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Funfetti Cake Batter Scones

Good luck having any dough left to make these scones. I will practically put money on the bet that you will eat all the dough before the scones ever make it on to the baking sheet much less into the oven.

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Funfetti Cake Batter Scones

Oops, don’t I usually start with some fun anecdote or little tie in to introduce a recipe? Sorry, these scones are just too amazing to hold off on telling you. They are like that piece of great news that you intend to keep quiet, subtly dropping little hints to everyone to build fun suspense, but then as soon as you see someone you compulsively blurt it out. Whoopsies! It was just too great and exciting to keep secret! Usually that news is a baby or an engagement or a dream job or successfully doing a backflip on a trampoline. In my case, though, it’s creating and perfecting a scone that tastes SO MUCH like funfetti cake batter that I forgot I wasn’t eating cake/had to make multiple batches because I couldn’t stop eating the dough/have my friends begging for deliveries/almost make me want to give up scone recipe developing because I don’t think I can top these ever.

Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

I have had an inexplicable craving for coffee cake lately. Like having dreams of coffee cake, resisting ordering coffee cake for lunch every time I go to my favorite cafe, saving recipe after recipe for coffee cake, and convincing my mom that I should use at least three of the aforementioned Costco bananas to make a banana coffee cake instead of the banana bread or more banana scones she requested.

And then I go and post the resulting recipe on my blog with a (about to come) tangent about Mother’s Day being the perfect excuse to make this not-the-banana-bread-my-mom-wanted banana chocolate chip coffee cake. I’m a horrible daughter. Blame coffee cake!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Tea Cakes vs. Coffee Cakes

Now that we know what teacake is, can we figure out coffee cake? As in what makes the two so different? Now don’t give me the rote answer of you serve teacake with tea and coffee cake with coffee.  We don’t like simple here, we have to go deep! So begins the battle of coffee cake versus teacake!

 

#1 Coffee cake is one kind fits all.

As we learned last week, a teacake can actually be one of three or four different foodstuffs: a cookie, a spice or sponge cake, a yeast bread, or a soda bread. But a coffee cake is always a cake. Sure it might have a crumble topping or a cinnamon swirl (drooling yet?) or added flavorings but it is always in cake form.

 

#2 Shape matters.

Even when a teacake is a cake, it usually is in a circular shape unless it was baked as a loaf cake. Coffee cakes come in squares, rectangles, bundts, circles, basically whatever shape pan the baker had available.

 

#3 Coffee has coffee but tea has no tea.

Coffee cakes can also get their name from being made with coffee, but teacakes aren’t made with tea (though you can make a teacake that is tea flavored, it is not a common thing).  Coffee isn’t in the batter of every coffee cake, however it is common enough that it might be worth asking the baker if they use coffee in their recipe. I know I’ve made a coffee cake with coffee granules in the cocoa cinnamon streusel.

 

#4 One is served at Starbucks and other coffee/tea shops. One is served at tearooms and teahouses.

Guess which is which? Coffee cakes are more likely to be sold in local or chain coffee shops, the kind you swing by for that convenient breakfast. I order tea at Starbucks (their Earl Grey is surprisingly good) but even if they serve tea I have never seen a teacake at a coffee shop. Now on the flip side, I have only ever seen any of the forms of teacakes at tearooms and teahouses. I’ve never seen a coffee cake at one of those, so maybe the makers of teacakes and coffeecakes agreed to keep some distance between them.

 

#5 Teacakes are world travelers.

Teacakes—in any of the forms we learned about—are seen in the UK, North America, Latin America, India, Australia, Sweden…basically they are well traveled and well known. Coffee cake seems to be a purely American baked good, only really seen outside the US in American style bakeries that happen to have made their way abroad.

 

Believe it or not, I’m not going to give an answer to which is better than the other, because I love both coffee cakes and teacakes of all sorts. But I definitely don’t believe that you can only have coffee cake when drinking coffee and teacakes when you are drinking tea. You can have anything when you’re drinking tea. Why should we neglect the poor yet delicious coffee cake?

Tea Cakes

A couple of the tea houses I’ve reviewed serve a slice of tea cake with their scone course, and it got me thinking (as so many things do) about what exactly is a tea cake. Since it’s a cake and a lot of the mini desserts served at tearooms are little cakes, why is it served in the scone course and not the dessert course? Burning questions!

Well I did some digging. Turns out the answer is as simple as you’d think!

 

Are they cakes?

Tea cake as a cake (no it's not the scone or the muffin)

Tea cake as a cake (no it’s not the scone or the muffin)

In some parts of the world, yes. When a tea cake is literally a small slice of cake (typical of Australian, North America, and India), it is usually a pound, heavy sponge, or spice cake.  Only a single layer, these tea cakes are not frosted, but instead are topped with a dusting of powdered sugar or a light glaze. The spice cake is more common in North America, while the heavy sponge variety is found in Australia or India. When a tea cake is basically a pound cake, it’s just a tearoom’s variation on the slightly more traditional cake served. Tea cakes—when they are cakes—can also contain fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, or apricots.

 

Are they bread?

In some parts of the world, yes. A tea cake is more akin to a bread when served in the United Kingdom. A small, sweet, yeast-based bun often containing dried fruit, a tea cake is typically split, toasted, and buttered to be served with tea. The most famous tea cake is served in Bath, England and is known as a Sally Lunn. Top it with cinnamon butter and be prepared to die from deliciousness overdose.

Bread-like tea cakes are also served in Sweden where they are a sweetened wheat soda bread served with butter and jam.

 

Are they cookies?

Tea cakes as a cookie (photo credit foodsofourlives.com)

Tea cakes as a cookie (photo credit foodsofourlives.com)

In some parts of the world, yes.  Cookie tea cakes are dense cookies made with sugar, butter, eggs, flour, milk, and additional flavorings.  Common flavors are nut-based like almond or hazelnut.  They are very dense and crumbly, and can be quite messy as they are usually coated in a layer of powdered sugar.  When they first crumbed into the world, they were an accompaniment to bitter teas; the sugar both in the cookie and the coating were meant to balance the astringency from black tea.

Now a cookie tea cake by any other name is still a cookie tea cake, but they are also commonly known as Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes/cookies, polvornes, or butterballs.

 

Hmmm…with all these different answers for “what is a tea cake” I may have to do a recipe series for you so you can try them all!

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