We’ve got plenty of inspiring afternoon tea ideas for you to select from including cupcakes, classic scones, and sandwiches too.
Our afternoon tea ideas range from easy recipes for beginners to intricate bakes for those that have more time - from a lemon drizzle cake to cherry Bakewells, banana bread, and delicate strawberry macarons. “No afternoon tea is complete without homemade cakes and pastries, sandwiches and not forgetting classic scones,” says Deputy Food Editor, Rose Fooks (opens in new tab). “Indulging in afternoon tea is great for special occasions. Make everything the day before you plan on serving it so you can focus on decorating and laying the table with vintage crockery for example.“
Afternoon tea is a British tradition that dates back to the early 1840s. Traditional afternoon tea is composed of sandwiches (usually finger sandwiches) scones served with clotted cream and jam and a selection of sweet pastries and cakes to finish. All of which is served with a pot or two of tea. Our selection of afternoon tea recipes is ideal for parties, special occasions, or if you're looking to make your own afternoon tea hampers (opens in new tab) as a gift for family and friends.
Best afternoon tea ideas
Try dainty sandwich recipes for afternoon tea, including smoked salmon and coronation chicken fillings. Sandwiches are a great choice of savoury food to serve for afternoon tea. They’re cheap, quick, and easy to rustle up in bulk. By far one of our simplest afternoon tea ideas.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Cut your sandwiches into elegant, rectangular or triangle-shaped slices, garnished with fresh herbs.
Tarts are easy to make and make a great afternoon tea choice. Opt for classics such as 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.
Gooey and rich, brownies are an easy crowdpleaser - especially served warm with a generous spoonful of clotted cream. Make the day before so they're super rich in flavour and fudgy in texture too.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Just before your brownie traybake begins to cool, cut your brownies into squares or bite-sized pieces.
4. Whoopie pies
Whoopie pies are made with a soft, cookie-like dough and have been popular in America for many years now. They are perfect for afternoon tea as they can be eaten in just a couple of bites making them a great finger food option.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Experiment with different fillings and ask your guests to guess the flavours.
5. Lemon drizzle cake
A lemon drizzle cake makes the perfect option for afternoon tea as it’s light and airy with a zesty flavour. Pair with herbal tea to really enhance the flavour of the lemon.
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.
6. Fruit scones
No afternoon tea would be complete without scones. In our exclusive video, executive pastry chef at The Langham Hotel Andrew Gravett, shows you how to make the perfect fruit scones. (opens in new tab) “Make sure the butter is very cold, straight from the fridge”, says Andrew, who also advises working the mixture thoroughly to ensure a greater build-up of gluten for the traditional scone shape. “If we don’t work the scone enough, the texture and flavour will be nice but we won’t have such a straight-sided scone, it’ll be slightly fat on the bottom.”
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.
Florentines are made with almonds and often covered in chocolate. Our traditional recipe makes 16 which is ideal if you’re catering for a large number of people. These speedy sweet treats can be ready in just 20 minutes.
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.
8. Sausage rolls
Whether you opt to serve them in one or slice them into minis, sausage rolls are a great savoury option. They make a filling replacement for sandwiches. By far one of our simplest afternoon tea ideas.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Cut into bite-sized pieces and present alongside the sandwiches as another delicious savoury option.
Cupcakes mean individual cakes for your guests so everyone is guaranteed to have at least one cake and they’ll be no squabbles. Try cupcake recipes with fondant figures or swirls of piped buttercream to keep it simple, yet impressive.
How to serve for afternoon tea: A tiered cupcake holder or cake stand will help you create a tower of cupcake.
Basic cupcakes recipe (opens in new tab) Tea party cupcakes (opens in new tab) Low-fat cupcakes (opens in new tab) Apple crumble cupcakes (opens in new tab) Lavender and honey cupcakes (opens in new tab)
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.
11. Victoria Sponge
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.
Chocolate éclairs have a soft, light pastry with a rich chocolate topping and creamy filling. Traditionally served at afternoon tea, eclairs are a delicate pastry to enjoy after the sandwiches.
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.
13. Banana bread
Another delicious afternoon tea idea is a banana cake or bread. Pick a banana cake recipe or a banana bread recipe as a great way to use up ripe bananas. Add chopped walnuts, pecans or even chocolate chips to give your banana loaf even more flavour.
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 prettier.
14. Carrot cake
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. By far one of our simplest afternoon tea ideas.
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.
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?
16. Chelsea buns
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.
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.
18. Battenburg cake
Battenburg cake is a very impressive bake that is well 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.
Simple macaroons are made with egg whites and ground almonds to make them as light as air. Experiment with colours, flavours and fillings too.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Macaroons are delicate little things so handle them with care so they don't get crushed.
20. Cheese scones
Swap classic scones for cheese scones instead to make your afternoon tea spread more savoury less sweet. Our classic cheese scones take an average of 15 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Serve simply with butter or opt for filling such as cream cheese, smoked salmon, sliced cucumber, or shredded chicken.
21. Fairy cake
Fairy cakes are easy to make and make a retro treat popular with kids and grown-ups. They are smaller versions of cupcakes so are dainty enough to have as part of your afternoon tea spread.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Fairy cakes are so easy to personalise with individual decorations or perhaps an initial for each guest.
Chocolate chip cookies are a great option for kids, as you can make them as big or small as you like. They’re a handy afternoon tea idea as you can make them in advance too.
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.
One of our best afternoon tea ideas is flapjacks. 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.
24. Danish pastry
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.
25. Chocolate fudge cake
A luxurious chocolate sponge recipe will make you a popular afternoon tea host. Decorate with a variety of different chocolate treats depending on the theme of your afternoon tea. Keep it simple with a sweet chocolate ganache or opt for the showstopper with chocolate fingers, curls, and more.
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?
26. Iced bun
One of our best afternoon tea ideas; if you’re looking for an afternoon tea idea with a bit of flare, iced buns are a great shout. Bun recipes for everyone, including retro iced buns, hot cross buns and Chelsea buns. Perfect for both adults and kids.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Iced buns look their best topped with different colours and lined up for guests to help themselves.
Mousse is a quick and simple afternoon tea idea. It can be made in advance and is often a refreshing little pick me up amongst the heavy cakes and pastries in a classic afternoon tea spread.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Opt for small, dainty glasses to give your mousse a real fancy afternoon tea feel. Don’t forget a teaspoon.
28. Tea Loaf Cake
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.
Classic tea loaf (opens in new tab) Cherry and coconut loaf (opens in new tab) Date and apple loaf (opens in new tab) Hazelnut loaf (opens in new tab) Horlicks and prune loaf cake (opens in new tab) (pictured)
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. Ideal for making in bulk, especially if you're catering for a large group of people.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Line your Lamingtons on a board to show off their uniformity.
Get the recipe: Lamington (opens in new tab)
30. Bundt cake
One of our favourite afternoon tea ideas; 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.
31. Rose and lemon Turkish delight
These lovely Turkish delight 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.
If you’re looking for a savoury vegetarian option for afternoon tea falafel is a great choice. It takes just 5 minutes to prep and can be made the day before too.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Present your falafel on a bed of fresh salad leaves with a pot of hummus for dipping. You could also add toasted pitta bread fingers too.
33. Scotch eggs
One of our favourite afternoon tea ideas; Scotch eggs are a quick and easy savoury picnic snack that can be adapted to suit an afternoon tea spread. With our vegetarian version too - you can cater both meat and non-meat eaters in one.
How to serve for afternoon tea: Place in a fancy bowl or scatter amongst the sandwiches.
Things you will need to decorate your table for afternoon tea:
Recreating afternoon tea at home is simple and can often work out cheaper than going to a restaurant or cafe for afternoon tea in the UK (opens in new tab). Here are some top afternoon tea ideas tips:
A tea set: 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. Use matching napkins, or choose decorative paper plates to keep things simple.
Bunting: It's not just about your table settings, some floral bunting with brighten the room
Teapot: No afternoon tea is complete without a classic teapot. It makes for easy refills.
Drinks: Including tea, coffee, hot chocolate, 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.
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.