A cake stand with kawa kawa tea cakes drizzled in syrup with rosemary flowers

The definition of teacakes varies between countries, a yeasted sweet bun in the UK or a small cake eaten with tea is the US,  my little cakes are glazed with a Kawa kawa tea syrup, hence the name.

Kawa kawa (Piper excelsum) is a New Zealand native plant traditionally used by Māori as a medicine. Sometimes referred to as Māori bush basil, or a pepper tree, it has a fresh mild minty pepper taste which pairs well with a lemon-infused sponge. Utilised by tea producers and chefs as a herb, it adds a uniquely “New Zealand” flavour to a dish or cup of tea.  If kawakawa tea is not available where you live, lemongrass and ginger tea with a hint of mint would be the best alternative, but earl grey tea is also delicious.

Kawa kawa Tea Cakes


  • 280ml (or 1 cup) + 2 Tbsp unsweetened oat milk or soya milk
  • 30ml (or 2 Tbsp) lemon juice
  • 180g (or 1 ½ cups) organic all-purpose flour
  • 90g (or 2/3 cup) wholemeal flour
  • 130g (or 2/3) golden castor sugar
  • 45g (or 1/3 cup) fine coconut sugar or castor sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • zest of 2 medium lemons
  • ½ tsp finely ground Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla syrup
  • 125ml (or ½ cup) canola oil

for the glaze

  • ½ cup strong Kawa kawa tea
  • ½ cup golden caster or raw sugar 


If using fresh lemons, zest before squeezing the juice.

Add lemon juice to oat or soya milk and set aside.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 180°C.

Grease 16 mini-brioche tins or a 12 hole standard cupcake tray with baking spray.

Sieve and mix dry ingredients together, stir in lemon zest.

Whisk canola oil and vanilla into the oat milk and lemon juice mixture. Pour into the dry ingredients while whisking until you have a smooth batter.

Pour into your baking tins of choice, for mini brioche moulds, leave at least 2-3mm gap to the top of the tins, for a standard cupcake tin ¾ fill. (This mixture also works well as a small bunt cake.)

For the glazing syrup, bring ½ cup of strong kawa kawa tea (sieved of tea leaves) and ½ cup of sugar of your choice (not coconut sugar) to the boil in a small pot. Boil for 2-3 minutes or until thick and syrupy.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until lightly golden and risen, remove from tins and glaze with kawakawa tea syrup and garnish.

This recipe first appeared here and then was featured by the Vegan Dessert Queen, Fran Costigan. While taking her Rouxbe online Essential Vegan Desserts Course, I developed this recipe to fulfil a task.

If you love to bake sweet treats, Chocolate and Orange Madelines are quick and very easy. Blackberry Apple muffins or a Savoury Drop Biscuits are also great recipes for beginners

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