
- Vegan cream
For the sandwiches-
- Fluffy white bread
- 1 cucumber
- Vegan cream cheese
- Dill (fresh or dried)
- 1 tin of chickpeas
- 1 jar of vegan mayonnaise
- 5g pack of seaweed
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- Salt & pepper to taste
For the strawberries-
- 1 punnet of fresh strawberries
- 1 bar of dairy-free chocolate
For the cupcakes –
- Start by pre-heating the oven to 180c. I used silicone cake tins and simply coated them with vegan butter, but feel free to use paper cases. Mix together 150ml cashew milk and half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Leave for a few minutes for the vinegar to thicken the milk.
- In a large bowl, beat 110g of butter and 110g of caster sugar with an electric whisk until well combined. Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Use a wooden spoon to mix, and add the milk in increments to the butter and sugar mixture. Gradually sift in 110g of self-raising flour as you go. Add half a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt. The batter should now be nice and creamy.
- An ice cream scoop works well for this step! Scoop the mixture into your cupcake tin. Fill each case three-quarters full. Makes around 8 decent sized cupcakes, depending on the size of your tin.
- Bake the cupcakes, in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes until they’re golden on top and have risen. For best results, do not open the oven while they’re cooking. Leave the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack.
- Make the buttercream topping while you wait for the cakes to cool. Beat 125g of butter, 250g of icing sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla extract with an electric whisk until combined. Add a few drops of food colouring and mix until you’ve achieved your desired colour. The mixture should be creamy in texture.
- Use a piping bag to decorate your cupcakes with the buttercream. I finished ours off with dried raspberry, which can be found in the baking aisle.
For the scones –
- In a large bowl, combine 350g of sifted self-raising flour, three tablespoons of caster sugar, one teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt.
- Use your hands for this part! Rub 95g of butter into the flour mixture, until it looks a bit like breadcrumbs.
- Add 150ml of cashew milk in increments to the flour mixture. Combine gently, finally using your hands if necessary, to create a smooth dough.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper, and dust the paper with flour. Roll out your scone dough until around 2cm thick. Place your dough in the fridge for about half an hour. This should make the dough slightly firm and easier to work with. (If you’re looking to fill the time, melting the chocolate & dipping the strawberries to be served later is a perfect half hour activity).
- Preheat the oven to 200c. Take the dough from the fridge and use a 7cm cutter to make the scones. Remember to leave gaps between the scones when you place them on the baking tray to go into the oven. Coat the tops of the scones with cashew milk.
- Bake the scones in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes. They should be golden brown on top. Allow them to cool on a wire rack. Serve with strawberry or raspberry jam and vegan whipped cream.
For the sandwiches –
- Lay out all the slices of bread you plan to use, then generously butter them with vegan spread.
- To create the cream cheese & cucumber sandwiches, next spread a thick layer of vegan cream cheese on top of the vegan butter. Sprinkle either fresh or dried dill on top to add flavour to the cream cheese. Finely slice cucumber and cut in half again to create crescents to layer on top of the cream cheese. Use a sharp knife to remove the crusts and create finger sandwiches.
- To create the chickpea “tuna” sandwiches, in a large bowl mix one tin of drained chickpeas with 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise. Add a teaspoon of chilli flakes, along with a pinch of dill plus salt & pepper to taste. Using scissors, cut the seaweed into little pieces straight into the bowl – this will bring the fishy flavour. Use a potato masher until all the ingredients are combined into a mixture. Spread the chickpea mixture on the bread. Use a sharp knife to remove the crusts and create finger sandwiches.
The chocolate dipped strawberries are an optional but lovely addition to dress up your afternoon tea spread! They’re so easy to make too. Melt vegan chocolate in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Gently dip each strawberry in the melted chocolate. Hold the strawberry for 30 seconds before placing on a plate, as this will help to give the chocolate a chance to solidify a little. If you feel strongly about your strawberries not having flat chocolate bottoms, use skewers for dipping before placing in floral foam to allow the chocolate to dry perfectly around the strawberries.
Let your imagination run wild for the presentation! I found a fab birdcage plate stand on Amazon and it was such a simple accessory to breathe life into the afternoon tea dishes. Enjoy!