We had a brief and perfect moment of coolness between a mighty heat wave. Post 7am pancake party, I settled into the idea that a tea cake should happen. With a basket of lingering lemons and a tub full of yogurt, the French standby would surely fit the bill. I'd save half for us to nibble on while watching the new Woody Allen documentary and the rest, divy up in wax paper amongst friends. A plan was hatched and executed. While stirring up the batter, I got to thinking about the ins and outs of tea cakes. I know what perfect snacking tea cake is by what it is not . . .

My qualifications for a great tea cake are as follows:

• not too sweet
• could be improved the next day by popping a slice in the toaster and slathering its surface with a big gob of butter and/or jam
• baked into a loaf shape, not a circle pan
• tender crumb
• bouncy and rich, but not greasy
• could take a lashing of icing, yet delicious by itself
• does not induce dessert guilt, its a confection dressed in breakfast/afternoon snack clothes
• sturdy enough to stuff into the bottom of a backpack for a bike ride then a picnic

This tea cake comes together quickly and always hits the spot. My favorite variation is this one, flaked with bright lemony flavor. The yogurt keeps the crumb tender, flexible and moist, the hint of rum adds depth and a golden hue. Don't skimp on it. And the butter, it makes the whole thing better than the oil the original recipe calls for.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
makes 1 9"x 5" loaf - adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini

1 cup whole milk yogurt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter (a little extra for greasing the pan)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Rum
1 2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest from one lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour the loaf pan, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs and sugar. Add the melted butter, vanilla and rum. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Finally stir the lemon zest in.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, when deep golden brown color is achieved. Let cool for about an hour before slicing.

Meadow Tea
The delicate flowers of chamomile and rose petals sit merrily atop the surface of a tiny tea cup. Meadow tea by Steven Smith is just that -- a walk through a sunny hilltop covered in wildflowers and tall grasses. It tastes like running your fingers atop a field, all summer and light. Steven Smith is based in Portland and blends vivid tastes, notes and stories into each and every tea. I'm sure he'll be popping up here again in the near future.

• Visit Steven Smith Online: Steven Smith
• Read the article I wrote about Steven Smith for The Kitchn: Expert Interview: Brewing the Perfect Cup with Steven Smith


  1. Your images are so inspiring and the lemon cake looks delicious. Tea cake is the best :)

  2. thanks Caz! this cake is so tender and easy. it's a must make!

  3. I completely agree with your tea cake qualifications! I just found your blog through Saveur and it's beautiful. I hope to one day be able to take pictures half as good as yours :)

  4. Very agree with you! So nice.

    friendly regards


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