Afternoon delights: Fortnum & Mason afternoon tea recipes

Of course everything stops for tea and cake! Tom Parker Bowles brings us the great British classics – and some tasty new treats. 

Ah, tea. Soothing and uplifting, a salve and a sharpener, the morning jolt and the evening’s end. It’s not so much mere drink as national obsession, a fragrant religion, shippable meditation, succour in a cup. Unashamedly democratic too, poured from silver teapots and battered urns alike.

Despite tea being so stained into our national history, it only reached these shores in the middle of the 17th century. At 25 shillings a pound, it was expensive enough to be locked away in tea caddies (with the key held by the lady of the house), making it an exclusively aristocratic tipple. Nowadays, though, it’s the most widely consumed drink, after water, in the world.

In tea, just as in wine, terroir is all – that unique combination of climate, geography, soil and altitude that together create the dazzlingly diverse and distinctive flavour profiles of tea across the world. From the lofty slopes of Darjeeling and the highlands of Kenya to the more tropical sultriness of Assam, Sri Lanka and Yunnan, this all-important terroir gives tea its character, flavour, personality and charm.

And tea’s not just a cup of char. Rather afternoon tea, a meal in itself, a glorious tradition, one of Britain’s most enduring culinary gifts to the world. Cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, ginger cake and Welsh cakes drenched in butter. As Henry James said, ‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.’

Tea truffles

Unusual in the best possible way: delicate, tea-scented and very easy to make.

David Loftus


Welsh cakes

Known as picau ar y maen in Welsh, meaning ‘cakes on the stone’ (they were originally cooked on a heated bakestone), these are incredibly easy to make (perfect for children too), endlessly versatile and deeply delicious. You can serve them hot or cold, with butter, jam or ice cream, as a mid-morning snack or as a stand-alone pudding.

welsh cakes
David Loftus


Vegan pecan and cherry brownie

Squidgy, fudgy and moreish, this is not so much a ‘vegan alternative’ as a brilliant brownie in its own right.

David Loftus


Custard creams

These are a very delicate take on the biscuit classic, and quite fragile too, which is why you need the piping bag. But they are pure edible nostalgia, the custard cream of your childhood dreams.

custard creams
David Loftus


Ginger cakes with whipped chocolate ganache

Ginger, golden syrup, treacle and chocolate… what’s not to love? You can make these using individual loaf moulds, but a 12-hole muffin tin or a single large loaf tin would work just as well.

ginger cake
David Loftus


Classic scones

Fresh baked from the oven, classic British scones are one of the great scents on earth. You can add a vanilla pod, split and scraped into the sugar before mixing, to add a lovely lift. As to which comes first, jam or clotted cream, that’s your call.

David Loftus


Earl Grey panna cotta with caramelised mandarin

The Earl Grey adds a fragrant scent here, while the mandarin cuts through any sweetness, adding citrus appeal. You can use the recipe without the tea, too, simply adding more vanilla and a shot of white rum. These look rather good when presented in Martini glasses or just made in moulds (lightly grease them before filling with the cream mix) and turned out.

panna cotta
David Loftus


Courgette and thyme scones

Simple to make, these scones also keep well without drying out, thanks to the courgette in the mixture. Serve with hard cheese and tomato chutney.

courgette and thyme scones
David Loftus


Pick of the pots

Chosen by YOU interiors expert Charlotte Page.

Oliver Bonas tea pot


pastel tea pot

PASTEL – £35,

grey tea pot


wooden handle tea pot


cat tea pot

CAT PRINT – £98,

cork tea pot


Now buy the book

Time for TeaOur recipes are from Fortnum & Mason: Time for Tea by Tom Parker Bowles (Fourth Estate, £20). To order a copy for £17.60 until 2 May call 020 3308 9193 or go to Free p&p on orders over £20. All the teas listed here can be bought at


Recipes: Roger Pizey, Executive pastry chef at Fortnum & Mason. Photographs: David Loftus.