Southern Tea Cakes (Cookies)

I really, really enjoyed these cookies. I made them last weekend and I’ve been in a funk ever since we ran out. If only I had the energy to go and make another batch (a new puppy will do that to you). They have such a good chew to them, and they almost taste like a cake-y shortbread / sugar cookie blend. But a bit plainer? Clearly I’m not very good at describing them.

When I was trying to come up with a recipe I saw a lot of comments like “a true Southern Tea Cake never has vanilla in it” and “they should always be very plain, with no flavoring”.

I don’t really know how to cook without flavor. I also don’t take well to being told that you can’t do or add something. This is why my Southern style tea cakes have vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. What can’t I say, I’m a bit of a radical. Next time I might even add some lemon juice and zest. Gasp.

I have no idea why these are called Tea Cakes when they are very clearly a cookie. I even tried to google this but came up empty as far as an actual explanation goes. All I know is that these are very much a southern USA cookie, and when you hear tea cakes anywhere else, be prepared to actually get a cake.

Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.


Whisk it together.


Add everything else (sugar, eggs, really soft butter, and vanilla).


Beat it all together well. I still don’t have a new bowl for my stand mixer, so this is what it’ll look like from a hand mixer.


Quickly knead it into a ball with your hands, then put it on a well floured counter.


Roll it out to about ¼” thick, then cut into circles. The dough can get pretty sticky, so just keep flouring it and your rolling pin. I think these were about 3”, maybe 4”, in diameter.


Put them onto a lined cookie sheet.


This is before they hit the oven. That’s just some flour left on top of the cookie from rolling them out so don’t worry if you have some, it’s not an issue at all.


This is what happens when you smack the cookie sheet into the fridge door. Don’t worry Jenny, these aren’t the ones that I brought, but I won’t lie and say that I didn’t eat them.


Here’s the finished tea cake, just lightly kissed with golden brown around the very edges. Just dust them with icing sugar while they’re cooling. In the background are the Lemon, Almond and Honey Finger Cakes, also really great.


I may need to find the time to make these again at some point today. I could make heart shaped ones, it is Valentine’s Day after all.

Or I could just nap with the puppy when the kids nap. There’s really nothing better then snuggling up with a puppy for a nap.

This could be a very tough decision.

Here’s your printable:

Souther Tea Cakes (Cookies)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 32 minutes

Yield: 66 cookies

Souther Tea Cakes (Cookies)


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • icing sugar for dusting
  • 1 cup butter, very soft
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle position.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla and beat well to combine.
  4. Knead the dough into a ball, then roll out to ¼" thickness on a well floured counter. Cut into circles and place on lined baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until just lightly browned at the edges. Immediately remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Once cool, dust with icing sugar.

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