Cookies & Cups > Recipes > Cookies > Southern Tea Cakes

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!

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!

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Image of Southern Tea Cakes

Southern Tea Cakes

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


  • Serving Size: 1 tea cake
  • Calories: 163
  • Sugar: 16.7 g
  • Sodium: 81.3 mg
  • Fat: 4.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 29 g
  • Protein: 2.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 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

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67 comments on “Southern Tea Cakes”

  1. 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!

  2. 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! Predictably after the recommended cooking time they were raw and doughy in the middle. I left them in a bit longer and arrived at something edible, but just clearly wrong. Should I have just smooshed balls out of the breadcrumbs?

    1. That’s so strange! It is a thick dough, no doubt, but certainly it shouldn’t be like crumb topping. DId you happen to forget the eggs? I know that’s a silly question, but I just cant think of another reason you would have such an outcome.

      1. 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!

  3. 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 for a great recipe!

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. Henrietta Dixon

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. Johnna Phillips

    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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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.


  15. 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!

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

  17. 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!!

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