This wonderful recipe for Old-Fashioned Tea Cake Squares is a vintage recipe taken from the Farmers Weekly magazine circa 1920.
A Fabulous Vintage Recipe for the School (Office) Lunchbox
This recipe for Old-Fashioned Tea Cake Squares is a vintage recipe taken from the Farmers Weekly newspaper/magazine circa 1920. It’s a really wonderful recipe which is easy to make, and which makes a lovely sweet addition to the school (or office) lunchbox.
Old-Fashioned Tea Cake Squares is a recipe which uses very few ingredients and yet the light, buttery and warmly spiced crumb is packed with dried fruit. It’s baked in a baking tray, and is cut into squares once it’s cooled. Perfect with a cup of tea, and for a more decadent touch, is simply divine when buttered.
What’s in a Name?
So, what’s in a name? What exactly is a Tea Cake? Tea Cakes can mean so many things in the recipe canon, from yeasted buns to tea loaves and of course cakes that are served at tea time. Then, there’s the Tea Cakes and Breads that are made with hot tea, as in the dried fruit is soaked in tea before being set aside overnight.
I usually associate Tea Cakes with the yeasted fruit buns, beloved of all tea rooms and “caffs” in the UK, which are nearly always toasted and buttered, and served with a pot of tea of course. I suspect today’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Tea Cake Squares, as originally shared, was exactly that, a cake that is served for TEA, as in tea time.
But back to today’s recipe, this recipe is rather strange, insofar as the butter to flour ration is the same. It’s a “rubbed in cake” method, where the fat is rubbed into the flour, but, the fat to flour is exactly the same, which is unusual in cake making.
By adding the equal amounts of butter to flour, the result is a fabulously buttery, crumbly and soft cake, with a meltingly soft crumb. However, it IS hard to rub in, and it gets very messy! So my advice is to dip your fingers into extra flour to stop them becoming too sticky, or, have a bowl of warm soapy water handy to wash them.
Baking Notes and Substitutions:
- In place of the mixed dried fruit, use currants, raisins or sultanas.
- Add chopped mixed peel to the mixture and orange zest for a fruity version.
- Omit the spice and add vanilla extract to the beaten egg.
- Use white granulated sugar or white caster sugar in place of golden caster sugar.
- Vegan version: Use plant based margarine in place of butter, as well as oat milk. Omit the egg and add 1 to 2 teaspoons baking powder to the SR flour.
- This is the original recipe as seen in the old vintage cookbook, see image below. (Please note, my updated recipe with spice and mixed fruit is AT THE END of this post)
More TEA CAKES and TEA BREAD Recipes
- Yorkshire Teacakes Recipe
- Manor House Cake
- VE Day Condensed Milk Cake
- Traditional “Bara Brith” Tea Loaf
- Hikers’ Walnut Bread
- Farmhouse “Teacup” Spiced Fruit Loaf Recipe
- Sticky Ginger Marmalade Tea Loaf Recipe
- Old-Fashioned Granny Loaf (Egg-Free and Fat-Free) Recipe
Pin Me for Later
Step-by-Step Process Slideshow
Pin Me TOO!
Recipe for Old-Fashioned Tea Cake Squares
- 115g SR Flour
- Pinch of salt
- 115g Butter
- 1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spice
- 115g Golden Caster Sugar
- 75g Mixed Dried Fruit
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- Milk, to mix
- Pre-heat oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas Mark 6. Grease and line a square baking tray, 8" x 8" (20cms x 20cms)
- Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, and add the salt.
- Rub in the butter, as the butter is an equal amount to the flour, you may need to dip your fingers into extra flour to stop them becoming too sticky! Or, have a bowl of warm soapy water handy to wash them.
- Add the sugar and the mixed spice, mix well, before adding the dried fruit. Mix again.
- Add the beaten egg and mix well, adding milk to make a soft, droppable consistency - the mixture should just drop off a wooden spoon.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave in the oven for a further 5 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cut into squares when the cake is cold. I sometimes sprinkle caster sugar over the cake as a finishing touch.
- Serve plain or buttered.
This is the original recipe as seen in the old vintage cookbook:
Nutrition InformationYield 12 squares Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 172Total Fat 9gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 38mgSodium 91mgCarbohydrates 22gFiber 1gSugar 13gProtein 2g