Cream cheese and olive sandwiches are perfect for tea — simple and adorable!
One thing I love about afternoon tea is the contrast between beauty and simplicity. Each tea sandwich or miniature dessert is thoughtfully presented with great attention to detail and garnishes.
But the recipes themselves tend to be on the simpler side, with rarely more than a spread and one or two filling ingredients per sandwich. Sometimes, like with a chicken salad or ham mousse, a tea sandwich only has one filling.
Really I think that contrast shows two sides of the same coin — savoring the experience and appreciation for detail. With tea, you savor with both your taste buds and your eyes, so an attractive presentation is important. And enjoying an ingredient in its purest form, alone or with a simple accompaniment on a delicate tea sandwich, allows you to appreciate it in a way you can’t when it’s overcomplicated with a slew of other ingredients.
That’s why I love these little cream cheese and olive sandwiches. A simple black and green olive tapenade — briney with a little texture — is contrasted with cool, creamy cream cheese. Plain, unflavored cream cheese is the perfect backdrop for the strong flavor of the olive tapenade. It was one of my and my sisters’ favorite combos growing up and that hasn’t changed a bit!
How to Make Cream Cheese and Olive Sandwiches
I start with simple white sandwich bread for these, although a denser, more thinly sliced white bread would be lovely too.
I cut rounds out of each slice of bread using a 1-1/2 inch round fluted cookie cutter (although since the flutes are small, they don’t really come out in bread. If you want yours to look fluted, I’d use a more flower-shaped cookie cutter).
I was able to get two rounds out of each slice of bread, but if you want to get more out of each piece of bread, you can cut rectangles or squares and you’d get three to four out of a slice.
The order of events will be slightly different depending on if you’re cutting out shapes or doing simple rectangles.
For cut-out shapes:
- Freeze bread.
- Cut out shapes.
- Spread cream cheese on all shapes.
- Spread olive tapenade on half the shapes.
- Assemble sandwiches.
For simple rectangles:
- Freeze bread.
- Spread cream cheese on all slices.
- Spread olive tapenade on half the slices.
- Assemble sandwiches.
- Cut off crusts and cut into rectangles with a serrated knife.
Freezing the bread in advance allows for cleaner cuts and a sturdier surface on which to spread your cream cheese, although I’d make sure your cream cheese is fully room temperature before spreading so it goes on smoothly!
After you assemble the cream cheese and olive sandwiches, it’s super cute to garnish with either a whole green olive and toothpick on top, or you could use a green olive slice laid flat on top.
If you’re making these in advance, you can store them in the fridge in an airtight container. To keep the sandwiches from drying out, cover them with a sheet of wax paper, followed by a damp paper towel. If not the edges will start to get a little crusty before long!
Looking for more tea sandwich ideas? Try these!
- Ham and pimento cheese tea sandwiches
- Deviled egg salad tea sandwiches
- Smoked salmon and asparagus pinwheels
- Marinated carrot and cucumber tea sandwiches
Did you make this recipe?
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Cream Cheese and Olive Sandwiches for Tea
- 12 slices white bread frozen
- 1/2 cup cream cheese room temperature
- 1/2 cup black and green olive tapenade
- 12 green olives with pimentos
- Cut two rounds out of each slice of frozen bread using a 1 1/2″ cookie cutter. Spread 1 tsp cream cheese on each round.
- Add 2 tsp olive tapenade to 12 of the bread rounds, and top with the other 12 rounds.
- To garnish, skewer a green olive with a toothpick and insert into the center of each tea sandwich.