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the great vegan cream tea test (plus an excellent recipe for scones)

May 4, 2013

Cream tea main pic
For a while now I’ve been mulling over the question of the vegan cream tea.  What in the world could possibly substitute for Cornish clotted cream?  Not much, it seems.

Previously I had been avoiding the whole issue and eating my scones with just jam, but it wasn’t the same.  Scones with just jam aren’t that wonderful.  There had to be something that would lift the experience to something closer to the one I remember so fondly from childhood: digging into the little pot of rich yellow cream, the dilemmas over whether to smear the jam layer first or second, and finally the bellyache and associated regret, which never lasted that long before I was pining for another one.

Scones are more or less the planet’s most easily veganisable recipe (see below) so I was already halfway there.  I just needed something that would hit that same rich, yellow-white note.

So, armed with my new shabby tea set and cross-stitched tablecloth (all courtesy of a charity shop in Ponty) I was ready to strike out on a series of experiments that became known in our house as The Great Vegan Cream Tea Test.

I knew immediately that there would be no commercial vegan creams in this exercise.  They would only disappoint.  Eventually I decided on three candidates for extensive taste-testing: traditional vanilla buttercream, whipped coconut cream, and vegan vanilla ice cream.  Here is our verdict on each:

1.    Vanilla buttercream (see recipe below): the children’s favourite, and hubby’s too.  I am a buttercream lover, and I do not share bowl-licking whenever making up a batch for cupcakes.  However, I am not convinced it is quite right in a cream tea.  It is just too sweet for my tastes.  But saying that, I was in a minority of one with that view.  If you like sweet stuff (and let’s face it, who doesn’t love buttercream?) then this could be just the thing.

2.    Whipped coconut cream (again, see recipe below): Coconut cream, whipped with a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar, made a dreamy tasting topping that I just loved (‘Too boring,’ said my older daughter dismissively.  Um, I think you’ll find that’s ‘subtle’, I corrected).  This would have won for me hands down, except for the problem of the texture.  Coconut cream is as light as foam and melts away in your mouth.  It needed to be more substantial.  So, experimentally I blitzed it with a cup of soaked cashews and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.  What emerged was rich, silky coconut cream with a delicate flavour and a thick, generous texture just like clotted cream.  I was in heaven.

3.    Vanilla ice cream (we used Swedish Glace): a slightly novel choice, but you know what?  It had a certain something!  Again very sweet, and the flavour of the ice cream tended to overpower everything else, but still – on a hot day when you can’t be bothered to whip something up from scratch, I would happily have this again with my pot of Earl Grey.  And it looked brilliant – colour and texture spot on – that is, until it started to melt.  Eating quickly isn’t much of a hardship.

So, there we have it.  My personal favourite was the coconut cashew, but I encourage you to try for yourself and see what you think.  If you have any other ideas for suitable creams, let me know!


Oven scones (adapted from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book)

Makes 8-10
Prep time: 20 minutes

These scones are lovely and light, and take very little time to throw together.  They won’t keep for more than a day or two so eat while fresh.

Self raising flour, 225g
Salt, 1/2 tsp
Baking powder, 1 level tsp
Vegan margarine, 50g
Vegan milk, 150g

Preheat the oven to 230C and put a baking sheet in to warm.  Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl, then rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the centre and stir in enough milk to form a fairly soft dough.  Turn out on to a lightly floured surface, knead very lightly if necessary to remove any cracks, then roll out lightly until about 2cm thick, or pat it out by hand.

Cut into 8-10 rounds with a 5cm cutter (dipped in flour) then place on the baking sheet and brush with milk.  Bake towards the top of the oven at 230C for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown and well risen.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Cream tea with buttercream

Vanilla buttercream (adapted from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book)

Prep time: 5 minutes plus, ideally, a few hours’ fridge time

Vegan margarine, 75g
Icing sugar, 175g
Seeds of half a vanilla bean

In a large bowl beat the margarine until soft, then add the icing sugar bit by bit while beating all the time.  Add in the vanilla bean seeds.  Refrigerate until ready to use (it will get slightly harder in the fridge).


Coconut cashew cream

Prep time: 5 minutes plus a good few hours in the fridge

Coconut milk, one 400g tin, stored in the fridge
Cashews, one cup, soaked for 3-8 hours, drained and rinsed
Seeds of half a vanilla bean
Icing sugar, 2 heaped tbsp

Open the tin of coconut milk carefully.  It will have split into solids and clear water.  Let the water drain off until just solids remain, then scrape them into a food processor or high speed blender.  Add the vanilla, sugar and cashews.  Blitz for as long as it takes to get a smooth texture, then refrigerate until ready to use (at least four hours, ideally overnight).

  1. Hi Jennie – you’ve got me craving scones now! I add a tablespoon of coconut flour (per tin) to the coconut cream which makes it more robust. I like the idea of using cashews too!

  2. Awesomeness and gorgeousness all tied up together in 3 distinct bows. Love it! Only someone from the U.K. and their Antipodean Aussie counterparts (and perhaps anyone else still tangled up in the Commonwealth…Canada perchance? 😉 ) could get so hung up about trying to reproduce clotted cream. That stuff is gorgeous. It’s heavenly. It’s worth being a BAD VEGAN but I won’t recommend that folks! The coconut cream and cashew mix sounds almost as delish. Did you try Isas cream? looks like it would stand up to being dolloped and might give that real “substance” that clotted cream gives. Might be worth an experiment or two?

    • Hey, thanks for pointing that out, I hadn’t seen Isa’s cream – will definitely be giving that a go! 🙂

      • It certainly looked worth giving a shot. I reckon you could doctor it a bit and you might end up with something approximating clotted cream? Maybe use a bit of Vegan Buttah added in? Now you have ME curious. Might have to mess about with a bit of alchemy in my own kitchen. I remember how gorgeous clotted cream was when I was a kid and you could still get it here in Australia before the milk Nazi’s came to town…

  3. I’m half English (from over 300 years ago) and therefore like scones. Not easy to find any that are good in upstate New York. However, I can never be a vegan due to bad experiences with veggies, as chronicled in my blog 1950 Suburban Adventures- refer to posts: Carrot Attack, Visiting Planet Earth, and Rhubarb Massacre.

    • Half English from 300yrs ago eh? Glad to hear the scone love is in your blood. Don’t hold a grudge against veggies, they are your friends really 😉

  4. Chris permalink

    You could try this vegan “clotted cream” too: It’s really nice.. 🙂

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