What Are Tea Cakes and why are they called tea cakes?

Do you love to savour slices of buttery moist cake that melts in your mouth with your evening chai? Chai or not, tea cake is the perfect snack to munch in the evenings. The combination of fluffy texture and golden crust topped with dry fruits makes it the perfect companion for your travels too. 

Also known as travel cakes, these little slices of heaven don’t need much introduction. But have you ever wondered how did they even come into existence? Read on to find out.

What is Tea Cake?

The tea cake is bread or cake usually served during evening tea time. Although you can find many variations across the world, its common ingredients include milk, butter, egg, chocolate, sugar, vanilla and flour. The process of making a tea cake is similar to any other cake and comes in all shapes and sizes. In India, it is usually rectangular as it is often baked in a loaf tin and looks like a pound of bread. 

You can rarely find a tea cake with icing on it. It is moist and usually flavoured with dry fruits, and spices making it the perfect combination for your evening chai. It is baked fresh and usually served straight out of the oven when it is still warm. It is cut into slices while serving so you can easily pick them with your fingers.

Types of Tea Cakes 

If you are going to ask how a tea cake looks or tastes, the answer depends on the region. Ever since its conception, it has travelled around the world and evolved into different variations. Some examples:

  • In England, it is a light, yeast-based sweet bun with dry fruits and has a flat, circular shape. Typically served with afternoon tea, it is sliced, toasted and buttered. You can find many varieties within England itself and across Europe.

  • America’s tea cake is a large but soft cookie made from sugar, butter, eggs, milk and flour. This version was created by African slaves in the southern United States and you can find many varieties in them.

  • The Russian Tea Cake is a small, ball-shaped buttery cookie made from simple ingredients like flour, water, butter and nuts. It is rolled in powdered sugar twice: once after baking when it’s still warm and again after it is cooled.

We know you are wondering about India’s variation. Our country’s tea cake is generally a butter cake which contains basic ingredients like flour, butter, sugar, egg(not always), baking powder and baking soda. Like most tea cakes, it is served warm with tea or as an evening snack. Apart from the basic ingredients, you can find flavours like chocolate, vanilla, dry fruits, fruits and spices infused in the batter. 

Oh! By the way, we want to tell you that BrownBrella Tea cakes are super rich, moist and trust us very irresistible.

History of Tea Cake

Wondering about the origin of tea cakes? The credit goes to a British Duchess who one day decided to have some tea and cake to cure her afternoon hunger!

But before jumping into the story, let’s give you a little context. 

After tea was introduced in Europe in the 17th century, it slowly grew into a symbol of style and elegance among the upper classes. Even with the increasing popularity, it was still a luxury in the 19th century. During that time, it was common among the British conservatives to have dinner at 8 PM. 

Thanks to these gaps, Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford in England started to experience an annoying “sinking feeling” in the afternoons. In other words, she was just hungry and wanted to have some snacks. One day in around 1840, she ordered a pot of tea and some cake, bread and butter to satisfy her hunger. It quickly became her private habit and later she started inviting her friends to join too. And the next thing you know, the afternoon tea party became a tradition among the upper-class ladies.

And we don’t need to tell you that cakes baked specifically for these tea parties were named tea cakes. 

Fun Fact: Tea Cake is the name of a character in the 1937 American novel called Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston!


Why tea cake is called travel cake?

Tea cakes are moist and stay so for a few days making them perfect for travelling. Also, you can easily store them as they don’t have any icing making them the best choice for picnics and trips.

Is Tea cake a Dry Cake?

Since tea cakes do not have any icing on them, some call them dry cakes. But this is really a misnomer. If your cake has all the required ingredients in the precise measurement and is perfectly baked, it will certainly turn out soft and moist.

What is a Coffee cake?

A coffee cake is nothing but a coffee-flavoured cake that you may or may not serve with coffee. It is usually circular and has coffee butter icing topped with dry fruits. 

[Coffee cake photo]

Wrapping Up

So, that was the story about tea cake. Interesting, don’t you think?

We know what’s going on in your mind. You do want to try some tea cakes now, don’t you? Don’t worry about your health. Because BrownBrella’s tea/travel cakes are free from refined sugar, refined flour, preservatives and eggs making them perfectly healthy. We have gluten, vegan and zero-sugar variants too. And we make tea cakes with ganache icing and also experiment with distinctive flavours.

Coming soon is our Fresh Blueberries, Lemon & Rosemary Tea Cake! Stay tuned!

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This post has one comment

Very informative !!! Keep it up my best wishes..

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