Irish Tea Cake

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The Irish Tea Cake is a traditional Irish dessert perfect with a hot cup of tea.  The cake is simple to make and light and tender with the perfect dose of sweet, butter, and vanilla flavor.  Top the cake with powdered sugar and fresh berries for a simple cake to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! 

Traditional Irish Dessert

The history of this Irish Tea Cake is a little a little varied.  If you look up Irish Tea Cake, chances are you will come across recipes similar to this one.  As well as recipes for a tea cake called a Barmbrack.  I will save the history lesson on the Barmbrack for another day – perhaps when I actually bake it!

This particular tea cake is also referred to as an Irish Sponge Cake, and it is a dessert that may not only be served at tea time.  Given how simple the cake is to make, it makes for an easy birthday cake or holiday dessert. 

The cake is very light and delicately sweet, which is probably why it shows up at tea time.  So as not to overpower the enjoyment of a proper Irish tea.  This also makes the cake a great canvas to sprinkle with powdered sugar, or serve it a bit more fancy as a layer cake with fruit and whipped cream.  

What is the difference between an Irish Tea Cake and an American Cake?

My opinion – an American sponge cake has more sugar and butter.  Not a bad thing, but there may be times when you just want a simple, and lightly sweetened cake.  

Slice of tea cake on a plate

St. Patrick’s Day Dessert

How about a delicious Irish dessert recipe – without alcohol!  Even though there are some tasty Irish beverages that you can sneak into your desserts (a Stout cake, or Bailey’s brownies), take it from a fellow Irish lass – not every St. Patrick’s Day dessert needs to have booze.

Or maybe they do? 

But, for the sake of keeping things ‘tea-time proper’, this recipe for Irish Tea Cake will have your reaching for a cup of Irish Breakfast Tea rather than a pint of Irish Guinness.  

What makes an Irish Tea Cake so tasty?

  • The cake is easy to make – I mean super, super easy.
  • Not overly sweet –  This cake has a nice balance of sweetness and vanilla flavor.  
  • It is moist – We are adding a lot of good fat to this recipe to keep the cake moist and tender.  Like all of my favorite ingredients for cake – butter, milk, and sour cream.
  • Versatility – The cake is delicious with a simple dusting of powdered sugar.  Or, make it a fancy layer cake with whipped cream and berries. 

Did I mention it was easy to make?

Top of a tea cake dusted with powdered sugar

What You Need To Make Irish Tea Cake


  • Unsalted Butter
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Sour Cream – Keeps the cake moist.
  • Whole Milk – I haven’t tried another milk fat, but would recommend 2% or whole milk to keep the cake moist and tender.
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla Extract
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Salt

Baking Equipment

  • Stand Mixer – A hand mixer will work too.
  • 9-Inch Round Cake Pan
Irish sponge cake with cut slices

Tips For Making An Irish Tea Cake

  • Bring the refrigerated ingredients to room temperature – Ingredients incorporate and bake better when they are all start at the same temperature.
  • Add the eggs one at time – This is just good practice to make sure the eggs are fully incorporated.
  • Alternate adding flour and milk – This allows for proper absorption of the liquid ingredients, without causing the batter to separate.
  • Don’t overmix – A general rule of thumb for baking with flour – we don’t want to overmix the batter and end up with a chewy cake.
  • Get creative with toppings – The cake is so versatile in flavor and texture it can take on any topping, frosting or fruit.  Not to mention, it is still delicious without all of that!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day friends!

More Cake Recipes

Slice of irish tea cake with berries

Irish Tea Cake

Yield: 8 Servings
The Irish Tea Cake is a traditional Irish dessert perfect with a hot cup of tea.  The cake is simple to make and light and tender with the perfect dose of sweet, butter, and vanilla flavor.  Top the cake with powdered sugar and fresh berries for a simple cake to celebrate St. Patrick's Day! 
Prep10 mins
Cook30 mins
Total40 mins


  • 1 – 9-Inch Round Cake Pan


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons full fat sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • powdered sugar (for dusting)
  • fresh berries, for topping (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350F degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position.  Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, add the measured milk and sour cream and whisk until blended.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after adding each.  
  • On low speed, slowly add one-third of the flour mixture, then half of the milk, alternating and ending with the flour mixture.  Do not overmix – mix until no flour streaks remain.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then invert onto a wire rack.  Re-invert to right side up and let cool completely on the wire rack.
  • Before serving, dust with powdered sugar and top with berries.  The cake can be stored covered at room temperature for about 3 days – before it starts to get too dry.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Irish
Author: Erin Cernich

2 thoughts on “Irish Tea Cake”

  1. Just made this and it was not only simple to make but it really is amazingly delicious! The kind of cake where you can just grab a slice with your hand and eat it just like that! The vanilla and butter stand out and its just the right amount of sweet with some powdered sugar on top. Thank u for this recipe! Its a great one to have in your pocket!

    1. Erin | Butter and Bliss

      Thank you for the kind feedback Kimberly! I love this cake – a great snack cake when you need a little sweet bite!

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