I love the idea of sitting down for tea. You know what I’m talking about – sunny Sunday afternoons, a white table on a lawn, buttered scones and crumpets, a butler in coat-tails and possibly an English castle in the background. When I cannot recreate this scenario, however (which is surprisingly often), I like to pick up/make foods that are associated with tea-time. Scones (which I’ve attempted earlier) are one of my favorites but tea cakes come a close second.
The USP of tea food, I think, is that it’s sweet and pleasant but not too rich. Meaning, you can eat a lot of it and not sit in a dull, sugar-induced haze after. These tea cakes fit the bill perfectly – they’re spongy (no denseness at all, here), have citrus undertones, a dash of sweetness and a little crunch. They’re the sort of cakes you’d pile on a platter and eat (in one shot) while downing a pot of spiced tea.
Each cake is made with light batter that fluffs up into a little cloud of sugar and butter while baking. They’re flavored with spoonfuls of orange rind and a hefty slug of juice, for a sweet finish. They are then covered with a little vanilla-orange glaze, before being topped with crushed walnut. The result is a fun combination of sugary, fruity and nutty flavors, which would make it both a kiddie and adult favorite.
Orange Tea Cakes
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tbsp orange rind, crushed
Cream together the butter and sugar for around three minutes. Break the eggs in, one at a time, and beat until everything is well incorporated.
Powder the sugar and then sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl.
Stir the vanilla and orange rind into the orange juice.
Pour the flour and vanilla mixtures into the butter-sugar-egg mixture in batches, beating at the lowest setting until it’s all combined. The final batter will be thick and shiny, with the slightest tint of orange.
Grease a cupcake tray and pour in the batter (this much batter will make around 20 cupcakes).
Bake at 170 C for 15 minutes. It might take a little longer, depending on the size of your cupcake tray, so check with a toothpick before taking the trays out of the oven.
Vanilla Orange Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp orange rind
Stir everything into a bowl and beat until well combined and sticky.
1 cup chopped walnuts
Toss the cup into a blender and pulse it until it’s coarse and crumbly. Make sure you don’t process it for too long, though, or it will start to leave oil and turn into a butter.
Once the tea cakes are cool, scoop them out of their trays. Add a spoonful of glaze on top of each (I turned them upside down, for fun) and then dip it into a bowl with the crushed walnut.
Eat it with a large pot of mint tea, with maybe a basset hound lying at your feet – preferably on a lawn somewhere.