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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.


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


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 3 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!

    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 3 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. :)


      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

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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!

        • John Dyhouse profile image

          John Dyhouse 3 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 3 years ago

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

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