The menu for the tea party is pretty simple: cucumber sandwiches, banana and peanut butter sandwiches, snipped little clusters of grapes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, sometime some fancy little tarts or chocolates, herbal tea and sparkling cider to drink; then after a break to open presents, we decorate and eat heart-shaped sugar cookies.
The main key to a tea party seems to be presentation - as long as everything looks fancy, the girls are delighted.
Since it was Eliza's birthday recently, I wanted to get down all the "recipes" for the tea party menu items. I remember having these treats when I would go over to my friends houses after school when I lived in England when I was 6, 7, and 8.
- thinly sliced bread - white or wheat (get as square a loaf as you can find - easier to cut off crust and cut into neat triangles)
- whipped lite or regular cream cheese (way easier to spread than regular cream cheese)
- sliced English cucumbers (the English ones have a thin skin so you can leave the skins on - if you get regular cucumbers, you'll want to peel them)
Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on two pieces of bread (sometimes we do one slice of white, one of wheat on the same sandwich). Place 4 cucumber slices on the bread. Put the sandwich together. Cut off crusts (I've never been a crust-cutter-offer but it makes the sandwiches more uniformly shaped and fancier-looking). Cut into squares or trianges (Eliza says triangles are way fancier). Arrange on a pretty tray.
Banana and Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Same as cucumber sandwiches but use peanut butter (or Nutella or Cookie Butter from Trader Joes to be less healthy and more yummy) instead of cream cheese and bananas instead of cucumbers. We liked to put as many sliced bananas on each sandwich as we can fit.
The biggest hit at our tea parties has been Wild Berry Zinger (Celestial Seasonings). I put several tea bags into a the hot water in a tea kettle, let that brew a while, then add a fair amount of sugar and honey. Most of the kids haven't tried herbal tea but they generally seem to like it a lot!
Eliza's Sugar Cookies
Here's the sugar cookie recipe we always use. I have to say sugar cookies are a real investment of time (and I think there are a lot of yummier kinds of cookies) so we really only make them once a year. This recipe is the best one I've found - they're soft and tasty and the frosting is pretty darn good.
1 1/2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
Cream together the above until smooth, then add...
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla
6 c. flour (add one cup at a time)
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Roll out and cut with cookie cutters.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes (or until just slightly browned on the very edges if you want soft cookies).
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk (or a little more or less, depending on desired consistency of the frosting)
Cream butter, vanilla and one cup of powdered sugar until smooth, then add the rest of the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add the milk at the end, a little at a time, until the frosting reaches desired consistency. Add food coloring if you want.
Decoration ideas: red-hots (little cinnamon candies), red sugar sprinkles, valentine-colored M&M's, chocolate chips, conversation hearts.
Here's Eliza with her birthday cookies over the years. Fun to watch her growing up in these photos!