This old, vintage and classic recipe of the Southern Tea Cakes is the best possible cross between a cookie and a cake. You will love it.
Why should you bake these cake-cum-cookies?
These cookies are rich in flavor. With only a few simple ingredients you can bake a large batch of tea cakes that yields about 3 dozen of the cookies. These cookies remind me of the pound cake structure and whenever I dig into a bite, I feel like I am having pound cake and shortbread cookie at the same time. Sound interesting – right?
These cookies are not very fancy but they are a perfect treat for your evening tea times. They are golden brown and crisp at the bottom, and they have golden brown edges with a soft gooey middle.
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History and Origin
It is said these cookies originated in the Southern States and people liked to have them it after a meal. Those were simple times and people were frugal who invented this recipe with a few simple ingredients. With the passage of time this recipe was transferred from one generation to another generation but the taste remained the same.
Invented by African Slaves
In other reference, these tea cakes originated in the 19th century in the South by the enslaved African people as a response to the European Tea Cakes. Because sugar or butter were a luxury at the time, the black slaves would cut on and/or substitute an ingredient for another ingredient and would still get good results. For example, for butter they would use lard and to replace sugar they would use molasses. The Black communities still bake these cookies for the Juneteenth celebrations (following the Civil War) for the Black communities across the United States.
Not Overly Sweet
The best thing about these cookies is that these are not overly sweet and therefore they complement anytime and any meal of the day. You can have it in the breakfast, dinner or evening time with coffee, tea, glass of cold milk or a lemonade.
You do not need any fancy ingredients for these cookies. All the ingredients are easily available and the process of making the cookies is easy as well. You need:
It is necessary to ensure that the butter and eggs are at room temperature to ensure the rich texture of the cookies.
Chill the Dough
Chilling of the dough in the fridge for one hour is important. If you do not chill the dough and work on it right away, the cookies will spread a lot during baking. For the perfect shape and texture, keep the dough in the fridge for at least one hour. Also, make sure that when you are working on one part of the dough (total three parts), keep the other two parts chilled in the fridge and work only one part at a time.
There are many other flavors that you can infuse in these cookies up to your own taste. Adding cardamom powder (my favorite), lemon zest, orange zest or cinnamon powder will further enhance the flavor. However, you need to make these cookies first to get an idea what will work better before altering the recipe. You can also make a chocolate ganache and dip the tea cakes in the ganache to give it a chocolatey flavor. You may sprinkle nuts on the chocolate as well. See, the possibilities are endless.
How to Store
Put these cookies in an air-tight jar and they will stay fresh for 1-2 weeks easily. The texture will remain the same and the cookies will stay fresh.
Southern Tea Cakes
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks/225 grams) at room temperature
- 2 cups castor sugar (400 grams)
- 3 eggs (large) at room temperature
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour (480 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (5 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 grams)
- ¼ teaspoon salt (1.5 grams)
- In an electric mixer bowl, cream butter at room temperature until it changes the color and is creamy. Add castor sugar and beat again for 2-3 minutes, until the sugar is combined well with butter. Add eggs, one by one, beating each time to incorporate the egg well. Now add vanilla and mix one more time.
- In another bowl, sift flour, baking soda and salt.Whisk all the ingredients together.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.Start combining it at low speed until the dough comes together. Do not over mix at this point. Just mix until well combined.
- Divide the dough in three parts and wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Set the baking trays by placing silicone baking mats or parchment paper on it.
- Take out one chilled dough ball. Keep the other two doughs in the fridge, chilling. Dust flour on the surface to work on the dough. Now with a rolling pin, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. I used a 2 ½ inch round cookie cutter and dip it in the flour before cutting the cookies. Place the cookies at least 1-inch apart of each other on the silicone baking sheets.
- Keep cutting and gathering up the scraps of dough, roll it again and cut into cookies until all the dough is finished.
- Bake the cookies for 10 – 12 minutes or until the sides begin to turn light-golden-brown in color. Pull them out of the oven and keep them on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before putting them on the wire-racks to cool completely.
- Repeat the process until you bake all the cookies. This dough usually yields about 3 dozen cookies.