These almond poppy seed tea cakes are what you bake for a tea party! They’re buttery and light with a crunchy crackly exterior. Baked in a muffin pan, the delicate tea cakes are simple but taste extra fancy.
I tried my hand at something new in the kitchen last week. My mom visited for a few days and whenever we have family stay over, I make an effort to prepare breakfast before they arrive. Mornings are hectic, so it’s helpful to have a batch of muffins, a simple quick bread, or a crumb cake on hand.
I usually default to lemon poppy seed muffins, but decided it was time for a fresh new recipe. Let me introduce you to almond poppy seed tea cakes. Filled with sweet almond flavor and drizzled with a light lemon glaze, these tea cakes are extra special. In my head, I categorize them as a muffin or cupcake—but they’re so different from both! While a muffin or a cupcake typically has a soft texture throughout, tea cakes boast a lovely and unique crisp exterior. Inside their crunchy crackly coating is a light fluffy cake. This texture contrast puts tea cakes in a whole other category—one where muffins and cupcakes pale in comparison.
Flipping through The Perfect Cake by America’s Test Kitchen inspired these tea cakes. I actually have the pleasure of working with America’s Test Kitchen to promote this cookbook and will be sharing a recipe from the book next week! A recipe inside– lavender tea cakes– sounded intriguing. I reduced the sugar, reduced the salt, used sour cream, added poppy seeds, and since I’ve never been a fan of lavender baked goods, chose almond and vanilla as the primary flavors.
How to Make Tea Cakes
The tea cake recipe begins like a typical butter cake or muffin. Dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. Cream butter and sugar together before adding eggs, sour cream, and extracts. The tea cakes are baked in a muffin pan, then inverted so they’re upside down. Why, you ask? Well that only adds to their intrigue. ♥
Unlike muffins, don’t fill the pan all the way to the top with batter. Rather, divide the batter between all 12 cups so each is only about halfway full. If there’s too much batter, the tea cakes will overflow and spread all over the pan. Though the tea cakes will slightly rise in the very center of the surface, there isn’t enough flour in the recipe to maintain a substantial muffin-dome-like structure.
I love lemon and almond together, so I finished them with a lemon almond glaze. Nothing more than a squeeze of lemon, some almond extract, and confectioners’ sugar. The lemon slightly overpowered the almond, but we still loved it. Feel free to swap lemon juice for milk!
The BEST Part of the Tea Cakes Recipe
You’ll use an entire stick (1/2 cup; 8 Tablespoons) of butter in the recipe, but only 6 Tablespoons go into the tea cakes themselves. The other 2 Tablespoons? That’s used for the BEST PART: the crunchy exterior!
- Using a pastry brush, brush a mixture of 2 Tablespoons melted butter and 1 Tablespoon sugar into each cup. Don’t be shy in this step; use every last drop because you want that buttery crunchy coating!
You *could* use cupcake liners, but they defeat the purpose of greasing and sugaring the pan. And then you *could* grease and sugar the cupcake liners, but the crunchy sugar coating will peel off as you unwrap the tea cake. So trust me when I say this: brush the pan with the butter + sugar mixture. This is key to the unique taste and texture!!
Anyway. My mom loved these almond tea cakes, which was most important. We all finished them over the course of a few days and I quickly made another batch to freeze. Not sure if they’re technically a breakfast food, but they hit the spot first thing in the morning with fruit and coffee/tea on the side. I can also see myself serving these at an afternoon tea party—because I throw so many of those—while wearing my fanciest hat and even though my dress is probably wrinkled and Noelle pulled out a chunk of my hair, I’m classy and sophisticated because I’m serving tea cakes.
Oh and the best part of all? They’re ready in under 45 minutes. Cheers! (I just accidentally typed Cheese!)
What to Serve at a Tea Party
- Mini Cheesecakes
- French Macarons
- Dark Chocolate Almond Biscotti
- Pain au Chocolat
- Lemon Ricotta Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Scones
- Cream Puffs
Almond Poppy Seed Tea Cakes
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 Tablespoon (12g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 Tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup (120g) confectioners' sugar
- 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice or milk
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- optional: sliced almonds for garnish
- To prepare the pan: Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Whisk melted butter and 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar together. Using a pastry brush, brush it into each cup of a 12-count muffin pan. This creates the wonderfully crisp exterior that makes these tea cakes so special.
- Make the cakes: Whisk the flour, poppy seeds, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. The mixture may look curdled; that's ok. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick.
- Spoon the batter evenly into each prepared cup (about halfway full).
- Bake for 14-15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The tea cakes may have tall bumps in the very center. Remove cakes from the oven and immediately invert the pan to release the cakes. They won't sit flat because of the bumps, but that's what makes them so charming! Let the cakes cool, bottom side up, for at least 10 minutes before drizzling with icing.
- Make the icing: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or milk, and almond extract together until smooth. Add another Tablespoon of lemon juice or milk to thin out if needed. Drizzle over cakes before serving. If desired, garnish with sliced almonds.
- Cover and store leftover tea cakes at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Make ahead tip: Bake the tea cakes 1-2 days ahead of time. Cover tightly and store at room temperature before drizzling with icing and serving. Baked and cooled tea cakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight on the counter before drizzling with icing and serving.
- Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
- For miniature tea cakes baked in a 24-count mini muffin pan, follow the recipe as instructed, brush the pan with the melted butter + sugar mixture, fill each halfway with batter, and bake for around 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and invert the pan as instructed in step 5. Recipe yields around 30-32 miniature tea cakes.
Adapted from The Perfect Cake by America's Test Kitchen
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