Tea Breads and Tea Cakes

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

tea breads and tea cakes collective terms of which the first is the more general. It applies to all the yeast-leavened baked goods considered suitable for afternoon tea or high tea in Britain, including many spiced, fruited, and enriched breads and buns. The latter term is applied especially to flat buns, about 15 cm (6") in diameter, often fruited, and lightly enriched with butter and egg; these are usually split, toasted and spread with butter. A few of the relevant terms used in Britain are listed below:

  • currant bread, a general name for any fruited bread, from tea cakes to bara brith;

  • fat rascals, Yorkshire tea cakes containing sultanas and sweet spice, raised with baking powder, served hot, split, with butter;

  • fruit bread, lightly enriched doughs containing dried fruit, favourites all over NW Europe. Many festive breads, such as panettone, are fruit breads;

  • malt bread, malt loaf, a soft cake-like bread sweetened with malt extract and sultanas. Served sliced and buttered for tea;

  • spice bread: a term loosely embracing various enriched breads containing butter, eggs, fruit, and spices such as caraway or mixed sweet spice. The mixture was also made into small buns. These enriched spice breads may be counted among the forerunners of today’s fruit cakes.