Southern Tea Cakes Recipe


5 from 10 votes
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Southern Tea Cakes are old-fashioned, simple sugar cookies. Tender and delicious, these classic cookies are a family favorite! 

Looking for more easy cookie recipes? I think you’ll love my Chewy Sugar Cookies, Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, and easy Peanut Butter Cookies.

Photograph of stack of teacake cookies on a white platter.

Count your blessings if you have ever had a traditional Southern tea cake! They are one of my all-time favorite cookies – and I’ve tried my fair share! They are so tender while not being too overly sweet. They are perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea, coffee, or even a mug of hot cocoa

What are Tea Cakes?

Tea Cakes is an heirloom recipe for a slightly sweetened sweet treat made of simple ingredients that most people have on hand. Tea Cake recipes are handed down through families, as is this one from my Grandmother. Some tea cakes are more cake than cookie, while others are more cookie than cake – it depends on the ratios of the ingredients included in the recipe. My family’s recipe is more cookie than cake, which I love.

Photograph of tea cakes on a white platter.

How Do You Make Tea Cakes?

To make them, you’ll use the following ingredients:

  • Butter – use good quality butter, as it lends so much flavor to these cookies. Use softened butter to cream together with the sugar.
  • Sugar – granulated sugar is used in these cookies.
  • Vanilla Extract – use good quality vanilla extract in this recipe and in all baking. I like to use my homemade vanilla extract. Do not use vanilla flavoring, as it can leave a bitter aftertaste in some recipes.
  • Eggs – allow your eggs to reach room temperature to combine more evenly into the cookie dough.
  • Buttermilk – your buttermilk should also be at room temperature for the best results. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can use a buttermilk substitute. You’ll only need a little buttermilk in this recipe, but it serves an important part of the recipe for flavor and texture.
  • Flour – you’ll use all-purpose flour for this cookie recipe.
  • Baking Soda – works as a leavener in this cookie recipe.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Stir in the buttermilk.
  • Gradually add the flour and baking soda until well combined.
  • Divide the dough in half, wrap each half well in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour to overnight.
  • When ready to bake, remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a cookie cutter and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake in 350º F oven until lightly golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring from the baking sheet.

Can You Decorate Tea Cakes?

Growing up, we never added a frosting to our tea cakes, but you certainly can if you wish to. I’d recommend my cookie icing recipe, which is so easy and delicious!

You may also consider adding other flavorings to your cookie dough, such as cinnamon or lemon zest, or substituting half of the vanilla extract with almond extract. You can also sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a dust of cinnamon sugar when you remove them from the oven, if you like.

How to Store

These tea cakes keep well on the counter in an airtight container for a few days.

Photograph of stack of tea cakes.

Here’s my family’s Southern Tea Cakes recipe. I hope you love them as much as we do!

Southern Tea Cakes

5 from 10 votes
Southern Tea Cakes are old-fashioned, simple sugar cookies. These classic cookies are a family favorite!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 40


  • 1 cup (226 g) butter, softened
  • 2 cups (396 g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) vanilla extract
  • 3 large (150 g) eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (28.4 g) buttermilk
  • 4 cups (480 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) baking soda


  • Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract and then add the eggs, one at a time. Add buttermilk until incorporated.
  • Gradually add the flour and baking soda into the creamed butter mixture until just combined.
  • Divide the dough in half and wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour to overnight.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350º. Remove the dough from the refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling out on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough with cookie cutters and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.


These tea cakes keep well on the counter in an airtight container for a few days.


Calories: 131kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 74mg | Potassium: 21mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 162IU | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Robyn xo

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About Robyn

Robyn Stone is a cookbook author, wife, mom, and passionate home cook. Her tested and trusted recipes give readers the confidence to cook recipes the whole family will love. Robyn has been featured on Food Network, People, Southern Living, and more.

5 from 10 votes (1 rating without comment)

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Recipe Review


  1. Margaret says:

    Good morning Robyn, Can you add Nutmeg to this recipe? I remember my Aunt using Nutmeg or Lemon.🙂

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Margaret, you can add nutmeg if you wish. I never have added to mine.

  2. Miranda Chen says:

    I’m more of a milk person instead of a tea. But I tried the tea cakes both with milk and tea and they tasted delicious, amazing, and definitely a delight to eat this. I guess you could say that these tea cakes with a cup of tea are really an average person’s cup of tea, get it?

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Miranda, I personally love these tea cake with a glass of cold milk. I’m so glad you liked them with both milk and tea.

  3. Pamela Streams says:

    Can I use other milk in place of the buttermilk?

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Pamela, I wouldn’t recommend substituting the buttermilk with just milk. You need the acidity that the buttermilk provides. You could use other milk mixed with lemon juice or vinegar to make a substitute buttermilk as described in the Easy Buttermilk Substitute Recipe.

  4. Cookie Monster says:

    5 stars
    (Cookie Monster has appeared to try these cookies)

    Cookie Monster: *eats hungrily*

    Cookie Monster: “Delicious, 10/10”

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      It’s always great when your cookie has the seal of approval from the Cookie Monster. Thanks!

  5. Serenity says:

    5 stars
    These tea cookies melt in your mouth. However, they also melt and break apart immediately in my hot tea after 1 second 🙁 Overall, delicious. To anyone who is wanting to try this, you should, 9.8/10 recommended to try these delicious cookies.

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Serenity, I’m glad you loved the cookies. I’ve never put these cookies in my hot tea but I bet they did break apart in the tea. I just eat the cookies while I drink my tea.

  6. Lisa says:

    5 stars
    Love this cookie!! So much like our grandmother made for us. She lived in Ark and we lived in south Texas. She would get up early and hand make these cookies (no electric mixer) and put 6-8 cookies in a bread sack for each of us to have our own for the ride to Texas. They were hot and steamy!! We loved them so much. Early morning treat for our trip! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      I love how these recipes bring back memories of our mothers and grandmothers making them for us when we were growing up, don’t you , Lisa? I think of my grandmother every time I make these.

  7. Janet says:

    5 stars
    The tea cakes are to die for. Taste just like my mothers!

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Don’t you love when a recipe reminds you of favorite memories? I’m so glad these are like your mother made, Janet.

  8. Nancy Long says:

    these look like my grandmother’s sugar cookies. always a fave

  9. bb says:

    I have my mother’s recipe, but I want to try this one. Back in my Mother’s day, she had a lot of grandchildren and kept a pile of tea cakes made; she used them for her banana pudding, since vanilla wafers were not existent. I also, make them to crush and use for my cheese cake crusts. They are flexible and can add chocolate or what-ever needed for flavoring. Thank you for this recipe

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      I remember always having tea cakes when I was growing up, too. I hope you enjoy this recipe, BB.