IT WAS NOT until I first visited England, some 30 years ago, that I knew what a fine meal tea can be. Even way back then there wasn't often time and place in the United States for that charming custom, and now, alas, even in England the modern pace of life is pushing the tea table aside. Although we may have to forgo the ambiance of the tea hour except on an occasional Sunday afternoon, we do not have to forgo all the hour and place. The cakes, biscuits and scones typical of the meal enchance breakfast, brunches, suppers, snacks or picnics almost as graciously as teas. SCONES 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour Pinch of salt 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 1 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 2 tablespoons butter or margerine 1/2 cup sour milk (or milk with a few drop of vinegar)

Sift the flour, salt, soda, cream of tartar and sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter with the fingertips until it is evenly distributed. Quickly stir in the milk, more or less milk as needed to give a soft but not sticky dough. Turn the dough on a floured board and knead light and quickly until just smooth.Roll out 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 2-inch rounds with a pastry cutter or glass. Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet and bake n a preheated 450-degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Serve the scones warm or at room temperature with butter and jam, or even better, with whipped cream (since we do not have clotted cream in the U.S.) and jam, preferably strawberry or raspberry. Scones may be made in advance, frozen, and reheated. LEMON LOAF 6 tablespoons butter of margerine 1 cup sugar 2 eggs, beaten 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder Pinch of salt 1/2 cup milk Grated rind of 1 lemon Juice of 1 large lemon 1/2 cup sugar

Cream together the sugar and butter.Add the beaten eggs and blend well. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and stir into the egg mixture alternately with the milk. Stir in the lemon rind. Beat well.Pour into a greased loaf pan (8-by-4-by-4-inches) and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 45 minutes. Mix together the lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar and pour over the loaf while it is still hot. Cool in the pan.

Serve warm or at room temperature, sliced thick, with butter. The loaf will keep well for four or five days and freezes beautifully. APPLESAUCE CAKE 1/2 cup butter 1 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs, well beaten 1 1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened) 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon 2 teaspoons cocoa 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup raisins 3/4 cup nutmeats 3/4 cup hot water 2 teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter well. Add sugar gradually, beating well. Add eggs and applesauce. Sift flour, spices, cocoa, salt and mix with raisins and nuts. Add alternately with the hot water in which the soda has been dissolved. Be sure that some of the flour is in the last addition, along with the vanilla. Beat the entire mixture well.

Bake in a loaf pan (12-by-8-by-2-inches) for 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees. Ice the cake while it is still warm.

ICING: Bring to the boiling point, 1 cup brown sugar, 4 tablespoons cream and 1 tablespoon butter; mix with 1 cup grated coconut. Spread on loaf. Brown under the broiler.

This cake will keep well refrigerated for up to a week. It also freezes well. MADELEINES 2 1/2 tablespoon butter 1/2 cup sugar 3 eggs 3/4 cup sifted cake flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 2 tablespoon orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier); lacking these use 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Soften the butter in a mixing bowl without melting it. Gradually beat in, with a whisk or electric beater, the sugar for at least 5 minutes. Add one egg and beat another 3 minutes; add a second egg, beat 3 minutes more, add the last egg and beat again for 3 minutes. Then, using a spoon gradually and thoroughly fold in the flour after sifting it with the baking powder. Stir in the flavoring. Spoon batter into buttered floured madeleine molds; fill 2/3 full. If lacking the madeleine pans, use other shallow molds such as tiny tart shells. Bake 8 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the mold, in a preheated 375-degree oven. GENOA ROUND 2/3 cup finely ground almonds 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar 1/4 pound butter 1/3 cup sifted cake flour, plus 1 tablespoon 3 eggs Pinch salt 2 tablespoon Kirsch or Cointreau; or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the ground almonds and half of the sugar in a mixing bowl. Put in the butter, softened but not melted. Mix well with a whisk and continue to mix while adding the remaining sugar. Beat until the mixture begins to whiten; add the almonds and continue to beat while mixing in the eggs one by one at 2 minute intervals. Do not be upset if the mixture turns when the last egg is added. Now beat in the small pinch of salt and the sifted flour and finally the flavoring.Pour the batter into a greased, 8-inch round shallow cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes in a preheated 375-degree oven. This cake is served without any frosting. It may be made days in advance. It freezes well.