One of my friends posted my wedding invitation on Facebook recently. It reminded me of an almost bygone era – when parties were opulent affairs.

Blast from the past - my wedding invitation

Blast from the past – my wedding invitation

I miss getting dressed up, the Champagne flowing, dining like royalty, and dancing the night away…

Astrid Wyman, Andy Taylor, Steve Strange, and Francesca Thyssen

Astrid Wyman, Andy Taylor, Julie Anne Rhodes, Steve Strange, and Francesca Thyssen

… and more than anything else, the invitations. It all started with the invitation – the kind that set off a thrill within you as you opened it. A tangible, well thought out, and carefully designed invitation complete with calligraphy, dress code, and an R.S.V.P. request that we actually bothered to respond to. Evites are just such an anti-climax, and much less effective.

There is nothing like the real thing - a tangible invitation

There is nothing like the real thing – a tangible invitation

So, you can imagine my excitement when this invitation arrived in the post last month. Trust the Brits to hang onto this exacting tradition, and who better than British Equity, the venerable actors guild, to reenact the glamor of days past. How could I refuse an invitation for tea with some of the most well known expats,

British Equity's garden party at Orson Wells House

British Equity’s garden party at Orson Welles House

in the home of Orson Welles, no less? I’ll admit, I had one of those “I’ll never wash this hand again” moments when introduced to Jacqueline Bisset (don’t worry, I have washed my hands), and in case you were wondering what the OBE stands for after actor Michael York’s name, it stands for Order of the British Empire – a medal and honor bestowed upon the recipient, by the queen, for their chivalry and accomplishments.

Actor Michael York had us in stitches over the story of joining Equity

Actor Michael York had us in stitches over his story of joining equity

The distinguished actor had all us in stitches, when after welcoming us, he shared the story of how he came by his stage name when he first joined Equity. There already happened to be a member with his real name, so he needed a new one quickly, saw a pack of  cigarettes called York, and thought it as good as any other name. Of course his version of the story was infinitely more entertaining, and brought audible gasps when he pulled out the original letter welcoming him into the guild. I remember the pride I felt when I opened the same letter many years ago – the moment you can unabashedly call yourself an actor is a monumental milestone.

The tea party of the party

The tea part of the party

It was a glorious afternoon as we lingered over a proper cream tea, but scones are not the same without clotted cream. In the United States they usually try to substitute whipped cream which is not the right consistency at all. Clotted cream is made from heating unpasteurized cream until the thick, creamy, butter like fat rises to the top with a distinctly scalded flavor. Since I often do high tea for wedding and baby showers, and just this week received a request to do one during Brit Week LA, I was overjoyed to learn that Gelsons, my favorite grocery store, stocks Devonshire cream (clotted cream imported from Devonshire).

Hanging out with Rita Hayworth in Orson Wells house

Hanging out with Rita Hayworth in Orson Welles house

Whipped cream faux pas aside, I quite happily indulged in the cucumber sandwiches, cakes, and chocolate dipped strawberries. Now I’m busy dreaming up a slightly more whimsical menu for the tea I will do later this month – which will include traditional scones with Devonshire cream, and most likely my lemon lavender angel food cupcakes.

Rich Scones

Best part of flying a British airline - scones are served before you land

This recipe comes directly from a Be-Ro Flour pamphlet given to me years ago in London. I’ve been using this recipe, or my own variations of it ever since for tender, flaky scones still warm from the oven, lavished with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

 

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Rich Scones

  • 8 ounces self-rising flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce caster sugar (fine granulated sugar)
  • 2 ounces sultanas or currants optional
  • 1 medium egg beaten with sufficient milk to make 1/4 pint
  • milk see instruction above

DIRECTIONS

Rich Scones

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease a baking tray.
  2. Mix flour and salt, rub in butter, and stir in sugar and fruit.
  3. Add egg and milk, reserving a little for brushing the tops.
  4. Knead lightly on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2″ (1 cm) in thickness and cut into 2 1/2” (6.6 cm) rounds.
  5. Brush tops with egg and milk and bake for about 10 minutes.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

Serve warm from the oven, or freshly baked, with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

HEAT TO EAT

These really are best fresh from the oven.

VARIATIONS

There is no end to the variations you can dream up with scones . Cheddar, blueberry, and maple are amongst my favorites.

NOTES

A scone dough should be soft and spongy. Handle very lightly for best results. The conversions on just this recipe are for Imperial measurements, not metric. The conversions on this recipe are Imperial (British) measurements not metric.

 

 

 

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  • April 9, 2013
    1:20 pm

    Absolutely fabulous! What a treat to go to a party with an actual invitation AND where people dress properly AND there is a beautiful presentation of food! This scone recipe will go into rotation at our house for sure!

    Such a shame the evites have become the norm… going along with children not being taught cursive writing in school, we are losing something unless people like this pass down the art.

    LOVE your invite too! Very cool font!

  • April 9, 2013
    1:29 pm

    WHAT??? They no longer teach cursive in school? Wow, I had no idea – that is really upsetting.

  • April 10, 2013
    1:10 pm

    Real invitations are something special these days. Most of the time e-vites are used and it just looks so much like the person holding the event does not really care enough to put the effort into putting together a real invitation. I had to laugh over one e-vite I received a few years ago where guests were asked to dress in a semi formal manner. Many e-mailed back asking what this meant and a mass e-mail was sent out suggesting LBD (little black dress) for the ladies and a jacket for the men, a tie was not required, but please wear a nice shirt. LOL

    I’ve just received an invitation to an engagement party and am in the process of transferring the image of the invite onto a canvas. There will be blocks of colour – gold, bronze, and copper with black outlines around the blocks. The couple’s initials was worked into the design and I will include this in the painting. When it’s done, it should look like a stained glass window. I’m not able to attend the party and wish I could be there to see if the couple like the painting. Here’s hoping!

  • April 12, 2013
    5:26 pm

    Oh how lovely! Orson Welles home, with a tea party and host Michael York! Now I’m in awe! I remember when I was about 10yrs old watching a very early movie Michael did and falling in love with his charm and incredible english accent. I just have to laugh thinking about that now.

    Call me old school but I do prefer written invitations.

  • April 13, 2013
    1:58 pm

    What a lovely occasion! Thank you for sharing it with us as well, Julianne — that was very thoughtful of you.

    I have been a professional calligrapher since 1996, but evites, Facebook, and such are greatly diminishing the demand for my work. It’s something that I truly love doing, but it’s becoming a lost part of party etiquette and decorum. I continue on, still, but hope for a revival somehow, despite the deluge of this electronic age we are in! Calligraphy is art, and I will continue to create — I cannot help but to do so! x

  • April 13, 2013
    1:59 pm

    (Pardon me, Julie Ann! I apologize for misspelling your name initially. Terribly sorry!)