Irish Tea Cake is not the same thing as making Irish Soda Bread then adding a handful of raisins. I have to say this because there are some purists out there who have conniption fits about Irish Soda Bread recipes involving more than four ingredients.
They’re not altogether wrong, mind you. Traditional Irish Soda Bread uses only flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. That’s it. No sugar, no butter, and certainly no raisins. As explained by the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (yes, there is such a thing), anything else is “tea cake.”
And so, this recipe is for Irish Tea Cake and not Irish Soda Bread with Raisins, though you’re welcome to call it whatever you like.
One thing you’re bound to call it is your new favorite St. Patrick’s Day baked treat because it’s so simple to make and delicious with a hot cup of tea.
Irish Tea Cake Recipe Steps
To make Irish Tea Cake, combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Next, add the cubes of very cold butter and, using your fingertips, rub them into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. This step leads to a “shorter” bread which minimizes the breakdown of gluten, so you wind up with a more tender result.
You might need to fish around in there a few times to ensure there are no more large chunks of butter. Shaking the bowl a bit also helps.
Once the butter is completely rubbed in, make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Quickly pour the buttermilk into the center of this well and stir until the ingredients are just combined.
TIP: Don’t use beaters or a stand mixer or you’ll over-stir and end up with a tough cake at the end.
Sprinkle the raisins in during the final few strokes and stir just until they’re mixed into the batter. Doesn’t it look like chocolate chip cookie dough? It has about the same consistency, too, so don’t expect it to flow like a cake batter would.
Spoon the dough into a well-greased cake pan, pushing it to the edges with your spoon then sprinkle on the remaining sugar. Again, try not to over handle the dough or it’ll get tough. Since this is a rustic-style recipe, you want it to have a craggy top that will catch butter when you serve it. Oh, man, it is so good with butter!
Bake the bread for roughly 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It’ll develop a gorgeous golden brown top while it cooks and your kitchen will smell amazing!
Once it’s ready, remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack. I let it cool another 15 minutes longer while I heated the kettle to make tea. After that, we couldn’t wait one more minute to dig in.
Irish Tea Cake keeps well up to 3 days if stored in an air-tight container at room temperature. If you want to freeze this Irish Tea Cake, let it fully cool and wrap it well in cling wrap followed by two layers of aluminum foil. Defrost fully before serving.
Irish Tea Cake
- 2 cups white all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar divided
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons butter cubed and chilled
- 1 cup buttermilk cold
- 1 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C and position a rack in the center of the oven. Grease an 8-inch cake pan well.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and all of the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add butter to the bowl and, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Quickly pour the cold buttermilk into the well and stir just to combine. Add in raisins during the final few strokes.
- Spoon the dough into the prepared cake pan and use the spoon to bring it to the sides. Do not flatten or smooth the top of the dough — you want it to remain craggy. Sprinkle the dough with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
- Bake at 375°F / 190°C for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.