london highlights: cream tea

Cream tea is a lighter afternoon tea, which is really more like a snack, consisting of a pot of tea and scones serve with clotted cream and jam. While in London, I got in the habit of having cream tea every afternoon. I would return to my hotel room from a thoroughly enjoyable, yet exhausting day of sightseeing, shopping, museum-going, and other touristy things, and I would treat myself to a cup of tea and a scone slathered with copious amounts of clotted cream and jam. It was a more restful break than having tea at a tearoom or café since I can take off my boots, put my feet up, (take a short nap), check emails (yeeah for free in-room wi-fi) and plan the rest of the evening’s activities in the comfort of my room. It was a nice, warm respite from the drizzly, gray London skies.

This was possible because one of the features of my hotel room was a kitchenette with a kettle, microwave, and a small refrigerator. After settling in to my room on my first afternoon in London, I made a dash to a few stores to stock up on everything I needed for my afternoon breaks. My first stop was to Ottolenghi in Notting Hill for some apricot and passion fruit jam that I have been coveting from their online store. Next, I was off to the renowned purveyor of British fine foods, Fortnum and Mason, to buy teas and biscuits (Countess Grey blend tea and lemon curd biscuits for me and some Earl Grey and other biscuits for friends back home). Then, I was off to Waitrose for some scones (their pre-packaged ones are actually quite good) and a small tub of Rodda clotted cream, which I would finish in five days! (I did walk A LOT in London so I can indulge!)  Those afternoon cream teas in my room turned out to be one of the many highlights of my trip.

Now that I’m back home, I am missing my afternoon ritual and, most of all, that luxurious clotted cream. Here in the US, clotted cream is only available in a small 6-ounce jar and sells for about $6. It will do in a pinch, but doesn’t have that lusciousness, slight sweetness, and fresh taste of the real thing.  A quick Google Search gave me a basic recipe (method, really) for clotted cream and it’s shocking how easy it is to make.  The key is to get fresh unpasteurized milk or cream, which was a stumbling block. All the recipes I read cautioned that ultra-pasteurized heavy cream, which is what is commonly sold here, would not work, so the hunt was on.  After going to several markets, I finally found some pasteurized heavy cream, although it was not organic.

Well, my initial efforts paid off well enough and I was able to yield about 8 ounces of somewhat runny clotted cream. (You can see my finished product in the first photo above.)  It had that wonderful golden “skin”, which tasted great, but it wasn’t as thick as I had hoped. I have some experimenting and tweaking to do to improve the texture, but it certainly tasted fresher and better than the store-bought kind.  I don’t know whether it was due to the pasteurized (although not ultra pasteurized) cream that I used, or if I didn’t heat it long enough, or if my pan was not deep enough for the cream to rise, but I will definitely be trying this again. I am up to the challenge and I’m now on the hunt for raw milk for this project.

Clotted Cream
Yields 1 cup

2 pints heavy cream, preferably with the highest fat content cream available and not ultra pasteurized

Heat oven to 175 degrees.

Pour the cream into an oven safe pan or dish with room for the cream to rise from one to three inches.

Bake, uncovered, for 8 to 12 hours, or until the cream has formed a thick, yellow skin. (I took mine out after 9 1/2 hours because the skin has turned from yellow to “golden.”  Do not stir.

Cool the cream at room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate it for eight hours or preferably overnight.

Skim the yellow clotted cream from the top and serve.

Adapted from A Little Zaftig.

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10 thoughts on “london highlights: cream tea

  1. Great recipe and tips – that first photo is magazine cover deadly. I want clotted cream on a hot scone badly, and I wasn’t even thinking that way seconds ago!

  2. I ate an embarrassing amount of clotted cream on my last trip to London! I’ve never tried making it at home, but where I live (Sweden) I’ve never seen clotted cream in any of the markets. Maybe I’ll give this technique a go, though I suspect finding unpasteurized cream may be a problem (high fat won’t be). Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  3. Way to go Daisy! If you can’t find it, make it! When I was in Seattle I was heartened to see a lot of raw and unpasteurized milk in natural food stores and at farmers markets. I’m sure you could find similar stuff locally.

    • Thanks, Susan! I’m hoping to go to the farmers market this weekend to find raw milk. That’s one of the things I love about Seattle. Surprisingly, not as progressive here in LA!


  4. This is so interesting! I had no idea you could make clotted cream at home. I have very fond memories of learning to take a proper English tea in kindergarten (one of our teachers was English). It’s such a lovely way to celebrate the afternoon!


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