Old Fashioned Tea Cakes- Southern-Style (2024)

“Classic, tender old-fashioned tea cakes made with simple ingredients”

Watchme make these old fashioned tea cakes from start to finish!

I love finding people who have never experienced a good old-fashioned, Southern tea cake so that I can de-flower them. Ok, that sounds kinda weird but you know what I’m talking about. You’ll never guess where I found my first Southern tea cake virgin? In my own home!! MY HUSBAND!!!!

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What the heck is going on! This is the second time this month I’ve discovered a true Southern staple that he’d never had. Remember when he told me he’d never hadfried green tomatoes? And now the man up and tells me he’s never had a southern tea cake!!!!! I’m really starting to feel some kind of way about him being a true Southerner. I think it’s time to hit up ancestory.com and do some research on who this person is I married!

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It’s been a long time since I’ve made old fashioned tea cakes so I was really excited to make him some, plus I’ve been getting so many emails about them. Have you ever had a true southern tea cake? I’m talking about a real, deep south, old-fashioned, church potluck, make you wanna hum an old spiritual type tea cake? They became really popular for Juneteenth many years back but now they are making comeback!

It’s so crazy how people have such different takes on such a simple recipe! I’m not sure where these things originated from. They are so basic as with most vintage recipes. Some folks say they should be crunchy, some say soft, some say lightly sweetened, some say sweet like cake! Sheesh! This is one of those controversial southern recipes (but aren’t all Southern recipes that way lol!) Gotta love the South!

Let me give you the “tea” on them? Get it? Tea…and we’re making tea cakes! Gosh, I’m clever!

Anyway, tea cakes are as old-fashioned and southern as church funeral home fans and….and…well just think of something else that reminds you of the South. They aren’t cakes at all or cookies. Kinda like a threesome love child of a cake, cookie, and biscuit. Makes sense? Well, it will once you sink your teeth into these melt-in-your-mouth plain Janes.

What Does An Old Fashioned Tea Cakes Taste Like?

For me, there is ONLY ONE WAY a true Southern tea cake needs to be and that’s soft, fluffy and tender on the inside, with a lightly golden bottom that is barely crisp and edges that are slightly chewy. YESSSS GAWD! And the taste? It needs to have some flavaaaaabut not too much!!! I seriously can’t deal with a tea cake tasting like a dry biscuit. It makes me sad, anxious and I have a hard time trusting the morals of the person that made it.

It needs to have the faint trace of nutmeg, lightly speckled with vanilla bean and hints of lemon zest to play up all the flavors. But hey…that’s just my opinion.

Some people say tea cakes remind them of sugar cookies but I think they remind me more of sweet cornbread or pound cake in cookie-biscuit form. They pretty much BEG for tea or coffee.

It seems every Southern family has their own take on the authentic way to make tea cakes and this recipe is how wemake it! And let me tell you, IT’S THE BOMB DIGGS!!!

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But the real question is: To add nutmeg or not to add nutmeg??

Some people say keep this recipe as simple as possible which means none of that nutmeg, cinnamon or any additional madness. I say YES YES YES to nutmeg….and lemon zest….and vanilla bean!!!!! JUST YES!!! DO IT!! You’ll thank me! It really bumps up the flavor of these tea cakes without losing that authentic taste and texture making them downright addictive!

I’ve tried so many bakery versions of Southern tea cakes that use a “secret family recipe” and honestly…these tastes exactly if not better than those. So if you’ve been having a hard time trying to find the tea cakes like the kind you’ve tasted in Southern bakeries then give this recipe a try.

Tips On Making The Best Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

  1. Don’t add extra flour. If your dough is too sticky to handle then roll it in between parchment paper. I’ve never had to add any extra flour to this recipe. Adding extra flour for rolling can result in a drier, cracked tea cake and we want a smooth, pretty, tender, fluffy, picture-perfect tea cakes!
  2. Chill the dough. Cold dough is what you want! Chilling the dough will keep the tea cakes from spreading too much in the oven and getting all weird shaped.
  3. Use both butter and shortening. True you can use all butter but there is just something that shortening or lard adds to the texture of these tea cake that all butter just can’t. Point, blank and the period!
  4. Add stuff! Don’t be afraid to flirt with different extracts and add-ins. For me, nutmeg and vanilla is a must!! The lemon zest just bumps up all those flavors so it’s a must as well. Sometimes I’ll add in a drop of almond extract or a bit of rum extract.

Love simple Old-Fashioned Recipes? Check out thisOld Fashioned Buttermilk Pie

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Old Fashioned Tea Cakes- Southern-Style (5)

Get the Recipe:Deep South Old Fashioned Tea Cakes

4.13 from 99 ratings

Southern tea cakes made the old-fashioned way. Simple ingredients just the way Granny made them.

Prep Time: 15 minutes mins

Cook Time: 9 minutes mins

Total Time: 24 minutes mins

Servings: 24 cookies

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  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter-flavored shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • lemon zest, 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk


  • In a large bowl cream together butter and shortening until creamy.

  • Mix in sugar until well combined.

  • Mix in egg.

  • Mix in lemon zest and vanilla bean paste. Set aside.

  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

  • Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk.

  • Turn dough onto a smooth surface and knead until dough is soft.

  • Shape into a disk and cover with plastic wrap.

  • Refrigerate for 1 hour (or freeze for 30 minutes)

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.

  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

  • Remove dough from fridge and plastic wrap.

  • Knead dough to soften it.

  • Roll dough to 1/4-inch thick.( I rolled the dough on parchment to prevent sticking)

  • Use a round cookie cutter to cut out circle shapes.

  • Place cookies on prepared pan about 2 inches apart. (see note)

  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms are lightly golden. (see note)

  • Remove from pan and place on cooling rack to finish cooling.

  • Once cooled store in airtight container.



1. The dough should be cold when going into the oven. So if needed pop the cut cookies into the fridge to chill it again. (If you work at a steady pace you probably won't need to chill it again since it does stay cold for a while)
2. Do not over bake the cookies! They will not get golden on the tops and will continue to cook as they cool.

Cuisine: American, southern

Course: cookies, Dessert

Author: Divas Can Cook

Serving: 0g, Calories: 0kcal, Carbohydrates: 0g, Protein: 0g, Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 0mg, Potassium: 0mg, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 0g, Vitamin A: 0IU, Vitamin C: 0mg, Calcium: 0mg, Iron: 0mg

Tried this recipe?Mention @divascancook on Instagram or tag #divascancook.

Adapted from these tea cakes

Old Fashioned Tea Cakes- Southern-Style (2024)


How does Tea Cake manipulate Janie? ›

Tea Cake has the personality to make Janie think that maybe this man might give her the sort of love for which she has been waiting. Tea Cake leads Janie to discover things about herself she never knew in her years with Nanny, Logan, or Joe. He teaches her how to play checkers, how to handle guns, and how to shoot.

Who is Tea Cake in their eyes were watching God? ›

Vergible Woods, known as Tea Cake, is the third husband of Janie Crawford, the protagonist of Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

What is the history of southern tea cakes? ›

A question we are commonly asked here at the Texas Tea Cake Company is "What is a tea cake?" According to historians, the American tea cake was created over 200 years ago by African slaves in the southeastern United States. Tea cakes were initially made by plantation cooks for the guest of white slave owners.

What is a Tea Cake in the USA? ›

Outside the South, the words “tea cake” mean any cake served with tea. But to Southerners, tea cakes are more than that. They are the nostalgic cookies—crispy and golden around the edges, soft and cake-like inside—that are perfect for tea, or just about anything else you choose to drink.

Why did Tea Cake abuse Janie? ›

Tea Cake begins to identify Janie as his possession. Because he feels threatened after Janie meets Mrs. Turner's brother, he strikes his wife to reassure himself that Janie belongs to him and no one else.

Why did Tea Cake steal Janie's money? ›

He confesses that when he accidentally spied the money that Janie had brought along as a sort of personal insurance, he couldn't resist the temptation to throw a huge party for the men who worked on the railroad gangs with him and their wives and friends.

Was Tea Cake Janie's true love? ›

It is with Tea Cake that Janie discovers true love. Janie's marriage to Tea Cake makes her feel like she has been given a second chance in life to live her youth; she feels reborn.

Is Tea Cake good or bad for Janie? ›

After his death, Tea Cake's memory remains unsoiled for Janie, and she believes he can never be fully dead “*ntil she herself ha[s] finished feeling and thinking.” All in all, Tea Cake is a complicated man who is beloved by Janie and cannot fall into easy categories such as “good” or “bad.”

What does Janie killing Tea Cake represent? ›

The moment of Tea Cake's death, though horrible for Janie to endure, reflects how much she has grown as a person and how secure she has become. Although Tea Cake means everything to her, she is able to kill him to save herself.

What does tea cakes name symbolize? ›

We can infer that people called him Tea Cake because his original name was awkward and hard to pronounce. Janie also realizes that he was given the nickname because he is a sweet or likable person. When she asks him if he is as sweet as his name suggests, he says he might be and says she should try him out and see.

Why is a Tea Cake called a Tea Cake? ›

Afternoon tea began in the 1840s as a tradition of having a tea in the afternoons as a way to stave off hunger until the dinner meal was served. Along with quality tea, “tea cakes" were served with all kinds of appetizers that included mini sandwiches and other pastries as well.

How old is Tea Cake in tewwg? ›

Answer and Explanation: Janie is in her late thirties when she meets Vergible 'Tea Cake' Woods. He is around 12 years younger than Janie. This means that he is approximately 24 to 27 years old.

What do the white men call tea cake? ›

What do the white men call Tea Cake? The white men call him Jim. Whom has Tea Cake seen alive, and who has died in the flood? Tea Cake meets up with Stew Beef, Ed Dockery, Sop-de-Bottom, 'Lias, Coodemay, Bootyny, and Motor Boat when he returns to the Everglades.

What is the white stuff in tea cakes? ›

The Tunnock's Teacake is a sweet food often served with a cup of tea or coffee. It was developed by Sir Boyd Tunnock in 1956. The product consists of a small round shortbread biscuit covered with a dome of Italian meringue, a whipped egg white concoction similar to marshmallow, although somewhat lighter in texture.

What is another name for tea cake? ›

Although they are widely known, tea cakes have not always gone by this name. They are referred to as currant buns or spiced buns in some regions of the UK. Similar baked goods have different names in other nations.

Is Tea Cake manipulative? ›

In previous relationships, Janie was demand to complete tasks, with no say in the matter, so she feels that by making requests, Tea Cake respects and values her. Tea Cake's emotional manipulation of Janie makes it so she is supportive and willing to do whatever he wishes.

How does Tea Cake make Janie practice shooting? ›

How does Tea Cake make Janie practice shooting? shoot little things to make her aim better. she shoots rifle,pistol and shotgun and she became a better shooter than him. Why does Janie make dessert every night?

What secret does Janie keep from Tea Cake? ›

Tea Cake was spending and doing out of his own pocket, so Janie never told him about the two hundred dollars she had pinned inside her shirt next to her skin. Pheoby had insisted that she bring it along and keep it secret just to be on the safe side.

Does Tea Cake whip Janie? ›

Tea Cake whips Janie because Mrs. Turner's brother has arrived on the muck. Mrs. Turner has talked on and on about how her brother is much more white-featured than Tea Cake.

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