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How to make a Cornish Cream Tea – Let’s Cowgirl Up to Baking Scones

Cowgirls www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comI’m pretty sure a real cowgirl wouldn’t be seen dead baking scones and you can read about some of them here, including a few feisty historical ones, in this wonderful piece by fellow blogger LL. Thanks to her illuminating article I can now make free with the verb ‘to cowgirl up’, doesn’t it just slip off the tongue? It basically means that you saddle up to any job with gusto and purpose. Which is how I intend to approach the baking of scones for a Cornish Cream Tea.

I have my mother to thank for any baking skills I’ve acquired, who passed on her extensive knowledge to me and my siblings from an early age, though I was probably thirty five before it dawned on me it wasn’t a matter of life and death that you got EVERY SINGLE BIT of cake mixture out of the bowl, a necessary frugality in time of war and rationing, likely passed by my grandmother to my mother who carried it on into the 1960’s and beyond.

A first attempt at Rock Cakes, I must have been four or five and my sister H seven, resulted in some foul tasting pale green lumps, a consequence of the blue shoe polish which we’d (or maybe it was me, can’t remember) been using only minutes before the mixing. Stirring the Christmas Pudding was always an important event, each ingredient, including a sixpence (I just about remember these) or a ten pence piece (ok money in those days!) adding to the unctuous whole. I never did actually like the pudding itself but I loved the ritual. Mincemeat on the other hand I still usually make (better get on with it…), you really can’t beat a homemade Mince Pie, can you?

Since then, bread has been added to the repertoire, but for some reason I haven’t baked many scones and when I have the results have been indifferent, let’s say flatter, than one would like. You can find a comprehensive overview on the baking of the perfect Scone here if you’re interested, a Guardian article by Felicity Cloake, it’s really good.

Anyway, my mum, stepfather and sister are coming for tea so I thought I’d give them a Cornish Cream Tea – scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Baking is part of our family story as it is with many families. Participatory and comforting, it draws people together, plus you get to eat really yummy things as well. Some of my best memories of being at home are when my mum used to bake a cake on a Sunday afternoon in wintertime and we’d all gather from our fairly disparate lives and have tea in front of the fire. Favourites included Hot Lemon Teacake which involved copious amounts of butter melted between the still warm cakes, a really good idea because you don’t even have to let the sponge cool down, how great is that. Then there was Mozart Cake, I’ve no idea why it was called that, which was made with ground hazelnuts and spices and had a slab of thick dark chocolate on the top, this was my choice for a birthday cake for years. Then there was the regular Victoria Sandwich, still my all time top favourite cake, and a basic Chocolate Sponge with Coffee Icing – this one went down a few rungs on the ladder after an episode of over-indulgence.

For this tea I fell for the marketing of Womens Institute jam which is the mass produced version of a tried and tested recipe, which thousands of people have been cooking up in their kitchens for decades. I was hoping to use my neighbours’ jam which she sells outside her house but she had no strawberry and any purist will tell you that this is the one it’s got to be for a cream tea.

But let the scone show begin!

Ingredients for Scones

Ingredients: Flour, Salt, Butter, Bicarbonate of Soda, Cream of Tartar, Milk

Whisk Dry Ingredients Together

Whisk dry ingredients together, then rub in the butter and add the milk.

Scone Dough and Cutter

Knead dough quickly, roll out to 1 inch and cut rounds, I think speed is the key

Messy Kitchen

Oh dear what would Mary and Paul from the Great British Bake Off say about the state of my workstation?

Scones on Baking Tray

Brush the scones with egg and bake in a hot oven for roughly 10 minutes. Can’t believe it, I’ve had rising! Must try this cowgirling thing again.

Scone on Cooling Tray

No, really, LOOK!

Clotted Cream

Get the clotted cream, I prefer it not straight from the fridge.

Womens Institute Jam Pot

And the jam…

Tea Time

Make the tea, and assemble the scones, jam and cream

Plate of Scones

Vintage china always helps

Cream Tea Assemblage

Get your guests to help themselves. There are differing opinions (the source of many a tea time squabble) about whether it’s jam or cream first, but as long as they’re both on there who cares

Cornish Cream Tea

Et Voila

Cornish Cream Tea


Go on, please tell us about your baking memories and favourite cakes!

PS. A tearoom related blog which I’m enjoying

PPS. Are you a Downton Abbey fan? Try this funny post from my friend T, plus there’s loads of nice pictures of old kitchens.

23 Comments Post a comment
  1. LOVELY post. We didn’t do much baking in our family because ma grew up with a diabetic sister and never got into the habit of cakes and sweet things, but I’ve been learning all about cake-based pleasures in recent times. “Participatory and comforting” is a wondrous way to put it. Lovely plates, lovely tea cups, lovely photos. MOST pleasing x

    November 1, 2012
    • Thought this might appeal to you more than my uphill breathing posts! Not a mention of nature or cows in sight 😉

      November 2, 2012
      • I am very fond of nature and cows. Especially if I can enjoy them in a comfy chair with a cream tea.

        November 4, 2012
  2. Just gorgeous <3…and of course very yummm looking!

    November 1, 2012
  3. Oooh, very jealous, mine never rise! Have been trying to introduce the Frenchies to scones but they’re not convinced yet – maybe I’ll try your recipe… (don’t have any WI jam though 😦 ) x

    November 1, 2012
    • My mum lives in a little village in France and has tried scones on her neighbours, must ask her how it went. My recipe was a bit hit and miss so I made it up a bit…half way through I realised I’d got the quantities wrong! The most important thing is more C of T than Bicarb and a hot oven.

      November 2, 2012
  4. These look wonderful! No lazy lemonade in sight… I think the traditional ones are far better when made well. Oh, I’m afraid that the cream/jam order can’t be swept aside. This is absolutely imperative! A Cornish cream tea has jam with cream on top, in Devon they do it the other way round! S, don’t slip over to the other side! 😉

    November 1, 2012
    • Oh gawd! I suppose you’re qualified to make these kind of demands. I think I may have already slipped, can I get back on the straight and narrow I wonder…

      November 2, 2012
  5. Harriet #

    Haha, I remember those bluegreen sponge cakes, they were disgusting but our fingers were no longer covered in shoe polish 🙂

    November 1, 2012
    • Were we round at the Evans’? I seem to remember H & C in the mix (hehe) as well. Were they fairy cakes? Maybe rock cakes came later…

      November 2, 2012
  6. This sounds and looks (I love the visuals when it comes to food) easy and scrumptious! I checked twice that the list of ingredients is really that short. Clotted cream I don’t think I can find so easily but the rest of it I must try soon. No great baking traditions in my urban, not very culinary upbringing. Time to start my own perhaps.

    November 2, 2012
    • Never too late to start a baking tradition 😉 Any thick double cream would do fine I’m sure, let us know how it goes!

      November 2, 2012
  7. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. It all looks so delicious! I love your plates and cups!

    November 2, 2012
  8. Your scones look wonderful! And who could resist jam from the WI? I bet it’s marvellous. I, too, have made use of that online article and she’s right, brisk rubbing in of a hard fat makes fluffier scones. I’ve been making scones for years and I’ve discovered that certain types of scone work well more consistently than others (cheese always seem to rise beautifully, no doubt thanks to all the fat, as do scones with maple syrup in them, for some reason). Your china is delightful and I agree with you, as long as both jam and cream are on there, does it matter which comes first? Thank you kindly for the mention. 🙂

    November 3, 2012
    • Thanks for that tip. Now that I’ve had success with these I might give cheese ones a go…my favourite, though often sadly lacking in cheese in some establishments. Though just had an outing to Cranks and theirs were delicious!

      November 3, 2012
      • Ooh, I can only imagine how good Cranks cheese scones are, their original cookbook is a well thumbed possession of mine. I use McLelland Seriously Strong Cheddar for scones and you can really taste the cheese.

        November 4, 2012
  9. I just want to come and live with you.

    November 3, 2012
  10. I remember the Goodies and their rendition of the clotted cream mines and the “scowns” or was it “scons” ;). My gran, who came from Lancashire, used to tell us about clotted cream. We don’t get it here in Australia and I haven’t ever tasted it. I just got down ot your flour jar and almost had a heart attack! It’s the very same jar identical to my grandmother’s flour jar! How bizare! Clotted cream looks like it is conducive to the kind of fat that Botticelli yearned for in his women. Is The Women’s Institute sort of like our Country Women’s Association? I hope so :). I don’t know if you have heard of Donna Hay, an iconic food stylist and recipe doyen in Australia but your scons/scowns (it’s all in the pronunciation my dear!) and table setting look like she would love to include it in one of her beautiful coffee table books. I come from a long line of cooks and remember my grans triangular scones. Mum made a mean scone but it seems to have skipped my erstwhile cooking talents and has passed to Steve, the long suffering U.K. hippy husband who makes the most incredible scones and whom I am no longer competing with on that score! Again…this is a wonderful blog. I am going to treasure it and share it about with gay abandon amongst all of my discerning friends who love well written beautifully constructed posts.

    November 25, 2012
    • Aw, you are too kind, thank you very much 🙂 I should look out for that Goodies clip I bet it’s on YT. What a coincidence that I have the same jar as your gran! There’s been a bit of a 70’s revival here in the UK and I bought one of these Hornsea jars at a car boot sale – then I started seeing them in charity shops and bought more. I didn’t really mean to become a collector but it happened! I have a bit of a love hate relationship with them. You’re right, clotted cream definitely has the Botticelli fat factor. The WI is probably similar to your CWA but it is not just for country women…I think it is generally more active in the country, though my niece has got a city group going in Leeds. The WI tent is the first one I go to at a show – they make a great cuppa and serve homemade cakes! Cultural news from down under is very scarce, Donna Hay is just the right sort of name for a domestic goddess and she can have my pictures for her coffee table book anytime 😉 You are a lucky lucky woman having a scone baking husband!

      November 26, 2012
      • Not only does he bake scones, but he is our endemic soup dragon as well AND I imported him from the U.K! NOW I can preen and consider myself a lucky lucky woman 🙂

        November 27, 2012

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