Monday, 1 October 2012

My top tips for putting on a perfect tea party.

(Woah... How many Ts and Ps are there in that title!?)

Tea party number one (at home)
It's safe to say that a tea party would not be the typical 20th birthday party, but being an atypical 20 year old, I hosted two to celebrate entering my third decade on earth: one at home with my family, one in my new student house with my uni girlfriends. It's safe to say that there was a slight difference between the two (mainly to do with budget), but each were a lot of fun. Sitting down with my loved ones and being able to catch up over some yummy cake is my idea of a good time (clubbing schmubbing). I really enjoy preparing for little parties like this - just like Monica off Friends, I love being the hostess - so have decided to share my top tea party tips.

Tea party number two (at uni)

ONE BIG CAKE. When your party is for a celebration like a birthday, it's nice to have one main cake to be the centrepiece. You want something you can put a candle in and can slice into pieces after everyone has sung "Happy Birthday" to you (while you sit there awkwardly smiling, unsure of what to do with yourself). Party number one (for the fam) had a triple layer chocolate, Nutella and peanut butter cake, whilst party number two had a pink raspberry cake. Both went down a treat.

A TRAYBAKE AFFAIR. To go alongside your main cake, it's a good idea to have something of a different texture (non-cakey) that can be cut into slices or squares - we had flapjacks at party one and my chocolate biscuit cake at party two. I must say, the latter always amazes everyone, despite how easy it is to make. Go on, click the link and try it yourself.

Mini banana cupcakes
SOME INDIVIDUAL BAKED THINGS. Not the best subtitle, I'll agree, but by this I mean something like scones with jam and clotted cream (party one) or mini banana fairy cakes (party two). Being smaller than the main cake, these will look cute on the table. It's also a good idea to vary your sweet offerings - you don't want chocolate cake, chocolate biscuit cake and chocolate brownies, so be sure to mix it up. Perhaps one chocolatey offering, something fruity and something oaty.

CHOCOLATES. If you're a serious culinary goddess, by all means make your own, but I think it's perfectly fine to have some nice shop-bought truffles to offer your guests.

FRUIT. Often people like to mix up their consumption of unhealthy foods with something slightly healthier to make them feel better (I know I do!), so it's a good idea to have a bowl of strawberries, grapes or some other fruit out. Also makes a nice palate cleanser.

FINGER SANDWICHES. Trust me, it's important to have something savoury at a tea party. Even a sugar-addict like myself needs some actual proper food to help get through such an intense cake-fest. I like to go traditional with little cucumber sandwiches cut into triangles (why do they taste so much better than squares?). Yum!

Cucumber finger sandwiches


TEA. A tea party isn't much of a tea party without tea. My student tea party was a slight fail as we didn't have a teapot, but at party number one we served tea in matching tea cups which is nice to do if you can.

COLD DRINKS. People often like to have something cold alongside their tea and cake, so try putting out a jug full of squash that guests can help themselves to throughout your party.

yummy pink punch!
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. If you want to make your tea party slightly more adult-orientated, an alcoholic beverage is probably the way to go. One of my parties had champagne in sophisticated flutes. The other had punch in plastic cups. No prizes for guessing which was the student one. To be fair, it was delicious punch. My housemate cut pieces of apple into hearts and cucumber into four-leaved clovers. Amazing, no?

The Rest

We jazzed up our student lounge
DECORATIONS. It's important to make your tea party look nice, so take the time to put some flowers out, blow up some balloons, put up bunting, paper chains, candles, posters, fairy lights or whatever you've got to jazz the place up a bit.

pretty napkins

SERVING. If you've got a matching fine china tea set, whack it out, but if you haven't, pretty napkins and paper plates can be bought relatively cheaply, and they make a real difference to the vibe of your tea party. Don't forget to put out cutlery for your guests too.

So there you have it, an easy-to-follow guide for a perfect tea party. Of course, play to whatever strengths you've got - one of my housemates is rather adept at facepainting, so a fair few of my guests at party number two left with moustaches painted on their faces. Crazy students, eh?

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