Cream Teas: Cream Or Jam First?

I HAVE once more gone to the foot of our stairs, shaking my head in despair.

What great national issue has caught my attention this week? Whether it should be a hard or soft Brexit?  Was Gareth Southgate's team selection against Belgium the right one? How can we tackle global warming?

None, of the above. Today is National Cream Tea Day and it has been brought to my attention that some daft boffin at Sheffield University says that jam should be put on a scone before the cream.

Yes, I know, all you fellow Devonians are shaking your heads and tutting, wondering how anyone could be so misguided as to think (whisper this, please) the Cornish have been getting it right all along with their slapdash way of slathering the jam on first.

Mathematician Dr Eugenia Cheng says that if you put the cream on first, the jam is in danger of running off the edge.

Are you completely mad, Dr Cheng? Jam sitting on top of proper thick Devonshire clotted cream is going nowhere.

I get your point that if you sit it on top of that runny Cornish stuff, it may possibly dribble over the sides. But it’s not a proper cream tea without proper DEVONSHIRE clotted cream, preferably with proper homemade Devonshire jam.

My mother, a farmer’s wife, used to make her own clotted cream. It’s easy to do. First milk your cow. Take a big pan of the fresh milk and leave overnight to allow the cream to rise to the surface. Then “scald” the milk by putting the pan on the warm hob of the Aga. On no account let it boil or simmer. Leave for a few hours.

Remove pan from heat and put in a cool place and the clotted cream will float to the top, ready to be skimmed off.

As for Dr Cheng, I’ll wager a year’s supply of home-made scones that she has never scalded a pan of milk in her life.

And how can you take a scientist seriously who even suggests (the easily shocked among you might want to skip the next bit) that you can use whipped cream. I know. Sacrilege. I shall have to lie down in a darkened room in a minute. Although, to be fair, she did come out on the side of clotted cream as it was denser.

She says the total thickness of the scone, with all its elements, should be around 2.8cm. She says this would provide a relaxed open width of the mouth when you come to take a bite.

However, the measurement is based on the size of her own mouth. I haven’t seen a picture of this woman so it’s difficult to judge whether she is skimping on the ingredients or being too generous. She could, for all I know, have a gob the size of an opinionated politician in full flow, or it could be a petite rosebud like that of a delicate Japanese geisha.

Now Dr Cheng thinks she has solved the great cream tea scone conundrum (she hasn't) perhaps she could turn her hand to solving other great culinary disputes.

Here’s one for her to consider: cup of tea – which comes first, the milk or the tea?

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  1. I grew up in Australia where everyone I know uses whipped cream and strawberry jam for their scones and the jam always goes on first, spread from edge to edge, then a good dollop of the whipped cream on top. I don't think clotted cream is available out here, certainly I've never seen it in the shops and I doubt very much that anyone here makes their own.

  2. Whipped cream? Yowza. Sorry, River, but that is just wrong. Be well, my dears.

  3. If I may be so bold as to offer a Canadian perspective: cream first, milk first.

    1. Let's hear it for Canada! I agree one hundred per cent.

  4. HAHA I had to look up what Cream Tea was! I could not understand the cream tea than the talk of jam. I just got lost. But..thank you, now I know and understand.

  5. I guess cream teas are a pretty British thing - and especially in my part of Britain where we have lots of dairy farms! You must now go and try one!

  6. You quickly tear the biscuit into a top and bottom half. Place a large piece of butter on the bottom and cover with the top. As the butter melts, you may eat the biscuit then. But pausing to add a large spoon of jam is not a bad idea.

    I'll have to come to Britain one day and have some clotted cream on scones. Our biscuits are scones. But I do side with Devonshire. Why would a sane person put cream on top of jam?

    1. Yum! Must admit we often have our scones with butter and jam. You say biscuits, we say scones; we say biscuits, you say cookies; and don't we say jam and you say jelly? Then we say jelly and you say jell-o! Culinary confusion!