Jam-packed with plump, moist, sultanas, this tea loaf is as delicious as it is easy. Made with just seven basic pantry ingredients, this cake is vegan, fat-free, and nut-free too.
This cake is the stuff of childhood memories. Of cosy winter evenings in front of a roaring fire. Of tea and crumpets for supper. Of reading fairy tales from a book my granddad had made me. And of simply being enveloped in the warmth of my grandparents' love.
I really, really love old-fashioned English tea loaf, and more than anything, it reminds me of going to visit my Auntie Rose and Uncle Fred, who lived right by the railway, on the Caledonian Road in London. Their flat was at the top of an old dark Victorian townhouse, accessed by a gazillion steep wooden stairs. Whenever a train went by, the whole house shook. Or so it seemed to my very young self!
I loved that flat, especially the sitting room. It was huge, and at one end it had a very large dining table, sideboard, and whatnot stands, complete with aspidistras. At the other, a big fireplace, over which was an ornate mantelpiece, which was home to several ornaments, and dominated by a sizeable dark wood clock. An obligatory mirror oversaw the whole room.
Immediately in front of the fire was a large deep brown leather Chesterfield sofa, with two matching armchairs off to each side. In true Victorian style, that front room was dark, and richly-furnished. I felt so at home there!
Whenever we went to visit, Auntie Rose, who was in a wheelchair, and therefore housebound, always put on a huge spread. There was jelly, ice cream, fish paste sandwiches, salad, hors d'oeuvre, and of course, tea loaf.
I loved it all, and relished every single morsel!
Like my grandparents, my aunt and uncle are long gone, as is, I suspect, their house. Until I returned to Britain, it felt like an eternity since I made my own tea loaf - since I've been back though, I make it at least once a month, and for several local cafés too. Everyone loves it so much!
Ingredients for this tea loaf
This tea-time favourite is made with seven simple ingredients, and requires no eggs, dairy, or any kind of fat. And no egg replacers, such as aquafaba, either! In fact, like Auntie Rose's tea loaf, this is made with nothing but basics you'll find in your pantry.
You just need some dried fruit soaked in strong tea, some flour and baking powder, a bit of jam, some brown sugar, and a couple of teaspoons of my masala chai spice blend!
How to make old-fashioned English tea loaf
- Soak your dried fruit in a cup of very strong tea.
- Mix with all the other ingredients to form a batter.
- Transfer to a loaf pan, and bake for just over an hour.
- Set aside to cool for a bit, then enjoy with a nice cuppa!
Tips for making this cake
Which type of tea to use?
A good English breakfast tea works very well, as does Darjeeling (later harvests... don't use a first flush). Earl Grey is good, too.
Any tea I shouldn't use?
I wouldn't use oolong, green tea, sencha, white tea or any first flushes because the flavour will be far too delicate. Plus I think it's a bit of a waste to use such nice teas in a cake!
I also don't recommend using lapsang souchong as its smoky flavour really would not work in this recipe.
Which dried fruit to use?
I prefer sultanas as they are nice and fat and juicy! However, it's really up to you what you use. When I make this at Christmas time, I sometimes use dried cranberries and cherries (not glacé cherries!).
Are there any jams that are best to use for this cake?
To be honest, I usually keep a jar of the cheapest supermarket jam I can buy, just for making tea loaf. Tesco sells one that costs about 30p!
I did use my Mother-out-Law's home-made rhubarb and ginger jam once, and it was completely lost. I envisioned a lovely ginger tang but no... it made no difference! So use whatever you have to hand.
I don't have masala chai spice - what I can use instead?
Well, firstly, why have you not made any? Ha ha! Secondly, bog-standard mixed spice from the supermarket is absolutely fine. Or you could use something like an apple or pumpkin pie spice mix. Or mix up your own blend!
Want more deliciousness?
- Perfect vegan brownies
- Turkish delight
- Salted caramel chocolate pots
- Foolproof choc chunk cookies
- Raspberry chocolate truffles
- Condensed milk
Apparently, in Yorkshire, tea loaf is eaten with a goodly spreading of butter, much like malt loaf. However, I prefer to eat it naked, as it were, with a cup of Earl Grey and lemon. What about you?
Old-Fashioned English Tea Loaf
- 300 ml strong black tea (made up with three tea bags or 3 teaspoon loose leaf tea)
- 225 g sultanas
- 110 g demerara sugar
- 1 tablespoon jam (use whatever you have)
- 225 g wholemeal spelt flour
- 2 teaspoon masala chai spice mix
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- Soak the sultanas in the tea for at least 6 hours. Overnight is better.
- Preheat your oven to 160°C (320°F/gas mark 3).
- Place a non-stick loaf pan liner into a 1 kg (2 lb) loaf pan. If you don't have any liners, grease the pan, and line the bottom with baking parchment.
- Place the soaked fruit and any tea that's left into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the sugar and jam. Set the mixer to slowly run. (You can also do this by hand in a large mixing bowl.)
- Slowly add the rest of the ingredients, and continue to gently mix for a minute or so, until everything is just incorporated. Don't over-mix or you'll end up with a heavy cake.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan, and bang on the counter a couple of times to remove any air pockets and to level the top.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 1¼ hours, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven, and set aside to rest in the pan for 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Serve at room temperature with a nice cup of tea!
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze for up to three months.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tablespoon = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml
Two of my favourite things are tea and fruit cake... I must have made this at least a dozen times and it's now my go to fruit cake recipe! After I've let it cool, I slice it up and freeze it, so when i fancy some i can just defrost a slice, then spread with butter! (Vegan butter, of course!) I live in South Wales in the UK and we have a traditional fruit cake also made with tea called Bara Brith. This is the perfect vegan alternative!
Awww Billy, thanks so much for your kind words. I am thrilled you love this so much. I do much the same as you - slice, freeze, defrost, enjoy! I don't put butter on mine, though - I like it plain. 🙂 xx
Sure I will adore the tea bread if I get around to making it,many thanks not only for the recipes but the lovely and detailed memories...reminds me of my mum's tales of eating at her favourite aunt and cousins house when she was young....just lovely to read...X
I think there must be something special about favourite aunties, don't you? So many of us seem to have them! xx
I really enjoyed reading your memories of visiting your Aunt and Uncle. The tea loaf looks fab and is just the sort of thing I love. As for the tea set Its gorgeous.
Thanks, Jacqui - I'm really glad you liked reading about my folks, and I hope you get to make the tea loaf... and love it as much as us! xx
Eb Gargano | Easy Peasy Foodie
What a wonderful recipe - and a lovely story! I love how food can so easily transport us back into the past and come attached with so many memories! This cake looks delicious...and pretty healthy too - does that mean I am allowed a second slice 😉 Thanks for linking up to #CookBlogShare. Eb x
Oh, me too, Eb - sometimes I only have to catch a whiff of certain foods (and drinks), and I'm instantly transported! And yes, I believe that two slices of tea loaf is completely reasonable! xx
Oh my, that china is so pretty! I have a copy of Sharon's book too - it's fab! I must have a go at the tea loaf, thanks so much for sharing!
Honestly, Chris, I've been urging so many people to make Sharon's tea loaf... I've made it rather a lot myself now. I love it so much! xx
Angela / Only Crumbs Remain
What lovely memories Nico, and such detail too. Those visits to your aunt and uncle were clearly very special times. I'm a huge fan of tea loaf Nico - though I must confess that it's been far too long since I made one. And i completely agree, although I'm a Yorkshire girl and my parents would happly eat a slice with a generous spread of butter/spread I'm like you and much pefer to eat it 'naked' so to speak 🙂 Thankyou for linking it up with #BakingCrumbs
Oh, they really were special, Angela - I adored Auntie Rose and Uncle Fred, and it was always such an adventure to drive to London to see them. London was so different to where I lived, it may as well have been a different country!
I hope you're going to make a tea loaf now! xx
Louise - Cooking with kids
I've been looking for a good tea loaf recipe, thanks for sharing this one.
You're very welcome, Louise - I hope you love it! xx
Thank you so much Nico for this post! It's been an absolute joy to read ❤️ It's wonderful to hear how the tea loaf brought back so many happy childhood memories for you. As I was reading it, I felt like I was travelling back in time too. And I love that china tea set! It was the perfect backdrop for your gorgeous photos.
As you mentioned in the post, I didn't expect you to write a review but I'm so thankful that you did. Reading your kind words has put one big smile on my face :oD
love, Sharon xx
I'm so happy you enjoyed my post, Sharon, and allowed me to share your recipe - the world needs to know about this fantastic cake! I'm glad the review put a smile on your face; I felt the least I could do after you so generously gifted me a copy was to let others know how fab your book is! xx
This looks delicious - I would definitely enjoy it with a scraping of margarine! #recipeoftheweek
Aah, you're the first person who's said they'd enjoy with a spread, Lauren! I hope you make it, and love it as much as we do! xx
I am such an England fan and never tried tea cake. Can you believe that? Time to change it now!
Thanks for sharing ...actually I love all the old fashioned stuff.
Claudia, you definitely have to make it (and have it in the afternoon with a cup of Earl Grey too)! I'm sure you'll absolutely love it! xx
Oh my gosh, I would have been terrified of that china cabinet falling on my head too! What a fantastic vegan loaf. The photos make me want to sit down and have a cup of tea with you and talk about baking.
Ha ha ha, you have no idea how much better your words make me feel now I know that I'm not alone in being terrified of slant-fronted cupboards, Nicole! I'm not sure I'll ever get over it! Should you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods, you are welcome to come to tea! xx
I collect of vegan, and other super-healthy recipes but I am always very wary of them, lots of ingredients that I don't have and with little knowledge of how these ingredients will work so I will find a way to talk myself out of going there. However this recipe is actually not too scary, there is a lot of information. And it looks yum so this might have made it to the top of the list 🙂
Hi Robyn! You'll find that most of the recipes here are really very easy, and with very few strange ingredients! I hope you love the cake, everyone I've given it to adores it! xx
I remember my gran often made a tea loaf and this reminds me of hers! It sounds delicious and I do like the sound of Bit of the Good Stuff too. Thanks so much for sharing with #CookOnceEatTwice!
Bit of the Good Stuff is great, Corina - if you don't want to take the plunge and buy the book (yet!), do head over to the blog, and check out Sharon's lovely fare! xx