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Traditional English Teacakes

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Traditional English Teacakes studded with plump sultanas and lightly spiced. Delicious when served warm with plenty of butter and totally irresistible once toasted. Enjoy for breakfast or a teatime treat along with a cup of tea.

Easy to make and so much better than shop bought, a homemade traditional teacake is hard to beat.

Soft buns every time with my easy all in one basic enriched dough. A classic sweet teacake with traditional flavours of spice and dried fruit.

Sweet buns in a basket, toasted bun on a plate served with butter and a pot of tea.

My recipe makes 12 standard size teacakes or 9 larger sized Yorkshire beauties. With only about 20 minutes hands on time, your teacakes can be ready in just under 3 hours.

Yeasted sweet buns are a regular bake here at the Kitchen Shed. Throughout the year, they include Hot Cross Buns at Easter and my Tear and Share Iced Buns at Christmas. And I definitely don’t need any excuse to serve up a batch of my Belgian Buns or Chelsea Buns.

Looking down onto a basket of fruited buns with a pot of tea and a pot of butter.

But whatever the season, teacakes remain a much requested Kitchen Shed family favourite. When we lived full-time in France teacakes were one of our best sellers to expats and locals alike. I hope you enjoy making and eating your Traditional English Teacakes as much as we do.

What is a Teacake in England ?

Fruited buns in a basket, toasted bun on a plate served with butter and a pot of tea.

Teacakes are a classic sweet yeasted bun with dried fruit and aromatic spice. Cafes and tearooms all over Britain offer teacakes, usually toasted, liberally buttered and served with a pot of tea.

A teacake isn’t actually a cake at all but the term derives from a tradition of ‘yeast cakes’. Yeast cakes were a way of enriching an everyday bread dough with butter so it became something special and celebratory.

A prime example is Easter where Hot Cross Buns have become a long established tradition. Teacakes are similar in flavour profile to hot cross buns but there’s no cross and teacakes are larger and flatter.
Yorkshire teacakes can be plain or fruited and, according to Elizabeth David, should be the size of a large saucer.

Teacakes in a basket, a bun on a plate served with butter and a pot of tea.

What equipment do I need ?

  • Optional: A stand mixer – I use my KitchenAid stand mixer to knead the dough as it makes light work of kneading. Don’t worry if you don’t have a stand mixer. You’ll need a bit of elbow grease but you can easily knead by hand.
  • 2 baking trays / sheets – lined with baking parchment.
  • Pastry brush

What ingredients do I need ?

For ingredient quantities, scroll down to the recipe card.

Butter, flour, milk, mixed spice, yeast, dried fruit, sugar and salt on wooden boards.
  • Bread flour – I use Marriage’s white bread flour for its high gluten content, essential for a soft and fluffy bun.
  • Yeast – I prefer Dove’s Farm instant yeast (often called fast action yeast or quick yeast) because it’s easy to use.
  • Sugar – only three tablespoons in the dough as there is plenty of sweetness in the sultanas.
  • Mixed spice – I used Schwartz mixed spice. If you’re outside the UK, you can substitute with pumpkin pie spice.
  • Salt – I used sea salt.
  • Butter – to enrich the dough and give it flavour.
  • Milk – essential for delivering a lovely soft bun and for glazing the buns without making them sticky.
  • Dried fruit – I like to use sultanas, traditionally currants were used.
Looking down onto a basket of fruited buns on a wooden table.

How to make Traditional English Teacakes

Teacakes are much easier to make than you might think. If you have a stand mixer, it’s even easier – I use my Kitchen Aid.

Make your dough

  • First, warm the milk in the microwave for a minute so the liquid temperature is tepid to warm. At this temperature the yeast is encouraged to start working – too high a temperature will kill the yeast.
  • Add your dough ingredients, except the sultanas, to the mixer bowl of a free standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Knead on a low setting for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the sultanas and continue on a low setting until your dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Mixing by hand in a bowl – stir together the dough ingredients, except the sultanas, until they form a ball. Then knead for about 4 minutes. Start adding the sultanas into the dough a little at a time as you continue kneading until smooth and elastic.
4 step process showing milk poured into ingredients in a KitchenAid, initial mixing, sultanas being added and finished dough.
  • Leave your dough to rise in a warm place without any draughts until it has almost doubled in size. This should take about 1½ hours.
Fresh dough in a bowl next to risen dough in a bowl.

Shape your Teacakes

  • Transfer your dough onto a lightly oiled work surface. Use oil not flour as you want your bread to be nice and soft.
  • I don’t knock back the dough as such. Removing the dough from your bowl and then shaping your buns will take enough air out of it.
Cutting dough into equal portions, pinching and shaping into balls and rolling them into a smooth bun shape.
  • Shape your dough into a rough log and divide into 12 or 9 pieces. You’re looking for approximately 100g for standard size teacakes or 125g for Yorkshire teacake size. I like to weigh the dough pieces but divide into equal portions by eye if you prefer. The more equally sized your dough pieces, the more evenly baked your teacakes will be.
  • Using a cupped hand, roll each piece of dough on the work surface to form a ball.
  • Place the dough balls on 2 large lined baking sheets. Leave plenty of room between each unrisen teacake and use your fingers to flatten each one.
  • Cover with greased clingfilm / plastic wrap or tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Bake

Unrisen buns on a tray, risen buns being brushed with milk, baked buns on a rack.
  • Brush risen teacakes with milk.
  • Bake for 20 minutes for standard size or 25 minutes for Yorkshire Teacake size until golden brown.
  • Place on a cooling rack.
Teacakes in a basket, split bun on a plate served with butter and a pot of tea.

Recipe FAQs

What is the difference between a Scone and a Teacake ?

Scones are an afternoon or cream tea staple served with jam and cream. They are essentially a quick bread leavened with baking powder. British Teacakes on the other hand, are a yeasted sweet bread with dried fruit and spice. Also, teacakes are flatter and the diameter of a saucer. Often eaten at breakfast, teacakes are frequently toasted and generously spread with butter.

How do you eat a toasted Teacake ?

My favourite way to eat a toasted teacake is with plenty of butter.
Before toasting, use a sharp bread knife to slice a clean cut through your teacake, especially if using a toaster. A clean cut means you’re less likely to have chunks of teacake break off and burn in the toaster.
But the best way to toast teacakes is to place them under a medium to hot grill. You will get a much more even toasting and it’s also much easier to see when they’re done.
Spread with plenty of butter and serve with a cup of tea.Teacakes in a basket, toasted bun on a plate served with butter and a pot of tea.

How long do they keep ?

Fresh is definitely best. Having said that, Traditional English Teacakes will keep for 2 to 3 days stored in an airtight container.

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Teacakes in a basket, toasted bun on a plate served with butter and a pot of tea. Risen dough being brushed with milk and then baked.
Teacakes in a basket, toasted bun on a plate served with butter and a pot of tea.

Traditional English Teacakes

Traditional English Teacakes studded with plump sultanas and lightly spiced. Delicious when served warm with plenty of butter and totally irresistible once toasted. Enjoy for breakfast or a teatime treat along with a cup of tea.
5 from 45 votes
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Course: Afternoon Tea, Breakfast
Cuisine: British
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 263kcal
Author: Sarah James

Equipment

  • Optional: A stand mixer – I use my KitchenAid stand mixer to knead the dough as it makes light work of kneading.
  • 2 large baking trays / sheets lined with baking parchment.
  • Pastry brush

Ingredients

  • 500 grams strong white bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 3 tbs caster sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 75 g softened butter
  • 300 ml milk Plus 2 – 3 tablespoons for glazing
  • 150 g sultanas

Instructions

Make your dough

  • First, warm the milk in the microwave for one minute so the liquid temperature is tepid to warm.
  • Place all the dough ingredients, except the sultanas, in the bowl of an electric mixer or in a large mixing bowl.
  • In an electric mixer, fit dough hook and mix for approximately 1 to 2 minutes on slow speed number 1.
  • Add the sultanas, then mix for 8 to 10 minutes on speed number 2.
  • For hand mixing, stir together until ingredients form a ball. Then knead for about 4 minutes. Add sultanas into the dough a little at a time and knead until smooth and elastic. This is likely to take about 10 minutes.
  • Place your dough in a large greased mixing bowl and cover. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size – about 1 ½ hours.

Shape your teacakes

  • Transfer the dough to an oiled work surface and stretch out into a log shape. Divide into 12 or 9 equal pieces, approximately 100g for standard size or 125g for Yorkshire Teacake size.
  • Shape dough portions into balls using cupped hands.
  • Place dough balls on the large lined baking sheets leaving plenty of room between them. Use your fingers to gently flatten each one.
  • Cover with a cloth or greased cling film.
  • Leave to rise for approximately 45 minutes until well risen.

Bake and glaze

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F / 325°F fan / 190°C / 170°C fan / Gas Mark 5
  • Brush risen teacakes with milk.
  • Bake for 20 minutes for standard size, or 25 minutes for Yorkshire Teacake size, until golden brown.
  • Place on a cooling rack.

Notes

  • Makes 12 standard or 9 Yorkshire Teacake size.
  • Mixed Spice – Pumpkin Pie Spice is a good alternative to mixed spice.
  • Your teacakes will keep for 2 to 3 days stored in an airtight container. Refresh your buns and serve them warm by baking them for 5 minutes at 160 C Fan.
  • Toast a teacake under a medium to hot grill or in a toaster on a low setting for a couple of minutes. Watch carefully as the sugar content in teacakes makes them brown more easily.
  • Teacakes freeze really well. Open freeze before transferring to a freezer bag or sealed container. Will keep for up to three months.
  • Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
Calories: 263kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 150mg | Potassium: 182mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 198IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 2mg
Recipe Rating




Claire

Thursday 29th of February 2024

Can skimmed milk be used?

Sarah James

Friday 1st of March 2024

Hi Claire, I've used full fat milk and semi skimmed to make teacakes and the results are the same. The fat in the milk does add moisture to the teacake so I haven't used skimmed milk for that reason. Hope this helps, Sarah.

Carrie

Monday 19th of February 2024

I have just made these and they are so good. Amazing texture, I added a few raisins along with the sultanas. Perfect recipe! I will definitely be making these again. Thank you.

Sarah James

Monday 26th of February 2024

Thank you Carrie for your lovely comment. I'm so pleased you enjoyed my teacakes, it's the milk and butter that add the softness to the finished baked bun. It's always a pleasure to share my recipes, Sarah.

Lynda K

Saturday 4th of November 2023

Thank you for the lovely recipe, Sarah. Made these today and my family love them so much I’ll be making more to freeze. Besides sultanas, what other add-ons would go well? I might try some plain ones for my daughter who doesn’t like dried fruits.

Sarah James

Saturday 4th of November 2023

You're most welcome Lynda, it's a pleasure to share my recipes. I'm so pleased your family love my teacakes. I sometimes add a couple of tablespoons of chopped marmalade to the sultanas, dried cranberries or blue berries work well too. As for dried fruit alternatives, chocolate chips are delicious. Use 150 grams the same amount as sultanas but add the chocolate chips in the last couple of minutes of mixing. Hope this helps, sarah.

Pauline

Tuesday 11th of July 2023

Hi 1 tablespoon of dried yeast seems a lot is this right? Thanks

Sarah James

Wednesday 12th of July 2023

Hi Pauline, thanks for getting in touch, 1 tablespoon of instant dried yeast is correct. The amount is of yeast is because of the enriched dough recipe with sugar, butter and milk. There is no taste of yeast in the finished teacakes. Hope this helps, Sarah.

Mary Lindsay

Friday 7th of July 2023

These are superb. Love the recipe and your generosity in sharing it, thank you. It will be my go to recipe from now on

Sarah James

Monday 10th of July 2023

Thanks Mary, I'm so pleased you will be making my teacakes again. It's always a pleasure to share my recipes, Sarah.