“Lemon Tea” Cake

Yes, the quotation marks are absolutely necessary. This isn’t a lemon-flavoured cake for tea. This is a cake that tastes of lemon tea.

Lemon Tea Cake

Pedantic? Perhaps. Delicious cake? Always.

Sometimes, picking a cake recipe for someone’s birthday can be like trying to solve the riddle of the Sphinx. For Mr. January, in this case, the only clue I got was “doesn’t like sweet.”

So that’s when I go on an investigation. What’s his favourite colour? Favourite food? No-go. What about favourite drink? And bingo — Mr. January likes iced lemon tea.

Adding lemons and tea to a cake is pretty straightforward. For a less sweet sponge, I chose to make the kind of cake commonly known as a “tea cake.” It’s really any cake served with tea or coffee, so the sponge tends to be much less sweeter to go with hot drinks. (Think more bread-y and biscuit-y as opposed to desserts.) Icing, if any at all, is confined to the top, so slices can be picked up and eaten by hand.

So, actually, this is a lemon-tea tea cake. Right.

The “lemon tea” theme is carried on into the icing as well. I boil down lemon tea to make a flavoured concentrate which goes straight into my buttercream icing base.

Recipe for 'Lemon Tea' Cake

Makes a 7-inch cake.


  • 1 cup strong tea (2 Lipton tea bags steeped in 1 cup hot water)
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup yoghurt
  • 200g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 100g chopped nuts (opt.)

For the ‘lemon tea ‘icing:

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Remaining 1/2 cup tea from cake


Step 1: Make the tea. Preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and line one 7-inch round cake tin.

Step 2: Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the lemon zest and yoghurt. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda and fold those in. Finally, add in 1/2 cup of the strong tea. Fold in chopped nuts, if using.

Step 3: Pour batter into the tin and bake for 1 hour. Check at 40 minutes to see if the top is in danger of over-browning. If so, add a square of aluminium foil on top of the tin to shield it from the direct heat for the remaining baking time. Cool the cake to room temperature before decorating.

Step 4: To make the icing, add the lemon juice to the remaining 1/2 cup of tea. Bring the lemon tea to a rolling boil, reducing it to about 2 tbsp. Let cool. Beat the butter, icing sugar and salt together until well incorporated, then mix in the lemon tea concentrate. If the icing is still too thick to spread, beat in some milk.

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