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The Ultimate Cucumber Sandwich

Updated on March 20, 2015

The essential afternoon tea sandwich

For afternoon tea you must have cucumber sandwiches. Not just any old cucumber sandwiches either.

It may sound simple to put together the three essential ingredients of bread, butter, and cucumbers, but there's more to making a cucumber sandwich than you think.

Just as there's an art to a proper afternoon tea, there's an art to the ultimate cucumber sandwich.

The cucumber sandwiches must be good enough to serve to the Queen Of England.

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The Gracious Art of Afternoon Tea

Having afternoon tea is the height of self indulgence. It's a gracious meal served between light lunch and late dinner somewhere between 3 o'clock and 5 o'clock.

Once it was mainly confined to the aristocracy, but times and lifestyles change. The afternoon tea has seen a revival in recent years as its elegance is once more enjoyed.

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The Gracious Art of the Cucumber Sandwich

Cucumber Sandwiches are an integral part of afternoon tea. Make a favourable impression with the traditional cumber sandwich, made in the traditional method.

Cucumber sandwiches must be small, they must be crustless and they must be very, very thin.

Serve cucumber sandwiches in style - Rosanna Le Petit Hameau Two Tiered Tray

Le Petit Hameau porcelain, named for Marie Antoinette's Little Village amidst the gardens of Versailles

Rosanna Le Petit Hameau Two Tiered Tray
Rosanna Le Petit Hameau Two Tiered Tray

The classic beauty of 18th century toile in sumptuous pink and deep charcoal hues. . For your tea, treats and cucumber sandwiches.

 

How to Prepare the Bread for Cucumber Sandwiches

  1. Traditionally, the bread is white.
  2. Remove the crusts from the bread.
  3. Cover a bread slice with a fine layer of soft butter. You could use a very mild cream cheese instead of butter although there is some disagreement over the authenticity of the cheese.
  4. Spread the butter right up to the very edge of the bread slices in the thinnest coating. This protects the bread from getting damp with cucumber juice.
  5. A cucumber sandwich, when picked up, must not become damp enough to moisten your fingers.

Prepare the Cucumber

For a cucumber sandwich you need Garden Cucumbers a couple of smooth skinned, dark green ones..

Wash them thoroughly in case there's any wax in the skin.

Take a good sharp knife and cut off the ends. Where you see rough and knobbly skin, then finely slice as much off as you can. We need to see a good amount of green in the sandwich.

Slice the cucumber into very thin slices. Dash a little lemon juice over the slices - go easy.

Place the cucumber slices onto the bread

You can't prepare the cucumber sandwiches until you're almost ready to serve them or the bread will dry and the cucumbers wilt.

Leave the slicing of the cucumbers and the assembly of the sandwiches for the last minute.

Cucumbers must be really thinly sliced

Afternoon Tea with the Queen - Kensington Palace

bitboy

Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches with tea as served at The Orangery at Kensington Palace in London.

Every year Queen Elizabeth II opens the private gardens at Buckingham Palace to host three afternoon tea parties

The gates open at 3:00 p.m. so that guests can enjoy a walk in the Royal Gardens, usually closed to the public.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by members of the Royal Family, enter the garden at 4:00 p.m. as one of two bands plays the National Anthem. Taking a different route, each Royal circulates amongst the guests. High ranking, dignitaries, and special guests proceed to the Royal tent to join the Royal Family for afternoon tea. The remaining guests are served tea from a 408-foot long buffet table.

At 6:00 p.m., the Queen and Royal Family depart for the Palace, where once again the National Anthem is played to indicate that the party has ended.

Served on Silver

Even if you don't get to have tea with the Queen, you can still be ready in case of any eventuality.

Fingers or Triangles?

The Great Debate. Should cucumber sandwiches be in ladylike fingers? Or should they be in delicate triangles? What do you think? Feel free to state your stand on this particularly vexing question

How should you slice your Cucumber Sandwiches?

Why break with Tradition? Cucumber sandwiches are always sliced into sylphlike Fingers. Practical. Little, light and ladylike. Fit for the Queen.

Why break with Tradition? Cucumber sandwiches are always sliced into sylphlike Fingers. Practical. Little, light and ladylike. Fit for the Queen.

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    • jane Buttram 2 years ago

      Isn't this why we call them finger sandwiches?

    • Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm for fingers. Easier to hold and eat without getting messy. I'm afraid I'd never make a proper Englishwoman, given that I manage always to be a bit klutzy. : )

    • steadytracker lm 4 years ago

      I preper the traditional way

    • Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Yep, little finger sandwiches, for sure

    • Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I'll go with tradition. I've never had tea (well, I've drank tea) so any way would be fine with me!

    • Science-Fiction-Fan 4 years ago

      Why should anyone want to break with tradition?

    • Donallphin 4 years ago

      Ladylike fingers.

    • Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

      If I had to vote, I'd go for the fingers, but to be honest with you, I'll eat them no matter what shape they come in!

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Actually I love cucumber sandwiches any way. I also love the apple cucumbers and can eat them just like an apple. great lens

    • jaclinart lm 4 years ago

      They are good no matter how you slice them! I probably prefer fingers!

    • WebMarketingPro 4 years ago

      Practical finger shape. Though I don't mind triangles either. Haven't had cucumber sandwiches in ages. Must make some tomorrow.

    • Susanna Duffy 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      The photos have credits on them, in very small font so they're easy to miss

    • lilblackdress lm 5 years ago

      Indeed these cucumber sandwiches look quite tasty. I just bought cucumbers and have a little cream cheese perhaps I shall have tea this afternoon and nosh on some. Lovely photos. Did you take them?

    • River_Rose 5 years ago

      I have never eaten one but it sounds lovely! I prefer lemon cookies with my tea!

    • scss 5 years ago

      I love my cucumber sandwiches both ways! It depends on how I want to present them... on a platter or on my own little plate!

    • CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Gee, I have only ever had the triangle ones, but I like the idea of the long, thin ones very much.

    • Science-Fiction-Fan 6 years ago

      Always in Fingers. Lady Bracknell preferred Fingers

    • LadyFlashman 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      In fingers, definitely!

    Thin, thin triangles make cucumber sandwiches. Only a semi-transparent triangle is thin enough to grace the comely cucumber.

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      • John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

        I always thought that triangles were traditional

      • TedWritesStuff 4 years ago

        Triangles. You get more sandwich and they are easier to hold!

      • Ibexing 4 years ago

        its triangles for me.....

      • Stephanie Tietjen 4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

        Triangles are more delicious.

      • eightieschild 4 years ago

        Triangular sandwiches somehow always taste better to me. :)

      • jlshernandez 4 years ago

        I would opt for the thin triangles as these seem daintier for HIgh Tea.

      • ShoppingWithMonty 5 years ago

        I'm going with the triangle on this one!

      • Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

        I suppose thin would be more Queen-like.

      • Jolent 5 years ago

        I need a third choice, lol, for my cucumber sandwiches fit neither of these catagories.... but then they are not traditional nor are they delicate ladylike sandwiches in either finger or triangle... they are hearty and made for a filling lunch, not just a tea snack.

      • alex89 lm 5 years ago

        Normally I would take the side of tradition, but I think cucumber sandwiches just taste better in a triangle.

      • 7thStone 5 years ago

        Triangles ... I love the geometry of the sandwich!

      • nickirc lm 5 years ago

        Always triangles!

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Thin for the Qeeen!

      • ttsm197 6 years ago

        I always cut in thin triangle pieces

      • Rockett LM 6 years ago

        I love cucumber sandwiches. But I am far too lazy and just shove the slices into a pita with some mayo.

      • jgall34 lm 6 years ago

        I like the triangles myself.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        oh, always thin! There is not even a question here.

      Credits

      Photos, unless stipulated otherwise are by Susanna Duffy

      All comments are greatly appreciated. You don't have to be the Queen to leave yours

      © 2010 Susanna Duffy

      Leave a Message for the Hostess

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          Peter Badham 3 years ago from England

          Afternoon tea or 'high tea' is really back in fashion in England now, showing up on many TV programs like 'Britains Best Bakery'(one of their tasks being to make 5 afternoon snacks. Now you can shoot me, but I love the addition of Marmite in my cucumber sandwiches..

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          acreativethinker 3 years ago

          These cucumber sandwiches look amazing. Thanks for sharing. Take care :)

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          moonlitta 3 years ago

          It is my first year as a gardener, and my first to pick my own cucumbers either- so I fight cucumber excess... sandwiches are always a great idea!

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          John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

          Usually grow cucumbers in the garden so we have to have lots of cucumber sandwhiches to use them up. This year its more tomatoes, the cukes didn't get thru the cold spring

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          mariacarbonara 4 years ago

          i haven't done a proper afternoon tea in years. Thanks for the reminder. Great lens

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          Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

          @OhMe: The Queen would never tolerate mayonnaise on her cucumber sandwiches

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          Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

          I love a good cucumber sandwich but we always use mayonnaise instead of butter or cream cheese. I will have to try it your way.

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          liamsquidoo 4 years ago

          Great job on the lens, keep squidooing!

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          Rose Jones 4 years ago

          Back to sprinkle some angel dust. This reminds me of my Anglophile sister who just passed away. Wonderful lens.

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          StephenJackson2 4 years ago

          Great Lens and enjoyed visiting, just a shame i don't like cucumbers :P.

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          EricaShops 4 years ago

          I am a tea fanatic and can't wait to make these sandwiches. It'll be like a proper tea party. :)

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          Susan R. Davis 4 years ago from Vancouver

          Return visit for me. Loved this, especially after I read about afternoon tea recently. *blessed*

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          cmadden 4 years ago

          I suspect I'll enjoy them whether they are digits or geometric! Oh, great! Now I'm hungry, and not a cucumber in the house.... Love your lens!

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          Science-Fiction-Fan 4 years ago

          Very elegant cucumber sandwiches

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          Gregory Moore 4 years ago from Louisville, KY

          Very tasty! Now I'm hungry. Thanks

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          TedWritesStuff 4 years ago

          Who knew that cucumber sandwiches could actually be interesting. Good job.

        • Steph Tietjen profile image

          Stephanie Tietjen 4 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

          I must make these...I've never had one and love cukes. Hope I can make thin slices.

        • eightieschild profile image

          eightieschild 4 years ago

          Wow, you've managed to take what sounds like possibly the dullest food on the planet, and turn it into an interesting lens. :)

        • jlshernandez profile image

          jlshernandez 4 years ago

          I have to learn to slice cucumber paper thin to make these scrumptious tea sandwiches. Thanks for the recipes.

        • jaclinart lm profile image

          jaclinart lm 4 years ago

          My mouth is now watering for cucumber sandwiches!

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          WebMarketingPro 4 years ago

          I'll be shopping for cucumbers and appropriate bread tomorrow.

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          JoyfulPamela2 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

          These look delightful!

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          gaser983 5 years ago

          Fantastic lens, well done! Squidlike

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          CoeGurl 5 years ago from USA

          I very much like tea sandwiches. They alway taste better when someone else makes, them, I don't know why. Lovely lens!

        • ShoppingWithMonty profile image

          ShoppingWithMonty 5 years ago

          It's been so long since I had a cucumber sandwich and now I really want one with a nice cup of tea. I'm going to get some cucumber tomorrow when I go shopping. My mouth is watering at the very thought!

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          JanieceTobey 5 years ago

          Our homeschool co-op had a Tea one afternoon during the time we were studying England. One of the things we served was cucumber sandwiches. I didn't think I'd like them because I'm not a fan of cucumbers, but to my surprise, I loved them!! I'm so glad I tried them!!

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          DuaneJ 5 years ago

          I love a classic cucumber sandwich now and then! This lens makes my mouth water!

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          Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

          I must have missed the invite when I was there :) Love afternoon tea, well any tea time for that matter. I'm in need of one right now.

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          Rose Jones 5 years ago

          Very sweet. You show us how to put on a lovely British tea with the cucumber sandwiches as the star. Pinned to my Cooking and Food board.

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          BestRatedStuff 5 years ago

          Great lens, love cucumber sandwiches. Love the pictures too, brings out the afternoon tea atmosphere.

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          Jolent 5 years ago

          Great lens! I love cucumber sandwiches for lunch that are hearty filling, so my cucumber sandwiches fall far from any traditions anywhere. First, I use Orowheat Winter Wheat bread for it's nutty sweet taste (and for the sunflower seeds in it too!) . It''s nicely textured bread that tastes good plain even with nothing on it....plus, I rarely ever eat white bread anymore. No butter or mayo for me on this sandwich. On one half of the bread I spread some Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb Cheese. The other half of the bread gets a layer of mashed avocado with a sprinkle of salt. I like my cucumbers sliced about 1/4 - 3/8 inch thick because I like the crunch in the sandwich. Add a layer of alfalfa sprouts, and viola! ... a hearty filling cucumber for lunch. Yum. Guess I know what is for lunch today.

        • justDawn1 profile image

          justDawn1 5 years ago

          Have never tried a cucumber sandwich! (Actually, never even heard of it). Will have to give it a try when the farmers market starts up :)

        • Pmona LM profile image

          Pmona LM 5 years ago

          I love cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese, but I also add lettuce and tomato - a far cry from what you would serve the Queen. And I never had them with tea, but it does sounds delicious.

        • alex89 lm profile image

          alex89 lm 5 years ago

          very nice, I love cucumber sandwiches. My great grandmother apparently could slice a cucumber so thin you could read the newspaper through it, I'm still working on it!

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          Science-Fiction-Fan 5 years ago

          How essentially elegant - cucumber sandwiches for afternoon tea

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          7thStone 5 years ago

          Yummy ... I love afternoon tea. In the summer when we have fresh cucumbers and vidalia onions it's one of our favorite sandwiches (we also love tomato with mayo :) Great Lens, thanks for sharing such a nice tradition.

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          Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

          Nice idea, veggies on a sandwich!

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          River_Rose 5 years ago

          Nice lens.....learned something new today ! Thanks !

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          scss 5 years ago

          Just love these cucumber sandwiches! Have already had some this spring - now it's summer I look forward to picking cucumbers from my own garden.... NOW THAT is a tasty cucumber!

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          cocktailsexaminer 6 years ago

          Great advice, thank you for sharing!

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          Iudit Gherghiteanu 6 years ago from Ozun

          So beautiful pictures, and i am sorry because i can not invite you for a tea with those sandwiches, unless you would like to fly 36 hours to get here. but never say never...

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          CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

          I think it's been years since I had a cucumber sandwich, but I remember liking it very much. Hadn't thought of them in ages, but now I am thinking of them again,

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          traveller27 6 years ago

          Beautiful lens - I remember having cucumber sandwiches when I was growing up.

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          pimbels lm 6 years ago

          They look delicious. Wonderful lens, thank you.

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          annamari 6 years ago

          I did not know how very important the thin cucumber sandwich was to having tea, until reading your lens. I think I shall invite the gals over for this special treat! Thanks!

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Now I am fully prepared should the Queen stop by for tea and cucumber sandwiches. You cucumber sandwiches are an event all by themselves.

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          Science-Fiction-Fan 6 years ago

          Pass the plate of cucumber sandwiches please

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          jgall34 lm 6 years ago

          I did not realize you could make so many variations of a cucumber sandwich. very good lens.

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          Cheryl Paton 6 years ago from West Virginia

          I hadn't heard of these before, but they sound quite tasty. I'll give them a try some time.

        • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

          JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

          Oh, I haven't had one of those in ages! It looks and sounds so delicious. Cucumbers are on my shopping list this week! Do I have to have a tea party to enjoy them? : )

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          anonymous 7 years ago

          It has been forever since I have had a cucumber sandwich. This made me long for one so badly. Thank you, I will have to get to making myself one soon.

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          VSP 7 years ago

          I'm back, just want to let you know I added it to my Cambric Tea lens

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          hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

          this sounds perfect for my abundance of garden cucumbers.

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          VSP 7 years ago

          My daughter was looking for this recipe the other day. I'll email this lens to her.

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          happynutritionist 7 years ago

          I have never had a cucumber sandwich before...will have to try this! I added this lens to the plexo on my Vegetarian Sandwiches lens, if you have other vegi sandwich lenses, please feel free to add them:-)

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          LadyFlashman 7 years ago from United Kingdom

          I adore Afternoon Tea, I recently went to the Orangery in Kensington and it was marvellous. One day I will have to go to the Ritz. I love the humour of this lens and the gorgeous photos, cucumber sandwiches are fantastic - long may they live!