Tea Cakes


Tea cakes! Seriously, who has afternoon tea? It sounds so lovely, but I don’t have time in the middle of my busy afternoon to sit down and have tea, but ooooh, it sounds so nice. I want to have tea, does that count? I wonder if my great-grandmother, pioneer on the Oklahoma plains and keeper of this 1927 Butterick Book of Recipes, took time out of her pioneerish day to have tea? Well, maybe not on a regular basis, but apparently sometimes. She has a check mark by this recipe, so she used it and she liked it. So in her honor, and by your request, and because I love to bake, I made it!

This is taken directly from the cookbook, with my notes/questions in parentheses.

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How to make Tea Cakes:

1 tablespoon melted fat
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts

(What is melted fat??? I used shortening….) Cream the fat with the sugar, add the beaten egg (when did they even say to beat the egg?), then add the milk alternately with the sifted ingredients. (When did they say to combine and sift the ingredients? What ingredients? I assumed they meant the baking powder and flour. And I didn’t sift it. Sifting is for the birds. The only thing I ever sift is powdered sugar because it makes better icing if you sift it….)

Lastly, add the floured nuts. (WHAT floured nuts? They said to SIFT! If I wasn’t sifting the baking powder and flour, what was I sifting? Now the nuts are supposed to be floured? When/where did that happen? I just dumped the nuts in there. Unfloured. I’m a rogue.)

Bake in greased muffin pans at 400-425 degrees (WHAT?! I have a choice??? I have a digital oven, so I set it at 412-degrees. I’m indecisive.) for 20 minutes.

(Notice I filled the muffin cups relatively full. It worked out just fine.)

Split each cake, butter it, and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon or with grated maple sugar and chopped nuts. (What is maple sugar? I want some, whatever it is.)

Serve with afternoon tea!

(These were really good! For breakfast. I don’t have time for afternoon tea.)

See this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

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  1. Amy says:

    If I had afternoon tea, I’d be up until three in the morning!

    I had maple sugar when we were in Canada last year. ::sigh:: I should have brought more home. It’s WONDERFUL. I think you can get maple sugar at Whole Foods (I’m just now running out from our Canada trip, so I can’t remember if that’s where I got it or not), or try this


    and scroll to the bottom for granulated maple sugar. Though those maple sugar BLOCKS look…interesting.

    I have a tea ring recipe. I’ll have to try your tea cakes someday, when my nut and milk allergic children move out.

  2. Doris says:

    those look so good. I bet Clover will love them with her afternoon tea !

  3. Lola-Dawn says:

    :wave: What a pretty tea set. Some days I really wish my life was slow enough for afternoon tea. Let’s all MAKE an afternoon tea break/date!

  4. heidi says:

    They sound suspiciously like muffins to me. Did they taste like muffins? Not that I have any problems with muffins- only I like to call a muffin a muffin and not a tea cake. I’m just sayin….

  5. jan-n'-tn says:

    Suzanne- I cook a lot, but never bake without a recipe. Being a directions kind of person, when it says to add ‘flour’, I need to know how much and what kind. There are at least four white flours, because they are all in my frig. :hissyfit: Oh, I just noticed that the LITTLE CHOCOLATE CAKES calls for ‘pastry flour’. Would that be like bread flour or more like Jiffy box flour? I would have to choose a different recipe, it’s so confusing. :wall: So, what kind of flour did you use for the crullers recipe last week? I’d really like to make those. And I’m going to assume that the TEA CAKES used plain flour because baking-powder was involved- did I guess right? They look scrumptious!

  6. shannon says:

    oh, and how do you cream melted fat with the sugar? hmmm??? maybe that block of maple sugar amy was talkin’ about is what you would grate? i had an old recipe book before…the things that didn’t sound gross were just confusing…obsolete ingredients.
    oh hey! maybe you can answer this…my great-aunt used to make zucchini pickles. the recipe i found in her box (not in her writing) called for hydrated lime….any thoughts on how i get my hands on some? google and wiki tell me it’s also pickling lime, and all sorts of derivitives are used in things other than cooking. no idear where to pick it up. do i need to know a chemist?
    you are my guru =)

  7. Sarita says:

    Easy recipe, and looks yummy. Love the teapot!

  8. G says:

    Wow- I never realized that everyone here was a real Southerner! Maple sugar is a candy used as a sweetening agent in the north, where maple syrup was the original. Here:
    Maple sugar is what remains after the sap of the sugar maple is boiled for longer than is needed to create maple syrup or maple taffy.[1] Once almost all the water has been boiled off, all that is left is a solid sugar.[2] By composition, this sugar is about 90% sucrose, the remainder consisting of variable amounts of glucose and fructose.[3] This is usually sold in pressed blocks or as a translucent candy.[4] It is difficult to create as the sugar easily burns and thus requires considerable skill.[5] It was the preferred form of First Nations/Native American peoples as the sugar could easily be transported and lasted a long time. It was once called ‘sinzibukwud’.[6][7] It is today used to flavor some maple products and can be used as an alternative to cane sugar. Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as standard granulated sugar.[8]

    From Wikipedia. As a child, it was always a treat when it was syrup season and we would get small maple sugar forms and suck them until they melted. I miss maple sugar in Europe:(

  9. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Heidi, no, they didn’t taste like muffins. They taste like nut cake.

    Jan, I’m always using regular all-purpose flour in recipes unless I specify otherwise.

    Shannon, I don’t know anything about pickling lime, so I’m no help there. Maybe somebody here will know!

  10. Becky says:

    Suzanne, it’s a good thing you are an experienced cook! That could have confused someone to the point of give up!
    The look delicious.

  11. FringeGirl says:

    My neighbor, a pastry chef, told me to sift my flour. I was like “People actually do that?” I wouldn’t have floured the nuts either. I mean, what’s the point?

  12. jane says:

    They look great and love the tea set. the reason you flour the nuts or any fruit you put in the batter is so they wont all fall to the bottom. the flour shome how helps them to distribute in the muffin so you get nuts with each bite so to speak. i do it all the time and it does make a difference. I would think you could get pickling lime where canning supplies are sold. i think it is probably pickling salt but check. I have a tea cake recipe in a cook book that is from the 1880s. I made them once and i think i quit at about 5 dozen. must have been some party

  13. Niki says:

    Maple Sugar is made by boiling down maple syrup until only the granulated sugar is left. We make it every year at our sugar bush, it is delicious, if you every get the opportunity to try some.

  14. Latane says:

    My Mother made ‘tea cakes’ at Christmas. Hers was like a sugar cookie and I remember her rubbing the mixture together with her hands until it was like fine meal. Then she would mash it all together to make the dough, roll it out and cut it with a drinking glass. When baked she put homemade chocolate icing between two of them like a sandwich. Oh man, were they good!! :bananadance:

  15. IowaCowgirl says:

    Can I come over for tea? Only if you use that tea set… :heart:

  16. Laura says:

    Melted fat is just melted lard. I love my grammie’s recipes that call for oleo (margarine for those like me who look at that word questioningly). Also, teatime was a minimeal, since dinner (or supper in some parts of the country) was served late in the evening. If you go to South Asia, about 5 or 6 in the evening is tea, while dinner is served about 10 o’clock. This is after a lunch that is served about 1 in the afternoon.

    Good for you for taking the time for yourself every now and again. I think every woman needs that more often than she lets herself do it.

    Enjoy your teatime. :heart:

  17. Kim W says:

    What’s that book say about scones? Blueberry scones, in particular.

    Blessings from Ohio…

  18. Melissa's Cozy Teacup says:

    Okay now, you know I love your blogs, your books, you and your cute little farm, but I just HAD to say something about your afternoon tea remark. First: Thank you for calling it afternoon tea. People have been getting it wrong and it’s silly of me to care but I do because I’m all weird like that. Second: Tasha Tudor, a well know illustrator and author who ran her own farm and even dipped her own bees wax candles all while wearing old fashioned clothes, ALWAYS made time for tea every afternoon at 4. It was an essential part of her day. Try it, at least once. You make such yummy goodies. I’ll bet princess and giant puppy would get a big kick out of it. If you need a kick start, send me your address and I’ll send you some goodies. https://www.tashatudorandfamily.com

  19. jane says:

    Melissa – how right you are girlfriend!!! i think it is important to try to pause in the day to reflect, rest, take stock. tea time is a good time. I try to do it almost every day when I can so I am not rushing through the day so fast. i love tea and tea rooms. like being bundled up next to a warm fire, feeilng secure and protected, just being. I have many teapots, some from the 30s, 50s, modern ones too and one from the 30s that I cant find a price on probably bec it is so rare. One that is form the 20s possibly – very old. and yes you must have tea in a china cup or at least a warm mug – pls whatever you do no styrofoam or paper – it is just nto the same thing at all. i keep cups in my office and refuse to use paper or styrofoam – besides it is bad for the environment. I helped a lady once find teapots at thrift stores for table centerpieces with flowers for a tea part. I also have some mini tea pots too. some i put out for fall with flowers in them.

  20. Becky says:

    So why do some recipes have x’s and some have checkmarks? What’s the code???

  21. cgReno says:

    About twice a month a friend and I have real “Tea Party”.
    Sometimes its 3pm, sometimes its 7am. What ever works, and its a small ritual that we both love. We bake something special, usually scones or muffins and its perfect. A small moment in busy lives for something that feels incredibly civilized. Thank you for providing a new receipe!

  22. Connie says:

    Ok, for those of us who are insanely jealous of your 1927 cookbook, I just wanted to let everyone know that you can still get it!

    I bought it off Amazon, from an independant bookseller, for about $5. I got it last week, and I love it.

    It is not half as special because it doesn’t have the family history attached, but I do like to think that I can use it, and pass a piece of history on to my daughter.

    Also! I was tickled to find a large selection of thrifty vegetarian recipes. How cool is that??

    Anyway, thanks Suzann for turning me on to this awesome little book!

  23. Gloria Jean says:

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you again for adding the printable version of the recipe!

  24. hawkswench says:

    Pastry flour or cookie flour or cracker flour has slightly higher gluten content than cake flour but lower than all-purpose flour. It is suitable for fine, light-textured pastries
    I think a lot of old cookbooks go under the assumption that most of the women who used them learn to cook and bake as a little girl so they would already know the little tricks.
    I know I always flour nuts, soak raisins in hot water before adding so they don’t absorb moisture from the batter during baking. I also sift any dry ingredient otherwise you get lumps (baking soda for example)that don’t break up during the mixing process.

  25. TeresaH says:

    mmm…those sound good! I also have some old cookbooks that have ingredients and directions that make me think!

  26. Terry says:

    I have found that flouring the nuts or raisins keep them from sinking to the bottom. Love your cook book. I have one from 1947.

  27. Jodie says:

    I’m from Texas, so I had no clue about maple sugar. Sounds good. The tea cakes that I’ve seen previously or at least read about in cookbooks are like thicker/harder sugar cookies. I like this recipe. I might have to make some for Christmas since that’s usually the only time I ever bake. My hubby (diabetic) does all our cooking so I rarely look at a recipe any more.

  28. robin says:

    wonderful – nice size in the muffin tins…
    isn’t it funny how so much back then was understood when
    baking or cooking? and generations of us haven’t the
    relationships of family to lean back on…makes me want
    to get my daughter and granddaughter in the kitchen to
    learn what i know from my mom!
    the pickling lime is in my grocery store…where the canning
    supplies are…

  29. anne says:

    Oh, how lovely your tea cakes look !
    Your teapot is beautiful.

  30. Judy Mitchell says:

    The teapot is too beautiful not to use. You can have “tea time” anytime 🙂

    On the “floured” nuts: Tossing them with a bit of flour keeps them from all sinking to the bottom in thinner batter.
    I bet this batter was thick enough to hold ’em up anyway.

    Pastry flour can be made by using half cake flour and half all purpose. It makes for a finer texture…that’s all.


  31. Brandy says:

    You know….maple spread might be yummy on those, too. *G* I buy it at Whole Foods, but it can be found online. Thanks for the recipe.

  32. Shirley says:

    I used to make Molasses Tea cakes for my husband’s grandmother. She had them growing up, but didn’t bake anymore(poor eyesight) so I would make them.

    I think she liked them too, because she didn’t share them.

  33. Donna says:

    Suzanne, you won’t believe this..I was JUST getting ready to have afternoon tea, when I decided to catch the blog first – I am later today (DH had diff. hours today). LOL My mother used to have a cup of demitasse coffee in the afternoon, some…and I like that too, decaf.
    But, right now, I am doing tea. I also love Anne Barone’s Chic and Slim site online about afternoon tea, as the French do it.
    I wonder too why they rolled nuts in flour first. In my step grandmother’s fruitcake (on your forum), she says to roll the candied fruit and nuts in flour first. I wish she were alive to ask WHY? I do NOT like nuts in my breads or cakes – I hate the hard texture mixed with the soft texture. It’s a texture thing. But, I love them toasted on top/baked on top.
    Maple sugar – could it be that Maple sugar candy – the little leaves and Pilgrims, we used to get in Rhode Island and all over? Grate them? Just a thought.
    So, now I will go have that tea. LOL
    The goats are so precious! :sheepjump:

  34. catslady says:

    My newly married daughter likes to bake (not cook – hubby does that – lucky her) and she just made her first cake from scratch for her dad’s birthday yesterday. I bet she would love to try these!

  35. Estella says:

    The tea cakes look delicious!

  36. Susan says:

    I always have tea at lunchtime and these tea cakes would be wonderful for lunch! :thumbsup:

  37. Shari C says:

    I am not a tea drinker, but the tea cakes sound wonderful and would enjoy for probably breakfast.

  38. NikkiInWalton says:

    They turned out well! :snoopy: Very tasty!

  39. Rachel from Maine says:

    Maple sugar is what you get when you boil the sap past the stage for maple syrup. You can make your own by boiling maple syrup to 238 degrees, pour it into a bowl and stir until it becomes granulated.
    It’s really good when you make your baked beans with it. Yum! :wave:

  40. Sue says:

    Tea Cakes are an old East Texas Tradition. Here they are more like sugar cookies without much sugar. My kids called them “Wall Paper Paste Cookies.” They ate them anyway. They had no nuts, and were basically a pastry recipe with egg and baking powder. Once I threw in some vanilla and then the kids called them Flavored Wall Paper Paste Cookies. They learned to load them up with jelly, which pretty much wiped out the low sugar benefit, but, hey…they worked for an after school snack.

  41. Ruth says:

    Suzanne, sweetie, unless your grandmother was living in the western portion of Oklahoma in 1927 (Your cookbook date.), which is where the plains area is, I’m not sure how much pioneering she was doing then. Even if the book was being used later, in spite of the date, Oklahoma had been pretty settled for quite awhile and had a lot of large cities in the 20’s!! You should see the picture I have of my grandmother in a Flapper dress and standing on the running board of a car! Granted statehood wasn’t achieved until 1907, there were a lot of people who had already settled in what was then Indian Territory before the official land run. Which is the reason we are also known as “Sooners”, and not because of the football team from Ok University.

  42. Suzanne McMinn says:

    Ruth, yes, I am talking about rural western Oklahoma, and of course my great-grandparents’ “real” pioneering took place in the early 1900s, long before my great-grandmother got this cookbook in 1927. My great-grandfather claimed land and built a house carrying materials on wagonloads across the prairie (from those settled areas you talk about) then married and brought my great-grandmother out there when the house was ready (all of this pre-1907).

  43. Christy O says:

    In Little House on the Prairie, maple sugar was their everyday sugar and they only used white sugar for guests.

  44. Natalie says:

    They look amazing – and I LOVE that tea set. I try and make room for afternoon tea in my life, even if it’s just a cup of really good tea while I’m working. But it’s so much better if you can squeeze in a little treat to go with it. These look perfect!

  45. beejay says:

    You flour the nuts (or fruit, or chocolate chips) so that they don’t sink to the bottom when the stuff bakes. It’s more important for cakes/breads – like you don’t want all the nuts in your banana nut bread sitting at the bottom when you cut it. 😉
    It’s a trick my mother taught me and one I tried to pass onto a Marine Captain who like to bake. Try telling a Marine to put flour on his nuts and see what happens. Heh.

  46. Kelly says:

    This cracked me up.

    I too long for afternoon tea, but I want eclectic, mismatched tea cups and invite guests over for some tea with me.

  47. Katydid says:

    I came to your site because I googled “yellow cake mix” and found you there. Then I (after using your cake mix for a recipe on Gina’s Skinny Recipes for her pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting)had to come back and check you out. This tea cake recipe and your comments CRACKED me up. I love your humor, totally like my own. I’ll be checking your blog regularly 🙂 :dancingmonster:

  48. zteagirl71 says:

    I have that teapot! And many others…and I’ve collected many cups and saucers thinking I would open a tearoom. Oh well…maybe some day.The teacakes look great, you know it’s gonna be good when a recipe starts with ‘melted fat!’😉

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