These old-fashioned tea cakes will take you back to the good old days.
They may not seem like much but trust me, they have everything it takes to blow you away.
Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes
Imagine a warm, cozy living room with the smell of something freshly baked wafting out of the oven. That’s what comfort food is all about!
A cross between a cake and a cookie, these old fashioned tea cakes are sweet and buttery with a beautifully light, fluffy, and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Flavored mainly with butter and sugar, they’re rich with just the right amount of sweetness.
What Are Tea Cakes?
Tea cakes in the United States are southern cookies with a cake-like, golden crumb, and chewy edge. They’re quite dense and often served with tea. In the United Kingdom, tea cakes are sweet, yeasted buns with warm spices and currants. They taste like hot cross buns and are usually served with butter.
Of course, we’re talking about southern tea cakes today, which are slightly crisp on the bottom and chewy around the edges.
If you’ve ever made vanilla cake in a sheet pan and had it a little too thin in one corner, you’ll know exactly how these taste!
Also, unlike traditional cookies, tea cakes are not too sweet.
Instead, they get a perfect balance of flavors from butter, sugar, a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Best eaten with a cup of tea, these tea cakes are the ultimate afternoon snack!
The great thing about these tea cakes is they only call for the most basic baking ingredients! In fact, I bet you have everything on hand already:
- Sugar – Nothing fancy here – just white, granulated sugar will do. You can also use other types of sugar to suit any dietary restrictions, though.
- Butter – This is where the tea cakes get the majority of their flavor, so be sure to use premium-quality butter. Margarine is definitely a no-no.
- Eggs – For binding the ingredients together. Be sure to use room-temperature eggs so they’ll combine with the rest of the ingredients easily.
- If you forget to take them out of the fridge, submerge them in warm water for 1-2 minutes, and you’re all set.
- Vanilla – For flavor, sweetness, and warmth.
- Flour – I use all-purpose. You can also use self-rising flour, but be sure to skip the baking soda.
- Baking Soda – The leavening agent that’ll make the cookies rise. Make sure it’s potent, or it won’t work at all.
- To test, drop a teaspoon of baking soda in a bowl of vinegar.
- You’ll know it’s still active when it foams up upon contact.
- Salt – To enhance the sweetness and richness of the tea cakes.
- Nutmeg – The key ingredient that gives southern tea cakes their iconic, mildly spiced flavor!
How to Make Old-Fashioned Tea Cakes
This recipe is pretty straightforward. The only thing you need to remember is to chill the dough – so plan ahead!
- Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy. It should take about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs and sift the dry ingredients. Beat in the eggs, one by one, followed by the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a separate bowl.
- Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients. Use a spatula to stir the dry into the wet. Use long strokes, working under the batter and around the edges to get all the little pockets.
- Chill the dough. The dough will come out sticky, so you’ll need to pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes before you proceed to the next step.
- Roll the dough and cut it out. Place the refrigerated dough on a lightly floured surface. Then, roll it into a flat rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Cut it into circles (or any shape you like) with a cookie cutter.
- Bake the cookies. Place the cookie dough cutouts onto cookie sheets with 1/2 – 1 inch of space between each to allow for spreading. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160°C) or until the edges are golden.
- Let the tea cakes cool, and enjoy! Take the cookie trays out of the oven and leave them to cool for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer the tea cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
Serve with your favorite tea or coffee, and enjoy.
Tips for the Best Tea Cakes
- Always weigh the ingredients. I know cups are convenient, but they’re not accurate. With flour especially, if you scoop and pack it into a cup, you’ll get too much.
- Use room-temperature eggs and butter. This’ll help everything mix properly and should avoid any splitting once you add the eggs (when the batter looks curdled, it’s usually down to cold eggs and butter).
- Chill the dough before rolling it out. This will keep the tea cakes from over-spreading in the oven.
- Make sure the dough is at least 1/4 inch thick. Any thinner, and they won’t have that cake-like texture.
- Lightly dust the surface and the rolling pin with flour. You might need to add more since the dough is sticky. But do so sparingly.
- For easy clean-up, roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. I like to do this right away (right after making the dough), then pop the sheets onto a cookie tray and chill. Then you can easily cut out the portions.
Old fashioned tea cakes are excellent in their simplicity, but feel free to jazz them up with flavor extracts, spices, and fun extras!
Here are my favorite suggestions:
- Spices: cinnamon, allspice, lavender
- Zest: orange, lime, lemon, or grapefruit
- Extracts: vanilla, almond, rum
- Nuts: pecans, walnuts, almonds
- Toppings: vanilla glaze, cinnamon sugar
How to Store
Allow the tea cakes to cool, then place them in an airtight container and store them for up to 5 days.
These treats also freeze well!
Double-wrap them in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then place them in freezer-safe bags. They’ll keep well for up to 3 months.
Let the cookies thaw at room temperature and enjoy.
You can also freeze the cookie dough, following the same steps as above.
When you’re ready to bake them, let the dough come to room temperature, and roll, shape, and bake as instructed.
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