Sometimes, two foods just pair perfectly together. Take tea cakes - the longstanding Southern dessert similar to a sugar cookie - and concentrated sweet tea. No matter if you take your beverage hot or iced, the two flavors result in a simple, comforting combination that’s ideal after dinner or for a more elevated snack.
While Buddy State supplies the tea concentrate (and we encourage you to get creative with various flavor infusions), tea cake is a relatively straightforward dessert you can make with pantry staple ingredients.
What is Tea Cake?
Despite the name, Southern tea cakes are closer to a cookie. As they likely grew out of an interest to replicate an English loaf cake, a dessert similar to a scone, they’re best served in a similar fashion.
With a soft, chewy and somewhat rich texture, tea cakes merge the appearance of a cookie with the texture of cake, using ingredients like flour, sugar, milk, butter and eggs. A dash of nutmeg or lemon zest may be included for a more aromatic hint. This contrasts from English tea cakes, which resemble a bun with a crumbly texture. While visually similar to sugar cookies, adding more eggs to the recipe results in a yellow color and richer flavor and texture.
Origins vary. Some point to slaves on Southern plantations cooking with the limited ingredients available. Others note that Juliette Gordon Low served tea cakes while building momentum for the Girl Scouts of America.
In the present, this simple treat, in unadulterated and flavored forms, makes a neutral complement to a cup of hot or iced tea or even coffee.
A Basic Tea Cake Recipe
Especially if tea cakes aren’t available in your region, a basic recipe inspired by Taste of Home starts with:
1 cup butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Nutmeg, lemon zest or orange zest
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
- Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream until light and fluffy, beating by hand for five to seven minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating after adding each egg to the bowl.
- Beat in vanilla.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
- Gradually pour the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.
- Add some nutmeg, lemon zest or orange zest to the top of each tea cake, should you choose.
This combination creates a soft dough that can be baked as is or frozen and thawed for later use.
To bake, drop dough by the tablespoon two inches apart onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for seven to eight minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Place all tea cakes on a wire rack to cool.
Should you decide to store leftovers, tea cakes stay fresh for up to five days in an airtight container.