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The Best Old Fashioned Tea Cakes Recipe

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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 several great things about simple southern recipes like this one. For one thing with this simple reicpe, 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.

Ingredients

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 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 For Making Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

  • 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. 
4.55 from 71 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 18
Calories: 253kcal

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 4g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 42mg | Sugar: 22g
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66 Comments

  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. 🙂

  3. Unbelievable!! I have baked Tea Cakes for over 40 years, I have been married for 48 years. My husband told me these Tea Cakes taste great. His smile says it all. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Pingback: How to Smoke Ribs
  5. 5 stars
    Been a great many years, over 30+ for certain, used to buy these at a natural food store. They were whole
    wheat.& made in England, by The Walker’s company. They are lovely with Lemon Curd. My Hubs loves them with Nutella. These will make a lot more appearances in our house, finally found a recipe!

  6. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for posting this recipe! These tea cakes are unmistakably southern American- not British. My 86 year old dad who grew up in west Tennessee was recently reminiscing about these very same tea cakes his mother would make when he was a child. I found her incomplete recipe- which must date back to the depression era, and your recipe fills in all of the gaps! When I first saw the 450 degree baking temperature from her recipe, I thought it was an error- but your recipe confirms it’s not. These are delicious!

    1. Hi Sheri,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I am delighted that the recipe helps fill in the gaps and preserves a treasured recipe. (The temperature does seem concerning at first, doesn’t it?)

      Take care,
      Lynda

  7. After my grandmother’s death (Mom Moody) her tea cake recipe was forever lost……..that was until now. Thank you so much for this recipe. Tea cakes are such a sweet reminder of days past with a delightful fragrance wafting from a large farm kitchen and my grandmother in her cozy apron to wrap around me as I enjoyed the delightful bites.
    Can’t wait to make.
    Peggy Bostic
    (In loving memory of my precious grandmother, Clara Moody)

    1. Thanks, Peggy, for taking the time to write a comment – it made my day. I hope that when you make this recipe that more sweet memories of your grandmother come to mind.

  8. 5 stars
    This is the best recipe that I’ve ever had for tea cakes as I remember from my youth. Perfection in every way !! –
    They remind me of the cookies I got as a child from a little country store . The savored cookies were taken out of a jar there and put in a little brown sack for my little hand to reach into and eat as I walked home.
    I love the rise too. A+++ . Thank you ! After 40 years of searching, I can smile big time over this easy and delicious recipe . jm

    1. Courtney do you have your Grandma’s recipe? I have been hunting for a good tea cake recipe for over 30 years. My husband’s mother use to bake tea cakes for her children and I would like to get as close as I possibly can to her recipe. She has passed and this would be a nice gift for my hubby. They lived around the Abilene, TX area.

    1. The Tea cakes I remember were the ones my Great Grandmother in Georgia made, They were sooo good! This sounds like it could be the recipe!!I hope so

  9. That’s fascinating – I had no idea there were so many different meanings. I’m English so for me it’s a kind of bread roll with fruit, ideally to be served toasted with butter 🙂

  10. These look really good! They kind of look like scones, which I love! I want to try making these for a little tea and biscuit treat!

    1. It would be interesting to see what she thinks about the differences between English tea cakes and the Old South’s tea cakes.

  11. I only have good memories of these. My mom used to make them often when I was younger. A few weeks ago I asked her about how she made them and we found ourselves taking a walk down memory lane. She told me how her mother made them literally by hand. She knew just the right amount of ingredients to use by measuring them without spoons or cups.
    Now that’s skill and love!

  12. I Have never had old fashioned tea cakes. I have every thing but the lemon flavoring, will have to go pick some up tomorrow so I can make them.

  13. Wow! I have been thinking about tea cakes. I have my grandmothers recipe. She died at 101. We I was little we lived next door to her and when we would go to her house she kept a tin 5 gallon lard can filled with tea cakes. We would make ourselves sick on them they were so good.

  14. Tea Cakes bring back great memories of my Grannie. Can’t wait to try these for the upcoming Christmas holiday.

    1. If you happen to make them on a metal pan, pay close attention to the baking time. It may take less than the stated time. For best results, use a baking stone if you have one. I would love to know how they come out for you.

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