Little Tea Cakes recipe

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tea cakes on a white plateI enjoy cooking, but I love baking. I’m not quite sure where I get it from because I come from a mother who believed cut-and-bake tubed dough was homemade. Her mother wasn’t much into baking, either. She was more of a “Flowers in the Attic” grandmother than a milk and cookies grandma. I mean, she made us call her “Grandmother”, for goodness sake. She owned a nursing home and lived in her own apartment above the business, so if you asked for a cookie, she’d direct us to the industrial kitchen downstairs where one of the cooks kept a tin of Oreos on hand for the grandkids. Very nurturing.

Now all of that being said, my grandmother believed in appearances. If someone she knew from church or her bridge club were going to be around, she’d bake her Little Tea Cakes. I remember sneaking these and wondering why in the world she never made them for us, to the point that I anxiously awaited these strangers visiting her so that I could reap the benefits. Picture the lightest, fluffiest, moistest cookie you can imagine with a hint of lemon. Wipe the drool away, folks.

Okay, so a little background on the recipe: my grandmother was the first person from her Scotch family born in this country and not Scotland. This recipe literally came over on the boat from Scotland. My great-grandmother loved to make them and have them with a “wee cuppa tea” (my mother recalls she had a lovely Scottish brogue). Now, being the kind and generous gal that I am, my heirloom recipe is now yours!

Little Tea Cakes (this recipe yields a little over 4 dozen)

  • 1 c. Butter, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract (the original recipe uses lemon and you get a stronger flavor using it, but I have used orange and lime extracts and the results are delightful, so feel free to experiment with this)
  • 1 c. sour cream (the original recipe calls for regular sour cream, but I use light with essentially the same results)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda stirred into the sour cream
  • 3 1/2 c. flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and extract. Add sour cream/baking soda mixture, beating on low and only until incorporated. Fold in flour by hand.
3. Drop by rounded tablespoon (I love those mini cookie dough scoops) on cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.
4. Let cool on cookie sheet for a minute or so before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Make sure to cool cakes completely before storing or they will stick together closer than a Siamese twin.

The original recipe called for topping the cake with a single raisin before baking. I find that doing this gives you a cookie that greatly resembles a boob, so that can be a great conversation starter. I kinda hate raisins, so I tend to skip that part of the recipe. Typically, I’ll sprinkle them with sugar before baking. I used orange-colored sugar sprinkles on the pictured cookies because I made them with orange extract.

If I’m trying to be fancy, I’ll make this glaze:

  • 1 c. confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 T. lemon juice (if you made the cookies with a different type of extract, use the corresponding juice)
  • 1 T. lemon zest (or other corresponding zest)

Stir ingredients together and brush over cakes with pastry brush. Let glaze dry completely before putting cakes in a container.

Try not to eat them by the fistful!


  • krista

    Lives in the middle of nowhere with her amazing hubby and two codependent dogs that love to hate each other. She enjoys dance parties of one and last minute road trips, prays for Angela Lansbury's immortality and can never own enough blush. She averages one "Silence of the Lambs" quote a week and feels no shame over this. Perhaps she should. skin tone: NW15 skin type: sensitive/oily favorite beauty product: Blush, lots and lots of blush


  1. Yum! I’ve never made tea cakes. These sound really good. I love that this is a family recipe. Those are always the best kind. I’m going to try out your recipe this weekend. I’m having a major sweet tooth lately.

  2. They sound so good! I don’t like to bake but I do if it isn’t too complicated. I think I could do this. A family recipe is best because of all the memories.
    I’ll let you know how I did.

  3. PS. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  4. sarahstrawberry says:

    I know what I’m doing today instead of studying for finals… Thanks for the recipe, Krista!

  5. If there’s one thing those Brits/Scots/Irish Lass know, it’s tea! So I have to assume these tea cakes go beautifully with a cuppa. My British hub doesn’t like sweets, he’s a weirdo. The only exception is a nice “biscuit” with the occasional cup of tea. I think he’d love these, and I could bake something and not have to scarf it all down myself. Win-win!

  6. Those sound really good. I think I’d stick with Lemon–yum! And they’re an easy shortbread, so even “non-bakers” could make these!

  7. What a yummy sounding recipe! Thank you so much for posting it. I am going to make these for our coveted teatime. We enjoy whole leaf teatime everyday at our house, and I think that these little numbers would be a wonderful addition!

  8. Mmm, those look like some tasty cookies, Krista! And i agree with Stef, the brits make great cookies to work with all that tea and these look like a great homemade option (as opposed to paying too much money at the Import shop for a tin of biscuits).

    Now, the important question – where did you get those fab tins in the background of the pic? Are they vintage? Very cute – I want some of those too!

  9. You’re welcome, everybody! I hope you all love this recipe as much as I do. I wasn’t kidding about trying not to eat them by the fistful :)
    Tyna—I got those tins from Homegoods a few years ago, so they just look vintage, but I’m constantly seeing them even today. I’ve also seen them make an appearance at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I thought it was kinda cool that Paula Deen had them in one of her shows in the background.

  10. friendofpyrex says:

    These sound delicious! I can’t wait to try the recipe! Thanks for sharing, Krista!

  11. Can’t wait to try these too! Can’t wait to have them with a wee cup o’ tea :)

  12. monkeyboy says:

    I can attest to the absolute deliciousness of the tea cakes. I can also attest to the desire to eat them by the fistful. Krista may not know where her love of baking comes from, but thank goodness for me (if not my waistline) that she loves something so delightful.

  13. candydarling says:

    Great photo shoot! Tea cakes to me are dry but these are so moist and yummy I like to call them “cookies.” Make them and you will be hooked.
    I can attest to Krista’s baking prowess. A co-worker of mine said he will be there with bells on when she brings a batch into work. She told him if he literally wears bells she’ll give him a dozen. He showed me the bells he is going to wear! Krista is a baking goddess!

  14. Ha, that’s awesome! What type of bells? Are they on his shoes? Around his neck? Inquiring minds need to know…

  15. Hahaha…Bill actually brought in bells? Like Tyna, I need to know what kind. Too bad Bindhi was sick and I didn’t come in bearing cookies. It must have been like the worst day of his life. And he works for the government, so that’s really saying something… :)

  16. Krista was it a TJ Maxx in PA? I must find those tins they are so awesome. Of course if I find them I have to buy two of each and send them to T.
    I will be making tea cakes sometime this week. I’ve been having a sucky month and need a good comfort food.

  17. Sounds like a perfect recipe for Tea Cakes. I can’t wait to try them…Thanks Much

  18. Susan—I bought them when I was in CT, but I HAVE seen them in PA. I’ve seen them at the Homegoods/Marshalls in Glen Mills and even in Exton, so they’re around this area. I also sent a link to Tyna for them on ebay. I tried to send the link to you, but your email must have changed. Hit me up with your new one. You will love the tea cakes. They are the epitome of comfort. I’m sorry your month has been sucky, my sweet :(

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