Two English Tea Cakes on a plate

English Tea Cakes

English Tea Cakes are another tea rooms staple – my customers love my homemade ones. My recipe is based on several different traditional recipes including Yorkshire Tea Cakes and classic English Tea Cakes and contains no spice.

I used to buy my tea cakes from my catering supplier but after COVID the tea cakes they supplied had changed and were not such good quality. After searching for other suppliers I decided to have a go at making my own traditional English teacakes. I found it was not difficult – I just had to allow enough time for proving.

The actual mixing, kneading, shaping and baking doesn’t take long as you can be doing something else while they are proving. They are really not time consuming to make.

Ingredients you will need to make English Tea Cakes

Jump to the printable recipe card

  • 1 pound 4 ounces / 560 grams / 3 ½ cups strong white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces / 110 grams / ½ cup sugar
  • 2 ounces / 55 grams / ¼ cup butter
  • ½ ounce / 15 grams / 2 sachets easy bake dried yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 12 fluid ounces / 360 ml / 1 ¼ cups warm milk
  • 8 ounces / 225 grams / 1 cup mixed dried fruit

Directions

  1. Stir the salt and sugar into the flour.
  2. Rub in the butter.
  3. Stir in the dried yeast.
  4. Add the egg and milk and mix to a fairly soft sticky dough.
  5. Knead for 5 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand.
  6. Work in the dried fruit until it is evenly distributed.
  7. Leave to rise until double in size. The time taken will depend on the room temperature – in a warm room it may only take a couple of hours. I usually make my dough in the evening and leave in my unheated kitchen overnight. By early the next morning it is ready to knock back and shape into tea cakes.
  8. When the dough has doubled in size tip out onto a floured working surface and knead again lightly. This is known as ‘Knocking back’.
  9. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces. They will weigh just under 6 ounces each.
  10. Shape the pieces of dough into round buns, then flatten until they are about 4 inches / 10 cm in diameter and place on a baking tray and cover with a piece of oiled cling film.
  11. Leave to rise until until they have doubled in size. Again the time taken will depend on how warm it is. In a warm kitchen it might only take 2 hours, in a cold kitchen it could take 5 hours or more.
  12. When they have risen bake in a pre-heated oven (200°C / 180°C Fan / 390°F / Gas Mark 6) for 20 minutes until well risen and brown and cool on a wire rack.

Customers love my homemade English Tea Cakes

My customers at the tearooms say my tea cakes are excellent so I will not be going back to buying manufactured ones. Many of the commercially produced tea cakes do contain mixed spice or cinnamon, so if you like spice add a teaspoon or two with the flour.

Traditionally tea cakes were made with lard but I substituted butter as it makes little difference to the taste and texture and makes my tea cakes suitable for vegetarians. A lot of commercially produced tea cakes also use palm oil as a substitute for lard as it is much cheaper than butter.

English Tea Cakes

Recipe by Scones Plus More Course: Snacks, Afternoon TeaCuisine: BritishDifficulty: Moderate
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Total Resting Times

4-10

hours or more
Baking Time

20

minutes

Although the actual mixing, kneading, shaping and baking doesn’t take long it does need two separate resting periods to allow the dough to rise. Depending on room temperature this can take anything from 4 to 10 hours. You can also leave it overnight if this is more convenient.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound 4 ounces / 560 grams / 3 ½ cups strong white flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 4 ounces / 110 grams / ½ cup sugar

  • 2 ounces / 55 grams / ¼ cup butter

  • ½ ounce / 15 grams / 2 sachets easy bake dried yeast

  • 1 egg

  • 12 fluid ounces / 360 ml / 1 ¼ cups warm milk

  • 8 ounces / 225 grams / 1 cup mixed dried fruit

Directions

  • Stir the salt and sugar into the flour.
  • Rub in the butter.
  • Stir in the dried yeast.
  • Add the egg and milk and mix to a fairly soft sticky dough.
  • Knead for 5 minutes by machine or 10 minutes by hand.
  • Work in the dried fruit until it is evenly distributed.
  • Leave to rise until double in size. The time taken will depend on the room temperature – in a warm room it may only take a couple of hours. I usually make my dough in the evening and leave in my unheated kitchen overnight. By early the next morning it is ready to knock back and shape into tea cakes.
  • When the dough has doubled in size tip out onto a floured working surface and knead again lightly. This is known as ‘Knocking back’.
  • Divide the dough into 8 even pieces. They will weigh just under 6 ounces each.
  • Shape the pieces of dough into round buns, then flatten until they are about 4 inches / 10 cm in diameter and place on a baking tray and cover with a piece of oiled cling film.
  • Leave to rise until until they have doubled in size. Again the time taken will depend on how warm it is. In a warm kitchen it might only take 2 hours, in a cold kitchen it could take 5 hours or more.
  • When they have risen bake in a pre-heated oven (Pre-heat your oven to 200°C / 180°C Fan / 390°F / Gas Mark 6) for 20 minutes until well risen and brown and cool on a wire rack.

English Tea Cakes and Yorkshire Tea Cakes

I was interested to look into some of the possible differences between English Tea Cakes and Yorkshire Tea Cakes.

Some say that English Tea Cakes commonly contain raisins and currants whereas traditional Yorkshire Tea Cakes do not and are often flavoured with spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. I found some recipes online that contradicted this and others that appeared to follow the traditional Yorkshire Tea Cakes recipe.

Others say that English Tea Cakes are typically larger and flatter than Yorkshire Tea Cakes, although Elizabeth David does say that a Yorkshire Tea Cake should be the size of a large saucer.

I also interestingly found some comments stating that English Tea Cakes are often sliced horizontally before being toasted and spread with butter, whereas Yorkshire Tea Cakes are typically served fresh and are often split open and buttered – however see my comment below about trying to persuade my customers to try a fresh out of the oven tea cake. It may just be that the tea cakes we tend to eat now are not as fresh as they used to be. Did they originate in Yorkshire and then spread to the rest of England?

In the end you can of course just mix and match and create your own perfect tea cake by including or excluding certain ingredients – another great advantage of making your own!

English Tea Cake cut in half spread with butter on a plate with a cup of tea in the background.

Serving suggestions for English Tea Cakes

Tea cakes were traditionally served warm from the oven – split and buttered. Nowadays they are usually served split and toasted before spreading lavishly with butter. This is probably because it is a long time since people baked their own and purchased tea cakes will not be as fresh as home baked so do taste better toasted. Always nice to try to promote English tea cakes recipes in general!

I have tried to persuade some of my customers to try a tea cake fresh from the oven but nobody has as yet. I must admit that I prefer them toasted too!

The tea rooms are very busy at the moment so this is the perfect time for me to share many of the popular recipes I make on a weekly and sometimes daily basis – see my Classic Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Sponge Cake to name just a few. Look out for my Lemon Cake in a few weeks time – another tearooms favourite!

Until next time

Happy Baking

Tanya

6 Comments

  1. I used your recipe on my second attempt to make tea cakes, so delicious! My only amendments were I soaked the raisins to make them juicier and I added a teaspoon of mixed spice. I can’t make enough now for my family.

    • That’s great that they worked out so well for you! I think I might try to soak my dried fruits too – I don’t generally add spice because many of the tea rooms customers prefer the tea cakes without. I’m so pleased that I decided to make my own for the tea rooms – so much nicer than the ones I used to buy in.
      Thank you!

  2. Geoff the Chef

    By far and away the best teacakes I’ve ever tasted. One question though, what gas number for cooking the said teacakes?

  3. I’ve tried twice to make these and they rise too high and look like rock cakes,nothing like a teacake and I can’t understand why. I follow the recipe exactly. They are also quite touch,nothing like your pictures, any ideas why please.

    • Hello Simon,
      Thank you for getting in touch. I’m awfully sorry they haven’t been a success for you.
      It sounds like it could be due to either the yeast or the proving.
      Make sure you are using an instant yeast, which mixes directly with the flour – I use Allinson Easy Bake Yeast – https://www.allinsonflour.co.uk/products/easy-bake-yeast. Active dry yeast has to be re-constituted in warm water.
      Also it must be a fairly soft, sticky dough. Sometimes you may need a little more or a little less liquid depending on the flour that’s being used.
      They may have over proved – length of time for proving depends on temperature, so you do really need to keep an eye on them when you first make them. If they over prove they will rise too high and collapse and turn into what might look something like a rock cake.
      Your comment has prompted me to start working on a video to add to this blog post – please look out for this.
      Thanks again.
      Tanya

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