Articles for the Month of September 2013

Recipe: White Chocolate Blueberry Scones

Yes, I realize that your favorite source for recipes, facts about afternoon tea, and tea room reviews seemingly went missing for a few weeks. I mean, not even a scone recipe? That’s like borderline as severe as the apocalypse. But as much as I apologize, I also promise that I had a good reason.

white chocolate blueberry scones

white chocolate blueberry scones

See, in addition to my job as the household’s resident Anglophile and baker, I am also an actress. Well, aspiring actress who every time she says aspiring before actress is corrected by people around her because vocabulary and commitment is very important in the industry. So I’m an actress. And pursuing acting as a career can get very time consuming, particularly when you have to commute into Hollywood for 16 straight days. Yeah that happened. It also makes one not really feel like turning on an oven. Or blogging. Or doing anything but sleeping when at home.

But I was thinking about you the whole time and feeling insanely guilty for not posting. So to make it up to you, I am posting my favorite scone recipe thusfar. 

Tea Cakes vs. Coffee Cakes

Now that we know what teacake is, can we figure out coffee cake? As in what makes the two so different? Now don’t give me the rote answer of you serve teacake with tea and coffee cake with coffee.  We don’t like simple here, we have to go deep! So begins the battle of coffee cake versus teacake!


#1 Coffee cake is one kind fits all.

As we learned last week, a teacake can actually be one of three or four different foodstuffs: a cookie, a spice or sponge cake, a yeast bread, or a soda bread. But a coffee cake is always a cake. Sure it might have a crumble topping or a cinnamon swirl (drooling yet?) or added flavorings but it is always in cake form.


#2 Shape matters.

Even when a teacake is a cake, it usually is in a circular shape unless it was baked as a loaf cake. Coffee cakes come in squares, rectangles, bundts, circles, basically whatever shape pan the baker had available.


#3 Coffee has coffee but tea has no tea.

Coffee cakes can also get their name from being made with coffee, but teacakes aren’t made with tea (though you can make a teacake that is tea flavored, it is not a common thing).  Coffee isn’t in the batter of every coffee cake, however it is common enough that it might be worth asking the baker if they use coffee in their recipe. I know I’ve made a coffee cake with coffee granules in the cocoa cinnamon streusel.


#4 One is served at Starbucks and other coffee/tea shops. One is served at tearooms and teahouses.

Guess which is which? Coffee cakes are more likely to be sold in local or chain coffee shops, the kind you swing by for that convenient breakfast. I order tea at Starbucks (their Earl Grey is surprisingly good) but even if they serve tea I have never seen a teacake at a coffee shop. Now on the flip side, I have only ever seen any of the forms of teacakes at tearooms and teahouses. I’ve never seen a coffee cake at one of those, so maybe the makers of teacakes and coffeecakes agreed to keep some distance between them.


#5 Teacakes are world travelers.

Teacakes—in any of the forms we learned about—are seen in the UK, North America, Latin America, India, Australia, Sweden…basically they are well traveled and well known. Coffee cake seems to be a purely American baked good, only really seen outside the US in American style bakeries that happen to have made their way abroad.


Believe it or not, I’m not going to give an answer to which is better than the other, because I love both coffee cakes and teacakes of all sorts. But I definitely don’t believe that you can only have coffee cake when drinking coffee and teacakes when you are drinking tea. You can have anything when you’re drinking tea. Why should we neglect the poor yet delicious coffee cake?

Recipe: Triple Berry Scones

If two is better than one, than three is better than two, right? Well that answer is a resounding yes when berries are involved, that much I know! Scones with one berry (with me it’s usually strawberry)? Awesome. Scones with two berries? Amazing. But scones with three berries? Transcendent!

I’ll be honest, I really struggled with the desire to turn these into Quadruple Berry Scones. But that just seemed like a slippery slope to Bazillion Berry Scones or Scone Berries where the dough became more berry than scone. Though would that really have been a bad thing? It’d certainly make getting one of your five a day easier if all you had to do was eat a scone. Eat five scones (so not hard to do) and you’re all set for twenty four hours.

Triple Berry Scones

Triple Berry Scones

Tea Cakes

A couple of the tea houses I’ve reviewed serve a slice of tea cake with their scone course, and it got me thinking (as so many things do) about what exactly is a tea cake. Since it’s a cake and a lot of the mini desserts served at tearooms are little cakes, why is it served in the scone course and not the dessert course? Burning questions!

Well I did some digging. Turns out the answer is as simple as you’d think!


Are they cakes?

Tea cake as a cake (no it's not the scone or the muffin)

Tea cake as a cake (no it’s not the scone or the muffin)

In some parts of the world, yes. When a tea cake is literally a small slice of cake (typical of Australian, North America, and India), it is usually a pound, heavy sponge, or spice cake.  Only a single layer, these tea cakes are not frosted, but instead are topped with a dusting of powdered sugar or a light glaze. The spice cake is more common in North America, while the heavy sponge variety is found in Australia or India. When a tea cake is basically a pound cake, it’s just a tearoom’s variation on the slightly more traditional cake served. Tea cakes—when they are cakes—can also contain fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, or apricots.


Are they bread?

In some parts of the world, yes. A tea cake is more akin to a bread when served in the United Kingdom. A small, sweet, yeast-based bun often containing dried fruit, a tea cake is typically split, toasted, and buttered to be served with tea. The most famous tea cake is served in Bath, England and is known as a Sally Lunn. Top it with cinnamon butter and be prepared to die from deliciousness overdose.

Bread-like tea cakes are also served in Sweden where they are a sweetened wheat soda bread served with butter and jam.


Are they cookies?

Tea cakes as a cookie (photo credit

Tea cakes as a cookie (photo credit

In some parts of the world, yes.  Cookie tea cakes are dense cookies made with sugar, butter, eggs, flour, milk, and additional flavorings.  Common flavors are nut-based like almond or hazelnut.  They are very dense and crumbly, and can be quite messy as they are usually coated in a layer of powdered sugar.  When they first crumbed into the world, they were an accompaniment to bitter teas; the sugar both in the cookie and the coating were meant to balance the astringency from black tea.

Now a cookie tea cake by any other name is still a cookie tea cake, but they are also commonly known as Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes/cookies, polvornes, or butterballs.


Hmmm…with all these different answers for “what is a tea cake” I may have to do a recipe series for you so you can try them all!

Recipe: Strawberry Cream Cheese Scones

So just in case you couldn’t tell from these, and these, I love strawberries. I really love all berries, but strawberries are my favorite. And as strawberry season begins to come to a close and I start to tear up at the prospect of months and months without this delicious berry, I decided to make another few recipes to get our final strawberry fix. Best part, scones can freeze so if you hurry up and make the scones now, you can enjoy them in the fall when everyone else is eating apples. You’ll be eating strawberry scones and gloating to yourself (not out loud since that’s not nice after all, but inside is totally okay!).

Strawberry Cream Cheese Scones

Strawberry Cream Cheese Scones

When I went to my first afternoon tea as a little girl, one of the finger sandwiches served was a strawberry cream cheese sandwich, and since it was pink and I adored pink I had to love it. Ever since, strawberry cream cheese has become one of those things I buy at the store with excitement but then rarely get around to using because I forget to buy bagels. Now, I’ll never have wasted strawberry cream cheese again because I can always make these scones! They are sooooo creamy and moist that I can’t put enough “ooooo” at the end of the “so” to get my point across. Think similar to the scones that use mascarpone cheese like Vanilla Dream scones or the Strawberry Vanilla scones that were my last strawberry creation.Yeah, they rival that level of creamy, mouth-meltingness.

The cream cheese doesn’t overwhelm the strawberries, but instead just adds a delightfully subtle tang and lots of cream. Did I mention they were creamy? Okay good.

But the best part about these scones (besides the giant chunks of strawberries) is the color…BRIGHT PINK!!! Five-year-old Jenna is dancing around in her twirly dresses with joy. These are the perfect scones for a little girl’s afternoon tea party, baby girl baby shower, or just a day that needs a little pink thrown in.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Scones

Strawberry Cream Cheese Scones

strawberry cream cheese scones


  • 200 g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 50 g ultrafine baking sugar
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 200 g strawberry cream cheese
  • up to 6 tbsp water as needed


Preheat oven to 220°C (450°F). Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, strawberries, and cream cheese. Rub together the ingredients until evenly clumped. Add the water a little bit at a time and then knead into the dough until smooth. Do not overwork, but you don’t need to be as overly concerned with being delicate as you do with cream scones.
Place dough on a very floured surface and knead a few more times. Pat out to 1 cm thick. Cut 5 cm rounds from the dough with biscuit cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Reform and continue until there is no more dough.Bake for 8-10 minutes (8) until lightly browned and cooked through.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Scones

Strawberry Cream Cheese Scones

Ooooo, so many fun ideas: cut into flowers or hearts, top with more strawberries, top with a vanilla or lemon glaze….so those might not be traditional (and by traditional I mean British) scone things to do, but when strawberries are involved tradition can go out the window.

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