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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.
Course Desserts
Cuisine Southern, Vintage
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 30 servings
Calories 189kcal


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


  • 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 ¼ to ⅓ of the dough at a time, roll dough to ¼” 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.


  • 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 make rolling the dough easier, use either waxed paper or parchment paper. Place one piece on your countertop, 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.
  • You can vary your tea cakes by adding lemon zest, nutmeg, or cinnamon.
  • 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.
  • Store tea cakes at room temperature in a covered container.
  • Pair your tea cakes with ice cream, mixed fresh fruit, or fruit jams and preserves.
  • Try dipping them halfway in melted chocolate for a real treat!


Serving: 1g | 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