Southern Tea Cakes

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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!

A Homemade Tea Cake Cookie 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 the Best 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

These are some of the best treats ever…classic, but unique!

Print

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

Description:

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!


Ingredients:

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

Glaze

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes:

store airtight for up to 3 days

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

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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?

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Denise Henderson
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 »

Anitha
Anitha
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
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!

Sarah
Sarah
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!

Natalie
Natalie
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 »

Natalie
Natalie
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!

Karen
Karen
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
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.

Tamia
July 6, 2016 3:28 am

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

Jennifer
Jennifer
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?

Kathy
Kathy
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.

Tennesseean
Tennesseean
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!

Kay
Kay
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!

Henrietta Dixon
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.

Ellie
Ellie
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.

Johnna Phillips
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.

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?

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