The tea cake is the madeleine of the American south. Like the madeleine it is a very basic, sugar, flour, butter, eggs concoction. It is the sort of thing our elders served when people came over in the afternoon. It’s simple and a bit dense, the sort of thing you’d dip into a cup of tea. Unlike the madeleine, the tea cake is a shape shifter. But more on that later.
These are the ingredients. The eggs are sitting in warm water because I forgot to bring them to room temperature:
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 eggs
–cream these ingredients and then add:
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon soda
The dough will look like this:
An important thing to remember is that there is a lot of flour in this dough. It isn’t sticky. I think that’s why it’s so easy to roll out.
This is only half the dough the recipe made. I rolled the dough into two logs and put them in the fridge while I considered my next move. I decided I’d make little cakes, and put dough inside a mini- muffin tin. I sprinkled the dough with sugar.
Here’s the mini-muffin tin. And now, a confession. Although I liked these, they were not a hit with everyone in my house. My husband thought they were too dry. One son liked them a lot. Another son said they were just way too rich. He had a quarter of a cake and that was it for him. I left them in the kitchen at work, and they did disappear. This might not be the best measure of yumminess. Stale cheerios will disappear from that kitchen, if you are patient enough.
I began to think about the denseness problem, and had an inspiration. If I rolled the dough out very, very thin, maybe the cookies wouldn’t be so overwhelming. And then I remembered those farm animal cookie cutters, the ones I’ve never used because, well, I’ve always been too busy to use things like that. Or thought I was. But this summer — and the rest of my life — is going to be different. I’m using our stuff. But I digress.
Here they are — cute huh? Animals. I cooked these in a 325 degree oven for eight minutes, then took them out, turned the cookie sheet around and cooked them for another eight minutes. They’re done when they’re brown and smell really good.
Apples are nice too.
This is what I mean by the shape shifting properties of this dough. Roll it thin and cut it out with any cutter you like and it will be whatever you wish. How many things in life are like that?
Here are my family’s reactions:
- Husband: The thinner the better. (Not you, of course, just the dough. Your shape is perfect.)
- My youngest son: They’re good. I like the fat ones better, because you get more.
- One of my older sons: Good job mom. I’d like these in my lunch. They’re like chessmen cookies.
- Other son. Too busy talking on the phone with a friend to say much. Thumbs up.
Have a cookie, darlin’: