Easy tea loaf
A delicious fruity loaf cake, moist with rich tea-soaked fruit and a warming hint of mixed spice. This tea bread is fat-free and low in sugar. Delicious served hot or cold.
Photo credit: Chris Terry
Tea loaf recipe
This tea loaf recipe is a perfect healthier cake to enjoy as a treat. Mixed dried fruit is soaked in hot tea to add moisture and flavour, and then combined with fragrant, warming mixed spices for incredible flavour, and mix of wholemeal and white flour for an extra fibre boost, and an egg to bind it. One of the brilliant things about tea loaf (sometimes also known as tea bread) is that no fat or added sugar is needed to make this taste good.
This is the ideal cake to make for healthy and filling snacks through the week, as part of an afternoon tea and for friends and family. My ten-year-old daughter loves a cold slice, spread with butter, in her lunchbox. Once this is baking in the oven it fills the house with the most delicious aromas, but as it’s so filling it’s not something that you would naturally overindulge in, and it tastes delicious both warm and cold.
What is tea loaf?
Tea loaf is a traditional British cake, a dense and fruity loaf shaped cake which is moist with tea-soaked fruit. It’s very similar to the Welsh bara brith, or Irish barmbrack. It is traditionally served spread with butter, but it doesn’t need the butter to be thoroughly enjoyable (if you are watching the calories.)
One of the notable things about tea loaf is that it doesn’t have any fat in the batter, which means that it keeps very well. This recipe also contains no added sugar, as the sweetness comes through the fruit and it really doesn’t require additional sugar.
What ingredients do you need to make this healthy tea loaf?
Freshly brewed breakfast tea: It is the strong, hot tea which gives the fruit a subtle flavour, and also softens and moistens it before cooking. Traditionally the fruit is soaked for hours, or overnight- but this isn’t necessary for this version, as long as you add the hot tea to the fruit and leave it for at least 5 minutes, the cake will still be perfectly moist. You can experiment with different tea flavours, such as Early Grey or Darjeeling to explore some subtly different flavours.
Mixed dried fruit: You can buy packs of mixed dried fruit in the supermarket or health food stores- they are usually sold in 500g or 1kg bags (it’s the mix that is used often in the UK. for making Christmas cake, but you will find it year-round in the baking aisle of the supermarket). This will usually contain a mix of dried vine fruit and candied citrus peel.
Mixed spice: You will find ground mixed spice in with the herb and spice jars on the supermarket shelves. It is typically a blend of cinnamon, coriander, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, but can also include caraway seed, allspice, mace, dill seed- most blends will be marginally different. If you think of the smell of Christmas cake- that distinctive smell if the mixed spice- it really is such a homely, comforting flavour.
White self-raising flour: I use half and half white and wholemeal flour so that the texture of the cake is not too heavy- the self-raising flour gives it a bit of a lift.
Wholemeal plain flour: This is just a wholemeal plain flour and not a strong bread flour. It isn’t always the easiest thing to find in the supermarket as they don’t tend to do an own brand, but brands like Allinson’s and Doves do their own mix of wholmeal plain flour. The reason that I don’t use just white flour is to add to the fibre content of the tea loaf as it’s a great way to up your daily fibre intake!
What else could I add to my tea loaf?
This loaf cake is a brilliant vehicle for all sorts of flavours and additions. Here are a few ways you could adjust the ingredients to vary it:
Dates: I sometimes add chopped up dried dates (stones removed). These add extra fibre and can also add an extra bit of chewy texture and a slightly ‘sticky toffee’ type taste.
Nuts and seeds: This is a great way to use up leftover nuts and seeds. I have added peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds in the past, as well as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, but ost varieties will work so you can experiement!
Glace cherries: These add some additional sweetness and also some pretty little pops of colour to your tea loaf.
Dried cranberries: These can add a slightly tart flavour, and also customise it as a more Christmas-themed bake!
Orange zest: Another nice little flavour addition, orange zest adds a lovely fresh burst of citrussy flavour, and an even more delicious aroma when you bake it. Again, this is a lovely addition for a Christmassy twist to the tea loaf. I use a microplane for zesting my citrus fruit as I find it much more efficient than a regular zester.
How to store tea loaf:
Once those delicious, warm initial slices have been eaten, you will find that your tea loaf will keep well in an airtight container for up to a week. If it starts to go a bit dry then you can always pop individual slices into the toaster.
This tea loaf also freezes well, so if you are unlikely to eat it all up in a week then slice it up and pop into the freezer in an airtight container, or wrap it up well (to avoid freezer burn). You can freeze this for up to 6 months. Defrost at room temperature for 4 hours. You can always toast the slices once defrosted to bring out that lovely spiced aroma again.
Does this tea loaf recipe have any allergens?
Yes this tea loaf recipe does have ingredients that might cause allergies White self-raising flour and wholemeal plain flour – These contains both gluten and wheat. This tea loaf recipe also contains egg.
DISCLAIMER: This information is given as a guide and is by no way definitive. It’s still really important you check all the ingredients you are planning on using to make sure that they don’t contain allergens if this is something that affects you.
How does tea loaf (tea bread) work on Slimming World?
As with all cakes, this is a treat and if you are following Slimming World it will contain syns. What is brilliant about this cake is that there is no added fat or sugar, but dried fruit and flour both contain syns. I recommend slicing this loaf cake into 12 slices, if you do this, each slice has 7.5 syns. Self-raising flour has 4.5 syns per 25g, wholemeal flour has 4 syns per 25g and dried mixed fruit has 4 syns per 25g.
Love this tea loaf recipe? Why not try some of our other sweet treats?
Lemon and blueberry yoghurt loaf cake: a dense and moist yoghurt loaf cake with jammy bursts of blueberry and a lemony tang.
‘Ferrero Rocher’: crunchy and satisfying homemade ‘truffles’ popular with Slimming World members.
Chocolate orange energy ‘bombs’: A delicious chocolate orange snack bite, perfect for lunchboxes.
Frequently asked questions about: tea loaf
What makes this tea loaf ‘healthier’ than any other tea loaf recipe?
Tea loaf is still effectiv ely a cake, and therefore a treat, but by adding in wholemeal flour we are ensuring that it contains a little extra fibre. You will also find that many tea loaf or tea bread recipes have extra added sugar, which really is not necessary because the fruit itself is so sweet.
This recipe does not require me to soak my fruit in tea overnight, why not when other recipes do?
At The Slimming Foodie I always like to make my recipes as hassle free and easy as possible. Personally, soaking the fruit in tea overnight means that you really have to think in advance to make this cake, and I think it’s much more helpful to have a recipe that you can make without any forward planning! By soaking the fruit in hot tea for just 5 minutes, it plumps up perfectly for a moist and delicious cake- I promise that no-one would spot the difference!
Can I use different types of tea in the recipe?
Yes! To explore some different flavours, try soaking the fruit in some different teas, such as Earl Grey or Darjeeling.
What can I serve tea loaf with?
A freshly baked tea loaf is delicious all on its own. Once it’s cold I think it’s extra lovely with some real butter spread on it. We also like it in our household spread with blackcurrant jam (strawberry and raspberry are good too!)