A couple of weeks ago, I hosted an all vegan afternoon tea party, mostly to celebrate my birthday (I love afternoon tea *a lot*) but partly to show my non-vegan friends just what can be done without eggs, milk, and other animal products. Let’s be honest, you don’t go to afternoon tea for the tea, do you, really? I mean don’t get me wrong, tea is great and there are loads of sweet, subtle, or floral flavours to suit any pallet, but the food? The finger sandwiches, the scones with cream and jam, the extravagant desserts, and most importantly the copious amounts of cake? Now we’re talking! So that’s exactly what I prepared. I wanted to prove to myself that I could continue the liberating vibe of making *exactly* what I wanted just the way I wanted it with just a little more thought and a lot more love to make sure it was all cruelty-free. Now, I’m gonna let you in on a secret. The extra thought required does not mean that it has to be hard to make. All of the ingredients I used were purchased from a mainstream UK supermarket on a budget, and like most people, I have a busy job, so the majority of the prep and baking was done the night before, or the morning of the party. I’m going to share with you every recipe I used, along with tips for efficient baking so that you could host your very own vegan afternoon tea tomorrow, if you wanted!
So, what’s on the menu, and what will you need to get hold of? Once again, I promise that there are no weird ingredients (well nothing that can’t be sourced really easily), and there won’t be any fancy equipment hidden in the recipe instructions to catch you unawares whilst you’re elbow deep in scone dough (other than an electric hand whisk to make certain things a little easier. Spoiler alert, I made meringue).
Okay, I’ll confess, I didn’t make the sausage rolls. I bought the amazingly delicious Linda McCartney vegan sausage rolls from Morrisons, cooked them, and chopped them into smaller pieces for everybody to share. I wanted everyone to taste some of the amazing meat alternatives there are out there today, and to appreciate how easy they are to get hold of! If you want to make your own sausage rolls, there’s a great recipe on hot for food. A keen eye may also notice that Linda McCartney will feature again in the hoisin ‘duck’ tartlet recipe, but when that’s the *best* meat alternative out there, how could I resist using it in some way for all of my non-vegan friends to try?! *Nb. This is not a sponsored post! I’m simply just trying to demonstrate how easy it is to whip up delicious treats using ingredients you can find in most supermarkets.* Okay then, in what follows, you’ll find a recipe for the duck tartlets, vegan scones and clotted cream, lemon meringue cupcakes, jam cupcakes, and my suggestions for finger sandwiches. You’ll need to make sure you have plenty of flour, baking powder, sugar, dairy-free milk, and vanilla essence, as these are the basic main ingredients. More details to follow in the recipes below. I’ll work through the menu in order, though this isn’t necessarily the order I made them in on the day. In each case I’ll point out where I made things in tandem, or alternatively, where I split recipes to maximise freshness.
The following recipes are only intended to be a guide for afternoon tea inspiration, so do feel free to play around with flavours and different combinations of items for your own afternoon tea. I’d love to hear what you come up with! Alternatively, if you follow it to the letter, let me know how you get on!
Hoisin ‘Duck’ and Spring Onion Tartlets
makes 8 tartlets
*1 sheet ready-roll puff pastry (most supermarket own brands are vegan, as well as Jus Rol, alternatively you could make your own)
*1 bag Linda McCartney vegan hoisin ‘duck’ (again, this is now available in most supermarkets, including Morrisons, Sainsburys, and Tesco)
*8 tsp hoisin sauce
*3 chopped spring onions and a little shredded cucumber for garnish
- Unroll the puff pastry onto a baking sheet, and using a small cookie cutter (or the rim of a highball glass if you don’t have one) cut out 8 circular bases from the pastry.
- Cook the pastry as per the instructions, usually for around 12-15 mins at a medium heat.
- Whilst the pastry is baking, prepare the duck as per the instructions on the bag (fry in a little oil for 4 mins before adding some water and cooking for a further 4 mins). N.b. You only need around 1/4 of the bag for these tarts, though if you cook it all, leftovers make pretty good finger sandwiches!
- Finely chop the spring onions, and grate (or peel) a small amount of cucumber (enough for one or two ribbons per tartlet).
- Take the pastry bases from the oven and cool for a few minutes.
- Add a tsp of hoisin sauce to each pastry base.
- Spoon a little duck onto each tartlet (about a tablespoon).
- Top with your spring onion and cucumber garnish.
These tartlets are seriously amazing and so very simple to make. They were a particular hit with everyone, and are a great savoury addition to sandwiches at an afternoon tea. They look fancy, but aren’t difficult to assemble, and those who have tried the ‘duck’ before know how uncannily realistic it is. Perfect for meat eaters that think we only ever eat strange seeds and grass…
I made these on the morning of the afternoon tea, as I suspect they won’t keep particularly well overnight. Luckily they only take about 20 minutes to make, leaving me time to sort out other things, like the finger sandwiches.
A selection of finger sandwiches
I won’t patronise you with recipes for these, because I imagine you all know how to make a sandwich. What I will give you, though, is a suggestion for fillings. Again, as I was catering for non-vegans, I wanted to take a slight risk and show them all of those alternatives that they would imagine to be horrific, but that we obviously know to be delicious. So I prepared three different sandwich choices: cheese and cucumber, hoisin duck (obviously left over from the tartlets), and chickpea smash. As I was using the aquafaba from the chickpea can for meringue, I thought it was best to use the chickpeas somehow, and chickpea smash is a great filling! Simply mash the chickpeas, add a little vegan mayo, spring onions, sweet chilli sauce if you want, and voila. Sandwiches fit for the Queen. They all went down a treat, especially the duck! (Shocker).
I’ve already mentioned how to cheat with Linda Mac sausage rolls, so we’ll move on to the thing I know you all came to this post for… Scones with clotted cream.
I love scones. I love fruit ones, I love cheese ones, I love buttery ones. And I missed them when I went vegan. If I’d have known how so very easy they are to make, I’d have done it a lot sooner. I’ll definitely be making them again. And again. And again and again and again. I’ll set out the two recipes separately to avoid confusion with the ingredients. Just so you guys know, I made the scones the day before the party because they take a little while but keep very well, and made the clotted cream on the morning of the afternoon tea, because its perishable, though will keep in the fridge for 24 hours if covered.
Vegan all-‘butter’ scones
Makes about 10 scones, depending on the size you cut them into
*75g vegan butter (I used Vitalite)
*70g caster sugar (though granulated would also work if that’s what you’ve got at home)
*475g self-raising flour (alternatively, use plain flour and 2tsp of baking powder)
*240ml almond milk (or any plant-based milk)
*A pinch of salt
*Optional: a handful of dried fruit (mine are plain, but there’s no reason why you can’t add fruit! If you want cheese scones, too, then add a little vegan grated cheese to the mix to taste!)
- Preheat the oven to 200F and prepare your baking tray (either grease with butter or line with baking paper).
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt (and baking powder if using plain flour).
- Add the vegan butter in a tbsp at a time and use your fingers to rub it into the flour. You’re aiming for a crumbly sand-like mixture.
- Once you’ve incorporated all of the butter, add the milk in slowly, and mix until it forms a soft dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface. (It will probably be quite wet, and so the more flour you can work into it at this stage, the better). If you’re using dried fruit (or even cheese for savoury scones) then add it to the mix at this stage.
- Kneed the dough briefly to incorporate any extra ingredients, and so that it firms up slightly with added flour.
- Flatten the dough until it is about 3/4 of an inch thick (you don’t need to roll it out, you can do this with your hands) and cut out the scones using a small cookie cutter or the rim of a glass. (If your dough is still too wet, it would work to simply spoon about 2tbsp of the dough onto the tray per scone, they’ll just come out looking a little rustic).
- Brush the scones with a small amount of almond milk and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. (Keep an eye on them, because otherwise they’ll turn into rock cakes! You want them to still be a little soft).
They were so very moreish but most importantly, tasted exactly the same as scones I’d had throughout my non-vegan upbringing. I mean, why wouldn’t they? It’s just butter and milk that’s been substituted, and we all know that plant-based is better! These really are best served with cream, strawberries, and jam (though obviously not if you’ve made savoury cheese ones)… The clotted cream recipe is much quicker and easier to make if you’ve got an electric hand whisk, though it’s not essential. You’ll just need a little more patience is all. It’s beautifully light and creamy, with a subtle hint of coconut. If you don’t like coconut, don’t let that put you off because it’s not noticeable at all once there’s jam and scone in the mix as well. This takes about 10 minutes to whip up (slightly less with an electric whisk, and slightly more by hand).
Vegan clotted cream
*50g vegan butter (again I used vitalite)
*75g icing sugar
*4-6tbsp coconut cream (or the solid fat from the top of a can of coconut milk)
- Mix together the vegan butter and icing sugar to make a buttercream. Use an electric whisk if you have one, but if not, a fork and some arm-power will do just fine.
- Keep whisking, and add the coconut cream a tbsp at a time. Once you’ve added all of the coconut cream, it should resemble a light fluffy cream. The more coconut cream you add, the less sweet it will be, but the more coconutty (goes without saying!).
- Enjoy on the yummy scones you’ve just made! Keep in the fridge if possible.
As if that’s not enough, the following cupcake recipes were used in my afternoon tea as an alternative to the extravagantly constructed desserts that you often get at afternoon teas in expensive hotels. They went down very well, though. As with the sandwiches, the flavours and decorations below are just suggestions. I will give you the full lemon meringue cupcake recipe because it’s just a winner all round (I mean, vegan meringue!) and I’ll leave the rest up to you to experiment with other flavours. It’s worth noting that you do have to be *very* patient when making the meringue, and you really do need an electric whisk for this, or it would take hours to whisk and form stiff peaks. The meringues in total took about 2.5 hours to make, but the cupcakes are as quick as anything, so it’s worth preparing well ahead of time, especially as the meringue has to be cooked on a low heat. This basically means your oven is out of action for a few hours because you can’t cook anything else at the same time. I made them last thing the night before, after I’d baked my scones and cakes, and then decorated the cakes the next day. I’ll give you the recipe for the meringue cookies first, because they’re almost a showstopper in themselves! You could even use the meringue to make anything you like (such as vegan eton mess with left over strawberries and cream!) or serve them separately as ‘cookies’.
Vegan meringue cookies
Makes around 20 small ‘cookies’
*The liquid from 1 can of unsalted chickpeas (aquafaba). Should be about 1/2 cup of liquid, but don’t worry if it’s less. It absolutely must be unsalted or the meringue will be pretty grim…
*1/4tsp cream of tartar (I promise you can find this in the baking isle of any supermarket, next to the baking powder. It’s a white powder that increases the volume of bakes, and makes them more fluffy. Alternatively, you could omit this.
*1/2 cup white sugar
*1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 100C/200F/Gas Mark 1-2
- Drain the liquid from a can of chickpeas into a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract and cream of tartar.
- Start beating on high and slowly pour in the sugar as you whisk. You may need to stop every now and then to reincorporate anything that’s caught up the sides of the bowl.
- Once you’ve added all of the sugar, continue to beat, stopping every so often to check the consistency of your meringue. You’re looking for stiff peaks, so that the meringue stands up on its own when you take out the whisk. It took about 10 minutes of beating after I’d added all of the sugar to get to this point, though it depends on the speed of your whisk/mixer, and will obviously take much longer if whisking by hand.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and pipe (or spoon) a small amount of mixture to make little meringue cookies (as in the picture above). The amount of cookies you make will depend on the size.
- Bake for 1.5-2 hours. It’s hard to tell when they’re ‘done’. If you want your meringues crunchy, bake for longer, if you want them chewy, bake for less. I baked for 1.5 hours exactly and they were somewhere in-between.
I then used these meringue cookies to top my lemon cupcakes, and a few days later, used leftover cream, meringue, and strawberries to make an eton mess. The meringue tastes absolutely no different to egg-based meringue, and the process of making it is also no different. Whoever discovered aquafaba deserves a knighthood!
The final recipe I’ll give you in this bumper afternoon tea recipe post is a plain vanilla cupcake mix. I’ll explain how I decorated them as well as the little extras I added, but if you wanted to make any variation on the cake for your afternoon tea, you’d be very welcome to experiment with this base recipe! Again, these cakes are so easy to make, and a winner with vegans and non-vegans alike.
Vegan vanilla cupcakes
*3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any dairy free milk. I prefer almond because it’s lighter).
*1 and 1/4 cups flour
*1 tsp baking powder
*3/4 cup sugar (granulated or caster)
*2 1/2tsp vanilla extract
*2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
*1/3 cup canola oil (or any oil with a mild flavour, vegetable would work fine)
For my lemon meringue cupcakes I also spooned a tsp of silver shred (lemon jam) into each cake (6 of these cakes) and for the rainbow jam cakes, I spooned a tsp of mixed fruit jam into each.
Optional: butter icing to decorate (most Betty Crocker icings are actually vegan. I used the cream cheese frosting for my rainbow jam cupcakes. be sure to double check the ingredients on other flavours, though).
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake cases.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt)
- In another bowl, add the milk and apple cider vinegar and leave to curdle for 2 mins.
- Add the vanilla extract and canola oil to this, and then mix into the dry ingredients until a cake batter forms.
- Add a tbsp of cake mix to each cake case, and then add a tsp of lemon jam to 6 cakes and a tsp of mixed fruit jam to the other six.
- Divide the remaining cake mix between the 12 cakes. Aim to fill the cases 3/4 full.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until the tops are lightly golden. Leave to cool before decorating.To decorate the lemon meringue cupcakes, add a small amount of frosting to the top of each cake, and place a meringue cookie (see previous recipe) on top. Dust with edible glitter. (I found vegan edible glitter in poundland!)
To decorate the rainbow cupcakes, pipe frosting on the top, add half a party ring if desired (yes these are vegan!) and some sprinkles (be sure to check the ingredients, as many sprinkles use beeswax as a glazing agent. There are some, mostly unglazed, sprinkles available in UK supermarkets.) Dust with edible glitter.
Feel free to play around with cupcake flavours and decorations at your own afternoon tea! These were just what I felt like making on the day, though I have to say, the lemon meringue cupcakes were a particular success.
Overall, every non-vegan went away having tried something plant-based that they’d not tried before, and I think they were all pleasantly surprised at how tasty and satisfying it all was! Put together, it was a reasonable amount of work, but not impossible (I’m not even close to a professional baker or cook by any standard) so it just goes to show what really can be done with a little determination, creativity, and a lot of cruelty-free love!