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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to host your own afternoon tea

Afternoon tea.

We'd been meaning to host a girly afternoon tea at my place for some time now, an excuse to cook up all sorts of delicious morsels, and the chance to showcase the gorgeous tea cups I currently have on 'long-term loan' from a friend. I've been collecting all kinds of old-fashioned tiered stands and accoutrements from op-shops over the years as well. It's amazing what you can find in your local op-shop, especially ones in country towns.

It was a celebration of the Speedster's birthday, as well as a general toast to the joys of sisterhood. The comprehensive spread was a combined cooking effort, although the bulk of our afternoon fare was primarily made by the kitchen whirlwind Veruca Salt.

The final spread was indeed quite a sight, and really, if every person brought or baked one dish, an afternoon tea is not the herculean effort it would seem. Petite portion sizes make any dish look elegant and add a few fancy tea cups, a tiered stand and a tablecloth and you, too, can enjoy a decadent afternoon tea on par with many hotel offerings for next to nix.

Twelve gorgeous ladies sipped and supped their way through a very pleasant afternoon. I suggest you get together with your own little circle of friends and host your very own too.

Crustless sandwiches: roast chicken, lettuce and mayonnaise;
hot smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber;
curried egg and cress; cucumber and cream cheese;
leg ham, tomato and relish
Joint effort

Savoury pastries

Red wine beef and mushroom pies
by Veruca Salt

Chicken and corn sausage rolls
by Pocahontas

(Petit four foldable clam shell stand from op shop)

Lemon coconut cake
by Dorothea

Apple cake
by Dorothea

Trifle cups with Peppermint Crisp and Cherry Ripe toppings
by Pocahontas

Vanilla cupcakes, lemon coconut cupcakes and mini red velvet cakes
by me
(Tiered stand found at op-shop for $20)

Lemon tarts and chocolate mud cake
by Veruca Salt

Coconut macaroons
by Nanny J

Lemon yoghurt cakes
by Veruca Salt

by Divemummy

Scones with strawberry jam and double cream

(Tea display box found at an op-shop for $10)

Tea cups
(Not from the op-shop although I have seen quite a few for sale lately)

Passionfruit melting moments and lamingtons
by Veruca Salt and I respectively

Related GrabYourFork posts:
High tea at the Swissotel Crossroads Bar (Jan09), (Nov06) , (Jun06) and (Oct05)
High tea at the Observatory Hotel, Globe Bar
High tea at the Sofitel Wentworth (Sep08) and (Dec06)
High tea at the Victoria Room, Darlinghurst
42 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/18/2009 01:16:00 am


  • At 3/18/2009 1:35 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    So pretty and elegant! I would love to try the Lemon yoghurt cakes :)

  • At 3/18/2009 1:37 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    How delightful! I LOVE passionfruit melting moments - very Australian and those look divine

  • At 3/18/2009 1:44 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    For once, instead of being green with envy, I had the great enjoyment and satisfaction of participating in a delightful GYF gastronomic event.

    It was very civilised indeed.

    Despite my self-perceived self-restraint I wasn't able to manage a light supper until well after 9pm that night.

    Thanks so much for the invite.

    I'm ready to bake scones for a repeat event any time ; )

  • At 3/18/2009 4:56 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Oh what gorgeous tea sets and that cake tier stand is adorable! Looks like a wonderful day and all that food looks mouthwatering.

    Good thing that everybody contributed otherwise one would be easily frazzled at baking all those individual morsels!

  • At 3/18/2009 8:06 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Tea has got to be my favorite meal. And, in your tea, the most wonderful dish has got to be your Lemon coconut cake.

    Lemon + coconut is just a slice of heaven, isn't it?


  • At 3/18/2009 8:39 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have the great misfortune (or fortune) that my friends are eaters rather than bakers. They're happy to help me consume the results of my baking compulsion, but are not so keen to join in.

    However I will now begin scouring op-shops looking for clam-shell and tiered cake holders. I am so jealous!

  • At 3/18/2009 8:46 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a gorgeous spread! And such pretty teacups :) For high tea fans, the T2 Teahouse at the Macquarie Shopping Center is fantastic and only a steal for $30 for two! My boyfriend and I went the other day and loved it, especially the Morrocan/Asian inspired decor

    (Thanks Helen, for writing such an enjoyable blog, I've been reading it for a while now but never posted :)

  • At 3/18/2009 8:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    your crockery & serving plates are so gorgeous! love the floral pattern on your long-term-loan :)

    one of my girlfriends is having an afternoon tea for her birthday... i'm definitely going to be stealing some of your ideas for it!

  • At 3/18/2009 9:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wow well done. The spread of food here gives the 'real' High Tea places a run for their money considering how much they charge. Very impressive!

  • At 3/18/2009 9:23 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm always impressed with what an op-shop enthusiast can turn up. You've got some lovely finds here.

  • At 3/18/2009 9:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hello Helen,

    May I know what time of the afternoon is best suited for this, and for how long?

    Also, how did you divide amongst the 12 of you what to bring - ie. savoury or sweets - and such that there are no doubles (i.e 2 ppl bringing the same thing)? Did you tell them what exact dish to bring?

    Ooooh, love to hear your answers so i can do the same for the coming up Biggest Morning (or arvo) tea!

  • At 3/18/2009 10:13 am, Blogger Marthe said…

    Wow, this is absolutely amazing!! Everything looks sooo good

  • At 3/18/2009 12:53 pm, Blogger Tina said…

    What a fab fun idea! High tea at home!
    Just a shame that none of my girls are the cooking/baking type :(
    Love your cupcakes - gorgeous.

  • At 3/18/2009 3:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Consider me awestruck.

  • At 3/18/2009 4:13 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i think I fit into this kind of tea party perfectly, dont you think? LOL

  • At 3/18/2009 4:18 pm, Blogger einna said…

    scrumptious! I can't believe this was done at your place! Looks very professional.

    Yeah I dont think I could organize one that looks this pretty :)

  • At 3/18/2009 5:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for having us over Augustus!
    I wanted to take a nap on your couch after eating all them delicious sweets =P

  • At 3/18/2009 7:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I adore afternoon teas. There's something so lovely about pausing in the afternoon for sweets and a cup of tea. Is that a Pickwick's tea box? They have great Earl Grey tea!

  • At 3/18/2009 8:02 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We are having our own afternoon tea in a couple of weeks except I will probably use paper cups & substitute the tea for pink milk as the guests are 12 four year old girls! You have inspired me on the cake front though - thanks :)

  • At 3/18/2009 8:05 pm, Blogger K said…

    Absolutely gorgeous!
    So... does this make this particular group the "Dames a dozen"? I think they can give "Stomachs 11" a run for their money. ;)

  • At 3/18/2009 9:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Though I'm not a tea party kind person but I can still appreciate the spread. Looks superb!

    One thing I noticed was the double saucers for the teacups. Is there a reason for that?

  • At 3/18/2009 9:13 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Stunning photos, afternoon tea has to be the most civilised meal of the day!

  • At 3/18/2009 9:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Woooww great spread!! Everything looks so delectable and scrumptious!

    Haha I think Billy and I fit into the gorgeous ladies category XD

  • At 3/18/2009 10:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know? We've been *out* to tea for a few girlfriend's birthdays... but we've never thought to try it at home! What a fabulous thought!

  • At 3/18/2009 10:50 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Joyce - The lemon yoghurt cakes were yum. I've got a Matthew Evans recipe which I should post up sometime :)

    Hi Gourmet Chick - Delightful indeed :) And yes, melting moments are one of those curious Australian delights. I'm quite partial to lemony ones too.

    Hi divemummy - Glad you enjoyed yourself. And your Queen of the Scones mantle remains firmly intact :)

    Hi Karen - Many hands make light work, and many mouths make a light table :)

    Hi cookingschoolconfidential - The lemon coconut cake had a very zingy icing. I agree, lemon and coconut is a great combination of flavours.

    Hy SydneyGal - That's a shame your friends don't bake much. You could always tell them you accept patisserie purchases as entry fees too :) Happy op-shopping too! Hope you find lots of pre-loved treasures.

    Hi Leanne - Ooh a first commenter! My favourite kind! I hadn't heard of the high tea at T2 either, so thanks for the tip. Glad you and your bf enjoyed it. And hope you do keep commenting too :)

    Hi Shez - It's amazing how lovely tea cups do make your tea taste so much better :) And oh, glad to be of assistance for your friend's upcoming birthday afternoon tea. Happy feasting!

    Hi Howard - It did require a bit of organisation, but as you say, it's certainly a lot cheaper than eating out. I rarely see fancy tea cups at high teas either. Sharing homemade goodies is part of the fun as well.

    Hi Arwen - It's a bit worrying how excited I get at spotting a new op-shop! And apart from the reuse/recyle aspect, I do find that vintage products are often better made. Plus I love to think about the history and stories each item must have.

    Hi Jen - Like any home entertainment undertaking, there are no hard and fast rules. Whatever suits you best! Afternoon tea is usually held between 2pm and 4pm. We all communicated what dish we were bringing to one person so there was no chance of double-ups, but if there are, I don't think that's a big deal either.

    Hi Marthe - Thank you, and yes, it's amazing how presentation adds to the enticement factor!

    Hi Tina - As I mention above, I would just get them to buy sometime nice from a patisserie :) No reason why a high tea at home can't be a take-away effort either!

    Hi Aptronym - lol. It's just the fancy plates talking :)

    Hi billy - Oh yes, I can just picture you holding a cup of tea :)

    Hi Einna - Ahh you'd be surprised what you can create at home. I wouldn't rule it out straight away :)

    Hi Chibbiest Chan - Thanks for your company and glad you enjoyed it. I think we all need a lie down on the lounge afterwards!

    Hi Lorraine - Well spotted. That is a Pickwick's tea box. So glad I grabbed it, although I confess it tends to live in the cupboard most of the time!

    Hi MsGourmet - Oh an afternoon tea for 12yo's would be lovely. I love the idea of pink milk too. Hope they enjoy the tea party!

    Hi K - lol. Dames a dozen is a very clever and apt moniker!

    Hi Simon - Ah you have been scrutinising the photos! The bottom "saucer" was actually a matching cake plate. All very dignified indeed!

    Hi Moya - I think we should all partake in afternoon tea on a regular basis. So much fun and yes, desserts are the best part!

  • At 3/18/2009 11:55 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi FFichiban - lol! But do you bake as well?

    Hi K - Do have a go. It can be as elaborate or a simple as you please, and as always, sharing food you've made yourself is always half the fun.

  • At 3/19/2009 2:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Look great! I think I can fit into too, you know, with my cup holding pinky up along with Billy. Hahahaha (gaisha laugh)

  • At 3/19/2009 7:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for hosting. It was a great arvo.

    Divemummy's scones were so delicate and delicious and Nanny J's coconut macaroons were so good. Can't believe they were just condensed milk and coconut. Must make me a batch soon.

  • At 3/19/2009 8:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very elegant and such a lovely spread of food! Sounds like a fantastic afternoon tea.

  • At 3/19/2009 4:00 pm, Blogger Debzillah said…

    These photos are amazing, you are surrounded by and form part of such a talented and inspired group of people! :)

  • At 3/20/2009 12:39 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Veruca, I've yet to equal your kitchen capers anytime soon. You get A+ for cake quantity and effort.

    Thanks for the compliment on the scones - yeah makes me shudder at what the supermarket bakeries churn out and call scones.

    I'm sure my kids forbears would find it rather ironic my forte is scones!

  • At 3/20/2009 2:57 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - lol at geisha laugh! Do you promise to wear a kimono too?

    Hi Veruca Salt - Thanks for doing so much of the cooking, you really are a kitchen whizz. And yes, I definitely intend to whip up some macaroons. Such a great idea.

    Hi Anita - Thank you. It was an elegant afternoon indeed and a great way to spend the day with friends.

    Hi Debzillah - Yes I'm very lucky to have such good friends who happen to be good cooks as well. Coincedence or not? lol!

    Hi Divemummy - Scones are one of the hardest things to bake, I think, so kudos is definitely well-deserved!

  • At 3/20/2009 6:31 am, Blogger Suzie said…

    What a gorgeous selection - I think you are right, I need to get a few girlfriends over for a high tea. Such an inspiring selection.

  • At 3/20/2009 9:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    All that food is making me drool! I especially love the peppermint crisp & cherry ripe trifle cups. They would be perfect for the adults at my little boy's birthday party. So they don't try to steal the kids jelly cups. Any chance I could get the recipe?

  • At 3/20/2009 11:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Trifle with cherry ripe? Yes please!
    It all looks so pretty and posh :)

  • At 3/21/2009 8:02 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a wonderful spread u had! I am eying off those red wine and mushroom pies and cupcakes.

  • At 3/21/2009 3:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hirro agusto!
    Thanks for being the hostest with the mostest! OMG i have never had so much tea in one sitting, esp love the lychee/jasmine tea balls sooo pretty when infused! Your kitchen is a haven for every domestic goddess, so many goodies. Cant wait till our next high tea session.

  • At 3/21/2009 4:07 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Suzie - Oh yes any time is a good excuse for tea and cakes wth the girls! Have fun!

    Hi foodenvy - The trifle cups were just the usual layering of sponge cake, strawberry jam, jelly and custard. Alcohol optional :) Garnish with your preferred chocolate bar chopped up into slivers :)

    Hi Christie - It was a very inspired idea to put cherry ripe on the trifles, I thought. And it was a great afternoon. A little bit of girly indulgence never hurt anyone!

    Hi Maria T - I just finished off the last of the beef and mushrooms pies for lunch today. So very good, and yes, it was a great afternoon indeed. Perhaps you could convince your friends to do something similar!

    Hi Pocahontas - Thanks for your cooking efforts and yes, we must tweak the lychee jasmine ball dosage. Next high tea? Ha, I think Veruca needs a long nap first!

  • At 3/30/2009 5:56 pm, Anonymous Annie said…

    Hi Helen,

    I was wondering where abouts are the op-shops you mentioned above especially where you found the cake tier stand?

  • At 3/30/2009 10:44 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Annie - I found the cake tier stand at The Salvation Army Stall on the corner of Glebe Point Road and Broadway - there have been a few good finds here, but as with any charity store, it's often about visiting as often as possible in the hope of finding treasure before someone else does! Good luck.

  • At 4/06/2009 2:55 pm, Anonymous Kerry (Dorothea) said…

    Ahh Veruca, Finally worked out how to leave my message. Thanks for a lovely afternoon tea. Nanny J & I enjoyed the feast and company so much. I have made the lemon coconut cake again since and I managed to get some more compliments. Nanny J hopes you enjoy the crystal cheese plate (though I think it is a butter dish. Whatever, loved every minute with all the girls.PS.Why Dorothea?

  • At 4/07/2009 10:18 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kerry - Ahh welcome and thank you for your comment! The lemon coconut was lovely and thank Nanny J again for the cheese plate (I think you're right, it may very well be a butter dish but a fancy one at that!). And re: the name, it stems from G's nickname Pocahontas :)


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