How to create a gluten-free high tea menu

Nikki ParkinsonFood and Wine, Life 30 Comments

Sponsored by Woolworths

I took you through my gluten-free story here. It’s something that resonated with many of you and I’m glad I opened the discussion here about it.

Making the decision to eliminate a whole category of food from your diet is not something to be taken lightly and is preferably done with advice from a GP, dietician, nutritionist or naturopath. It was only after my own research and then getting advice from a naturopath that I finally took the step.

When I felt the difference within weeks, it was just confirming something I’d long suspected. Gluten and my guts do not good bedfellows make.

Luckily I was already quite up on how to cater the gluten-free way. A good friend and my father-in-law are diagnosed coeliacs. I had always made an effort to offer gluten-free choices for them if they were coming to my home to eat, so catering for myself was already second nature.

One of the last bastions of gluten dominance when it comes to eating out are high tea events – or even parties where the usual fare is all about cakes and sandwiches. Even most pizza restaurants now offer gluten-free alternatives.

If I know I’m going to an event where it is a high tea scenario then I usually phone ahead to see what alternatives there are for me. Most restaurants, if they know in advance, can help with this. There is nothing worse then sitting with a tiered plate of enticing goodies in front of you, none of which you can eat without the full awareness that your digestive system will go into over-drive within hours of consuming even a mouthful.

Catering at home – or going to someone else’s home – for a similar event is a whole lot easier.

Some of my best baking recipes are flourless (these dark chocolate raspberry brownies are always on high request around here) but when it comes to a cupcake, I prefer more of a lighter cake.

I also like my gluten-free cupcakes to taste just as good as their gluten-full counterparts. And here’s where I let you in on a little kitchen short-cuts secret. Yes, I can make gluten-free cupcakes from scratch but I’ve always got a packet mix at the ready in the cupboard too.

My fave mix is the Woolworths Macro Gluten-Free Cupcake Mix. It’s a vanilla cake mix that comes with an icing mix as well. It’s great to make up as it is but it’s also easy to add a simple flavour twist. In this case it was all about chocolate. I added some cocoa to the mix, kept the icing vanilla and crumbled Macro Gluten-Free Double Choc cookies on top.

how to create a gluten-free high tea menu

Master SY knows his way around a cake and wants to be a judge on TV show, Recipe to Riches. What did my biggest baking critic think of this batch?  He gave them a double thumb up. That’s the key for me – if a gluten-free product tastes as good as its gluten-full counterpart then it’s a win-win all round.

Here’s what I added to the mix:

Woolworths Macro Gluten Free Cupcakes

You can swap out the milk and butter for water and margarine to make these dairy-free. I haven’t tried that method so can’t vouch for the taste.

These cupcakes were gobbled up as after-school treats but they are good enough to make the hero item of a gluten-free high tea event.

Below is what I’d also prepare to round out the menu. Everything is gluten-free. You really don’t have to sacrifice flavour or the treats usually associated with such an event.

Gluten-Free high tea sample menu



Chicken sandwiches

Salmon and cucumber circles

Fruit cups



Menu notes

1. Cupcakes are sorted. Make the night before and ice that morning. They will still taste fresh. You could do half the batch chocolate and leave half vanilla. Ice them different colours too. Your choice.

2. Macarons can be either pre-bought or if you’re feeling up to it, whip them up yourself from scratch or using a pre-mix. I’m admitting now that I’ve never made them but have happily ordered for special events.

3. I wouldn’t have even put gluten-free sandwiches on a menu until a couple of years ago. Most bread out there is like cardboard and that’s being generous. As a consequence, I don’t eat a lot of bread but on an occasion like this, I’d create sandwiches using a mix of regular bread and a loaf of Country Life Gluten Free Multigrain bread (it’s edible without toasting). Poach chicken breasts, the night before. Allow to cool, dice and add to a bowl with chopped shallots, celery and walnuts. Mix with equal parts sour cream and gluten-free mayonnaise (I make my own in the Thermomix but there are brands out there that are GF). Spread on sandwiches and cut just before guests arrive.

4. I’ve been serving up salmon and cucumber circles long before my GF days. So fresh and great as a canape too. Here’s how.

Gluten-free high tea: chicken sandwiches; cucumber and salmon rounds

5.  This is such an easy thing to do. Work with stand-alone cupcake holders like those pictured on my cupcakes. You can buy them at home/kitchen type stores as well as a multitude of places online. Use seasonal fruit that doesn’t discolour, eg grapes, blueberries, raspberries, melon (chopped in very small pieces) and serve with a cocktail fork. Sprinkle some shredded coconut on top if you want to get fancy.

6.  Champagne is a must really, wouldn’t you say? Buy the best your budget can afford and trust me, Dan Murphy’s has been dishing up some great deals on the fancy stuff of late so if it’s a special occasion, keep an eye out. Otherwise, a good sparkling will do the trick. Add a hibiscus flower in syrup for a sweeter, pink cocktail effect.

7.  A high tea without tea is just not a high tea. I like to offer a variety of teas and hot water and have one big pot of tea made up with a favourite – maybe a Lady Grey or an English Afternoon.

Gluten-free high tea

Add to the mix a bunch of beautiful and intelligent friends and you have the makings of a fabulous afternoon.

What would be a must on your high tea menu? If you are gluten-free, do you bake? Favourite things that work for you?

Comments 30

  1. Hi Nikki

    Gluten free is fabulous and after just spending the last week listening to the gluten summit talks by world renowned specialists in this field, I know more than ever that Gluten really is the devil and the culprit behind so much of what is making people sick (not just our tummies!). I’m also mostly dairy free but that agree with you cheese is sooo hard to give up. I make everything form scratch so haven’t looked at the ingredients of the Macro range but you do need to be vary wary as a lot of commercial manufacturers use less than ideal ingredients.

    1. I’m not surprised by the gluten summit talks – I think most of our intolerences have come from a lifetime of having too much of it – in every meal! Glad you’re with me on the cheese!

      I do make the majority of my food from scratch too – cheating only occasionally with something like this that is a sometimes food. I’m also great on baking GF flourless cakes and the like but getting a cupcake that tastes like a regular cupcake has been a battle. The pack “says” no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives but there are thickeners and raising agents on the ingredients list so not the same as if making from scratch.

  2. Hey Nikki just wanted to say this is the way to do a sponsored post! More & more I am seeing sponsored content on some of my favorite blogs & some are OK at it & some are terrible but you have really nailed it! Loved that this whole post does not revolve around the “brand” & that it still feels like a pretty normal blog post 🙂

  3. Thanks Nikki, i’ve also recently made the same decision as you (with professional advice) but i’m also dairy free, so double thanks for posting a dairy free option, too! thechailatte xx

  4. Hi Nikki,
    Just had to say how much I enjoy reading your blog! You sound so down to earth and lovely! I really look forward to reading your blog each time it’s delivered to my email. Today’s blog got me thinking about coeliac and IBS. My husband and 17 year old daughter have IBS and I’d have to say there is a lot of similarities between the two diseases. Our doctor said nothing works for IBS but following reading your blog today I’m going to get a referral for my daughter and get her tested by a specialist to check that she’s not suffering from coeliac disease instead.

    1. Hi Liz, my daughter did an elimination diet and it determined that she had a gluten intolerance. A colonoscopy discounted Coeliac disease. She suffered from terrible IBS which is why she wanted to go through the elimination diet through a dietician referred to by her doctor. Now gluten free she has very little IBS. Hope this helps.

    2. Oh thanks so much Liz, I hope Nerida’s advice has helped too but yes, I would advise getting advice from a dietician or naturopath to try an elimination diet … if it’s going to make a difference, you’d find that within a few weeks. Good luck!

  5. This sounds delicious. I like to use the old zucchini slice recipe (substitute GF SR Flour) but make it in the silicon mini muffin tray. A bit of crumbled feta or goat’s cheese and perhaps a chilli flake or two make these bite sized morsel perfect for a high tea.

  6. When i can, I make a gluten free choice, not because I am gluten intolerant, ( maybe I am!) but because it makes me feel better. My tummy does not handle bread very well, (cramping and bloating) and it makes me feel tired. I love the idea of this high tea menu and I am definitely going to make these cupcakes! If it passes the kid test, even better!

  7. Those cupcakes look awesome! I am not GF but as with most people feel a lot better when I limit my intake. Love the tea cup too!!

  8. We’ve just started on the Gluten free diet for our 3yo and it’s proving hard. My husband and I do gluten free at home, but during the day when she’s not around we eat whatever we feel like. I find the hardest is pasta so if you know a great brand of gluten free pasta I would love to know. Here favourite things before gluten free were vegemite sandwiches, spagetti sausages. Gluten free sausages are easy and bread options are plenty. But spagetti is just not the same. Anyone know the best brand to try?

  9. Yes you must have champagne and vintage cups and saucers and a lovely cake plate they are”MUSTS” for a high tea I would agree.I am not gluten intolerant and that is good as I hate things made with almond meal I know I am strange but I don’t like nuts,But I am lactose intolerant which is a pain as a lot of places do NOT have lactose free milk and I don’t like soy and am working my way through all the other options.
    Great Post Nikki as a lot of people are GF and coeliac now and I would eat those cupcakes if they were on offer.I am finding all the places around here do offer GF options from pizza bases to muffins which is great!

  10. Those cupcakes look sensational! A naturopath recently told me that 90% of the population have trouble with gluten and most are unaware. My daughter is unable to eat gluten or dairy and her partner is vegetarian – so our regular family dinner nights can be a challenge. But i have made chocolate cake with chickpeas and a sinfully rich chocolate cake with no dairy or wheat at all, served with berry purée and coconut cream sauce. Thank goodness for the internet – I love Australian based website “best recipes”. Next treat day, definitely going to try those gf cupcakes!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.