leather tea cake with lemon drizzle


Now I don’t know what the original name for this cake was, but growing up we called it leather cake due to the tough crust—soft enough to eat but having a slight leather texture.

Sounds strange but we loved this cake. As a bonus it has no eggs, dairy, or added fats.

My niece was here today for the cutting and was gobsmacked—no butter or oil or eggs—you have to be joking. But the cake gets a wonderful moistness from the fruit soaked in strong tea for 12–24 hours.

Mum’s original recipe had cinnamon, mixed spice, and gloves. I have amped it up a little by adding a little ground cardamon and garam marsala—just a dash. I also added some freshly made glacé lemon and orange peel. Word of warning if you don’t make your own or have access to very good peel, just leave it out. Supermarket peel is trash and adds nothing.

Use a nice strong tea. Your basic black tea works a teat. I used Marriage Frere Marco Polo. This tea has a subtle citrus tone that works well with the spices. Any tea with light citrus tones works well, Earl Grey etc.

1 cup (250ml) strong tea
1 cup (250ml) dried fruits Sultanas, raisins, currents. NO PEEL. I just use sultanas.
¾ cup caster sugar 175g
2 cups cake flour (AP flour will work fine) 290g
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cardamon
¼ tsp ground garam marsala
pinch of salt
1 tsp good vanilla extract
45g good quality glacé peel (lemon and/or orange)

Lemon drizzle
225–250g sifted icing sugar (I prefer pure icing sugar for this)
Juice and zest of one large lemon (approx 90ml of juice)

Preheat oven to 175°C
Lightly oil and flour a Kugelhopf tin. You could also use a ring tin 20cm or loaf pan or round tin.

12–24 hours before baking make a strong brew of tea and soak the fruit (excluding the peel if using)

Place all the dry ingredients into a medium large bowl and mix together with a whisk.

Add the soaked fruit, the peel, and vanilla and mix together gently with a spatula.
Now if you soaked the fruit for 24 hours (which gives you really plump fruit) you might have to add a little more water for the batter to come together. I added another half cup. The batter should be well mixed, able to flow, but flow slowly.

Bake for about 35–40 min. Testing with a tester is a little tricky as the plump moist fruit will leave a trail on the tester but there should be no uncooked batter. The cake will darken a little.

When cooked remove from oven and place in tin on rack for 10 minutes to cool a little. Then turn on to wire rack until just warm.

While you are waiting for the cake to cool to just warm, prepare the ingredients for the lemon drizzle. When the cake is just warm mix the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Strict measurements don’t really help here. you want it lose enough to flow and drizzle but not so lose that it pours away. It is certainly easier in a flat round or ring cake. You might have to make it a little thicker for the kugelhopf tin, but it looks good.

I finished the cake off with a few thyme leaves scattered over the drizzle.

Serve and enjoy.


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