Well, this past Sunday was pretty wonderful, not least because my primary source of sustenance was scones and cupcakes. I’ve spent much of the past few weeks preparing for my friend Nicola’s baby shower, and it finally came together! There will be more baby shower details in upcoming posts, but let’s start with the tea party.
I was completely in love after attending a baby shower at DarTealing Lounge last year. Afternoon tea is such a luxurious event, and DarTealing offered top-notch teas and treats in an absolutely charming setting. One of the things I loved was the mix of patterns and styles in the teacups, plates, and silverware. This approach took all the pressure off of using china – break one, and you can replace it with something completely different! Lovejoy’s Tea Room over in Noe Valley has a similar atmosphere and is also a popular place for showers.
Until recently, I didn’t own much in the way of accessories for tea myself, but I did have two sets of little plates that have great sentimental value. Here’s how I came to own them… Even after many years, old losses and grief will sometimes surface. Seven years after my mom died, I was pregnant with our second baby, and I was overcome with sadness at my mom’s absence. With her incredible insight, my manager at work – and dear friend – suggested that I reach out to some of my mom’s friends over my Christmas vacation. I didn’t mention the sense of loss that drove me to contact her friend Mrs. McCulloch, but when I arrived at her house – for tea – it was clear that our meeting was special for both of us. She told me stories about my mom, some that predated me, and one story was about a time they had been browsing antique stores together, and Mrs. McCulloch had fallen in love with some vintage plates. My mom went back later to buy the plates and gave them to her friend. That snowy day when we met, her friend gave them to me.
In the foreground are the two sets of plates that were passed on to me by my mother’s good friend.
When my dear friend Nicola heard this story, she determined that she and I should have our own afternoon tea party, and it took us a while to get around to it, but after Thanksgiving last year, we enjoyed an afternoon of sandwiches, tea, and board games. As an early Christmas gift, she brought me two beautiful teacups that day, and so the collection was born.
Beautiful vintage tea cups given to me by my wonderful friend, Nicola.
When it came time for me to plan Nicola’s shower, it seemed only natural that a tea party should be part of the theme. It was the perfect excuse to use my treasured plates and cups and to build on my collection. This was treasure hunting at its best! I browsed local thrift and antique stores as well as eBay to discover a colorful array of teacups and plates. The beauty of this approach is that you’re not tied to one particular pattern, and you can choose the best deals. Each piece is a great conversation starter, and even cups that might not be beautiful on their own gain a new appeal when mixed together. It’s like a beautiful patchwork quilt. Bonus: with all those different patterns, people are less likely to get their drinks mixed up!
Here are some pictures of my old and new treasures at the party. I love how it all turned out, and I admit I still have my eye out for some more good deals on cute teacups and serving items.
Browse thrift stores and eBay to create a unique and charming collection of china for a charming table setting. Those little tiered serving trays are quintessential “tea time”!
Fresh flowers add to the romantic feel of an afternoon tea party.
Since this was a Storybook-themed baby shower, I can’t believe I forgot to bring out the Peter Rabbit and Bunnykins cups!
Bunnykins and Peter Rabbit place settings. These are perfect for a tea party baby shower… if only I had remembered to use them!
Remember when I lined my living room shelves with Imperial Trellis wallpaper? It’s the perfect place to store all the new teacups and other pretty items!
I found a home for all the new teacups and serving items in our bookcase, which I lined with Imperial Trellis wallpaper.
Of course, a tea party would not be complete without sandwiches. Maura, my cohost, and some of our other friends helped make this gorgeous spread, which tasted as good as it looked. The sandwiches were:
- egg salad with curry
- cream cheese and smoked salmon
- cucumber and Boursin cheese
- cucumber, tomato, and hummus
I made the cupcakes and am so happy with the results. I actually started with Trader Joe’s boxed cake mixes, but I customized them as follows. Thanks to Sophie for the decorating help!
- Lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting. Starting with yellow cake mix, I added the zest of one lemon, the juice of third of a lemon, and about a tablespoon of lemon extract. For the frosting, I added juice from another third of the lemon and a couple of teaspoons of lemon extract.
- Chocolate cupcakes with mocha frosting. Starting with the chocolate cake mix, I added some cocoa to make it extra chocolate-y. For the frosting, I made a mix of hot chocolate powder and instant decaffeinated coffee powder in as little water as possible (about half a cup). We used this liquid instead of water when mixing the frosting.
I cut a watermelon to look like an old-fashioned baby carriage and tied a ribbon on it for decoration. I used sewing pins to keep the ribbon in place. I’ve seen much more elaborate versions of this, with orange slices for wheels and more decorations, but even with many friends helping in the kitchen, we ran out of time. It was still cute, and we definitely needed a healthy break from the cupcakes!
Scones and shortbread
The scones were a mix of bakery scones and Trader Joe’s frozen blueberry scones, baked up with an egg wash and brown sugar sprinkled on top. These are really surprisingly delicious. Our friend Beth made her family’s shortbread recipe, which is amazing. I am waiting to get the recipe from her, because it tastes so much like my mom’s, and it holds a printed design well, so I want to try my patterned rolling pin with it.
Sandwiches on a tiered serving tray are perfect for afternoon tea.
Lemon and chocolate-mocha cupcakes. Both started as plain cake mix with some special ingredients mixed in!
Watermelon baby carriage with fruit salad.
If you’re planning your own tea party, you can find many more inspirations by browsing the menus at Lovejoy’s, DarTealing, or one of the other amazing tea rooms.
You can also try this ducky cake I made for another baby celebration!
Ducky cake for baby shower. Marble cake topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
Many of us at the party were already talking about making a semi-regular event out of “cupcakes and crafts,” so hopefully I will get lots more use out of all my “new” old china… and get to enjoy more cupcakes! Also, look out for more baby shower ideas coming soon!