Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe

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This “Black folk tea cake recipe” (that’s what they’re called!) is an old-fashioned nostalgic Southern soul food treat!

What is a Black folks’ Southern tea cake?

African American tea cakes are a somewhat fancy little Southern dessert. Little round cakes. Light, airy, and sometimes compared to soda bread or pound cake.

Tea cakes are typically served with hot tea at gatherings like weddings, christenings, and family events. Or any other pomp and circumstance dress-up occasion (which Black folks love).

Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe

What do you serve with tea cake?

This isn’t a pound cake recipe, tho! 

These little cakes are kinda like cookies – but they’re not.

More like sweet little biscuits, tea cake is cherished in the South as the perfect accompaniment to high tea. (Pinkies up and teabags down!)

Thus, the “tea” part of the name derives from these delights served at teatime. Tea cakes are a delicious way to enjoy tea time or Southern iced tea.

Black Folk Tea Cake Recipe

Why is the tea cake important to African Americans?

Tea cakes have an African American history dating back to the 1600s. As a result, they are an integral part of African-American food culture

So much that Elbert Mackey wrote a whole book to share tea cake stories and recipes, The Tea Cake Roundup. His book seeks to preserve the endangered legacy of this traditional African American treat.

Where did tea cakes originate?

Black folks’ tea cake is a Southern US tradition with African-American roots. 

African American tea cakes history

It’s believed that the Black folk tea cake was created by enslaved African-Americans to reproduce the fluffy European confections that white Americans were accustomed to.

Culinary historians say tea cakes may have evolved from the English tea cake, a light and sweet yeast-based bun often containing dried fruit flavors like prunes or raisins.

African Americans made their own version of tea cakes based on what was available to them with limited baking supplies.

How Do You Make Black Folks Tea Cake?

What are tea cakes made of?

If you’re from the South, then you’ll recognize Black folk’s tea cakes as a nostalgic Southern treat. 

They’re made with simple ingredients. Brown sugar, nutmeg, vanilla extract, and a dash of lemon zest add just enough flavor to keep things interesting without being overwhelming. 

Then a kiss of lemon is added to the icing, which gives these tea cakes a burst of freshness!

Tea cakes have the perfect balance of flavors to complement an excellent warm coffee or an afternoon tea. 

Although kids are not quite as fancy with tea cakes. They enjoy them anytime, licking the icing off first and then devouring this brown sugar treat! 

What do old-fashioned tea cakes taste like?

Not a cookie, so Southern tea cake should have the texture and taste of a sweet biscuit and shouldn’t be crunchy or stiff.

And the flavor? 

The vanilla extract makes all the flavors come together in harmony. A hint of nutmeg with a bit of citrus zest. Light enough for tea, yet irresistible enough to want more than one!

African American Tea Cakes

How do you make Black folks’ old-fashioned tea cake?

You can make a batch of these delicious treats in about 20 minutes! 

The best part about this recipe is that it only requires a handful of your pantry’s most essential ingredients. Nearly all of which you probably have in your kitchen right now!

Ready to learn how to make grandma’s tea cakes at home?

Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s get baking!

What Do You Need To Make Black Folks Tea Cake?

Kitchen equipment for Black folks tea cakes

Shop my kitchenware HERE!

Ingredients for a Black folk tea cake recipe

  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour or cake flour, plus 1 cup extra for rolling the dough ( I used all-purpose flour)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup of sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • ½ cup of evaporated milk
  • ½ tablespoon of vanilla extract
Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe Ingredients

Ingredients for the tea cake icing (optional)

  • 2 ½ cups of powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of lemon juice

Instructions for Black folk tea cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. In a medium-size bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar for about 2 minutes until creamy. 
  3. Add the egg, lemon zest, sour cream, mayonnaise, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract.
  4. Mix until well blended to make the tea cake batter.
  5. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg over a sheet of parchment paper large enough to fit your baking sheet.
  6. Fold the parchment paper to pour the sifted flour mixture into the tea cake batter and then mix again.
  7. Add the batter to a lightly floured surface and roll the dough to approx ¼ inch thickness. This is where the extra cup of flour will come in handy to help with rolling because the dough is sticky!
  8. Cut out the tea cakes with a 2 ½” up to 3″ biscuit cutter. (I used a 2 ¾” biscuit cutter.)
  9. Place the rounds onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about one inch apart. (You may need to bake more than 1 batch if all your rounds don’t fit on your baking sheet.)
  10. Bake until light brown (but don’t let them get too brown!). 5-6 minutes in the conventional oven and 3-4 minutes in the Instant Pot Omni Plus oven. (Tea cakes don’t take long to bake, so keep a close eye on them to avoid burning! Like a biscuit, you want them firm on the outside and fluffy on the inside.)
  11. Optional: When the tea cakes are finished baking and cooling, optionally make the lemon glaze frosting by combining the powdered sugar and lemon juice. 
  12. Mix well with a whisk to remove any lumps from the powdered sugar.
  13. Use a small spatula or spoon to drop a dollop of icing onto each cooled tea cake. The icing will harden in about 5 minutes.
  14. Optionally, garnish this Southern Black folk tea cake recipe with a sprinkle of lemon zest, then serve and enjoy!

🎙 Listen to The Soul Food Pod episode: Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe

Pro tips: 

  • Secret ingredients sour cream and mayonnaise I’ve found are a must-have to effortlessly achieve a light and fluffy tea cake!
  • I divided my tea cake dough and froze the other half by placing it in a zip-lock freezer bag. This way, I only baked what I needed – about 15 tea cakes. ( I used a 2 ¾” round biscuit cutter.)
  • When I make these teacakes for Christmas, I replace the lemon zest with orange zest. Orange citrus combines nicely with the nutmeg for a warm, sweet holiday appeal!
How To Make Southern Tea Cake Icing

Tea cake icing, or nah?

Teacakes are traditionally served without icing. So it’s up to you to add it – or not!

African American Tea Cakes History

Black folks Southern tea cakes recipe FAQS

What do you need to make tea cake?

The ingredients to make a tea cake are straightforward. You’ll need flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, egg, vanilla extract, and evaporated milk.

Secret ingredients sour cream and mayonnaise are a must to effortlessly achieve a cake-like treat!

How many dozens does this recipe make?

This recipe makes about 3 dozen tea cakes, depending on the size of your cookie cutter or biscuit cutter.

What Are Some Tips For Working With Tea Cake Dough?

What are some tips for working with tea cake dough?

  • This recipe includes secret ingredients sour cream and mayonnaise to easily yield a tea cake with a moist and fluffy cake-like consistency. 
  • It also calls for an extra cup of flour for ease in rolling the dough. 
  • Lightly spread the reserved flour on the counter before rolling the tea cake dough – but don’t use it all there!
  • You’ll want to add more flour as you continue rolling to keep the dough from sticking.

How are old-fashioned tea cakes different from Russian tea cakes?

Have you ever heard of Russian tea cakes?

While I’ve never had Russian tea cakes, one of the main characteristics is that they are very thick and round in shape, and the consistency tends to be even more like cake. So they often have a delicate sugar coating on top that doesn’t stand out until it’s gone (which means only one bite).

The Southern Black folk tea cake looks similar and may include glazed icing as its decorative touch.

The Black folks’ Southern version has light golden-brown edges. But it’s still soft enough for collecting sweet cake crumbs!

Southern Tea Cakes

How do you store tea cakes?

Teacakes are delicate and must be stored properly to maintain their freshness. Here are some tips on how to keep tea cakes.

Store your tea cakes in an airtight container at room temperature, preferably with a lid that seals tightly because an airtight container prevents moisture from entering the cakes and ruining them.

Avoid storing them in the fridge because they will dry out much faster than if kept at room temperature.

What is the baking time for tea cake?

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 5-6 minutes to maintain a light, fluffy texture.

Watch your tea cakes and the cook time closely because they don’t need to bake for long!

Depending on what kind of oven or baking pan you’re using, you may need a little more or less time.

What Are Tea Cakes Made Of?

Can you put the cut cakes in the fridge overnight and then go from fridge to oven the next day?

Yes, you can place tea cake dough in an airtight container or zip-lock bag in the fridge overnight. Then cookie cut in the next day and bake.

How far in advance can these tea cakes be made and still taste fresh?

You can also freeze tea cake dough. 

I usually divide my teacake dough and freeze half by placing it in a zip-lock freezer bag. The dough will last in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Then simply unthaw, cut into rounds and bake!

How long do tea cakes last?

These pastries will last you up to 1 week before they start tasting stale. As long as you keep them at room temperature in an airtight container.

Southern Tea Cakes Recipe

What do you think of this recipe?

Are you ready to make this Southern light and delicious cakey treat? 

Thanksgiving, ChristmasNew Year’sValentine’s DayEaster, or Juneteenth. Tea cakes are straightforward to make, and a little dough makes a lot of tea cake to share!

If you like this recipe, you’ll love these best soul food cornbread recipes and best Southern desserts.

Have you had tea cake?

Would you make it? 

Comment below and lemme know. Then subscribe HERE for all the soul food!

What is a Black folks' Southern tea cake?

With so many African American soul food recipes to choose from, what’s your favorite?

 

The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
What is soul food? Soul food recipes are African-American recipes full of flavor! A legacy of Southern cooking the Black way. Check out this collection of the best soul food recipes!
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Black Folks Southern Tea Cake
Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe

Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe

What are Black folks tea cakes?
An African American Southern dessert, Black folks tea cake is a sweet little biscuit. Light, airy, and sometimes compared to soda bread or pound cake. Tea cakes are a traditional African American treat that dates back to the 1600s.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 22 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Soul Food, Southern Food
Servings: 36 tea cakes
Calories: 143kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

Ingredients for a Black folk tea cake recipe

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 cup extra for rolling the dough (I used all-purpose flour, but you could also use cake flour)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ cup butter unsalted & softened
  • 1 cup sugar granulated
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the tea cake icing (optional)

  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a medium-size bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar for about 2 minutes until creamy.
    Use an electric mixer to combine the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar for about 2 minutes until creamy.
  • Add the egg, lemon zest, sour cream, mayonnaise, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract.
    Add the egg, lemon zest, sour cream, mayonnaise, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract.
  • Mix until well blended to make the tea cake batter.
  • Sift together the remaining dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg over a sheet of parchment paper large enough to fit your baking sheet.
    Sift together the remaining dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg over a sheet of parchment paper large enough to fit your baking sheet.
  • Fold the parchment paper to pour the sifted flour mixture into the tea cake batter and then mix again.
    Fold the parchment paper to pour the sifted flour mixture into the tea cake batter and then mix again.
  • Add the batter to a lightly floured surface and roll the dough to approx ¼ inch thickness. This is where the extra cup of flour will come in handy to help with rolling because the dough is sticky!
    Add the batter to a lightly floured surface and roll the dough to approx ¼ inch thickness.
  • Cut out the tea cakes with a 2 ½" up to 3″ biscuit cutter. (I used a 2 ¾” biscuit cutter.)
    Cut out the tea cakes with a 2 ½ up to 3″ biscuit cutter.
  • Place the rounds onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about one inch apart. (You may need to bake more than 1 batch if all your rounds don’t fit on your baking sheet.)
    Place the rounds onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about one inch apart.
  • Bake until light brown (but don’t let them get too brown!). 5-6 minutes in the conventional oven and 3-4 minutes in the Instant Pot Omni Plus oven. (Tea cakes don’t take long to bake, so keep a close eye on them to avoid burning! Like a biscuit, you want them firm on the outside and fluffy on the inside.)
    Bake until light brown (but don’t let them get too brown!).
  • Optional: When the tea cakes are finished baking and cooling, optionally make the lemon glaze frosting by combining the powdered sugar and lemon juice.
    Optional - When the tea cakes are finished baking and cooling, optionally make the lemon glaze frosting by combining the powdered sugar and lemon juice.
  • Mix well with a whisk to remove any lumps from the powdered sugar.
    Mix well with a whisk to remove any lumps from the powdered sugar.
  • Use a small spatula or spoon to drop a dollop of icing onto each cooled tea cake. The icing will harden in about 5 minutes.
    Use a small spatula or spoon to drop a dollop of icing onto each cooled tea cake.
  • Optionally, garnish this Southern Black folk tea cake recipe with a sprinkle of lemon zest, then serve and enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • Secret ingredients sour cream and mayonnaise I’ve found are a must-have to effortlessly achieve a light and fluffy tea cake!
  • I divided my tea cake dough and froze the other half by placing it in a zip-lock freezer bag. This way, I only baked what I needed – about 15 tea cakes. ( I used a 2 ¾” round biscuit cutter.)
  • When I make these teacakes for Christmas, I replace the lemon zest with orange zest. Orange citrus combines nicely with the nutmeg for a warm, sweet holiday appeal!
Black Folks Southern Tea Cake Recipe Card

Nutrition

Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 78mg | Potassium: 45mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 31IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 1mg
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15 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    What a sweet treat! I have most of the ingredients in my kitchen. Should I try my first luck in baking?

    1. 5 stars
      You can do it! Southern tea cakes bake very quickly so this is an easy recipe to make.

  2. Lakshay Sen says:

    5 stars
    This is a great recipe! I’m from the south and this is the best tea cake I’ve ever had.

  3. Aman Sharma says:

    5 stars
    This is a great recipe! I’m from the south and this is the best tea cake I’ve ever had.

  4. 5 stars
    I just wanted to say thank you for the history lesson! I had remembered reading something about the cultural history around southern tea cakes years ago but couldn’t remember the details. There is a older couple that always sells them at our farmer’s market and they are fantastic. I was telling my daughter that tea cakes had a history behind them but just couldn’t remember.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the soul food history of tea cakes. I’d be thrilled to find tea cakes being sold at a farmer’s market – you’re a lucky lady!!

  5. 5 stars
    I can’t believe I just discovered your 🤫! Please forgive me,
    I’m embarrassed to even admit that but better late than
    never as the saying goes! Nevertheless I was searching
    for a tea cake recipe to make this Christmas. I have a
    question. Can tea cakes be made in flavors? I saw a
    recipe in chocolate another in orange. I look forward to
    your reply. Thank you.

    1. 5 stars
      We’re glad you found The Soul Food Pot recipes! Yes, you can add flavorful additions like lemon or orange zest to spice up your Southern tea cake.

  6. 5 stars
    Made these yesterday while thinking about my grandmother. Though I reduced the brown sugar by a 1/4 cup, used demerara sugar, and Greek yogurt instead of mayo they turned out great.

    My youngest son said are these the same things grandma, my mother used to make?

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    1. 5 stars
      What an honor that your son thought these Southern tea cakes were made by your grandmother!! My heart sings 🙂

  7. Ashleigh Hodges says:

    5 stars
    Thanks for the recipe! My Big Mama used to make these when I was little — I remember her cutting them with the mouth of a mason jar. Hers were always w out the icing on top. She passed before I could get the recipe from her. Excited to give this one a try!

    1. 5 stars
      I’m so happy there’s so much nostalgia for you in this Southern tea cake recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    I love this recipe
    thanks,

  9. Gray Taite says:

    5 stars
    My parents used to make teacakes. It was a basic recipe of butter, sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, flavor, maybe cinnamon or nutmeg spices. They either were cut out or rolled out. My daddy was born in the late 1890s. He was a great cook and this is how he made his tea cakes.