The best (and easiest) Tea Cakes Recipe (or tea cake cookies recipe) is here! You will feel like you are right in the South after making and serving these, not to mention eating them. A true southern delicacy.
How to Make Tea Cakes Recipe
The traditions of southern tea cakes recipe making in my family vary. On my dad’s side of the family, southern tea cake cookies were made with molasses. On my mom’s side, they wouldn’t dream of adding molasses.
The funny thing is that both sides reside in Mississippi though in different regions. You would actually think they lived states or even worlds apart based on the differences between their upbringings. I find it interesting how a couple hours drive can completely alter what is acceptable food ingredient protocol in traditional southern baking.
Regardless of which southern tea cakes recipe one prefers, no one in the South can deny the crucial role tea cakes play in their heritage. They are almost part of a religious experience. My parents both describe in great detail the remembrances of southern tea cake cookies prepared by their mothers and grandmothers and even great grand mothers for special occasions or just regular days. But what makes a southern tea cake so darn special?
What are Tea Cakes?
Southern Tea Cakes have an incredibly powerful and colorful history within the African American community. Culinary historians say the cookie may have been slaves’ version of the English tea cake. With very little supplies, enslaved Africans took what was available and made their own version. Tea cakes became a comfort food and then a special treat during the holidays. With many families migrating North at the end of slavery, many foods of the South by slaves were left behind. Families wanted to begin new traditions and leave behind reminders of oppression. But fortunately, Southern Tea Cakes were a tradition that continued through the years.
Traditional Southern tea cakes are simply cookies with a pared-down ingredient list that results in a simple flavor. The term “tea cake” comes from the fact that the cookie lends itself to being paired with a cup of hot tea. Ideal, but not necessary. Don’t be surprised if you find these cookies to be a tad on the bland side. They’re not meant to be as flavorful as the layered and deliciously flavored cookies we’re used to. That does not make them any less than incredibly tasty. Some say tea cakes remind them of sugar cookies but they remind me more of a pound cake in cookie-biscuit form.
These tea cakes look like simple butter cookies (which is why they are sometimes called tea cake cookies) but they have a bit more of a cake consistency. To me, they are just plain fabulous.
They are buttery, rich, subtly sweet, and soft. Their bottoms are light golden brown and barely crisp, while the edges are slightly chewy. Am I making you hungry yet? Everything you love about dessert is rolled into this recipe, and you won’t believe how simple it is to make that happen.
The recipe ingredients are the same as typical butter cookies but the ratios produce something slightly different. I think they are somewhat similar to my Butter Ricotta Cookies recipe in terms of flavor but they are very unique if you have never tasted them. All the ingredients are ones you can typically find in the everyday pantry; making these cookies both accessible and hassle free. I encourage you to also take this recipe and turn it into your own. While these cookies are delicious on their own, they also create the perfect canvas for additional flavor. I’ve tried so many different versions of Southern Tea cakes that use “a secret family recipe” and each one has tasted wonderful. There’s just no way you can go wrong. If you want to dress up my recipe, feel free to add cinnamon, nutmeg, or even lemon zest; but, before you do, I recommend trying the recipe in its traditional form. Then you can build it up just the way you’d like!
Old Fashioned Tea Cakes
This vintage recipe is one of my favorites because the texture is how the originals were made. The ones I grew up eating time and time again. I plan on passing this recipe down for years to come because I believe in the importance of traditions.They truly shape who we are in a way that most things can’t. They end up defining our ideals. Now that I am a mother, I continually think about the things I am choosing to pass down to my daughter. Recipes carry stories with them; they are easily preserved and capable of nurturing beautiful family moments. I simply can’t wait to one day hear their memories of the special occasions and times we have shared with these traditional Southern treats.
I have lots of cookie recipes that are just as old fashioned as these. For instance my Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies are a favorite here on the blog that I know you will adore.
The best (and easiest) Southern Tea Cakes Recipe (or tea cake cookies recipe) is here! You will feel like you are right in the South after making and serving these, not to mention eating them.
- 1 stick unsalted butter room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.
In the bowl of your mixer, add butter and sugar and cream together on high speed until fluffy and smooth (about 4-5 minutes).
Turn mixer to medium speed and add in one egg and vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated.
Lastly, turn mixer to slow speed and add in flour mixture in intervals of three beating after each addition to incorporate.
After dough is well mixed, turn off mixer and remove dough from mixer and add to a ziploc bag and place in your refrigerator for at least one hour to firm up dough.
Once dough is firm, remove from fridge and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Taking a measuring tablespoon, scoop out cookie dough the size of the tablespoon and roll into a ball. Using your thumb, gently press the center to flatten a bit and place on the tray.
Do the same for the rest of the dough leaving at least an 1 1/2 inches between each dough ball.
Bake for 9-11 minutes until golden brown on the edges and remove from the oven.
Cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.