Southern Tea Cake Cookies

When we get a craving for cookies, there is nothing like homemade to truly satisfy. And, when a cake-like cookie is what you have your heart set on a crispy cookie simply won’t do.

Southern tea cake cookies have that wonderful light texture and buttery flavor. But, these cookies also have a centuries-old history in the South. Tea cake cookies are thought to have been created as the South’s answer to European tea cakes (the latter of which are more like cupcakes that are served with hot tea).

Enslaved peoples during the 18th and 19th centuries would have served these cookies to the guests of the plantation owners. But when slavery ended the tradition for these cookies continued. Using what they had on hand, the cookies have a simple ingredient list. During the 19th century these cookies were often made with flour, lard, molasses, and a little nutmeg or vanilla and that’s it.


1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 stick unsalted butter room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a medium bowl whisk flour, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg together.
  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl cream together butter and sugar (4-5 minutes with an electric mixer on high).
  1. Turn mixer to low and add egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture little by little to the creamed sugar mixture.
  1. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
  1. Preheat oven to 325˚. Using a small ice cream scoop, melon baller, or two spoons, measure out 12 1-tablespoon portions of dough. Roll each one into a ball using your hands.
  1. Place 1 1/2” apart on lined or greased baking sheet. Flatten each cookie very slightly with the bottom of a cup or mug.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are just beginning to brown.


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