Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Tea Cakes Recipe

Old fashioned buttermilk tea cakes

The Spruce 

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 60 servings
Yield: 60 teacakes
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
95 Calories
3g Fat
15g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 60
Amount per serving
Calories 95
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 17mg 6%
Sodium 45mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 17mg 0%
*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.)

Old-fashioned tea cakes are a Southern classic. Despite their name, tea cakes are not a cake, but, rather, a soft, sweet cookie with a cake-like texture. As their name implies, tea cakes were meant to be enjoyed with a cup of tea.

The list of ingredients to make tea cakes is short and simple, which reflects a time when food had to be stretched to feed a family, and people made do with their limited resources. The result is a refreshingly simple, comforting, and nostalgic treat that remains popular to this day.

These old-fashioned tea cakes get a modern update with electric mixer instructions and preparation tips, but the formula is close to the original method. Buttermilk adds a pleasant hint of tang, but otherwise the cookies are plain and not overly sweet. If you crave more sweetness, you can add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar to the recipe.

For easy rolling, lightly flour (or dust with confectioners' sugar) a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper, then flour the top of the dough. Put another piece of waxed paper or parchment paper on top of the dough and gently roll it out. This method reduces the amount of flour you would otherwise have to add to keep the dough from sticking.


  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, measured using spoon and sweep method

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for old fashioned buttermilk tea cakes
    The Spruce
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and mix to blend well. Set aside.

  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

    Combine butter
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  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until smooth and well-mixed.

    Beat the eggs
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  5. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and finishing with the flour, to make a stiff dough. 

    Add the flour mixture
    The Spruce
  6. Divide the dough into 3 equal balls and flatten them into disks. Wrap each dough disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

    Shape the tea cakes into discs
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  7. Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

    Line baking sheets
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  8. Remove 1 disk from the refrigerator. On a floured surface, or between 2 sheets of floured waxed or parchment paper, roll it out approximately 1/4-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out circles approximately 2 inches in diameter.

    Cut out disks
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  9. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheet and bake until golden brown around the edges, 12 to 14 minutes.

    Bake until light brown
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  10. Cool completely on a rack. Store at room temperature in airtight containers.


These cookies are delicious as is, but they are also a blank canvas for more flavor. If desired, try adding 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or nutmeg to the batter. Other additions can include almond extract and lemon zest.

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