How to Master the Art of British Scones for a Cream Tea?

The United Kingdom is known for its rich cultural traditions, one of which is the delightful cream tea. At the heart of this tradition are scones, a type of bread baked from wheat, or oatmeal and baking powder. This article will guide you through the process of making traditional British scones, to help you perfect that cream tea you’ve been craving.

The Significance of Scones in British Culture

Scones are a quintessential part of British culture, but their importance goes beyond being a delicious snack. They are traditionally served as part of an afternoon cream tea, a meal consisting of tea accompanied by scones, clotted cream and jam.

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The recipe requires simple ingredients like flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, egg and milk. The process may seem easy, but making a perfectly light and fluffy scone requires a bit of skill. Once you master it, however, you will be able to enjoy the delightful experience of a British cream tea anytime you want.

The Perfect Scone Recipe

For a perfect scone recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

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  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 5 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup of butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup of milk

First, mix the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder and salt – in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and use your fingers to work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. In another bowl, combine the beaten egg and milk, then add to the flour mixture. Stir until the dough just comes together.

Lightly flour a flat surface, then turn out the dough and knead it briefly until smooth. Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1 inch, then use a round cutter to cut out the scones.

Transfer the scones onto a baking sheet and bake them in a preheated oven at 220°C (425°F) for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

The Role of Clotted Cream and Jam in a Cream Tea

While the scones are an essential component of the cream tea, equally important are the clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream, a thick cream made by heating unpasteurized cow’s milk and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly, has a rich, buttery flavor that pairs perfectly with the light, fluffy scones. Typically, strawberry jam is used, but you can also experiment with other types of jam.

When it comes to serving, the scones are traditionally split open, then spread first with clotted cream and then with jam. However, there is a long-standing debate over whether the cream or the jam should be applied first. In Cornwall, it’s customary to spread the jam first, followed by the cream, while in Devon, the cream goes first, then the jam.

The Art of Tea Brewing

No British cream tea would be complete without a pot of freshly brewed tea. The type of tea served with cream tea varies by region and personal preference, but the most common options are Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and English Breakfast.

When brewing the tea, make sure to use freshly boiled water and let it steep for the right amount of time – generally, 2-3 minutes for green and white teas, and 4-5 minutes for black and oolong teas. Don’t forget to heat the teapot beforehand by swishing around a bit of boiling water. This helps to maintain the temperature of the water when you add the tea and the rest of the water.

Once the tea is ready, pour it into cups and serve it alongside the scones, clotted cream, and jam. Now, it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy your homemade British cream tea.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Scones

Even with the right recipe and ingredients, you might find that your scones aren’t quite as light and fluffy as you would like. Here are some tips to help you perfect your scones:

  • Make sure your butter is cold. This helps to create pockets of steam in the dough as it bakes, leading to a lighter texture.
  • Don’t overwork the dough. Overworking can develop gluten, which leads to tougher scones.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones gradually.
  • Use a sharp cutter to cut out your scones.
  • Place the scones close together on the baking sheet. This will help them to rise evenly and maintain their shape.

Mastering the art of baking scones and serving a traditional British cream tea may take some time, but it’s definitely worth the effort. With practice, you’ll be able to whip up a batch of delicious scones in no time, ready to be enjoyed with a pot of freshly brewed tea, some clotted cream, and your favorite jam.

Variations to the Traditional Scone Recipe

While the traditional British scone is a simple, delicious treat, there are many variations to the recipe that you can try once you’ve mastered the basic version. These variations often include additional ingredients added to the scone dough, giving the finished scone a different flavor or texture.

One popular variation is the fruit scone, which includes dried fruit such as currants, sultanas or cranberries in the scone dough. Other delicious additions can be grated cheese and herbs, making a savory scone that’s perfect for an afternoon snack.

Another variation is the drop scone, also known as a Scotch pancake. These are much smaller and rounder than traditional scones, and the dough is much wetter, making it easy to drop onto the baking sheet from a spoon.

You can also experiment with different types of flour for a change in flavor and texture. Wholemeal flour gives a nuttier, more wholesome flavor, while oat flour provides a slightly sweet, crumbly texture.

Another customization option is the clotted cream and jam. While strawberry jam is the traditional choice, you can switch it up with raspberry, blackcurrant, or even marmalade. As for the clotted cream, while it’s hard to beat the traditional version, you can also try mascarpone or crème fraîche for a change.

Whether you decide to stick to the traditional recipe or try out a new variation, remember that the key to a great scone is practice and patience.


Mastering the art of baking traditional British scones for a cream tea is a rewarding process that allows you to partake in a beloved British tradition and enjoy a delectable treat at the same time. From gathering the simple ingredients, carefully crafting the scone dough, and learning the perfect brewing technique for a pot of tea, you’ll find that every step is worth the effort when you finally sit down to enjoy your homemade cream tea.

Whether you prefer your scones plain, with added fruits, or served with an alternative to clotted cream and strawberry jam, there’s no right or wrong way to enjoy this classic British treat. What’s most important is that you enjoy the process and the end result – a delicious, home-baked scone that’s light, fluffy and utterly satisfying.

Keep in mind the tips and tricks, remember to avoid overworking your scone dough, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different variations once you’ve mastered the basics. Happy baking, and enjoy your cream tea!

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