The Best Old Fashioned Tea Cakes Recipe

With some basic ingredients that you have in your pantry, you can make a batch of Old Fashioned Tea Cakes. I bet you can’t eat just one – they are downright addictive! It’s one of those classic recipes from the South that everyone enjoys.

Tea cakes on a baking stone.

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes are a favorite cookie in the Deep South. Mention “Tea Cakes” to people from other locations and you are sure to get different thoughts on the subject. Some people may think about Russian Tea Cakes while others may think about green tea cakes.

What is a tea cake?

According to my favorite internet source (aka Wikipedia): An English tea cake is a light yeast-based sweet bun containing dried fruit, typically served toasted and buttered. In the U.S. tea cakes can be cookies or small cakes. And in Sweden, it is a sweetened wheat soda bread served with butter, jam, and often cheese. In India and Australia, a teacake is more like a sponge cake.

Russian tea cakes are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies and are soft, melt-in-your mouth cookies that are covered in powdered sugar. They are very different from southern tea cakes.

Old-Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

My mother-in-law grew up in rural Alabama on a farm and the recipe I have comes from her. I like to believe that it is an authentic, old-fashioned recipe. Nowadays, it might even be considered a vintage recipe. My husband thinks this is the best tea cake recipe. It’s one of his favorite cookies!

There are several great things about simple Southern recipes like this one. For one thing with this simple recipe, you don’t have to cream butter or use a stand mixer. Another is that by using self-rising flour, you don’t have to use baking powder or baking soda and worry about the flour mixture/ratio being spot on. With this recipe, you also don’t have to worry about ingredients being at room temperature.


This Southern tea cake recipe is made with simple ingredients. My mother-in-law’s recipe calls for the following ingredients:

  • self-rising flour
  • white sugar
  • salt
  • eggs
  • vegetable oil
  • milk
  • lemon and vanilla extract
Bag of King Arthur self-rising flour on a kitchen counter.

I prefer to use the King Arthur brand of self-rising flour because it is not bleached and they don’t use aluminum in their rising agent. It’s the only brand that I am aware of that has those two features.

How To Make Tea Cakes

To make tea cakes, assemble all of your ingredients. Place the self-rising flour (see the recipe for quantity), sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Create a well.

Add the remaining ingredients to the flour mixture and mix with a spoon until all of the flour has become moistened. If you love lemons, you could add a little bit of lemon zest to boost the lemon flavor.

Pour dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead. You may need to add additional flour. Once the dough is no longer sticky, roll out and cut into cookie shapes using a cookie cutter or a cup.

Place dough on cookie sheets (baking stones work best!) and bake in a preheated oven. Keep an eye on them closely because at 450 degrees, they cook quickly and can burn quickly, too.

Once they are golden brown, remove them from the oven. Allow them to stay on the baking sheet/stone for a couple of minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

Plate of teacakes made with self-rising flour.

These old-fashioned tea cakes with self-rising flour are sure to become a favorite in your home, just as they are in mine.

Just one bite of one of these simple sugar cookies and your family might think that granny, grandma, maw maw, or whatever-you-call-your grandmother came for a visit and left you all with a batch of her prized cookies.

Hand holding an old fashioned tea cake.

Tips & Tricks

  • If you use a baking stone, they will probably take a little bit longer to cook. I also recommend that you use parchment paper for easy removal.
  • If you use a metal sheet pan, keep a close eye on your first batch so that you get a feel for how they will bake in your oven. They will bake faster on metal than on a baking stone. Also, you might want to rotate the baking sheet for more even browning.
  • The thinner the cookie, the crunchier it will become as it cools.
  • Store any leftover tea cakes in an airtight container such as a Ziploc bag or cookie jar.
tea cakes

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

These Old Fashioned Tea Cakes are simply irresistible. 
4.56 from 72 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 18
Calories: 253kcal


  • 4-5 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1 tsp lemon flavoring


  • Preheat oven to 450° Fahrenheit.
  • Place flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the center and add remaining ingredients. Mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. The dough will be stiff.
  • Place on lightly floured surface and knead. Roll out and cut using a cup.
  • Place on baking stone and bake for 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Cool and enjoy.


Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 4g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 42mg | Sugar: 22g
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  1. When I think of tea cakes I instantly think of my granny and the 5 gallon popcorn can she kept filled with t cakes I hope this recipe is as good as hers

  2. Tea cakes turned out delicious but the recipe says it makes 18, I ended up with a little over 3 dozen. However, no one is complaining.

    1. This made me laugh out loud.

      The batch is listed as having 18 SERVINGS, not cookies. Therefore, if you got 36 cookies, then each serving would be 2 cookies.

      I am glad you enjoyed the recipe. 🙂

4.56 from 72 votes (69 ratings without comment)

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