Deliciously easy fluffy scones with jam and cream

Living Well | Tianna Nadalin | Images: Getty | Posted on 04 May 2021

Master the art of baking scones with this easy recipe from RACV Cape Schanck resort.

Is there anything better than the smell of freshly baked scones? The toasty aroma of buttery goodness wafting from the kitchen is surely the essence of homespun hospitality.   

Scones are a simple yet delicious way to add an indulgent touch to any celebration or gathering, especially when slathered with sweet sticky jam and lightly whipped cream. So universally irresistible are the delectable discs that they have become a staple at everything from high teas and baby showers to cake stalls and, of course, Mother’s Day celebrations. 

Scone with jam and cream

There’s an art to baking perfectly light and fluffy scones.


But don’t let their omnipresence fool you: there is an art to baking perfectly light and fluffy scones. And many perfectly capable cooks are defeated by the challenge. 

If your scones tend to turn out more like rock cakes than lovely leavened cream carriers, don’t despair. With a few pointers, you’ll be rolling out batches of superbly baked beauties in no time.  

Regardless of whether you like them sweet, savoury, sultana-loaded or slathered in jam and cream, RACV Cape Schanck head pastry chef Shannon Thirumal (previously of Lakehouse, Ezard and est by Merivale) has some simple tips for baking foolproof fluffy scones every time. Plus we share his ultimate go-to recipe for the easiest ever classic scones.  

Shannon’s six tips for making perfectly fluffy scones

Why are my scones dense and tough, not light and flaky? 

When it comes to light and fluffy scones, Shannon says the biggest mistake people make is overworking the dough. “When mixing the ingredients, you want it to just come together,” he says. “Overworking the dough develops the gluten which will make your scones heavy, hard and rubbery.

If you’re using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, keep a close watch on it and stop beating as soon as the mix resembles breadcrumbs. If mixing by hand, gently rub butter into the flour using just the tips of your fingers and stop as soon as it resembles breadcrumbs.

How do you make scones rise better?

So you’ve added the rising agent but your scones are still flat as a tack? You might need to give it a rest, literally. “Respecting the resting time is important to relax the gluten,” Shannon says. “Every time the dough is worked the gluten is developed so it needs to rest to relax.”

Every recipe is different, and recommended resting times will vary, but make sure you follow the instructions and allow enough time to let the dough sit.

And don’t skip preheating the oven, says Shannon. “Having the oven preheated properly it gives the scones that extra push.”

Should you always work with cold hands when making scones? 

If your Nan always told you to work with cold hands when making scones – it turns out she was onto something. “Cold hands are important so that the butter does not melt,” Shannon says. “But working quickly and using a mixer also helps to reduce heat transfer from warm hands.”

What about flavour additions? 

Adding vanilla essence, sultanas or lemon zest might be delicious but, to quote Hugh Grant’s William Thatcher from Notting Hill, it’s not a classic. “Adding flavours is great but it takes away from what scones are meant to be,” Shannon says. 

But if you’re not a purist and feel like levelling up your Sunday scones, Shannon suggests adding lavender or earl grey tea. “It’ll give the scones a really nice aroma.”

While you can do this by steeping culinary lavender or earl grey tea in water (be sure to allow it to cool completely before adding 1/4 cup to the mix with the wet ingredients), Shannon says the easiest method is to simply grind them in a spice grinder and add the dry leaves into the bowl with your other dry ingredients.

Any other handy hacks for baking scones?

If your scones tend to be a little deflated, Shannon says swapping plain milk for buttermilk can yield fluffier results. “Buttermilk is more acidic, which helps to break down the gluten so the scones are softer.”

Another reason for flat scones may be that you’re placing them too far apart during baking. “Placing scones close to each other on the tray makes them work like a buddy system to rise,” says Shannon. If they’re too far apart, they have a tendency to expand outwards. Putting them closer together forces them to rise upwards.

And always remember practice makes perfect. “Don't be disappointed on your first attempt,” says Shannon.

And what about the toppings?

While some people prefer marmalade, Shannon says scone tradition dictates jam as the preferred option.  “I’m a fan of raspberry jam myself. And I make my own – just 50/50 raspberries and sugar and cooked down till thick.” As for the age-old question of which comes first: jam or cream, Shannon says there’s no debate – it has to be jam then cream on top, otherwise the jam will slide off. 

Close up of person cutting scone dough
Scones with jam and cream
Close up of homemade raspberry jam

Resting the dough before baking helps them rise to the occasion.


Shannon Thirumal’s best-ever classic fluffy scones

Makes: 20

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

Dough

  • 500 g plain flour 
  • 25 g baking powder 
  • 2 g salt
  • 60 g sugar 
  • 150 g butter, softened 
  • 105 g whole eggs (about 2 eggs)
  • 225 g buttermilk

Egg wash

  • Egg yolk
  • Dash milk
  • Pinch salt

To serve

  • Jam
  • Whipped or clotted cream

Method

  1. Preheat fan-forced oven to 180°C 
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a stand mixer and mix with a paddle attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix by hand.
  3. Add in the softened butter and mix with a paddle to form a crumbly texture. If mixing by hand, rub butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Beat together the eggs and milk and pour into the dry ingredients. More milk may be needed to make the dough slightly sticky. Be careful not to overwork. 
  5. Roll dough into a ball and leave it to rest on the bench for 30 minutes.
  6. Once rested, roll the dough out to about 3 centimetres thick.
  7. Cut to the desired size using a round cutter. If using a 55-millimetre cutter you will get about 20 rounds.
  8. Flip the scones upside down onto a tray lined with baking paper, placing them 2 centimetres apart. 
  9. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.
  10. While the scones are resting, make an egg wash with egg yolk, milk and salt, and brush the rested scones.
  11. Place scones in the oven. 
  12. Reduce the temperature to 170°C and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly golden on top.
  13. Allow to cool slightly. 
  14. Serve with raspberry jam, clotted cream (assembled in that order) and a glass of Trofeo Estate Terzetto prosecco-style sparkling, which is offered on the menu at Cape Schanck.