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 9 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

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

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

Nutrition

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.

Enjoy!
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.

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Recipe Review




41 Comments

  1. Two memories I have of my paternal grandmother: Making tea cakes with her and using her foot-pedal Singer. Ah, that was the life!

  2. Aunt Myrl sounds like a real life Miss Piggle Wiggle. You are lucky to have such a wonderful person in your life! Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. 5 stars
    I loved this story and it gave me goosebumps that your gran put that recipe in there. Pure love.

    I’m going to give Aunt Myrl’s tea cakes a whirl this weekend. It’s footie grand final and it bores me to tears so in the kitchen I’ll go. 🙂

  4. After you roll the dough out, do you use a cookie cutter or glass to make the cakes? About how thin do you roll the dough? So are they more a cookie than a cake?

  5. As a Southerner, I love Teacakes too! I introduced them to my kids last year, and they loved them. So glad to have this recipe!

  6. Robyn what a sweet story. You brought back very poignant memories of some similar ladies in my young life. Thank you sooo much for sharing. Great recipe as well.

  7. What wonderful memories! Thank you for sharing this recipe! I have so many great memories of being in the kitchen with my grandma and my dad. So thankful for those times. Have a blessed day!