Tea loaf is a dense English bread made with dried fruit and traditionally served sliced and spread with butter. While it is known to many as an afternoon tea staple – often served alongside steaming cups of earl grey, it really can be enjoyed at any time. And Rick Stein’s Cornwall-inspired recipe makes the perfect guilt-free snack.
A cup of tea is a British staple when it comes to enjoying a slice of cake, and according to Rick Stein, the same applies to this tea loaf.
In an episode of his BBC show, Rick Stein’s Cornwall, the chef revealed that it is his “firm belief” that a slice of the dense bread is “the perfect pairing for a cup of tea, ever”.
He said: “I think tea without a slice of cake is really not worth having, and what I particularly like is a cake with fruit in it. The master of this is Christmas cake but during the year, I love this tea loaf.”
While many people enjoy it plain, Rick serves his with plenty of butter and a homemade plum compote for extra flavour. Here’s how to recreate the fruity treat at home.
- 350g mixed dried fruit, such as raisins, sultanas, chopped dates, currants, and mixed peel
- Zest of an unwaxed lemon
- 300ml strong tea, made with three teabags of earl grey or English breakfast
- Two medium eggs, beaten
- 250g self-raising flour
- One teaspoon of mixed spice
- 200g light soft brown sugar (or 100g caster and 100g dark brown sugar)
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For the plum compote:
- Approximately 500g plums (or damsons), stoned
- Approximately 300g caster sugar (or more to taste)
For the perfect tea loaf, a tin sized 23cm x 13cm x 18cm is best – (around one litre capacity).
Start by making a strong pot of tea by steeping the bags for 10 minutes to maximise the flavour.
In a bowl, pour in 350g of mixed fruit and the fresh lemon zest. A small amount of zest from an orange can be added too for those that prefer a more intense citrus taste.
Next, pour the hot-infused tea into the bowl of fruit and gently stir. Leave to steep to “plump all the fruit up”. This should be left for three hours for the most “plumptuous” fruit, according to Rick.
For the cake mixture, combine two eggs with 200g of light brown sugar using a wooden spoon.
Then, stir in the sieved flour and the mixed spice before pouring in the tea-soaked fruit. Stir well to combine the ingredients and carefully pour into the grease-lined tin.
Bake for one hour and 15 minutes or up to one hour and 30 minutes until the cake appears golden brown. Use a skewer to test the core of the mixture and see if it comes out clean, then remove it from the oven to cool. Do this by leaving it in the tin for 15 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack.
While the cake cools, make the compote by mixing the stoned plums in a pan with a tiny splash of water if fresh (it is not needed for defrosted fruit). Then add the sugar and stir over low heat until dissolved.
At this point, the temperature should be increased to boil until jammy. Pour into a sterilised jar, or allow to cool and use immediately spooned onto the warm buttered tea loaf.
Rick said: “A really important point about this tea cake is there’s no fat in it. So you might be able to have your cup of tea and slice of tea cake and feel good about it!”
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