Tea Cake Cookies

Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe

 The Spruce

Prep: 12 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 22 mins
Servings: 36 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
117 Calories
5g Fat
16g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 36
Amount per serving
Calories 117
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 3g 16%
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 69mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 43mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

It might have happened to you that you want to bake quick cookies and realize the recipe requires the dough to be chilled for an hour or so. For impromptu cookies, you need a recipe that does not require that extra step. There is not wait time involved in these tea cake cookies. 

For Southerners, tea cakes might be a familiar term but for the rest of the world, it needs some explanation. Tea cakes are not cakes but cookies. There are many different recipes for tea cakes, both in terms of ingredients (butter, shortening), shapes (cut into rounds or irregularly shaped and dropped by hand), and flavors (lemon, vanilla, or nutmeg). 

The nostalgic character of these cakes reverberates in names such as Grandma’s tea cakes, or Deep South old-fashioned tea cakes. One of the most famous tea cakes were served at the Edenton Tea Party, one of the earliest women’s rallies for the American “taxation without representation” protest against the British in Edenton, North Carolina, in 1774. The cookies were named after the occasion, Edenton Tea Party cakes. 

This is a simple recipe of tea cakes with butter, eggs, and flour. It uses baking soda and cream of tartar as a leaving agent. Adding cream of tartar makes prevents the sugar from crystallizing and makes the cookies especially soft, which is a key characteristic of tea cakes.

You can build on this basic recipe in many ways. You can add lemon zest, vanilla, or a pinch of grated nutmeg to the dough. Instead of flattening the cookies with a glass dipped in sugar, use vanilla sugar or colored sugar. Or try this buttermilk tea cake variation. 

Store the cookies at room temperature in airtight containers for up to one week. 




  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients and preheat the oven to 350 F.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, or grease lightly.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Combine the sugar and butter in a mixer bowl, beating until light and fluffy.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. In another bowl, combine the flour, ​baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  6. Add the dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  7. Shape the cookie dough into small balls and arrange on the prepared cookie sheet.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  8. Press flat with the bottom of a glass, using a small square of parchment paper between glass and dough so the glass won't stick. Optional: Dip the glass in sugar before flattening each cookie. If using sugar, you do not need to use the parchment to prevent sticking.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  9. Bake for 10 minutes.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce
  10. Serve and enjoy.

    Easy Tea Cake Cookies Recipe
     The Spruce