A question we are commonly asked here at the Texas Tea Cake Company is "What is a tea cake?" According to historians, the American tea cake was created over 200 years ago by African slaves in the southeastern United States. Tea cakes were initially made by plantation cooks for the guest of white slave owners. These tea cakes, which Etha Robinson describes as rustic approximations of European teacakes1, were typically made with simple ingredients such as sugar, molasses, eggs, and vanilla when available.
Following emancipation, tea cakes became a staple of southern heritage2. Because they used fairly simple, on-hand ingredients, both richer and poorer households could make tea cakes for special occasions or just regular days. Nearly every southern family has someone (a Big Mama, an uncle, a Gama, a grandfather) in their family tree who made tea cakes. As Kelly Starling Lyons notes in her children’s book Tea Cakes for Tash, tea cakes are about more than the cookie itself, they are about making a connection.
What does a tea cake taste like?
Well, that depends on who you ask. Tea cakes have a very distinctive and unique taste. We have heard the taste of tea cakes described in many ways:
Sugar cookies with spices
Butter cookies with a cake-like consistency
Sweet cornbread or pound cake in a cookie–biscuits form
Here at the Texas Tea Cake Company we say that tea cakes taste like a less buttery shortbread cookie with vanilla, spices, and a hint of sweetness.
But the best way to know what a tea cake tastes like, is to try one yourself! Click here to order your tea cakes today.