Tea Cake and Coffee Cake Recipes

Coffee Cake or Tea Cake?

People are spending time reconnecting with the things that they are passionate about, whether it is yoga, reading, making music, or painting to name a few.  I have rediscovered my love for baking.  It is so easy to pick up a pastry from a local coffee shop (or even a local bakery if you have one) and take it to-go since life is usually so busy.

Photo of Barista making Coffee

Photo by William Abranowicz

We have been sheltering in place in California since mid-March and I have been baking like crazy.  Multiple loaves of banana bread, batches of cookies, granola bars, and even lemon bars. However, the one thing that I have not made, is my favorite pastry, coffee cake.  I missed National Coffee Cake Day (April 7th) this year, but it is never to late to make a Coffee Cake!  When I brought this up to my partner, he recommended I make Tea Cake as well since he loved Tea Cakes.  I wanted to know what exactly was a Tea Cake and how does one go about making a Tea Cake?  Before we go into the essentials, it is important to know the main differences between a Coffee Cake and a Tea Cake.

Coffee Cake is a cake or sweet bread that is usually made with coffee and intended to be served with coffee.  Coffee Cake often includes nuts and dried fruit, as well as a butter icing for added sweetness.  Coffee Cake became popularized in mainland Europe.  

Tea Cake is not made with tea but is meant to be served alongside tea.  Toasted and buttered Tea Cake can also come in the form of cookies or wheat bread.  Compared to Coffee Cake, Tea Cake is less dense and less sweet, and has its origin in England.

Coffee Cake’s History

Cakes and sweet breads were popular in European countries, and the idea of pairing them with a beverage was enticing.  When coffee was introduced to Europe in the 17th century, the sweet breads and coffee became a popular match.  While the history of Coffee Cake is credited to Vienna, Germany is often seen as the country that refined the treat and paved the path for what we know as Coffee Cake today.

In Germany, the cake goes by kaffee kuchen, which directly translates to Coffee Cake. This is because in German culture, kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) became a popular ritual that we are all too familiar with now.  People meet around 3pm to enjoy a coffee and a cake or other pastry with their friends, coworkers, family, business partners, etc. Kaffee und kuchen can be enjoyed at a local shop where the cakes are baked daily, or the comfort of your own home where you have the chance to make your own treat.


Photo of a Coffee Shop in Berlin, Germany

Photo of a coffee shop in Berlin by Joe (Where is the Cool)

Traditional Coffee Cake in Europe is usually made with yeast, flour, and dried fruits. In America, the cake is also made with cinnamon and sweet spices.  When pasteurization was introduced, ingredients such as sour cream, yogurt, cheese, or sugared fruit could be added to make a denser, and more moist cake.

Tea Cake Varieties

Unlike Coffee Cake, Tea Cake is not usually a “cake”, and comes in way more shapes and forms depending on where you are located.

In England, a Tea Cake is usually a sweet bun that includes dried raisins or fruit peels.  The bun, when served, is usually split in half and buttered.  Tea Cakes can vary in size and flavor depending on the county you are in.  In Kent, Tea Cakes are often made with hops (the flower that is often used in the beer making process) and is called a huffkin.  In East Lancashire, Tea Cake is made with brown, white, or whole meal flour and excludes fruit to produce more of a “bread” for sandwiches.

Scotland has an extremely different take on a Tea Cake.  Tunnock’s a family bakery established in 1890, is famous for its Tea Cakes which comprises of a chocolate-coated marshmallow with a round biscuit base.

In the United States, our Tea Cake has southern roots.  Unlike England and Scotland, Tea Cakes in America are often large, dense cookies that use sugar, milk, butter, and eggs.  They were made on plantations by African slaves, who had limited ingredients in the kitchen.  The Tea Cakes were made for rich, white plantation owners and their guests to enjoy.


Moist Coffee Cake Recipe

Coffee Cake Recipe by The Pioneer Woman

Photo of Coffee Cake and spoon dripping icing on to the coffee cake

Photo by Natalie (Feasting On Fruit)


For the cake:

1-1/2 stick Butter, Softened

2 cups Sugar

3 cups Flour, Sifted

4 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

1-1/4 cup Whole Milk (or milk of choice)

3 whole Egg Whites, Beaten Until Stiff

For the topping:

1-1/2 stick Butter, Softened

3/4 cups Flour

1-1/2 cup Brown Sugar

2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

1-1/2 cup Pecans, Chopped (optional)

1 cup Dried Fruit (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg whites and set aside.


  1. Cream the butter and sugar. Add flour mixture and milk until combined and be carefully not to over beat.  Fold in beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.


  1. Spread in a well-greased 9 x 13 (or LARGER!) baking pan. A cake pan with higher sides would be best.


  1. In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Sprinkle all over the top.


  1. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the middle is completely cooked. Best served warm.


Grandma’s Teacake Recipe

Tea Cake Recipe by RGE, published on AllRecipes


 Photo of Tea Cakes

Photo by Marissa (First & Full)


1 cup butter

1 ¾ cups white sugar

2 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; stir into the creamed mixture.
  1. Knead dough on a floured board until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto cookie sheets.
  1. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.