Monday, 24 February 2014

Earl Grey Tea Loaf

As you can probably tell, I love tea! I believe that tea is a suitable drink at any time of day and has the ability to help out in any mood or situation, whether it be as a morning wake-up, as a way to unwind at the end of the day, as a soothing balm when sick, or as a reviving drink to perk up our spirits when everything is getting a bit out of hand. And with such a wide range of flavours and varieties available, a perfect match can always be found!

Mr Duckie is, of course, even more of a tea fiend than I am. One of our favourite teas is Earl Grey, a very elegant and distinctive black tea. I love the delicate citrus flavour and floral aroma that comes from the bergamot oil flavouring. Traditionally it is served with a slice of lemon, making it a very light and refreshing alternative to regular black tea, although I must admit that I like it with milk as well!

Earl Grey tea lends itself very well to all sorts of baking - in fact one of the flavours in our wedding cake (made by the very talented Sharon Wee) was a chocolate cake with Earl Grey tea and cookies ganache! 

A slice of our very yummy wedding cake, filled with Earl Grey flavoured ganache

So, I was curious as to how Earl Grey tea would taste inside a cake itself. My aim was to make a light and fluffy loaf cake, studded with sultanas in the style of an old-fashioned fruit loaf, the kind that is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of afternoon tea. The recipe I first used was based on a Yorkshire Gold tea loaf recipe that I picked up from the supermarket Waitrose when I was living in London.

I used an Earl Grey tea containing lemon and orange peel, as well as blue cornflower petals, and which looked very pretty indeed!

I had high hopes for my first attempt. The preparation process itself was a lot of fun, with wafts of tea floating around as I mixed the ingredients together. Unfortunately, the cake did not turn out as well as I had hoped - mostly due to my not following the recipe and making my own adjustments. First, I had used a loaf tin that was too big, so my cake was rather flat and looked more like a slice...

So flat :(
When I cut it open, rather than a soft fluffy cake, I had a very dense cake - most likely I had added too many wet ingredients to dry ingredients. I could hardly even see the sultanas, as they appeared to merge with the cake itself...

Most disappointing of all, the Earl Grey flavour was also hard to detect. I had added an orange icing, thinking that the orange would match the citrus citrus notes in the tea, but unfortunately the flavour was too overpowering! Mr Duckie, ever supportive, insisted that it was still a nice cake, but I wasn't convinced. Overall, it was a pleasant tasting cake, but the tea flavour just did not shine through strong enough, and I didn't have the soft, fluffy cake that I was aiming for.

But I wasn't about to give up on my tea flavoured cake quest!

For my second attempt, I added more flour, and some extra raising agents for extra lift, and I reduced the wet ingredients to prevent the cake from being too dense. I also used a lemon syrup instead of an orange
icing. Finally, I added a tablespoon full of vinegar - this sounds strange but I have used it in another trustworthy eggless cake recipe in the past, and I found that it helps to keep the cake light when you aren't using any eggs. 

I eagerly awaited the outcome of this second cake. And, much to my excitement, I had a proper fluffy loaf cake!

The cake looked so pretty with the tiny brown flecks of tea leaves throughout it. It had a nice soft, crumbly texture, with sweetness from the juicy sultanas studded throughout the cake.

And most importantly, it tasted like Earl Grey tea! Best of all, as the sultanas had been soaked in the tea, they tasted like tiny bursts of tea in each bite!

So, what is your favourite hot drink? And of course, do feel free to experiment with your own favourite tea to make your own very special tea cake!

Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Adapted from recipes here and here

3 Earl Grey tea bags
1 cup boiling water
150 g sultanas
300 g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed spice
100g raw sugar
½ cup rice-bran oil
¼ cup soy milk
1 tbsp vinegar

Lemon glaze
50 g caster sugar
100ml water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1. Cut open the teabags and empty leaves into a bowl. Add the boiling water and brew for 5 minutes. Add the sultanas and soak for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line and grease a loaf tin (my dimensions were approx. 21 cm x 10.5 cm x 7 cm) .
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Make a well in the middle. Add the fruit and tea mixture (including all the tea leaves and the soaking liquid), oil and soy milk and stir gently to combine. Then add the vinegar and stir to combine.

4. Spoon batter into loaf tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
5. To make glaze, put the water, juice and zest into a small pan and gently bring to the boil. Add the caster sugar, give a quick stir, and bring back to the boil. Boil on a medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until thickened slightly and syrup is a golden colour.

6. Once cake is out of the oven, prick the cake all over with a skewer then brush syrup all over the top of the cake. How much syrup you use is up to you and how sweet you like your cake – I only used about half the syrup and I kept the rest to serve on the side (or as for Mr Duckie, with some vanilla ice-cream as a makeshift lemon sundae!). Leave to cool in the tin.

7. Once cool, slice and serve with any left over syrup, and of course, a cup of your favourite tea!


  1. I'm not a huge fan of keeps me from sleeping at night if I have it any time other than in the morning! haha...But I like tea flavoured desserts! Your cake sounds lovely! I hate it when you put so much effort into making a nice cake and it ends up looking like your first happens to me all the time! Glad the second one turned out so much better!

    1. Thanks Von! I guess practise makes perfect!