Sweet Summer Southern Tea Cakes

Sweet summer Southern tea cakes lead the topic of conversation on this particular June afternoon in the Places In The Home test kitchen.

Places In The Home defines tradition as collections, recipes, and/or generational practices from your past bringing about complete and utter joy deemed repeat worthy.


tra·di·tion \trə-ˈdi-shən\

a :  an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)

b :  a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable

2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction


Summer has only been official for a hot minute, and the South is already experiencing oppressive heat. Frankly speaking, the only heat I’m remotely interested in on days better spent indoors is that of the oven.

Holds true for the cooks, bakers and heat haters in my family as the summertime tradition passed down in our family is a simple piece of advice- cook early, stay cool late.

However, I will make an exception when it comes to baking up a dozen or so sweet summer Southern tea cakes.


Back-Home Tea Cakes


½ cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

¼ cup milk



Cream shortening; gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer.  Add egg and vanilla; beat well.  Combine flour and baking powder; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, mixing well. Cover and chill 2 hours.  Work half of dough at a time, and store the remainder in refrigerator.

Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.  Cut with a 2-inch cookie cutter; place on greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Sprinkle with sugar. Cool.

Yields 3 dozen.

Mary Lou Adkins, Sulphur, LA.
Southern Living Magazine, July 1990

Here’s the aged index card recipe from which I’ve baked many a tea cake, and it means the world to me on many levels.

To me, tea cakes signify the simple, classic, and unpretentious taste of home.  I like to think that’s how I roll.

Giving into part craving, part memory driven tradition I baked up a couple dozen sweet summer Southern tea cakes working with a few recipe additions and adjustments.


Photo by Laura Adai

Sweet Summer Southern Tea Cakes


3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½  teaspoon salt

1  cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

fresh lemon zest


Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine flour, soda, and salt together and set aside.  In separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar.


Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add in vanilla extract, almond extract, and fresh lemon zest.


Beat together until combined.  Stir the dry ingredient mixture into creamed butter/sugar mixture.  Mix until all ingredients are blended together.


Divide dough in half; lightly dusting each half with flour. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and place in refrigerator allowing to chill for 1 hour.


Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough on lightly floured board to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut out in round shapes with cookie cutter or good old dependable jelly glass.


Place cut out tea cakes on parchment paper lined cookie sheet; bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly brown.

Makes 2 dozen.


If serving sweet summer Southern tea cakes for dinner is wrong I don’t want to be right.

Perhaps not the best example of a traditional dinner entree, but the combination of a summer evening coupled with a couple of sweet summer Southern tea cakes is very appetizing and oh, so summer.



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