madeira loaf cake

3 loaf cake recipes that are perfect for afternoon tea

Posted by for Food and Drink

Whether you’re getting out your favourite tableware or grabbing a slice of cake at 3pm on a working weekday, these loaf cake recipes won’t let you down. 

There are two kinds of DIY afternoon tea. The first involves a leisurely sit-down at the kitchen table, usually on a weekend, perhaps using your nicest vintage cups and saucers, Bordallo Pinheiro plates and Summerill & Bishop napkins. There might be Earl Grey; there’ll almost certainly be multiple types of cake.

The second is a slapdash event squeezed into a gap in the working day. We’re all familiar with the 3.30pm dash to the kettle for a mug of Yorkshire Gold, hurrying back to our computers with a roughly-hewn hunk of cake on a slightly chipped white side plate. 

Whatever kind of afternoon tea you’re throwing together, you’re going to need a loaf cake. Sturdy, satisfying and surprisingly long-lasting when kept in the fridge, loaf cakes are ideal for making on a Sunday afternoon and demolishing steadily throughout the week. And at a time when everyone could do with a bit of a pick-me-up, we can think of worse strategies than constantly having cake to hand.

Below, you’ll find three loaf cakes that go perfectly with a cup of tea. Alison Roman’s lemony turmeric tea cake is a fragrant, sophisticated twist on a classic lemon loaf, and Katy Beskow’s pecan and nutmeg banana loaf is the vegan banana bread alternative you never knew you needed.

Will Torrent’s marmalade madeira cake, meanwhile, will delight anyone who likes tart citrus, crunchy nuts and airy sponge. Meet you at the kettle… 

  • Alison Roman’s lemony turmeric tea cake

    alison roman lemon cake
    Best loaf cake recipes: Alison Roman's lemony turmeric tea cake

    Alison says: “I don’t want to oversell this cake, but I just want to say it’s one of the more delicious things I’ve made in my lifetime. I refer to it as ‘house cake’, which is of course, cake to keep in your house at all times.

    “I am not what I would call an earnest person, but in all earnestness just slicing into it makes a bad day better, the baked equivalent of burning sage or palo santo to clear the energy.

    Makes 1 loaf


    • 225g plain flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp flaky sea salt
    • ¾ tsp ground turmeric
    • 220g sugar, plus an extra 2 tbsp
    • 2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice, plus ½ lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
    • 185g sour cream or full-fat Greek-style yoghurt, plus extra for serving (optional)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 125g unsalted butter, melted
    • whipped cream, to serve (optional)

    You’ll also need

    • A 10 × 23cm loaf tin (for some reason, finding a standard-size loaf tin is nearly impossible, so get as close to these dimensions as you can. While you could use either a metal or a glass tin, I prefer metal because it conducts heat more evenly)
    • Baking parchment 


    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 10 × 23cm loaf tin with non-stick cooking spray or butter.

    Line with baking paper, leaving some overhang on both of the longer sides so you’re able to easily lift the cake out after baking.

    Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and turmeric in a medium bowl.

    In a large bowl, combine the 220g sugar with the lemon zest and rub together with your fingertips until the sugar is tinted yellow and smells like you just rubbed a lemon in there.

    Whisk in the sour cream, eggs and the lemon juice until well blended.

    Using a spatula, add the wet mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just to blend. Fold in the melted butter.

    Scrape the batter into the prepared tin, smoothing the top. Scatter with the lemon slices and extra 2 tbsp sugar.

    Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown, the edge pulls away from the side of the tin, and a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. (I love deeply caramelised lemon, but if they’re getting too dark, lay a piece of foil on top to prevent burning.)

    Let the cake cool before slicing.


    Cake can be baked up to 5 days ahead, wrapped tightly, and stored at room temperature.

    From Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman (£22, Hardie Grant), out now 

  • Katy Beskow’s pecan and nutmeg banana loaf

    vegan banana loaf cake
    Best loaf cake recipes: Katy Beskow’s vegan banana loaf

    Katy says: “This all-in-one loaf recipe bakes a fluffy banana cake, flavoured with nutmeg, cinnamon and pecans, and has a moreish crust. Perfect for lunchboxes and great for using up those overripe bananas!”

    Makes 1 loaf


    • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled
    • 25g (2 tbsp) granulated sugar
    • 25g (2 tbsp) soft light brown sugar
    • 80ml sunflower oil
    • 230g self-raising flour
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
    • pinch of ground cinnamon
    • 50g pecans, roughly chopped
    • pinch of salt

    You’ll also need

    • A 450g loaf tin
    • Baking parchment


    Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line the loaf tin with baking parchment.

    Mash the bananas vigorously with a fork to create a smooth mixture. Stir in the granulated sugar, brown sugar and sunflower oil.

    Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, pecans and salt and stir to form a batter.

    Pour into the lined loaf tin, then bake in the oven for 50–55 minutes until risen and the top is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.


    Suitable for freezing.

    For best results, use very ripe bananas with brown speckled peels.

    From Easy Vegan Bible by Katy Beskow (£22, Quadrille), out now

  • Will Torrent’s marmalade madeira cake with macadamias, hazelnuts and almonds

    madeira loaf cake
    Best loaf cake recipes: Will Torrent's madeira and marmalade loaf cake

    Will says: “The humble madeira cake has formed the basis of many a happy afternoon tea party and sometimes you just need a simple no-fuss cake. That said, my version is made with three types of nuts; roasted macadamias, ground hazelnuts and ground almonds, topped off with marmalade. You could have this cake for breakfast too if you like!”

    Serves 10–12


    • 250g butter, softened
    • 250g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
    • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • zest of ½ lemon
    • zest of ½ orange
    • 275g self-raising flour
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • 40g ground almonds
    • 40g ground hazelnuts
    • a pinch of salt
    • 2 tbsp whole milk

    To decorate:

    • 3–4 tbsp marmalade
    • 50g toasted macadamia nuts, chopped, to decorate

    You’ll also need

    • 2 x 450g loaf pans with the bases and ends lined with a strip of buttered baking parchment
    • Stand mixer


    Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 3.

    Tip the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a creamer attachment. Add the golden caster sugar and beat for at least 3 minutes until the mixture is really pale and light.

    Gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula from time to time.

    Add the vanilla extract and the lemon and orange zest, and mix again.

    Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the ground almonds, ground hazelnuts, salt and milk, and fold in using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula until smooth and thoroughly combined.

    Divide the mixture between the prepared loaf pans and spread level with either an offset palette knife or the back of a spoon.

    Sprinkle with extra golden caster sugar and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 50–55 minutes until golden brown, well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of cakes comes out clean.

    Rest in the pan for 3–5 minutes while you gently warm the marmalade either in a small pan over a low–medium heat or in the microwave in bursts of 30 seconds.

    Turn the cakes out of the pans and onto a wire rack, brush the tops with melted marmalade, scatter with toasted macadamia nuts and leave until cold before serving in slices.

    From Afternoon Tea At Home by Will Torrent (£19.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now 

Photography: Matt Russell © Ryland Peters & Small; © Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott; © Luke Albert

Share this article