Southern Tea Cakes

Southern Tea Cakes are more like a cookie than cake. This authentic recipe makes thick, buttery cookies topped with vanilla bean icing!

Make sure to try my Kentucky Butter Cake Cookies too!

Image of Southern Tea Cakes

This Is My Authentic Southern Tea Cakes Recipe!

So, I feel like I know my way around a cookie. I’ve been posting recipes here for almost 10 years…and certainly before that “cookie enthusiast” was a bullet on my resumé. Long story short, I feel like I’m fairly familiar with the cookie game. Anyhow, a few years back I was chatting with a new friend who introduced me to the Southern Tea Cake. If you are as unfamiliar as I was, they are melt in your mouth delicious, buttery, soft cookies that were completely one of a kind. They aren’t “cakey” at all (yay!). There are lots of versions out there for tea cakes…sometimes they’re glazed, sometimes they’re plain, sometimes they’re dusted with powdered sugar.

I have seen recipes where they look a lot like a sugar cookie, and sometimes they look like scones. My recipe is neither of those. It’s literal perfection…everything you want a tea cake to be. It took me a while to get this right, but it was worth every calorie.

Southern Tea Cakes

How to Make Tea Cakes:

I used vanilla beans in mine, but feel free to use any extract in these that you would like…like almond, rum, coconut, amaretto…really it’s up to you!

And let’s just address the elephant in the room here. I used vanilla beans…which unfortunately (according to my son) makes these my cookies look like biscuits and gravy. So tea cakes in my house are now lovingly referred to as “gravy cookies”. I mean, I guess I see it. Whatever.

Tea Cake Dough

The dough for these is super simple, with no chill time necessary. Just roll the dough into balls and place them on a lined baking sheet. It’s very similar to a sugar cookie 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.

Southern Tea Cakes

Southern Tea Cakes are some of the best treats ever…classic, but unique!

How To Store:

These can be stored at room temperature for up too 5 days, or you can freeze these for up to 30 days. Just make sure they’re stored airtight!


Southern Tea Cakes

  • Author: Cookies and Cups
  • Prep Time Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield Yield: 24 cookies 1x
  • Category Category: Dessert
  • Method Method: Oven
  • Cuisine Cuisine: American


These Southern Tea Cakes took me a LONG time to perfect, but now, they’re such an easy cookie recipe! A perfectly dense and thick, but soft, sweet, and buttery dessert. The vanilla bean glaze on top makes these extra special, and the tastiest treat!



Tea Cakes

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla and beans from one vanilla bean pod (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 34 tablespoons milk
  • 1 vanilla bean with beans scraped out


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together for 1 minute until mixed. Add in eggs and vanilla (and vanilla beans), baking powder, and salt and mix until incorporated, scraping sides of the bowl as necessary.
  3. Turn mixer to low and mix in the flour until the dough just comes together.
  4. Form the dough into 2- inch balls and place on lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are slightly golden, careful not to over-bake.
  6. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack while preparing your glaze
  7. For glaze whisk ingredients all together in a bowl. Pour directly over the tea cakes.
  8. Allow glaze to set before eating.


store airtight for up to 3 days

Nutrition Information:

1 tea cake
16.7 g
81.3 mg
4.3 g
29 g
2.3 g
15.6 mg

Keywords: tea cake recipe, southern tea cake recipe, how to make tea cakes, tea cake cookie recipe, easy cookie recipe, 10 minute cookie recipe, best tea cake recipe, easy southern tea cake recipe

Want To Save This Recipe?


Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

You might also like...

Share Your Comments

Want to share a photo of what you’ve made? Be sure to register or log in and then click the camera icon located at the bottom of the comment form.

Recipe rating
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Donna Vaughn
April 29, 2021 4:42 pm

I made these for the first time yesterday and they were delicious! I love the texture and the taste is just what I love. I’ve noticed several people have had issues with dry or crumbly dough. I think you do have to be careful to scoop the flour into the cup so that you don’t have too much flour. And I prefer weighing ingredients to be sure. But the brand and type of flour makes a huge difference. White Lily is my preferred flour for baked goods such as cakes, quick breads and cookies like this recipe. The protein content… Read more »

March 14, 2021 7:38 am

Love your recipes! One question, I’ve heard that cups vary from continent to continent, and I always struggle to get the recipes from cups to dl to grams, would you consider also typing in the grams? It would make the receipts accessible for Europe and also professional cooking and baking.
Thanks, and have a nice day ☀️
Best regards from Norway

March 12, 2021 3:24 pm

These cookies are delicious! I added some green sprinkles on top for St Patrick’s Day- I think these would be easy to decorate for different occasions. Like another person commented my dough was rather dry and crumbly after adding the flour. I’ve had that issue with some cookies lately and I’m wondering if my house is just dry. In any event, I was able to form the cookies and they taste great! Next time I am going to try adding some lemon zest.

December 8, 2020 11:58 am

I’m a little new at baking, do you use both vanilla extract and beans? Or just one ? Just 1 teaspoon of whatever I have on hand?

Denise Henderson
June 2, 2020 11:53 pm

I bake on the regular and always share with my girls I work with. One of my girlfriends asked if I ever made tea cakes. I told her no, but immediately started my search. Your recipe fit the bill of what she had described to me. I made these for her and she was so excited. They were spot on for what she remembered and with the glaze it sent them straight over the top. I am becoming a certain fan! My husbands favorite cake ever is the apple fritter cake I found on you blog. I will definitely be… Read more »

May 7, 2020 12:49 pm

My kids and I loved it! I did not have the vanilla bean, but it tasted really good even without it. I also did not have a mixer and made it by hand, and it worked out. Thank you!

Carolyn Moorman
April 23, 2020 10:41 am

I don’t have a stand mixer. Do you suppose I can get good results with this recipe? Thank you!

Jeri Good
December 1, 2020 7:26 am

I mix these and all my cookies by hand. I prefer to do that. I have a hand and a stand mixer. Now for the cookies – I first made them for a culinary event. Loved them so much and I’ve made them numerous times. Everyone asks for the recipe.

April 6, 2020 9:40 am

Love this recipe! My mum was looking for a more dense tea cookie to enjoy in the mornings, I made these but added 1tsp of lemon zest to the dough for a lightly lemon-vanilla flavour. She loved them, so much so the whole batch was gone in two days!

September 23, 2018 5:14 am

Shelly!!! What texture is the dough supposed to be after adding the flour? Mine did not come together in the mixer at all – it was very dry sort of breadcrumby (not far off a streusel dough – it clumped if I gave it a squeeze). I ended up panicking and adding some extra liquid (dash of milk) but, because it had already been mixed for some time and I was adding liquid to dry the dough came out very claggy. I decided to give one batch a try. They didn’t spread AT ALL – they came out as balls!… Read more »

September 23, 2018 2:36 pm
Reply to  Shelly

I definitely cracked eggs in, but I suspect my eggs were just very small! I did end up baking up the lot, though I mostly let them go a bit to the dry side out of concern for them being claggy in the middle. I do want to try again, as the simple vanilla flavour, especially once glazed is lovely. I just messed up my texture!

September 19, 2018 7:00 pm

Got the recipe today and made it right away. They turned out really well! Because I use unsalted butter, I increased the salt to 1 tsp and used sea salt not kosher. I also used 1 tsp vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla beans since that’s what I had at home. Finally, I added a pinch of salt to the glaze. The cookies are delicious–dangerous to have sitting around, so I’m freezing most of them. Don’t know if that will help, however, because I expect them to be quite yummy right out of the freezer as well. 🙂 Thanks… Read more »

Kim R
April 3, 2018 8:00 am

I lost my tea cakes recipe and needed to bake some for Easter. This recipe worked very well for me and was a hit with everyone! I chilled the dough then rolled it to cut into shapes for the grands to decorate. I didn’t use the vanilla bean because I didn’t have it. I just upped the amount of vanilla extract.
For the person whose cookies spread – did you substitute margarine for butter? Or if you melted your butter instead of creaming it with the sugar you could have that result.

July 6, 2016 3:28 am

Delish!! Just like grandma, use to make thanks for sharing!

May 13, 2016 1:47 am

Thank you so much for this recipe! I made it tonight and my family absolutely loved it, as did I. I will be remaking this one time and time again! The only thing is I got 38 cookies despite the yield stating 13 – 15. Maybe mine were smaller?

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.

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!

Shelly Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

Tips for Baking Success!

Cookies and Cups Newsletter Get 5 Baking Secrets That Will Change Your Life!

Delivered Straight to Your Inbox, For Free:

Recipes You’ll Love

This site participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn a small fee by linking to and affiliated sites.

Ad Blocker Detected!

Advertisements fund this website. Please disable your adblocking software or whitelist our website.
Thank You!