Soft, crumbly, and buttery scones, which can be whipped up in minutes and devoured just as quickly. Perfect for cream tea, afternoon tea, or any other sort of tea you can think of – and you’d never guess they were vegan!
My Summer holidays this year have largely involved visiting friends and family who I’ve been unable to see due to previous lockdowns and shielding requirements, and none was more important than visiting my Gran in North Devon. This is where we spent every Summer as children, and a significant proportion of my fondest memories involve sweet treats; my Gran’s extensive baking, our annual pilgrimages to the village sweet shop, the ice cream van that offered a dollop of clotted cream on top of your 99, and of course, the classic Devon cream tea.
For those of you unversed in this Devonshire institution, a cream tea simply involves a cup, or ideally a pot, of tea, and an often enormous scone, served with butter, jam and lashings of clotted cream – the most obscenely indulgent of all creams. Despite having the appearance of a reasonable mid-afternoon treat, it is not uncommon to feel like you may never need to eat again afterwards.
Happily, every time I visit Devon there seem to be more and more places offering a vegan version, but you can easily recreate the cream tea experience wherever you are, and with only a few simple ingredients.
How to make vegan scones
Many standard scone recipes don’t contain eggs, except for maybe an egg wash, so it’s a really easy recipe to veganize.
Start by getting the oven nice and hot, and lining a baking tray or sheet with baking paper. Then measure out some non-dairy milk and add some lemon juice or vinegar, give it a mix and leave to curdle. I like to use soya milk here, but any other non-dairy milk would work.
Measure out the dry ingredients – self-raising flour, baking powder, salt, and caster sugar – in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. For the butter, I like to use a vegan butter block at room temperature, and Naturli Vegan Block is by far my favourite, however another brand of butter block, or vegan spread, would suffice. You could also use coconut oil but you wouldn’t get any of the buttery flavour. Measure out the butter and add it to the dry ingredients in small blobs, then rub in it, aka. rub the butter and flour together between your fingertips until there are no butter chunks remaining and the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
Mix the vanilla essence into the milk mixture, then pour into the mixing bowl. Use a spoon or your hands to bring everything together into a soft dough. The key is not to overwork the dough – mix the ingredients together until they are just incorporated, and no longer.
Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and use your hands to shape it into a very rough rectangle, about 4–5 cm high. The scones won’t rise a lot when they are in the oven so you want them to be nice and tall before they go in. Use a medium cookie cutter (about 7cm diameter – I like to use one with a fluted edge) to cut out as many scones as you can get from the dough, then roughly reshape the dough and cut out some more. You should be able to get 8 medium-sized scones from this mixture, and because I don’t like wasting any dough, I form any remaining scraps into an mini (and often misshapen) scone.
Place the scones on your baking tray, leaving a few centimeters between each, brush the tops with a little non-dairy milk for extra browning power, and bake for 10–11 minutes until the tops are golden and feel firm to the touch. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Jam and cream is, of course, the classic scone accompaniment. Apart from the age-old pronunciation debacle (I’m a firm believer that it’s pronounced ‘scone’) the order of toppings is also a subject of fierce debate among the British. While I don’t wish to stoke the flames, I can’t help but offer my (clearly correct) opinion. Butter is optional but obviously goes first. Jam requires spreading and cream requires dolloping and it is much more sensible to spread then dollop, than to dollop then spread. Jam then cream is the logical conclusion. Case closed.
Strawberry is probably the classic jam option, but raspberry is equally as delicious. In fact any jam could plausibly work (though apricot would be madness). As for the cream, in lieu of a decent vegan clotted cream (to my knowledge at least – please let me know in the comments below if you are aware of any!), then both coconut cream and vegan whipping cream have their merits. Coconut cream has a richer taste and a thicker consistency, making it more akin to clotted cream, but has the downside of tasting like coconut. Vegan whipping cream (such as Elmlea plant double) has a more neutral flavour, but is much lighter in texture. You could even try a vegan squirty cream, but if Devon-folk view vegan cream teas with suspicion already, this could be a step too far.
There is a sort of noble charm in the simplicity of a plain scone, but if you are in the mood for something a little more frivolous, here are some options:
- Fruit scones:– some would chose these over plain for cream tea, but I much prefer them with nothing more than a slick of (vegan) butter. Simply add 100g sultanas, or a mix of dried fruit, to the flour and butter mixture, and ensure they’re evenly distributed before mixing in the liquid.
- Blueberry scones:– lovely with a drizzle of lemon icing (icing sugar thinned with lemon juice). Just add 75g dried blueberries as you would with the dried fruit for fruit scones.
- Chocolate chip scones:– decadent and thoroughly inauthentic. Use 75-100g vegan chocolate chips, or chopped vegan chocolate. I would mix this into the dough at the end.
- Cheese scones:– Vegan cheese is coming on leaps and bounds, and can work really well in baked goods. Omit the sugar, and grate 100g of vegan mature cheddar-style cheese. Add 75g to the flour and butter mixture, then sprinkle the remaining 25g over the top of the scones before the go in the oven. A pinch of chilli flakes, or a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper would both be very tasty additions.
Please let me know if you give any of these a try! You can comment below or use the star rating at the top of the post, or find me on Instagram or Twitter @clarecooksvegan.
Soft, crumbly, and buttery scones, which can be whipped up in minutes.
- 175ml non-dairy milk (plus extra for brushing)
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 350g (scant 3 cups) self-raising flour*
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- 85g (⅓ cup) room-temperature vegan butter block (or fridge-cold vegan spread)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- vegan butter for spreading
- strawberry or raspberry jam
- vegan whipping cream or coconut cream**
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray or sheet with baking paper.
- In a small bowl or measuring jug, measure out 175ml non-dairy milk and mix in 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice. Set aside to curdle.
- In a large mixing bowl, weigh out 350g self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, and 3 tbsp sugar, and whisk to combine.
- Weight out 85g vegan butter and dot into the flour mixture. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips, until there are no chunks of butter remaining and the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
- Mix 1 tsp vanilla into the milk mixture, then pour it into the bread-crumb mix. Use a spoon or your hands to bring everything together into a soft dough, being sure not to over-work it. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and form into a rough rectangle, about 4cm high. Use a cookie cutter (approx. 7cm in diameter) to cut out as many scones as you can, then reshape the dough to cut out another few. You should be able to get about 8 medium-sized scones.
- Place the scones on your prepared baking tray, use a pastry brush to brush the tops with a little non-dairy milk to help them brown, then bake for 10–11 minutes, until golden on top and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best served warm, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.
*If you only have plain flour, you can use this and add some extra baking powder. You’ll need about 4½ tsp baking powder to replace the raising agent in 350g self-raising, which means you’ll need to use 5½ tsp in total.
**For coconut cream, place a can of coconut milk in the fridge so the fat separates from the liquid and sets at the top of the can (a couple of hours should do it). This works best with coconut milk that has a high fat percentage and doesn’t contain guar gum (I like Sainsbury’s own brand). Scoop the cream from the top of the can and whisk until light and fluffy. You can add a tablespoon or two of icing sugar if you like.