Clotted Cream, customary for afternoon tea (or cream tea) is a thick, unsweetened cream that comes from the best Devon cows served on English scones. Read on to find out about the making of the cream and the history behind this quintessential British pastime.

A pop-top storage jar filled with clotted cream with a label

Updated: 23rd October 2021

Everyone has heard of the British afternoon tea, but not everyone has heard of clotted cream. It is always served with scones and jam that is like a marriage of butter and cream. It takes some time to make (but not very laborious) and well worth it because an afternoon tea is not complete without it.

A selection of cucumber and radish open face sandwiches with a cup of tea, a tiered cake stand with pastries and sandwiches

The History and Tradition of Afternoon Tea: The tradition of afternoon tea started in the early 19th Century when the wealthy set felt they needed a ‘pick-me-up’ in the afternoon. This is not surprising because they typically ate just 2 meals a day; breakfast and dinner, so the skipping of that 3rd meal led to a mid afternoon slump hence the creation of afternoon tea.

Traditionally, the upper classes would serve a ‘low’ or ‘afternoon’ tea around four o’clock. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial ‘high’ tea , served later in the day at five or six o’clock, in place of a late dinner. The ‘high’ and ‘low’ names were given for the height of the tables used each time.

Weather permitting tea would be served in the garden. If typical grey skies loomed and impending rain was upon them (typical British weather) the tea service would then be served indoors in the Drawing Room. The drawing room a room in the house where one could ‘withdraw’ to for privacy with their guests.

What is cream tea?

Cream tea is afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, pastries and scones with clotted cream and jam. If you’re not serving scones and cream, it’s not cream tea.

1 open-faced and 2 rectangle, crustless radish and herb butter sandwiches on a round white plate

What do they serve at a traditional afternoon tea? The selection of food ranged from savory to sweet. Starting, of course, with a pot of tea. Traditional Black English tea, Darjeeling (an aromatic floral tea from India) or Earl Grey (a blend of black teas scented with oil of bergamot) were typically served.

Sandwiches were usually cucumber with cream cheese, radish and butter or smoked salmon (< click text for my recipes) and always with the crust removed, sometimes open-faced. They were known as finger sandwiches.

What is the difference between clotted cream and whipped cream? In addition to the butterfat content, clotted cream has a minimum of 55%, it’s the preparation of the cream that is the difference. Whipping cream is simply whisked until thickened. Clotted cream is cooked at a low temperature for hours until the cream clots and thickens on the top and that is what is used.

A scone cut in half topped with jam and clotted cream with a flower decorated china tea cup filled with tea

Is clotted cream good for you? I would say, yes and no. Yes, in that you are consuming calcium, but no as I wouldn’t recommend eating it every day because of the fat content.

What comes first, the jam or cream? The jam and cream debate: There is an ongoing debate of which is best, to spread jam or cream on the scone first. I prefer the jam first with the cream on top. This way it is easier to spread the jam on the scone. A fun fact, this is the way the Queen likes it too.

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Yield: 4 -6

Clotted Cream for Afternoon Tea

A flowered plate with a scone, jam and clotted cream and a cup of tea in the background

Clotted cream is a very British, thick cream made from the best Devon cows that is traditionally served on English scones for afternoon tea.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 9 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces (473 ml) container pasteurized heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Place a large heatproof bowl over a large saucepan of water (make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Add the cream to the bowl and bring the water to a simmer.
  2. Using a candy thermometer, bring the temperature of the cream to 180° F (82°C) and maintain that temperature for 1 hour.
  3. After 1 hour, turn off the heat and remove the bowl from the boiler. Allow to cool, then wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
  4. Skim the clotted cream off the top and put into a container with a lid.
  5. Serve on a warm scone with strawberry jam.

Notes

Yields 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces)

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 270Total Fat 29gSaturated Fat 18gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 90mgSodium 21mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 0gSugar 2gProtein 2g

This nutrition calculation is provided by Nutronix that is only a guideline and not intended for any particular diet.