Not everyone knows about tea cakes. They are plain cookies that go well with milk or nothing at all. Yes, they are the perfect gift for kids to leave under the tree for Santa. Just months ago, I started searching the web for the recipe. I found several variations, but only one that seems to be universal.I have tried to learn the history of tea cakes, but there is no documented proof of their background. There is evidence that the tea cake is known throughout America and perhaps in much of the world. Some say that it originated with the British. The Fannie Farmer cook book does have a recipe that uses yeast and is more like a cake. Others say that tea cakes are a product of slavery, an inexpensive means of making use of what was available to make cookies. I can tell you that today nutmeg isn’t all that cheap.
If you put all the stories together you can quickly conclude that the tea cake has its roots in various origins. In fact, the way folks consume them in north Florida, tea is an unusual accompaniment. As simple as they are to make, they are a quaint little desert or snack. They are not too sweet, but with the nutmeg they carry a unique smell and taste. Considering other ingredients such as baking soda and butter, one can say that they are possibly a distant cousin to the gingersnap.
It took three tries for me to find my momma’s old recipe, the first attempt ending up being butter cookies. According to friends and family they were “delicious,” but they were not tea cakes. They were too crisp and too thin. The second recipe produced the right texture, but the taste wasn’t right and again, they were too thin. Then I tried Rosie’s recipe. I didn’t have to change anything, so here it is:
Rosie says it took her 10 years to find the right recipe. Thanks to her it only took me a couple of months. Now if I can just find my dad’s old recipe for making candy out of sugar cane syrup!