Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

There’s really nothing I love more than an old, hand-me-down recipe. These recipes have a way of connecting us to family that aren’t with us anymore and they’re usually filled with just as much history and memories as they are flavor. It’s a special thing to be able to make the same things our great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents all enjoyed with their families at one time.

We all know Southerners love sugar. It’s basically a part of our DNA. How many times have you heard someone say, “I just want something sweet?” A million times, if I had to guess. Lord knows I’ve uttered those words plenty. These old fashioned southern tea cakes are perfect for that little itch you get because they’re just so easy!

With that being said, I’m hesitant to post this recipe because so many people have “sophisticated palates” these days. They want nutmeg and cinnamon and who knows what else. But listen, this isn’t a recipe for highfalutin people. You just have to understand this simple little treat and it’s place in history.

These old fashioned tea cakes date back to the civil war. They were popular because they were so simple to make and required very few ingredients. Many in the South were poor but this treat required ingredients many already had on hand so they were able to enjoy something sweet every once in a while. Additionally, housewives would make these and send them in packages to their husbands fighting in the war.

While this recipe might not be for people looking for a super flavorful treat with a million ingredients, just remember it’s appropriate for it’s time when life was a little slower and much more simple.

Describing the texture of these to someone who has never had one before is a little hard. But to put it simply, if a sugar cookie and a biscuit had a baby, it would be this old-fashioned tea cake.

How delicious does that sound?!

Let’s get to it.

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

Serves around 2 dozen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do not stick these babies in a cold oven!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 stick of softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3rd cup of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions: 

Pay attention because this is kinda complicated — throw it all together in a bowl and mix.

But really, how simple is that? No mixing dry ingredients first and then adding the rest little by little all while standing on your head and sticking your tongue out. Just throw it in the bowl and go.

The dough will be really sticky so you need to flour your surface really well before you get started on cutting the tea cakes out.

Work flour into the dough until it isn’t sticky anymore. (It will require a decent amount. It’s super thick and sticky.) Once you’ve done that, wrap it up in plastic wrap or use a Ziploc bag and let it refrigerate for at least an hour. Keep in mind that the tea cakes do much better when you don’t let the dough get warm before baking them. If you need to, just take out a small amount of dough to work with at a time.

Once the dough has chilled, it’s time to cut the tea cakes out. I like to lay down tin foil because when you’re done, you just fold it up and throw it away. I don’t even use a rolling pin. I just press it out with my hand. There’s really no rules!

In my true Southern fashion, I used a Vienna sausage can to cut my tea cakes out. True story – I have never owned a cookie cutter. If something needs to be cut out, a bottle cap or a Vienna sausage can will work just fine around here.

Make sure your dough is around 1/4 inches thick. Once you have them cut out, bake them in the oven for around 10 -12 minutes. I baked mine for the full 12 minutes and they turned out perfect.

That’s it! Let them cool or eat them fresh out of the oven. Or do like I do and start as soon as they’re taken out and snack on them until they’re gone.

Now, for all of you chocolate lovers —

I don’t know that there’s really any history to chocolate covered tea cakes. It probably evolved from one Southerner who just had to make something unhealthy even more unhealthy. But I’m fine with it because chocolate covered tea cakes are my personal preference.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate square. (The kind you can microwave to melt.)
  • 1.5 cups of confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of milk

Directions:

Melt your chocolate and mix in the sugar and milk.

If it’s too runny for you to work with, add more sugar. If it’s hardening too fast, add more milk. (You get the idea.)

That’s it! If you’re going to put this on your tea cakes, just make sure they’re cooled all the way or you’ll have a runny mess.

I hope you love these as much as I do! Store them in a jar or package them to give away as a gift. (It hurt my heart to wrap them up.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you give these a try or make any adjustments!

-B

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