The scone is believed to have its origin in Scotland. Some say it is named after the Stone of Scone, where monarchs of Scotland were traditionally crowned. Others have found this unfounded as there is no certified reference to this claim.
The first printed reference to the scone was in 1513 by a Scottish poet Gavin Douglas, when he translated the Latin version of Virgil’s Aeneid into Middle Scots:
“On grene herbis and sonkis of soft gers:
The flowr sconnys (flour scones) war set in, by and by,
With othir mesis, sik as war reddy;
Syne bred trynschouris dyd thai fyl and charge
With wild scrabbis and other frutis large.”
The Oxford English Dictionary acknowledges the possibility of “scone” as a derivation from the Middle Dutch word “schoonbroot”, which means “fine bread”.
What is generally agreed on nevertheless, is that scone has always been part of the British custom of afternoon tea. According to a blog post on the tea company Twinings’ website, a perfect afternoon tea menu should include light cakes, scones, and sandwiches.
This tradition of afternoon tea, also known as cream tea, was started by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. One afternoon in the early 1840s, the duchess wanted a meal light enough to curb her peckish feeling before dinner was served. She then asked for some snacks, believed to be cakes or sandwiches, and tea to be brought to her room. Soon this became a regular arrangement and she began calling her friends to join her. This custom caught on in England, especially amongst the upper class. Afternoon tea, ideally, should be served around 4 pm.
“Historically, this Scottish interloper (scone) played no part in the cream tea,” says an article on The Guardian. There is, however, no records found on when and why scones came to play such a significant role in afternoon tea (not sure if this should be included in this article?)
Renowned chef Gopi Chandran gives some advice on how to properly enjoy your scone.
First is to have them while they are still warm. “This ensures that they are still light and fluffy,” says Chandran. Next, the cream and jam rule, which is a highly debated topic. While the Devonshire method follows spreading cream first then jam, the Cornish method suggests jam first then cream. Chandran swears by a 2:1:1 rule. “The right balance in your scone is just as important as the order in which you apply the jam or cream,” he said. “A ratio of 2:1:1 is the ideal way to ensure you have the most delicious scones.”
The last rule Chandran offers is one that every scone lover should observe, to avoid committing a big faux pas. A scone should never be eaten like a sandwich. Instead, it should always be eaten by cutting into two halves and consuming each part separately.
Eating scones the right way is such serious business for the British that an advert with a picture of scone with jam on top of cream caused an outrage amongst the Cornish locals.
The oversight was a Mother’s Day afternoon tea advertisement by The National Trust’s Lanhydrock in Bodmin. One of the 300 people who lodged complaints, chastised the trust for “cultural vandalism.” Some threatened to boycott the property.
Finally, Queen Elizabeth II settled the scone debate when her former royal chef revealed how she likes to have hers.
“Jam first at Buckingham Palace garden parties!” said Darren McGrady on Twitter. McGrady was a personal chef to the royal family for fifteen years. He then added in a subsequent tweet, “The Queen always had homemade Balmoral jam first, with clotted cream on top at Buckingham Palace garden parties in the royal tea tent and all royal tea parties.”
A type of quick bread that is popular amongst the British. Usually eaten as a snack in the afternoon, paired with tea. Although scones are usually eaten plain with jam and cream on top, some modern recipes call for mashed potatoes.
Self-raising flour, baking powder, butter, caster sugar, milk, beaten egg , to glaze.