Tea Cakes mean different things to different people, depending on where you come from. In Britain it’s even more confusing, because there are 2 different types; one with a shortbread base, topped with a marshmallow dome and covered in a thin layer of chocolate, which are more than an ickle bit scrummy. But they are quite tricky to make, and are best left to the amazing people at Tunnocks to do them justice (other Tea Cake manufacturers are available, but Tunnocks Teacakes are just awesome!).
So, that leaves the Tea Cakes that are made from a yeast based dough, are best sliced in half, toasted and slathered with butter. Some people call them fruit Tea Cakes due to the dried fruit in them.
I just call them delicious.
They remind me of Saturday mornings, when I was young, after Mum had been to the local bakery, and enjoying one for breakfast. In fact, I swear my Mum seems to have a Tea Cake radar, because if they are ever being made in the bakery she ‘happens’ to pop in just in time for one fresh from the oven….maybe its the smell of the spices she gets a whiff of and drives the 10 miles to enjoy one.
Tea Cakes may appear to be a bit of effort to bake, but don’t be fooled. Actual hands on time is no more than 15 minutes, but allowing the yeast to do it’s magic and rise (or prove) takes time……my advise – set a timer and go off and do something else, it’s really not that much bother.
Tea Cakes – Makes 8
150ml Milk, full cream or semi-skimmed is best
50gms Butter or Baking Spread
50gms Caster Sugar
370gms Strong Bread Flour
7gms Fast Acting Yeast (1 sachet)
1tspn Mixed Spice
zest of 1 Lemon
1 Beaten Free Range Egg
125gms of Mixed Fruit, I use half and half of raisins and sultanas, but use whatever you have or you like best.
In a saucepan warm the milk and butter until the butter is melted. Do not boil the milk, you just want it warmed through.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, salt and sugar. Add the yeast and lemon zest. Mix all together.
Make a well (or small dip) in the centre and pour in your warm milk and butter.
Add the beaten egg and using a wooden spoon mix all the ingredients together until you get a thick sticky dough.
Add the dried fruit, and using your (clean) hands mix it through until fully incorporated.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 5 minutes.
(Tip: If you have a stand mixer, put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, make a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients. Using the dough hook mix on low for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the dried fruit and mix until fully incorporated)
The dough should now should be stretchy with a silky appearance to the surface. Place back into your bowl and cover with cling film, rubbed with vegetable or sunflower oil to stop it from sticking. Leave somewhere warm (an airing cupboard is good) for about 1 and a half hours, or until its doubled in size.
A good way to tell if your dough has proved enough is to press it lightly with a finger. If the dent bounces back, you should be fine.
Lightly press the dough to get some of the air our – this is called ‘knocking back’. Turn the dough out and divide into 8 equal parts. I usually weigh it and divide by 8, but you don’t have to be that pedantic.
Roll each part into a neat ball and flatten (either with your hand or a rolling pin) to about half an inch thick
Place on a baking sheet and again cover with your cling film. Leave to prove for a further 45 minutes. After about 35 minutes heat your oven to 200c (180c fan), 400f or gas mark 5.
Bake your Tea Cakes in the middle of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until well risen, nutty brown on top, and when tapped on the bottom the middle sounds hollow.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack.
These are great served fresh from the oven, but wait until they’re cooled, slice in half, toast and cover them in butter which melts in for truly authentic Tea Cake experience.
These are best eaten within a couple of days, but can be frozen. Just defrost for 30 seconds in the microwave before slicing and toasting.