How to make the quintessentially English afternoon tea

Eating a great afternoon tea is a wonderful experience and one I would highly recommend to any readers who have not yet indulged themselves. There are savoury sections, cake sections, scones with clotted cream and jam sections, endless tea and you can even upgrade to some fizz to make it even more special.  London’s top hotels will spoil you and Fortnum and Mason, the famous purveyors of fine tea, is also on my list of favourites. 

I took my love of afternoon tea one step further this week when I was invited to a ‘Quintessentially British High Tea Class’ at the Cookery School by Oxford Circus.

We were greeted with a glass of fizz and some incredibly more-ish biscuits. I was really pleased to learn that the fizz was English, from the Chapel Down vineyard in Kent near my mother’s home. I have a loyalty to it through her and luckily their award-winning sparkling wine is extremely good. The Cookery School is very keen on locally, responsibly and sustainably sourced products so an English fizz fits in very nicely.

Dangerous biscuits with lovely fizz

The classes are run by Rosalind Rathouse who is passionate about good food and a born teacher. She aims to make everything as simple as possible, explains things well and doesn’t worry about anyone making mistakes as she says they are always good for learning! She knows what she’s doing as she set up the Cookery School 11 years ago and employs a great team to support her.

Rosalind in action

The menu for our afternoon tea was extensive so we split into teams to each work on a section of the menu but Rosalind and her team made sure we saw how to make each item so we could make them when we got home.  I volunteered very quickly for the cake section – no surprise there for those who know me!   These rest of our jolly band of afternoon tea lovers worked on savoury and regular scones, mini scotch eggs, sandwiches and rolls with a variety of fillings and mini lemon tarts.

To begin with, Rosalind ran through for all of us how to make jam, bread in a mixer and scones and then we all set to work.

Teams at work – with help from Rosalind

We had great fun making our very special cake and couldn’t wait to taste it.  Here are the stages we went through to make a Devonshire Cream Cake, filled with cream and topped with a chocolate ganache.

The big learning for me was right at the beginning in that you should whip the eggs and sugar until they form a huge fluffy pale mousse. These photos show the before and after of the whipping process and you can how much the mixture has grown and its texture.

Then we gently folded in the flour and filled the baking tins. You will have noted there is no fat added as the cream and chocolate give you plenty of fat and the cakes lose nothing in flavour by this recipe.

Folding in the flour

Filled cake tins ready to bake

While the ovens were doing their magic we whipped the cream by hand ever so slightly and made the chocolate ganache by pouring boiling cream over chocolate pieces and stirring it – again, gently.

Pouring the cream over the chocolate

Our fillings and toppings were ready

As the other teams were completing their sections, our cakes went into the oven and then, beautiful lightly browned, our sponge cakes emerged ready to be released from their tins and cooled.

Nearly ready

Releasing the cakes

On with the cream and chocolate and then our Devonshire Cream Cakes were ready!


Rosalind’s crew turned the working space into an afternoon tea table in no time and we all sat down to devour all the wonderful things we had made. Everything was really tasty but the cake was the best!

One essential ingredient of this meal is, of course, the tea itself and I was pleased to see that they use Tregothnan, a fine Cornish tea, which accompanied the feast wonderfully.

Is anyone feeling hungry now?

Full disclosure: I did not pay for this class but would happily do so.

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