Southern Tea Cakes

Southern Vanilla Bean Tea Cakes...a cthick dense cookie, so sweet and buttery!

These Southern Tea Cakes took me a LONG time to perfect! They are perfectly dense and thick, but soft and sweet. You’re going to LOVE these!

It took me a while to perfect these Tea Cakes. About a year and a half on and off. I mean, I wasn’t working on the recipe every day…geez..I just mean that every once in a while I would try again.

My results were varied…too dry…too cake-ish…too cookie-ish…Not enough flavor…too boring…

Anyway, I did it.

I persevered.


No Tea Cake is getting the best of me!

Now, let’s pause for a quick second for those who don’t know what a tea cake is. I could be wrong, but I think they’re a Southern thing. I live in NJ now and no one has ever heard of them.

Basically it’s a thick cookie-type pastry…it’s called a cake, but it’s not super cakey…

Sometimes they’re glazed, sometimes they’re plain, sometimes they’re dusted with powdered sugar.

I prefer glazed, because frosting rules my life.

You could eat them for dessert (obvi), breakfast (with coffee!), snack time (with tea or a diet sodie!) or basically whenever you want to feed your soul with deliciousness.


Anyhow, my friend Courtney told me of a place called Ham ‘N Goody’s where she said they made the most amazing Tea Cakes. So I did what any normal person would do…I ordered a few dozen and had them shipped to me.

Their Tea Cakes are super almondy. They were really good. I don’t usually prefer almond flavors, so I set out to make my own without almond extract.

Now, cut to present time. Recipe perfected and ready to be shared.

Southern Tea Cakes…

Southern Tea Cake...perfectly soft, thick cookies that are dense and buttery and delicious!

The dough for these is super simple.

I decided to make mine with vanilla beans, because they’re pretty and I just love the extra vanilla flavor.

Vanilla Beans

I used the beans from one pod in the dough and another in the frosting.

Just roll the dough into balls and place them on a lined baking sheet. It’s very similar to a sugar cookie dough…

Tea Cake Dough

When they are baked they won’t spread too much, leaving them tall.

Plain tea cakes...perfect like this, dusted with sugar, or even better with a poured frosting!

Go ahead and whip up your super simple vanilla bean glaze…

Vanilla Bean Glaze

And then pour it onto each little tea cake…

Glazing my tea cakes

See how pretty! You do this when they are warm for a thinner glaze, or cooled for a thicker glaze.


I let the glaze set up and then I couldn’t wait to dig in.

These are some of the best treats ever…deliciously buttery and thick.

Southern Tea Cakes, thick buttery and deliicous, glazed with a pourable vanilla bean frosting


4.0 from 1 reviews
Southern Tea Cakes
makes 13-15 tea cakes
Tea Cakes
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla and beans from one vanilla bean pod (optional)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp milk
  • 1 vanilla bean with beans scraped out
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer beat butter and sugar together for 1 minute until mixed. Add in eggs and vanilla (and vanilla beans) and mix until incorporated, scraping sides as necessary.
  4. Add in baking powder and salt, continuing to mix and finally the flour. Mix until dough just comes together.
  5. Form dough into 2 inch balls and place on lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden. Don't over-bake.
  7. Allow to cool on wire rack while preparing your glaze
  8. For glaze whisk ingredients all together in a bowl. Pour directly over the tea cakes.
  9. Allow glaze to set before eating.
store airtight for up to 3 days


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41 Comments on "Southern Tea Cakes"

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May 26, 2014 8:08 pm

I think you mean “thick” in the first sentence 😉 but they are sure making me think about making these loving southern bites :)

I am dreaming of vanilla pillow cookies today

May 26, 2014 9:33 pm

I think I need you to bring me forty-eight dozen :)

May 26, 2014 10:39 pm

Oh my gosh the soft and puffiness. *dying*

May 27, 2014 12:04 am

My grandma (Russian/Polish) made Russian teacakes for Xmas every year with my mom. They were SUPER fussy. I was a little kid and just remember my mom and grandma agonizing over the recipe and making sure not to burn then after all the work. When they’re done right, tea cakes are amazing! But as you said, too dry, too cake-ish, falling apart, etc. So many issues can plague them. Yours are perfect. Way to stick with the recipe til you had it just right!

May 27, 2014 5:35 am

Wow I have never heard of these cake-like cookies before but they look amazing. Yum!

May 27, 2014 6:24 am

These look totally amazing!!

May 27, 2014 9:47 am

Loooove these! Look at that drizzle with vanilla seeds!! Oh my!!!

May 27, 2014 11:42 am

Love the recipe, but when I followed it, I wound up with sugar cookies. Did you maybe chill your dough first? Wonder why mine spread so much. Cheers.

May 27, 2014 1:28 pm

I just moved down south again after growing up in FL. Next time I have an afternoon tea or get together I will be sure to make these!

May 27, 2014 4:29 pm

Yummy – thanks for doing the leg work!
I’m guessing whoever had a problem with them overspreading either had a warm kitchen/pan or perhaps the oven runs a bit hot? I’ll keep it in mind – can’t wait to try them out!

May 27, 2014 4:48 pm

Great recipe! Thanks for putting all the time and effort into perfecting it. Is your family tired of tea cakes yet? 😉

May 27, 2014 9:27 pm

So glad you did all the trail and error with these beauties! THANK YOU!!

May 28, 2014 12:21 am

I made these tonight and they are DELICIOUS! I didn’t glaze them yet because I can’t resist warm-just-baked anything. I’ll add the glaze tomorrow and they will be ready for a party (-: thanks for the awesome recipe.

Jennifer R
May 28, 2014 12:47 am

We used to have a Ham N Goody’s in Nashville and I always got their T-cakes. I actually mourned when they closed the doors and while I have duplicated their teacake, I couldn’t duplicate the glaze. Your teacakes look yummy – although I do love the almond flavoring in the ones I fell in love with.

Johnna Phillips
January 8, 2015 4:03 pm

They’re still open in Knoxville! Northshore Rd near Kingston Pike. Just a tiny jump of I-40 at Papermill Rd to get there for anyone passing through. Well worth it! The tea cakes (un-glazed) are my favorite but the other big favorite is their glazed lemon cookies.

May 28, 2014 8:48 am

I’m obsessing over that glaze.

May 28, 2014 10:30 am

Woooow!!!! Tea time CANNNNNOT get better than this!!!!!!!!!!!! Loveeeeeeee these tea cakes and love that vanilla glaze all the more!!!! Yummmm!

May 28, 2014 11:07 am

Ooh, I’ve never had these before, but now I must! They look and sound amazing!

May 28, 2014 9:53 pm

Just made these tonight, followed the recipe exactly and they turned out perfect, not too much spreading! I used a cookie scooper and ended up with 40 of these deliscious cookies and had plenty of glaze! Starbucks has mini vanilla bean scones and this recipe reminds me of them, except for the price! Thanks :)

May 29, 2014 7:23 am

Yummy! These would be so perfect with tea :)

May 31, 2014 3:42 pm

Yummy love all the pictures you took

June 3, 2014 2:59 pm

shelly – made these for book club and they were da BOMB!!! oh my – everyone raved about them and asked for the recipe. I LOVE tea cakes (and starbucks vanilla bean scones) and these were amazing. just the right everything. I also used a smaller scoop (didn’t even have to roll them) and got about 32. (and they were still big) delicious!! thanks for doing all the hard work for us!!

July 10, 2014 7:38 pm

While they sound absolutely delicious, where is the tea? It has been my experience that tea cake(s) are made with tea.

July 11, 2014 1:17 am

My Grandma’s Newton made us grandkids tea cakes, but her tea cakes called for almond favoring. Here’s were roll out cookies. She would put our hands on the dough and cut around them, and we would get hand cookies. Thank you for reminding me of such nice memory!

July 11, 2014 9:32 am

Perhaps extra spreading could be caused by different ways to measure flour? When dry ingredients such as flour and sugar are measured by weight (for home bakers, for the scale, in grams works best). This way everyone, every time would have consistent results, provided that mixing methods are consistent. Also, what kind of flour is being used? Different types and brands work up differently.


July 16, 2014 10:17 am

Delicious! Thanks for the recipe :) I’m a lemon feen so after making your original I made them (uhhh, the next day…) substituting vanilla and the beans for lemon extract and rind, and for the icing with rind and lemon juice – turned out great; if you like lemon!

December 23, 2014 4:50 pm

Unsalted or salted butter?

December 29, 2014 6:42 pm

Hey there! Found this recipe months ago on Pinterest and thought these looked really good! I made them today and they came out pretty darn nicely! I didn’t use the vanilla bean because I didn’t have it, I just used extract, and for the icing I also used extract – vanilla and almond. I think everybody will enjoy these!

Lynn McCarthy
January 8, 2015 8:24 am

That glaze would be good over the Biscoff clouds. These remind me of them.

Johnna Phillips
January 8, 2015 4:11 pm

Funny, when I started readying is I was thinking, “I should tell her about Ham ‘n Goodys”.. then I kept reading :) We have Ham ‘n Goodys here in Knoxville, TN. Their Tea Cakes and Glazed Lemon Cookies are legendary around here. I’ve found no other Tea Cakes like them anywhere. No other cookie/cake is quite the same texture as a Tea Cake. If your recipe comes close I will be your fan for life! (the non-stalkerish type) My grandmother used to make them for her children in North Carolina so yes, definitely a Southern thing.

January 10, 2015 6:08 pm

If you are getting flatter cookies instead of little cakes, it might be because you are using baking soda instead of baking powder. I think baking soda needs acid to activate it, but I’m not sure.

January 11, 2015 3:50 am

I love your site. I am so happy you are willing to share your great recipes. Thanks so much. I will be trying my hands at these dreams very soon.

January 15, 2015 8:12 am

I’m sitting here dying for one of these – other plans will have to be postponed today – gotta make tea cakes!! The only thing I’m planning to alter is the icing color. I have this weird obsession with pale pink for all things icing. Hope I’m not desecrating some sacred Southern law…Thanks for the recipe!

January 31, 2015 3:41 pm

I have been trying for years to find a recipe that comes close to Ham N’Goody’s tea cakes. Now I can stop looking! These are amazing. Thanks!

June 13, 2015 3:07 pm

Oh my gosh,just came across your website and your teacake recipe. I have never seen another teacake recipe like my grandmothers. Yep, they are hard to master, but worth it! Thank you, can’t wait to try your recipe.