Old-Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes Recipe

Updated on September 6, 2017
Try my Tea Cake Recipe!
Try my Tea Cake Recipe! | Source

Southern Food

I just took a batch of tea cakes out of the oven. Two of the grandsons are here with me, and they could hardly wait for the delicious morsels to get cool enough to eat. It’s all I could do to keep them from devouring the two dozen tea cakes I made. Poor hubby is at work today, and I had to save a few for him. After all, like the rest of my family, he’s a big fan of Southern food. If you’ve been reading my recipes, you know that Southern recipes are near and dear to me. Oh, I cook and eat all sorts of cuisines, but Southern dishes will always be my favorite. Of course, I grew up on Southern food, but even if I hadn’t, I’m sure I would have discovered it sooner or later. And lately, I’ve been making some old-fashioned Southern recipes and sharing them with the grandkids. I want them to experience different foods from their family history. As I’m compiling the cookbook I’m writing, I’ve been rediscovering lots of heirloom recipes that I’d all but forgotten. Tea cakes are one of them.

I like my tea cakes to have brown bottoms.
I like my tea cakes to have brown bottoms. | Source

Tea Cakes

If you’re not a southerner, you might not be familiar with tea cakes. I grew up on them. At my grandmother’s house, we had them while lots of other kids were munching on Oreos or chocolate chip cookies. What are tea cakes, exactly? They’re sort of a cross between a small cake and a cookie. They’re very soft and light, while the outer edges are crisp. The sweetness level ranges from cook to cook. Granny’s weren’t quite as sweet as mine are, but some cooks make super-sweet versions that contain more sugar than I use. I guess mine are sort of a “middle of the road” version.

In my opinion, a good tea cake has a nicely browned bottom and browned edges, but most of the top part of the cakes should be very light colored. How do I achieve this? I get these results from using a dark metal baking pan – my trusty old biscuit pan! It’s also important to bake at the right temperature and for the right amount of time. I’ve found that 350 degrees is perfect for my recipe, and that thirteen minutes is just the right amount of baking time.

We like our tea cakes while they’re still warm from the oven, with coffee, hot tea, or a glass of cold milk. If you want to get fancy, you can ice or frost your tea cakes or sprinkle them with colored sugar. If you decide to do that, you might want to cut down on the amount of sugar you use in the recipe.

My grandmother grew up in this house, in Charleston.
My grandmother grew up in this house, in Charleston. | Source

Old Fashioned Recipe

This is an old fashioned recipe. In fact, I searched all my cookbooks and was unable to find a single tea cake recipe. I tried some online recipes, but they didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted mine to, so I had to do some experimenting. Some of the recipes I tried made hard cakes that were like brittle cookies. Some were so soft that they were more like biscuits than tea cakes. I think, however, after trial and error, I finally hit upon the right ratio of all the ingredients.

My grandmother made these all the time. She was a genteel Southern lady from Charleston, South Carolina. Of course, her upbringing had a huge influence on her cooking, and tea cakes were among her specialties. She always used nutmeg in hers, but since I’m not a big fan of nutmeg, I prefer to use ground cinnamon instead.

It seems to me that making tea cakes is a lost art. I have lots of friends who are excellent cooks, with southern cooks among them, but I don’t know of anyone outside my family who still makes homemade tea cakes. I suppose it’s a lot easier to buy cookies and snack cakes from a supermarket, but the taste is nowhere near the same. Not to mention the wonderful aroma that drifts through the house when I bake. You certainly can’t buy that in a store!

Tea Cake Recipe

Remember to use a dark metal pan for the best tea cakes results. Place your oven rack in the top third of your oven. Don’t put in the tea cakes until the oven has been properly preheated. Also, use real butter – not margarine. Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to suit your own taste.

Rate my recipe. Thanks!

4 stars from 32 ratings of Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 13 min
Ready in: 18 min
Yields: makes 2 dozen tea cakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg OR cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking pan or cookie sheet.
  2. Cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add an egg and beat well. Add the other egg and beat again. Stir in the vanilla flavoring.
  3. Whisk together flour, nutmeg or cinnamon, and salt. Add to butter mixture until a moist dough forms.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough. Knead dough three or four times. If the dough is still too sticky, add just enough flour to make it stiff enough to handle.
  5. Roll out dough with a rolling pin, or pat it out with your palms. The dough should be about 1/3-inch thick. Flour a two-inch round cutter and cut out circles. Place tea cakes on prepared pan, about ½ -1 inch apart.
  6. Bake for 13 minutes and remove from the oven. After cooling for about one minute, the cakes can be transferred to a plate or platter. Use a spatula to move the cookies. You can frost the cakes once they cool, but they’re great just as they are. Try them with a cup of hot coffee or spiced tea. Pour the kids a big glass of milk to go with their tea cakes.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Lightly grease a dark metal pan. I use Crisco.Set oven to bake and 350.Cream sugar and butter together.Add remaining ingredients to form a soft dough.Roll or pat out dough.Cut with a small biscuit cutter.Place tea cakes on prepared pan.Bake for 13 minutes.Transfer tea cakes to plate or platter with a spatula.
Lightly grease a dark metal pan. I use Crisco.
Lightly grease a dark metal pan. I use Crisco. | Source
Set oven to bake and 350.
Set oven to bake and 350. | Source
Cream sugar and butter together.
Cream sugar and butter together. | Source
Add remaining ingredients to form a soft dough.
Add remaining ingredients to form a soft dough. | Source
Roll or pat out dough.
Roll or pat out dough. | Source
Cut with a small biscuit cutter.
Cut with a small biscuit cutter. | Source
Place tea cakes on prepared pan.
Place tea cakes on prepared pan. | Source
Bake for 13 minutes.
Bake for 13 minutes. | Source
Transfer tea cakes to plate or platter with a spatula.
Transfer tea cakes to plate or platter with a spatula. | Source

Questions & Answers

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      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Great to hear, Deb! My new cookbook should be released soon, also. We're doing okay.

      • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

        DeBorrah K Ogans 

        5 years ago

        Habee, Just wonderful! Luv your recipe for the Tea Cakes! I am in the process of releasing my new book! Check it out when you can! How are You?

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Deb, it's great to see you! How have you been?

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Silva, I'm so glad you enjoyed the tea cakes!

      • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

        DeBorrah K Ogans 

        5 years ago

        Habee, Marvelous! I grew up with my Mother making Tea Cakes. They are great! Thank you for reminding me! Peace & Blessings!

      • Silva Hayes profile image

        Silva Hayes 

        5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

        They just came out of the oven. So delicious! (I didn't have self-rising flour on hand, so I used regular flour and a half-teaspoon baking powder and they are perfect -- not too sweet.)

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        carter, thanks for that. The tea cakes really are pretty simple to make, and they're yummy!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        easylearning, thanks for stopping by!

      • carter06 profile image

        Mary 

        5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

        These look great habee and deliciously simple..thanks for sharing the recipe..cheers

      • easylearningweb profile image

        Amelia Griggs 

        5 years ago

        Sounds good, Habee, best wishes!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Thanks, easy! Actually, I am working on a cookbook!

      • easylearningweb profile image

        Amelia Griggs 

        5 years ago

        Hi Habee,

        Your teacakes look very interesting and delicious. The closest thing that I have ever seen and eaten growing up is tea biscuits. My mother used to slice them sideways and we would put them in the toaster and eat them with butter for breakfast.

        Thanks for sharing your recipe. You should write a cookbook!

        Regards,

        Easylearningweb

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Many thanks, Cook Book!

      • My Cook Book profile image

        Dil Vil 

        5 years ago from India

        Hey habee, good hub and well written.

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Wow, Sis, those were some BIG tea cakes! Granny's were a little larger than mine, but we prefer the smaller ones. Good to see you!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Thanks, random! I'm really surprised more folks don't make tea cakes.

      • Angela Blair profile image

        Angela Blair 

        5 years ago from Central Texas

        Wow -- like you, I didn't think anyone else in the world made tea cakes --- my Granny did and her recipe came down through a gadzillion good Greer cooks before it got to her. She made the thin, very crispy kind with the browned edges. Her big difference was she cut them with the lid of the old one pound coffee can (doubt there'll be many among us who remember those) and they made humongous cookies. I still make them for my brother and when I do he guards them like they're pure gold! Wonderful Hub, my dear! Best/Sis

      • randomcreative profile image

        Rose Clearfield 

        5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

        How awesome to re-create such a classic recipe! Thanks!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Toni, good to hear someone else is keeping the tea cakes tradition alive! lol

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Hendrika, I think it's 113.5 grams.

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Thanks a bunch, Ceres!

      • Tonipet profile image

        Tonette Fornillos 

        5 years ago from The City of Generals

        Tea cakes, very nice! These are some of the most special treats I grew up with. I have cousins making old-fashioned tea cakes until now which I/we enjoy very much. I just loved them!

        I am bookmarking this Habee. I'll find time make them myself. From the sound, looks and feel of it -- they're a MUST-try. :=)Thank you for this. Blessings! -Tonette

      • Hendrika profile image

        Hendrika 

        5 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

        WOW, they do sound delicious, does anyone know how much a stick of butter is in grams?

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Doc, that seems to be the part that everyone likes the most. Hope you have a great Friday!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        So true, Kalmiya. In most cultures, the preparing and sharing of foods is important. Thanks!

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        5 years ago from The Caribbean

        Habee, if I lived near you, I would have invited myself. Lucky grandsons! Your cooking always look so good. Thanks for the recipe. Voted Up!

      • Ceres Schwarz profile image

        Ceres Schwarz 

        5 years ago

        This looks like a good recipe for tea cakes. The image of the tea cakes looks really delicious and tasty. Now I want to try some. Your many other images were also very helpful in showing how to make this recipe.

      • drbj profile image

        drbj and sherry 

        5 years ago from south Florida

        The crunchy, browned part of the tea cake is the part I enjoy the most, Holle. Thanks for the recipe.

      • Kalmiya profile image

        Kalmiya 

        5 years ago from North America

        It's interesting how our family traditions shape the things we love to eat! Thanks for your hub on southern traditions and yummies :)

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Yep, Johnny speaks fondly of your mom's liver. Wait...that didn't sound right! lol

      • Randy Godwin profile image

        Randy Godwin 

        5 years ago from Southern Georgia

        I'm quite sure she would proud to fry some yard bird with you, Hollie. Her fried chicken is something wonderful. I think Johnny likes her smother fried beef liver and turnip greens. I'm hungry now just thinking about it.

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Marlene, I sooooo agree! The crisp edges paired with the soft cake...yum!!

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        lol, RD. I'm not at all surprised that a great old southern cook like your mom has a tea cake recipe - I've just never heard you mention them. I honestly can't think of anyone else I personally know (other than my family members and your mom) who still makes tea cakes.

        I made a batch this morning, and I think there's one left. I had two, and Johnny and the two Crow boys devoured the rest!

        BTW, think your Mom will let me fry chicken with her one day? I've heard hers is awesome!!

      • MarleneB profile image

        Marlene Bertrand 

        5 years ago from USA

        A friend treated me to tea one day and the tea house served tea cakes. I looked around to see if I was actually in heaven. The crunchy edges is what takes them over the top. Thank you for your fabulous recipe.

      • Randy Godwin profile image

        Randy Godwin 

        5 years ago from Southern Georgia

        Gir! You didn't think my Mom had a recipe for tea cakes? Whatchoo thankin' bout, Willis? lol! She uses an old recipe handed down from my great-grandmother on Dad's side of the family. I think the original recipe called for cane syrup as it was used as a sugar substitute because cane syrup was always in abundance on the farm.

        Mom just made a batch a week or so ago, but sadly, they didn't last long. I can almost smell the aroma of hot tea cakes now. :)

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        BB, you weren't reared in the South, were you? If not, I'm not at all surprised you're not familiar with tea cakes. They're big southern secrets! LOL

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Well, Silva, you must have been reared in the South! lol

      • habee profile imageAUTHOR

        Holle Abee 

        5 years ago from Georgia

        Thanks, Firdousia!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        5 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Okay, I feel a little foolish because I have never heard of these. Thanks for the food education. We just might try these.

      • Silva Hayes profile image

        Silva Hayes 

        5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

        I love that house your grandmother grew up in. I too was raised on tea cakes, soft in the middle, crispy on the edges, not too sweet. No nutmeg, just a breath of cinnamon. Voted Up and Interesting.

      • Firdousia Sudheer profile image

        Firdousia Sudheer 

        5 years ago from Dammam, Saudi Arabia

        voted up...interesting

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