We've got lashings of afternoon tea ideas for a fabulous menu right here. With recipes for cupcakes, scones and sandwiches galore, here's how to make sure your hosting of the ultimate British tradition gets into the full swing.
Find afternoon tea ideas to take your tea party to the next level (and save you money!). Afternoon tea is a tradition we all love to indulge in, with scones and cream, cakes, tiny triangle sandwiches… There is so much to make it special and to get excited about.
We’ve got afternoon tea ideas brimming with recipes for the ultimate tea party. Whether you’re looking to host a summer lunch with a twist or a birthday party with style, we’ve got the recipes for you. From classic sandwiches to cake recipes worthy of fine china!
However, if you are keen to head out to a local hotel or cafe for an afternoon tea (when things return to normal), there are plenty of affordable options to book here.
Things you will need to host afternoon tea:
- A tea set, of course: Go for a matching set or a mixture of decorative plates to set the scene. Don’t have a set? Fake it by setting the table in all white pieces and using matching napkins, or choose decorative paper plates to keep things simple (and then you can just throw them away afterwards). We love this super pretty set from British designer Sara Miller, on sale at John Lewis & Partners from £15.50.
- Tea pot: No afternoon tea is complete without a classic tea pot, which also makes for easy refills. This £22.40 bestseller is our favourite on sale right now!
- Tea (natch) and other drinks including hot chocolate, coffee or even fizz, if it’s a special occasion.
- Cutlery: You’ll need everything from a cake knife to teaspoons for spooning on the clotted cream.
- Napkins and doilies: Napkins for mess and doilies for decoration.
- Cake stand: Cake stands are a great way of showing off your bakes and making them look extra fancy. A large serving plate or even a chopping board would work just as well if you don’t have cake stands. This adorable floral Emma Bridgewater option is a must-buy.
- Flowers: Make your spread look fresh and vibrant by adding pretty flowers to the mix.
- Menu: You could push the boat out and make your own afternoon tea menu to give an extra sense of occasion.
Afternoon tea wouldn’t be afternoon tea without freshly baked scones. These sweet, buttery buns are so simple to make at home. Don’t forget the clotted cream and jam – they just won’t be the same without them! You could even go all out and make your own jam too.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Scones will look impressive perched on a tiered cake stand. Or you could go for the more rustic approach and serve them in a basket. Little pots for the cream and jam and some teaspoons will make your table look fancy.
Classic scone recipes:
- Get the recipe: Fruit scones (pictured)
- Get the recipe: Gluten-free scones
- More of our favourite scone recipes
Simple macaroons are made with egg whites and ground almonds to make
them as light as air. Experiment with colours, flavours and fillings
How to serve for afternoon tea: Macaroons are delicate little things so handle with care so they don't get crushed.
Get the recipe: Strawberry macaroons
More macaroon recipes to try:
Victoria sponge cake makes the perfect centrepiece, sandwiched together with fresh cream and jam.
How to serve for afternoon tea: A large glass cake stand sitting in the middle of your table would do this cake justice. Serve with a cake knife, small forks and napkins, for those messy eaters.
Get the recipe: Classic Victoria sponge
More Victoria sponge recipes to try:
Carrot cake has a thick, cream cheese frosting and a lightly spiced
sponge. Make in advance as it keeps well in a cake tin or wrapped in tin
foil and add the frosting just before serving.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Cut into slices or squares and place onto a tiered cake stand with a variety of other mini bakes.
Get the recipe: Classic carrot cake
More carrot cake recipes to try:
No afternoon tea party is complete without a tea loaf cake spread
with a generous layer of butter. Get experimental and use use whatever tea you prefer.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Don't forget to put butter into a dish and pop it on the table so everyone can help themselves.
More loaf recipes to try:
A luxurious chocolate sponge recipe will make you a popular afternoon tea host.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Serve the cake whole for maximum impact. Why not experiment with cake decoration and top with Maltesers or chocolate fingers?
More chocolate cake recipes to try:
Mary Berry's lemon drizzle cake is light and airy with a zesty flavour.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Cut your lemon drizzle into slices and pop onto a tiered cake stand or large plate so that everyone can serve themselves. There won't be any left.
More lemon drizzle recipes to try:
Pick a banana cake recipe or a banana bread recipe as a great way to use up ripe bananas.
How to serve for afternoon tea:
Slice your banana bread or cake into pieces and serve on a tiered cake
stand. You could also pop them into cupcake cases to make them look
More banana cake recipes to try:
A simple bundt cake with really delightful and delicate icing is the perfect treat to go with your afternoon tea. Experiment with flavour combinations and use edible flowers to decorate it if you can.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Bundt cakes make a wonderful centrepiece so place on a cake stand and let people serve themselves.
More bundt cake recipes to try:
Get the recipe: Treacle bundt cake with limoncello drizzle
Chocolate éclairs have a soft, light pastry with a rich chocolate topping and creamy filling.
How to serve for afternoon tea: You could play around with the sizes of your éclairs and make little bite-sized ones so they're easier to eat.
More éclair recipes to try:
Get the recipe: Double chocolate éclairs
Battenburg cake is very impressive, so it's worth the effort. The marzipan outer layer will keep the cake fresh for a few days so you can make it in advance.
How to serve for afternoon tea: The best way to serve this sweet treat is by slicing it to reveal its pattern. Place individual slices on little plates or beside your cup of tea on saucers ready for your guests.
More Battenburg cake recipes to try:
Tea and biscuits go hand in hand, that's why we think a shortbread recipe should be top of the list. Sprinkle with sugar and watch them disappear off the plate in seconds.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Layer the in a tin lined with white baking paper, so you can keep them fresh throughout the afternoon.
More shortbread recipes to try:
Chocolate chip cookies are a great option for kids, as you can make them as big or small as you like.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Pile cookies high in a tin or kilner jar, or go one step further and turn your cookies into little presents by stacking three and tying them with a ribbon to take away.
More cookie recipes to try:
Flapjacks are so quick and easy to make. To make basic flapjacks, all you need is oats, golden syrup, butter and sugar and once you've got the gist, you can experiment by adding apple and cinnamon or dried fruits.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Cut your flapjack traybake into little squares to make bite-sized pieces.
More flapjack recipes to try:
Danish pastries make buttery, sweet treats that flake in your mouth and melt on the tongue. Once you've got the hang of our basic step-by-step recipe, you can experiment with different flavours and fillings too.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Make your pastries the centre of attention by placing them on a board or large serving plate, but don't layer them as they are sticky and can get stuck together.
More Danish pastry recipes to try:
Fruit cake is a fixture on afternoon tea menus and can be adapted to suit different tastes.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Fruit cake can be cut into mini bites or fingers, perfect for picking up.
More fruit cake recipes to try:
Whoopie pies are made with a soft, cookie-like dough and have been popular in America.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Experiment with different fillings and ask your guests to guess the flavours.
More whoopie pie recipes to try:
Muffin recipes to bake at home, including raspberry and white chocolate muffins. Or experiment with a savoury muffin option, alongside sandwiches.
How to serve for afternoon tea: How cute would a basket of muffins look in the centre of the table?
More muffin recipes to try:
Biscotti, meaning biscuits in Italian, are perfect for dunking into tea once, twice or even three times without breaking into your cup. These brittle biscuits have a rich almond flavour and soften easily when dunked.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Serve biscotti with tea or coffee for dipping.
More Biscotti recipes to try:
Bun recipes for everyone, including retro iced buns, hot cross buns and Chelsea buns.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Iced buns look their best topped with different colours and lined up for guests to help themselves.
Get the recipe: Iced buns
Tart recipes are easy to make, such as classic Bakewell tarts, custard tarts or mini raspberry and frangipane slices.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Don't forget a jug of cream, homemade custard or fruit as an accompaniment.
Get the recipe: Cherry Bakewells
More tart recipes to try:
- Get the recipe: Custard tarts
- Get the recipe: Mini raspberry and frangipane tarts
- Get the recipe: Plum custard slice
Where to next?
Gooey and rich, brownies are easy crowdpleasers - especially served warm.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Just before your brownie traybake begins to cool, cut your brownies into squares or bite-sized pieces.
More brownie recipes to try:
Florentines are made with almonds and often covered in chocolate.
How to serve for afternoon tea:
Pile florentines high in a basket or tin lined with white baking paper.
You go one step further and turn your florentines into little presents
and pop them in a gift box for each guest.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Cut your sandwiches into elegant, rectangular or triangle-shaped slices, garnished with fresh herbs.
Classic afternoon tea sandwich recipes:
Lamingtons are bite-sized pieces of cake covered in chocolate and coconut. They are so simple to make that the kids can help you make them.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Line your Lamingtons on a board to show off their uniformity.
Cupcakes mean individual cakes for your guests. Try cupcake recipes with fondant figures or swirls of piped buttercream.
How to serve for afternoon tea: A tiered cupcake holder or cake stand will help you create a tower of cupcake.
More cupcake recipes to try:
Fairy cakes are easy to make and make a retro treat popular with kids and grown ups.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Fairy cakes are so easy to personalise with individual decorations or perhaps an initial for each guest.
More fairy cake recipes to try:
Cheesecake recipes can either make one centrepiece or individual pots, with a buttery biscuit base, creamy centre and topping of your choice.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Serve individual cheesecakes in shot glasses or espresso cups.
More cheesecake recipes to try:
A cake is surprisingly easy to make and can be topped with a variety of toppings including buttercream, walnuts and
How to serve for afternoon tea: Cake always goes well with a cup of tea, or why not try serving with hot chocolate for a change?
Get the recipe: Candice Brown's rainbow cake
More rainbow cake recipes to try:
Our classic Chelsea buns recipe is so simple to make at home. They’re a bit fiddly but well worth the effort. These currant-filled Chelsea buns make a lovely tea-time treat so perfect for an afternoon tea!
How to serve for afternoon tea: Drizzle with some delicious royal icing and then stack on a round cake tower so they can be admired from all angles!
More chelsea bun recipes to try:
This recipe takes one night to set so could be your afternoon tea time treat tomorrow if you get cracking with it! These lovely squares are exactly that - a comforting sweet treat, delicious bite sized treats so perfect for an afternoon tea.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Serve in a dish or better yet a tall glass jar so your guests can see all the beautiful colours on display.
More Turkish delight recipes to try: