As the only person in my tribe who had never eaten a tea cake, I felt it was my duty to finally tackle this entrenched southern confection. My good friend and sorority sister, Donna, declared with all seriousness, “Nicole, a good tea cake will change your life.” Getting someone to share a guarded family recipe was no easy task, however. But once again, a good friend and sorority sister, Denise, came to my rescue. So I unpacked the rolling pin and got to work.
Denise’s in law gave me a great recipe from which to jump off, and I was very thankful because most folks keep their tea cake recipes under lock and key. There’s usually that one grandma or aunt who is the keeper of the flame, so to speak, and she ain’t sharing, honey. So thank you, Denise’s in-law!
This recipe is rather large for just me, so I cut it in half. I modified it further by adding baking powder and salt in my version, but I felt like it was a solid, traditional recipe that would lead this novice baker in the right direction. And I was right. The result was perfect: not too sweet, not too puffy, not too soft. Somewhere between a cookie and a biscuit. And when they were warm out of the oven – wow! So good. I inhaled four before I knew what I was doing. So let’s get to it.
What I used:
3 cups flour, all purpose
1 TBSP baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 TBSP vanilla extract
extra flour for rolling out the dough
What I did:
Preheat oven to 350.
In medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together, mixing thoroughly. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until mixed well.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fold in thoroughly until a soft dough is formed. Place bowl of dough in refrigerator until ready to roll out.
Prepare a flat rolling surface with flour. I used two sheets of wax paper to minimize mess. Separate one half of dough and place on rolling surface, using flour as needed to keep the soft dough from sticking. Replace other half in refrigerator until ready to use. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. I used a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter.
Place cutouts on a lightly greased cookie sheet about an inch apart. (I made small drop cookies out of the scraps, as you can see in the picture below.) Bake for five minutes and revolve sheet in oven. Bake for an additional 3-6 minutes depending on oven evenness. Do not let edges get too brown.
My first batch was fairly even, but I had excess flour on the tops. It offended my OCD tendencies, but I ate them anyway. The second batch was neater.
This recipe netted 3 dozen 2 1/2-inch tea cakes.
Stay tuned for Part 2.