Serving High Tea | Cake Stands
Nothing says ‘high tea party’ like a traditional three tiered cake stand of pretty vintage china and laden with cakes, scones and treats. A row of tiered cake stands along the centre of a long table or as the centrepiece of a round table instantly creates exactly the right atmosphere for an afternoon of tea, chatter and cakes with your friends or family.
If you are keen to stick with tradition, there is a correct order of serving the food on these tiered stands. Traditionally, the bottom tier (which will be the largest plate) holds savoury food such as tea sandwiches, tartlets or mini quiches. The middle plate holds scones and the top and smallest plate holds small pastries and cakes. The thinking behind this was that more sandwiches and savory items would be eaten than anything else, scones next and then just a small sweet cake or pastry to finish off. However modern tea parties tend to be more the other way around with sweet items being extremely popular!
You can buy beautiful vintage tiered cake stands, or hire them from vintage china hire companies (like us!). They can also be purchased new from most department stores. They disassemble very easily for washing, transport and storage.
A petite antique Art Deco 1930s silver plated three tiered cake stand. These have the advantage of being able to use any plates you like as there is no centre hole drilled through them. However they are much smaller than regular sized tiered stands and work best in a Tea for Two situation. This is the style of tiered cake stand seen in 1920/30s period films and television series such as Downton Abbey, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Miss Marple etc.
Large vintage style high tea cake stand. These are modern pieces in a vintage style, however they are ideal for larger high tea events of 80 or more guests. These stands can be purchased (or hired) in a classic vintage style, as shown or in modern metallic finishes and styles. They will hold three large dinner plates and there is the advantage of being able to co-ordinate your color or theme as no holes need to be drilled! They will hold a lot of cakes and are best used on a dessert buffet table as they are a little overwhelming when placed on a high tea table and would interfere with the flow of conversation and the field of vision. On the other hand, they can’t be dismantled and so do take quite a bit of storage space when not in use.
“How Many Will I Need”?
This is a question we are asked almost every week. As a rule of thumb, we recommend one three tiered cake stand per four guests (if it is a seated afternoon tea). At a pinch they can be stretched to one per 5-6 guests but if you do this, then we’d definitely recommend using a large cake serving plate as well as the tiered stand per each 5-6 guests. If you have helpers to serve, you can top the cake stands up as the food is eaten.
If you are planning a buffet style afternoon tea where guests aren’t formally seated and are free to walk around, then you can use fewer cake stands on one large buffet table. Again, you will need to top them up as the food is consumed as there is unlikely to be enough cake stands or space to present all the food at once.
Vintage glass cake pedestal stands and compote.
Cake pedestals come in all sizes and materials. The vintage ones are by far the loveliest and can be found in clear and colored glass, crystal, silver, milk glass and porcelain. They are perfect for presenting a cake, any cake! From a humble home made cake to the grandest of wedding cakes, there is no cake that can’t look even better when it’s on a pedestal.
(Cake by The Garnished Co, Cake Stand from The Vintage Table)
Pedestals can also be used to serve cup cakes, pastries, cake pops, slices and even for flowers. They add height and interest to a tablescape or buffet. Place them between three tiered cake stands and cake serving plates on a high tea table or dessert table to achieve a really charming effect.
Compotes (also called comports or tazzas) are basically a shallow bowl on a pedestal and are useful for serving smaller cakes, macarons and chocolates. Larger compotes of clear glass can also be used to serve desserts such as trifle.
There is a cake stand or a combination of cake stands for every high tea party and no party would be complete without one or two!