Recipes » Dessert Recipes » Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes is a classic, vintage recipe. A cross between a cookie and cake, not too sweet, and utterly delicious.
4.8 from 120 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes on a white serving plate.

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes is a classic, vintage recipe. It’s a bit of a cross between a cookie and cake, not too sweet, and utterly delicious. Tea cakes are the perfect ending to any meal or a great mid-afternoon snack with coffee, tea, or milk.

Everything that I know of childhood comes from one tiny, rural town in Southwest Georgia. When I think back on it now, it seems almost like a fairytale. It was a place where children could roam around the neighborhood playing all day or ride their bikes “uptown” without a second thought.

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes on a white serving plate.

There were very few worries there. People never locked their car doors and rarely locked their homes. It really was like growing up in the fictitious town of Mayberry. Or maybe I’m just remembering it through a child’s eye.

I can’t say why, but there are simply certain smells and tastes that bring childhood back vividly to mind. I seem to have so many memories that are inextricably associated with certain old southern comfort food recipes.

These old fashioned Southern Tea Cakes are one of those recipes. Anyone near my age who grew up close to where I did knows exactly what a tea cake is. It’s not a cake, but it’s not quite a cookie either. And it’s not overly sweet – just barely enough sugar to call it a dessert, actually.

They’re delicious with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk. And, if you grew up in southwest Georgia, you can take one bite of a teacake and in your mind, you’re five years old again.

I recently saw a comment questioning why anyone would make a particular recipe because it was “so 1965.” Maybe I see cooking a little differently from other people. For me, the preparation of good food is a way of showing love. And making those old recipes honors our ancestors.

Cooking is not always just a way to get food on the table so you can get on with something else. It’s about fellowship, too. A time to be together and enjoy each other’s company. And if you have an old family recipe like my Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes to enjoy, all the better.

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🤔 What are Tea Cakes?


Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes are a slightly sweet cookie enjoyed throughout the southeast. Many southern families pass heirloom recipes for tea cakes from one generation to the next.

Their texture is soft and tender in the center with just a hint of a crispy exterior. The short list of ingredients results in a simple flavor profile of butter, sugar, and vanilla. I’ve known older cooks who used them as a substitute for vanilla wafers in banana pudding and as the base for cheesecake crusts.

Old Fashioned Southern Teacakes on a white serving plate.

💗 Why You’ll Love This Recipe


  • Cookies that taste like cake
  • Perfect texture
  • Not too sweet
  • Simple to make
  • Easily accessible ingredients

🥘 Ingredients You’ll Need


  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk (here’s how to make a substitute if you don’t have it on hand)
  • Flour (plain, all-purpose)
  • Baking soda
  • Vanilla

There’s nothing at all fancy in this recipe because it originated in a time and place when people made do with the little they had on hand. Very smart and frugal folks!

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

🔪 How to Make Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes


Mix the Dough

Photo collage showing the six steps of mixing the dough.
  1. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter until soft and pale yellow in color.
  2. Gradually add the sugar to the butter, beating well.
  3. Next, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the buttermilk and beat well again.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and soda.
  6. Turn the mixer down to the slowest speed and gradually add the flour and soda mixture into the creamed mixture.
  7. Add in the vanilla.

Shape and Chill the Dough

Finished dough shaped into a rectangle and wrapped in plastic wrap.
  1. Shape the dough into a round or rectangle, cover with plastic wrap, and chill several hours or overnight.

Cut Out and Bake

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
Photo collage showing the process of rolling out and cutting the dough into rounds.
  1. If you chill the dough overnight, remove it from the fridge about 15 minutes before rolling so that it very slightly softens.
  2. Working with 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough at a time, roll the dough to a 1/4” thickness on a lightly floured surface.
  3. Cut the dough into rounds using a large biscuit cutter or a drinking glass dipped into flour. Gather the scraps together, re-roll, and cut until all dough is used.
  4. Place the rounds 1 inch apart on lightly greased baking sheets.
  5. Sprinkle tops lightly with additional sugar.
Cooked tea cakes on a baking sheet.
  1. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned.
  2. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and allow the tea cakes to cool for several minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes on a white serving plate.

💡 Recipe Tips


  • When rolling out the dough, it’s important that it’s at least 1/4″ thick to give the tea cakes a “cake-y” interior texture.
  • To make rolling the dough easier, you can use either waxed paper or parchment paper. Place one piece on your countertop, and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Put a portion of the dough on the paper and sprinkle its top with flour as well. Add another piece of paper to the top (making a sandwich of the paper and dough) and roll out.
  • To prevent the tea cakes from spreading while baking, make sure the dough is still quite cold as you roll and cut it. Then put the tea cakes directly into the oven to bake. Keep any extra dough covered in the refrigerator until needed.

🔀 Variations and Options


  • You can vary your tea cakes by adding lemon zest, nutmeg, or cinnamon. But I’d suggest you try the classic recipe first to judge which additional flavors you might like best.
  • Other flavorings can be added to the dough. Try half almond and half vanilla flavoring or substitute rum flavoring.
  • Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar while still warm.
  • To be really vintage and authentic, use half butter and half lard (or shortening) in your recipe. The lard will give the tea cakes an incredible texture.

❓ Questions About Tea Cakes


How do I store tea cakes?

Store tea cakes at room temperature in a covered container.

Do you have any serving suggestions?

Tea cakes are great with ice cream, mixed fresh fruit, or fruit jams and preserves.

How about a few ideas for dressing them up a bit?

Try dipping the tea cakes halfway in melted chocolate for a real treat!

🧾 More Southern Heritage Recipes


Have you tried this recipe? I’d really appreciate you giving it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card or in the comments section.
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📖 Recipe

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes on a white serving plate.

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes

Old Fashioned Southern Tea Cakes is a classic, vintage recipe. A cross between a cookie and cake, not too sweet, and utterly delicious.
4.83 from 120 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 30 servings
Calories: 189kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter softened (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Additional sugar for sprinkling

Instructions

  • Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter until soft and pale yellow in color.
  • Gradually add the sugar to the butter, beating well.
  • Next, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add the buttermilk and beat well again.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour and soda.
  • Turn the mixer down to the slowest speed and gradually add the flour and soda mixture into the creamed mixture.
  • Add in the vanilla.
  • Shape the dough into a round or rectangle, cover with plastic wrap, and chill several hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease two cookie sheets.
  • If you chill your dough overnight, remove it from the fridge about 15 minutes before rolling.
  • Working with 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough at a time, roll dough to 1/4” thickness on a lightly floured surface.
  • Cut the dough into rounds using a large biscuit cutter or a drinking glass dipped into flour. Gather the scraps together, re-roll, and cut until all dough is used.
  • Place the rounds 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.
  • Sprinkle lightly with additional sugar.
  • Bake for 7-9 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned.
  • Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and allow tea cakes to cool for several minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Notes

  • When rolling out the dough, it’s important that it’s at least ¼” thick to give the tea cakes a “cake-y” interior texture.
  • To prevent the tea cakes from spreading while baking, make sure the dough is still quite cold as you roll and cut it. Then put the tea cakes directly into the oven to bake. Keep any extra dough covered in the refrigerator until needed.
  • Store tea cakes at room temperature in a covered container.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 189kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 33mg | Sodium: 104mg | Potassium: 32mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 215IU | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on March 1, 2011. It has been updated with additional information.

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116 Comments

  1. The most wonderful memory of my childhood is my mama Sue’s teacakes. She was my maternal grandmother and died around 1955, but I can still smell and taste these wonderful treats. I failed to get her recipe and have tried so often to duplicate, but not with too much success. I am definitely going to try these and see what happens. I grew up in Pontotoc County near Ecru in North Mississippi and those peaceful childhood memories, just so heavenly.
    Thanks again. Rosalyn

  2. I,too, lived in a very small south Georgia town, Ray City, when I was young, and after reading this post, I think we’re related lol. Brought tears and really wonderful memories of my mother (who absolutely made the best cornbread dressing ever!). I miss her every day, but when I make those biscuits or that cornbread dressing or her cream cheese pound cake, she’s right there with me. Thank you, even for the tears. :)

  3. Yum, yum…I’m from a little town, Adairsville, Ga. Everything you said, seems i could have written it, word for word. Im cooking these tea cakes now, as i cook some homemade chicken soup for supper. Ah, the smells do bring back memories, and yes doing it like our old folks did makes it so special, and the love that hours into it…there’s more than people realize in there. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Hi Lana, Mom and I had lost Ma Booth’s Old Fashioned Teacake recipe but I knew it was the same as soon as I saw your list of ingredients. I made some last night and they took me way back in time. These were a real treat during the great depression when sugar was so hard to find. I like to use it as a History lesson for my Grand kids and it gives me a chance to tell them my memories of their Great, Great, Great Grand Mother.
    Sally

    1. Your comment makes me really happy, Sally. I love being able to keep the old recipes and memories live for others.

  5. i am 66 years old. my mother made tea cakes. she made them and rolled the into dough like her biscuits . she then pinched off enough of the dough and rolled it like biscuit dough and pressed it into the pan like biscuits. i cannot find a recipe like this

  6. I have been looking everywhere for a recipe like my grandmother’s. She didnt roll hers out like cookies but she baked them in muffin tins (I grew up here in the Heart of Dixie or Alabama). Been looking everywhere but I cant seem to find one similiar to it anywhere. First time baking these but thinking about giving this a try, should I add more milk to thin it out and cut down on the flour?

  7. Lana, I also grew up in South Georgia near the Florida line and we always had the Old Fashioned Teacakes. I lost my mom’s recipe years ago and was so glad to find yours.
    I can’t wait to make them. I know they will be delicious.
    Food and fellowship goes together like biscuits and syrup and everyone should enjoy them.

  8. I too grew up in southwest Georgia…Thomasville. Anywhere near your small town? My grandmother’s kitchen was the first room we checked out when we got there. Mainly because that’s usually where she was but she always had something great to eat and most of the time she had her teacakes. They were the best! She gave me her recipe which while similar to yours didn’t use eggs and weren’t rolled out. She always patted them out by hand. I’m going to try yours this time and see how the difference taste!

    1. Sheila – I grew up in Colquitt (Miller County) which is fairly close to Thomasville. I hope you enjoy the teacakes recipe!

    2. oh my goodness, can’t believe this, two Thomasville girls found you. How amaizing is that? Would love to hear from Sheila.

  9. My maternal grandma lived in Iron City just south of Colquitt. We have been trying (unsuccessfully) to recreate her teacakes for years. My daughter actually brought another effort over just last night … while good, still not the real deal. I can hardly wait to try your recipe.

  10. Thank you so much for this recipe. I will be baking them this afternoon. My Granny used to make tea cakes for us quite often. I never could master her recipe. She never had to write anything down, hence no recipe for me. As a man, I love to cook the old-fashioned way: Chicken and dumplins, fried corn ( always field corn, never sweet corn, cause we never heard of sweet corn) fried okra, field peas, butter beans and collard greens along with fried corn bread. I come from the Tri-state area (Ala, Fla, Ga) Everything was home grown. My most favorite desserts were Lane Cake (the six layer kind) and Nanner Pudd’n . I now need to come back to the present from your website. Thank you for the trip!

  11. what a wonderful site. I was recently going through my Bigmama’s recipes, and found the recipe for teacakes. I made them and the memories flooded back. I was trying to explain what teacakes are to my husband (he is afflicted by being a Yankee, but we don’t hold that against him, we just take his hand and try to lead him down the right road). Your recipe was right on. The only difference was that my Bigmama did not ever cut out the cookies as we were always in too much of a hurry for her teacakes, that she cut them up (southern dumpling style) and baked them. Wonderful memories – great piece of southern heritage!

    1. Thank you so much, Kim. It’s comments like yours that keep me writing, cooking, and photographing for this little blog. If you have any other Southern favorites you’d like to see here, please be sure to let me know!

  12. I love this post! When I saw the tea cakes it took me right back to my elementary school days in Richland Ga. The lunch ladies use to make them for us. What town are you from? Thanks for this post. I loved it!

    1. Brandy – I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and that it brought back fond memories for you! I’m from Colquitt in Miller County. Far southwest corner of the state.

      1. I am from SW Georgia also, but a little farther SW than you. I was born and raised in Thomasville. Married a Marine and moved to Onslow County North Carolina (home of Camp LeJeune). We only moved once (Hawaii) then moved back.
        Love your stories, and could fill a book of my own.
        I hope to try your Tea Cake recipe as soon as the Christmas rush is over and I can slow down a little. My grandma always made them, I can’t remember her making anything else. I have tried so many different recipes, they just don’t taste like hers. And I have asked all of her kids if they remembered the recipe, I don’t think they were allowed in the kitchen when she was cooking.
        Cook on Southern gurl.

  13. Lana,
    This past summer our son and his wife asked us to come to the beach and visit them while they were on vacation. They have a five year old daughter , and a nine year old son. I decided I would take some desserts. First I made a pound cake for the adults, and then I decided I would make a chocolate cake for the nine year old boy that he loved, and then I pondered what to make for our sweet Caroline. I decided to make the teacakes because my mom had made them many times when I was a little girl. When it was dessert time the night we got there, I opened up the two cakes and Caroline asked what I had made for her. When I opened the tupperware container and she had to look inside. She looked up at me with her big eyes and said, “Grandma, Those are just plain cookies.” I was so afraid she was not going to like them. After she ate the first one she wanted another and she and her brother finished them while we were there. Now she begs me to make them for her. She says they are the best teacakes in the world. So maybe I have started a memory that they will carry with them after I am gone.

  14. Lana,
    I was sitting at my desk looking at recipes for tea cakes and ran across your lifetime of memories. Wow! did that take me back. I was telling my grandchildren about the same things. When I read Aunt Burr-niss’s name that really cracked me up. We had an Aunt Rose Ella (called in Florida) Aint Ro-zella. Too funny. I also come from a cooking family. My Mom is a great cook, you talking about good dressing ooh! I am also a great cook. We have a big family and I cook for them a lot, and when I cook I cook with lots of love. Thank you for the memory lane I just went down. God Bless you!

  15. Lana, I read the recipe for the fried catfish, then the cheese grits. I lingered over the chicken and dumplings …. and then finally when I got here to the teacakes, I cried. Thank you so much for saving and sharing these heirloom recipes that feed our souls as well as our bodies.

  16. What a wonderful post Lana. I loved reading all about the memories you have via the food you create. Perfect!

  17. Hi Lana, what a lovely site you have! I am now following you on twitter. My favorite thing about visiting food blogs besides wonderful recipes and beautiful food photography is to hear the stories of why a food became a comfort food and why it feeds the soul. It’s one of the reasons I started the hearth and soul recipe hop so folks could share these intimate memories! I love your tea cakes and I will be making them for my girls! all the best, [email protected]

  18. My mama grew up in Dawson, GA, and I always loved hearing her stories of how it was “back in the day.” Your blog reminds me of her stories. She is also one that doesn’t especially love to cook, but she has a few really good things. And teacakes are one of the things she makes well.

    Great post!

  19. what lovely memories Lana and you know i’m a sucker for a good story!! i think that some of why i cook IS for those memories and i don’t care if it’s soooo ‘1965’ – in fact, i think those are the recipes i enjoy the most – it connects us to a place and time in our own history as well as connects us to those that have passed on – those recipes keep our stories alive!