Appalachian Food

Making Tea Cakes

tea cake cookies stacked

Over the years lots of folks have asked for my tea cake recipe. Since I started making cooking videos even more people have asked about my tea cake recipe.

I always tell them the same thing: I don’t have one.

One of the girls’ friends used to come stay with us in the summer. She lived in south Georgia and would usually spend a week when she came for a visit. One year she made us tea cakes. We all liked them, but I never made them.

Yesterday I decided it was time I make tea cakes. I found a recipe in one of my favorite Appalachian cookbooks—”Mountain Cooking” by John Parris.

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar; add eggs and mix well.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt and add it to the batter alternately with the milk and vanilla.

Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutter or glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until the edges began to brown lightly.

The tea cakes turned out nicely. A little more crisp than the ones the girls’ friend made, but very good. They are not overly sweet and because of that I suspect they would go well with a cup of tea.

Tipper

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Elaine Medley
    November 5, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    My mama didn’t bake much with 5 children in the house. But, I remember many times coming home from school and she had made teacakes. They were so good with butter slathered on the top.

  • Reply
    Margie Orr
    November 4, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    My mother, who grew up in Louisiana, made tea cakes when I was a kid. I grew up in Arkansas in the forties and fifties.
    I have my husband’s grandmother’s recipe, and she grew up in Louisiana, too.
    Nothing any better than tea cakes.

    • Reply
      Mary Lou McKillip
      November 11, 2021 at 2:21 pm

      Tipper, Such memories for me, Miss Julie my mother made them a lot for me. Thanks I don’t open your post much I am so home sick for the mountains and mountain ways, if I dwell much on it I just might loose it and hop in my car and be in Marble, NC before Texas would miss me.

  • Reply
    Betsy Wilson
    November 3, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    Tipper, My Mama made teacakes.. They are the only cookies I remember her baking aside from her version of Fig Newtons. The teacakes were soft, not very sweet and would have either black walnuts or raisins or both baked in. She didn’t use a cookie cutter she cur the dough into pieces like a crazy quilt. The fig newtons had a pie crust type wrapping around a dried fig filling and baked. Both were very delicious. She also made fried pies like I have seen you make. Besides the fruit ones, she made a chocolate version with cocoa, sugar and butter. She called the chocolate ones “sugar pies”.

  • Reply
    Robin Fesmire
    November 3, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    Tipper, I have a friend who would say you are an “apple pie neighbor.” It is so nice getting to know you through YouTube and Blind Pig. Although I grew up in the mountains of southern New Mexico, our worlds and our people were very similar to yours. You have made so many references to John Parris’s book, I finally ordered a used copy from eBay, and there is a name hand-written in the front Anna Tallent. which I thought was interesting because the book was dedicated to William Riley Tallent, Parris’ grandfather. Am enjoying it very much, but I must not have the right book because this one doesn’t have any actual recipes, but I’m going to make these John Parris teacakes.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    November 3, 2021 at 8:05 am

    Correction to my comment below: it was the Facebook comments I saw the “Body of Christ” comment on. Your Instagram comments are always fun to read, also!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    donna sue
    November 3, 2021 at 6:59 am

    I was just reading your Instagram comments for this blog post. Someone simply said “Body of Christ”. Wow! That is something I didn’t think about. These little cakes could have been the recipe for communion wafers/crackers, seeing as they are not that sweet. You said the directions in the recipe calls for rolling them 1/8” thick. They could be broken up easier if they were not too thick, and if they were crispy. So that short comment made sense to me.

    Donna. : )

    • Reply
      Paulette Field
      November 3, 2021 at 10:10 am

      These could not be communion bread because they have leavening (baking soda) in them. Also no eggs were in communion bread. Communion bread is made of olive oil plain flour & water. The Jewish went to great lengths to make sure there was no leavening in their house anywhere for the passover so the bread at passover (which is the bread Jesus used to initiate the Lord’s Supper) would have had no baking soda or any leavening agent in it.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    November 2, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    My Aunt Lucy always had Tea Cakes when I would visit her. They looked just like the picture you posted. They sure were good!

  • Reply
    Joanne
    November 2, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    My aunt made ribbon cane syrup tea cakes when I was growing up here in southeast Texas. They raised ribbon cane and made their own syrup. She used butter most of the time because they had milk cows. She also put spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. The tea cakes had a very distinctive flavor due to the ribbon cane syrup. The tea cake recipe was one handed down from my grandmother and great-grandmother. She most likely adapted the recipe to use ribbon cane syrup back in the depression because of the scarcity of sugar. They sure were good. In describing them, I guess they are a cross between a real tea cake and a cousin to what most people know as molasses cookies. Although ribbon cane syrup has it’s own distinctive flavor and not at all like molasses in my opinion. There are not any sugar cane mills near us anymore. We can usually find a can or two this time of year. Roadside stands sometimes have it and even Walmart in our area sells Steen’s pure cane syrup from Louisiana. Last year it was hard to find due to the pandemic. I really would like to find some and make these tea cakes for our grandchildren and of course for hubby. He sure does like them.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    November 2, 2021 at 4:31 pm

    Tipper, I very often check out your blog, but I don’t always have anything to say. One thing I do want to say is that I sincerely and profoundly enjoy and appreciate the Blind Pig site. Whether it’s talk about food, old remedies or just walking in the woods, listening to nature, I get a strong feeling of soul and simple pleasures of daily life on the side of the mountain. Old pictures of your Pa in the cornfield or singing , the girls collecting rocks or small creatures from the creek,…it all resonates and brings back fond memories. Please keep it going.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 2, 2021 at 3:30 pm

    I don’t have any shortening. I don’t buy shortening. I only have butter and bacon grease. Don’t you reckon butter wouldn’t be better anyway?

    • Reply
      Tipper
      November 2, 2021 at 3:42 pm

      Ed-I’m sure it would work just fine 🙂

      • Reply
        Ed Ammons
        November 2, 2021 at 9:26 pm

        I’m gonna try it. But first I’m gonna make another loaf of the apple-black walnut bread from a while back. It didn’t make a good loaf for me but I’m gonna try it again. I’ve been craving it since I ate the last of it a couple of weeks ago. I’m gonna make it again and eat it even if I have to eat it with a spoon right out of the pan.
        Then I’m gonna make the cookies.

  • Reply
    Robert
    November 2, 2021 at 1:43 pm

    I once had ‘high tea’ at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, CA. I’m sure I’d rather have your “biscuits.”

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    November 2, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    Granny used to make tea cakes and we all loved them. I can’t imagine her rolling them out–too time consuming for her huge family. They were fairly soft. I wonder if she just spooned them onto the cookie sheet. She kept a lot of stuff like leftover biscuits in a styrofoam ice bucket–white with little blue specks. When she got old, Grandpa still went to church at night & I would stay with Granny. One night we talked about tea cakes and on my next overnight she came out holding the bucket–only time I ever remember her seeming shy at all. She had made me a batch of tea cakes. Granny was a mighty woman and no one messed with her but I saw her gentle side that night.

    The styrofoam bucket–a lot of people had them during that time and if my baby brother was around and could get ahold of one, he would bite all around the rim.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    November 2, 2021 at 11:09 am

    They look pretty I have never made anything like that. Those would go good in London, England. Lol I might have to try this recipe.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    November 2, 2021 at 10:41 am

    I love all these comments, especially Margie G and Ron Stephens! I will have to practice what Margie said she was taught for drinking high tea. I, too, love my coffee, Margie! I have bought some fancied name teas, and I have collected some pretty porcelain teapots — they sit on doilies displayed in my dining room hutch. So much for High Tea time! I still want to have a tea time break, though. All this just inspires me to start! I will make these tea cakes/cookies, too. Thank you for posting this, Tipper! And Ron, I am sure the colonists had High Tea until the Boston Tea Party! Then I think we Americans decided coffee was our chosen caffeine. We didn’t want to be mistaken for a Tory!

  • Reply
    Sharon
    November 2, 2021 at 10:09 am

    My mother made tea cakes and I now make them with her recipe. So special!!

  • Reply
    Ava Abbott
    November 2, 2021 at 9:57 am

    My grandmother made tea cakes. I preferred the cookies my mother made because they were sweeter. The tea cakes were soft, brown on the edges and risen in the middle.

  • Reply
    Kimberly H. Glenn
    November 2, 2021 at 9:24 am

    My grandmother used to make these. I loved them!

  • Reply
    Kate
    November 2, 2021 at 9:04 am

    I am still in search of a good recipe for scones. The yummy variety you pay $3.50 a piece for at a good Deli in New York. Anyone? I would be forever grateful.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    November 2, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Those are indeed pretty “ biscuits!” In the south (and perhaps north,) there’s a culture devoted to high tea, etc. I got schooled by a rich gal from Charlotte on the procedure. First, one must place boiled water in the porcelain pot and cups to properly warm them up. That’s while your tea is brewing. One must balance the cup, saucer and biscuit in a dainty and unhurried fashion which must look natural. I listened and I participated and learned why my coffee in porcelain is next to freezing… lol. I guess I won’t be having any high tea parties. Once in Hilton Head, my daughters and I paid to have “tea with the Queen” which was Lipton tea mix and some cookies. They really had a big time. They were only 9 and 12 or so and talked about it for a long time. I think tea time is a grand thing but I’m into coffee and my hillbilly ways which clash with sophisticated tea sippers…. lol I’m having so much fun just thinking back y’all!!!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    November 2, 2021 at 8:39 am

    My grandmother used to make tea cakes. I never did get her recipe but I found one online that came close. Her cakes were rolled out to 1/4 inch thick and they rose a little, making them soft with more of a cake like texture than a cookie. Her’s weren’t very sweet either so they were good with some hot tea or coffee. The recipe I use calls for self-rising flour and they turn out better when I use White Lily.

    • Reply
      K
      November 3, 2021 at 11:29 am

      Could you please let us know what your recipe is? Thank you in advance 😀

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    November 2, 2021 at 8:34 am

    My grandma McDonald used to bake these. My mom says that as far as she can remember, they are the only cookies she ever made. We still have her recipe.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 2, 2021 at 7:43 am

    Hmmm I wonder if there is a thread from tea cakes to English tea to Tidewater plantations to Colonial America to south Georgia to the girl’s friend to Tipper Pressley. It’s tempting to think so and I’m thinking it is more true than not. Sometimes history takes us by surprise in how it crops up.

    As a side note, my wife likes to watch the “Great British Baking Show” and the Brits call a cookie a “biscuit”. So they have tea and biscuits as well as tea and cakes. But how did we ever get our “biscuit” from.their “biscuit”? Theirs is a snack and sweet. Ours is a staple and plain. Must be a story there somewhere.

  • Reply
    Betty Jo Eason Benedict
    November 2, 2021 at 7:16 am

    They look delicious! I have always heard of Tea Cakes but now am wondering if or how they are different from Sugar Cookies. Love your recipes!!!

  • Reply
    Carolyn Anderson
    November 2, 2021 at 7:01 am

    I love tea cakes. My mother use to make those a lot. I remember coming home from school and she would have a big plate on the table for us. What a pleasant surprise and very good to a hungry kid that was starving. Thank you for putting this on your site. Keep up your good work. Love blindpigandtheacorn.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 2, 2021 at 6:37 am

    They look lovely, Tip! Let them sit for a day or two and they will probably soften up a little. Speaking of cooking, I doubt there is anything you couldn’t cook if you decide you want to. Your heart is in cooking so your food is always excellent!
    I always liked cooking and loved to play around with recipes to create something new from old recipes, always thought change makes life more interesting!

    • Reply
      Robin Fesmire
      November 3, 2021 at 12:34 pm

      Miss Cindy, I feel like I know Tipper and her whole family from watching YouTube. One of these days I want to write her a long old-fashioned letter because I feel like she’s a sister or good friend even though I never met her. Just wanted to say that my grandma made tea cakes a lot, said buttermilk was essential, and a neighbor Mrs. Walker said they’ll be soft if you use lard. Grandma put nutmeg in hers, too.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    November 2, 2021 at 6:03 am

    I have always wanted to establish an afternoon tea time ritual in my day. This is honestly one of my goals in life. I drool over various tea time Instagram sites I follow. Oh! The lovely sconces and petite sandwiches and little painstakingly beautifully decorated tea cakes they picture, with just the most gorgeous dusting of cake sugar sprinkled over them. It makes your taste buds go crazy with anticipation. I also subscribe to a Victorian site, and a couple of English castle sites. The pictures are richness at its finest. Can you just taste some cream cheese, walnuts and cranberries stuffed between two slices of crustless pumpernickel bread? I think I have gained about 300 pounds just drinking in all that eye candy! Sadly – I am way too busy in my day to sit down for 10 minutes in the afternoon even, to savor a small cup of a fancy sounding tea, and eat a delicacy of something sweet off an elegant small china plate. But my heart wants to! I have even collected some very pretty dainty china dessert plates and tea cups with that goal in mind – I keep telling myself that one day I will establish this relaxing daily routine. Until then, a sliced apple and a mug of bone broth popped in the microwave, is what I grab as I stand at the kitchen counter to gulp it all down in unladylike fashion during a hurried two minute afternoon break. Your tea cake recipe inspires me to really make an effort to start pampering myself in a midday rewind. I do believe it is ok to indulge in your fantasies a few minutes a day. And grabbing some quiet, stress free minutes of sheer elegant bliss, is an elusive dream in our busy American lives. Am I the only one who daydreams of pretty china and luscious tea cakes, while sitting in a big comfy overstuffed chair with blue and white gingham upholstery? I would close my eyes and just not let any thought in my brain, while I listened to some Blind Pig and the Acorn music. What a wonderful way to escape for a few minutes! You think?

    Donna. : )

    • Reply
      Sheila M
      November 4, 2021 at 3:32 pm

      @ Donna Sue – afternoon tea is a treat alright but everyday is truely decadent.I’m thinking of your dream one day to do this every day but why not start off small? Say for your B’day, as your b’day present to yourself? Then as you perfect your ‘style’ of Afternoon Tea, you can increase its frequency and accompaniments to suit different occasions. Make that Dream Come True – start off slowly.

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