Irish Raisin Tea Cake



By Cat, Nov 2007 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Tea cakes, a close cousin of American coffeecakes, are a specialty in the British Isles.  Many are flavored with spice mixtures brought back from India, where the spice blends are known as curries.

The simplest tea cakes resemble English muffins, but usually have some kind of dried fruit in them (such as currants).  Gingerbread cakes or scones can also be served for tea.

A true British or Irish tea is a mid-afternoon meal, and can be as simple as sandwiches, cakes or cookies and tea or coffee.  Or it can resemble an American dinner, with soup, salad, sandwiches or a hearty casserole, a roast (beef, lamb, chicken, etc), braised or baked vegetables, and of course a cake for dessert.

Irish Raisin Tea Cake

This spicy recipe is adapted from one by Mary Tuohy and included in the Irish Heritage Cookbook (1). The original uses white flour and does not include a pre-soak, but I prefer to include whole grain flour in my baked goodies. Pre-soaking the flour beginning the day before baking is important to release the minerals from the whole grain, so that they can be absorbed.

At the same time you are pre-soaking the flour, you also soak the raisins so they will be nice and plump. You will need to start both of these soaks the day before you plan to bake the cake.

The spice mixture in this recipe resembles Garam Masala, one of the most well-known curries from India.  You can mix them as written, using whole spices, or in a pinch (or if you don’t have a spice grinder), you could use all pre-ground spices; you’d have to play with the amounts.  I’d guess about:

  • 2 ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp ground cloves
  • ¾ tsp ground allspice

in addition to the ground nutmeg and ginger as written.  Or you could use a commercial gram masala and add nutmeg & ginger.

Very moist cake, and intensely raisiny.

Day before baking

Spice Mix

  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 two-inch stick cinnamon, crushed
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice berries
  • 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • spice grinder
  • spice jar with lid
  1. Grind coriander, cinnamon, cloves and allspice together in spice grinder until powdery.
  2. Pour into airtight container; add ground nutmeg and ginger, and mix well.
  3. Measure out 1 Tbsp for the cake, and store the remainder in a cool place for later use.

Raisin Soak

  • 2 cups filtered water (2 ¼ cups)
  • 2 ½ cups raisins (3 cups)
  • 8 Tbsp cold butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup Rapadura sugar (or ⅓ – ½ tsp pure stevia extract powder and 2 Tbsp local honey)
  • medium saucepan
  • wooden spoon
  1. Combine 1 Tbsp of spice mix with the water, raisins, butter, and sweetener in a saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, stir to mix, and simmer 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  2. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Pre-Soak Flour

  •  2 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour (2 ½ cups)
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt, unsweetened
  • 1 cup boiling water (½ cup)
  • large bowl
  • Pyrex measuring cup or bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • bakers parchment or waxed paper
  1. Measure whole wheat flour into large bowl.
  2. Pour boiling water over yogurt in Pyrex measuring cup and stir to mix, then stir into flour until well mixed. Batter should be fairly moist; if not, or if hard to stir, add more filtered water, 1 Tbsp at a time.
  3. Press a sheet of oiled bakers parchment (or waxed paper) against the flour mixture, so that the entire surface is covered.  Let sit on counter 12 hours or overnight.  When you pull off the paper in the morning, scrape any batter stuck to the paper back into the bowl.

Baking day

  • ¼ cup coconut flour (½ cup)
  • ¼ cup unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • small bowl
  • egg whip
  • wooden spoon
  • 9-inch round cake pan
  1. Remove raising mixture from fridge and let sit on counter 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Generously grease cake pan.
  3. Stir soaked raisin mixture into soaked flour.
  4. Measure coconut and white flours, soda and salt into sifter; sift over soaked flour and stir to blend well. If batter is too thick, ad a bit of filtered water, 1 Tbsp at a time; or if too runny, add more white flour, 1 Tbsp at a time.
  5. Beat egg in small bowl; stir into batter.
  6. Pour into prepared pan; place on center rack of preheated oven with a pan of water on lower rack.  Bake until cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 ¼ hours.
  7. Cut into wedges to serve.

Assembly or Serving ideas

  • Place a doily on top of cake, and sift powdered sugar lightly over.  Remove doily.
  • Or serve with a Whiskey Sauce or Hard Sauce.
  • Accompany with fresh-brewed coffee or tea and cream.


8/3/08:  I didn’t have coriander seeds, so used 1 ½ tsp ground coriander.  All other spices as written; I used golden raisins.  Not enough liquid for soaking flour (original amounts of ¼ cup yogurt, ½ cup boiling water for 2 ½ cups flour); I kneaded it until I got all the flour incorporated, but it was very hard to do, and then very hard to mix in the soaked raisins the next day.  A bit too much batter for a 9″ pan. Next time: use only 2 cups water for soaking the raisins, and increase water for soaking the flour to 1 cup.  Either use a bigger pan, or reduce raisins to 2 ½ cups, whole grain flour to 2 ¼ cups and coconut flour to ¼ cup. These changes have been made to the recipe, in red text.


  1. Irish Heritage Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson, copyright 1999, and published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco CA


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