Ahhhhh…the sweet smell of summer and with it, the taste of light and fluffy southern tea cakes. Southern food historians say tea cakes evolved from an English recipe brought to America by British settlers in the 18th century. The basic recipe was passed by word-of-mouth for generations, but now we are seeing the varieties more and more here in the south.  We southern gals love to share them at every event from real girly girl tea parties to church events and even with friends who might need a little pick me up.

I am quite a vanilla bean fan, so when I found a recipe that allowed me to scrape out a little “bean love”, I was excited about putting my own touches to it.    Remember with tea cakes, the trick is to make sure the thickness is correct with each tea cookie.

So girls, it’s time to break out your tea sets and get a few gals over on a summer day.



¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup butter-flavored shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, room temperature

½ vanilla bean, scraped

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ cup buttermilk



Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl or electric mixer (I love the sound of an electric mixer), cream together butter and shortening until creamy. Mix in sugar until well combined. Add your egg and finally, place the vanilla bean paste in with your mix. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk. Turn dough onto a smooth surface and knead until the dough is soft. Shape into a log and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.  You can also freeze for about 25 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Remove dough from fridge and plastic wrap. Knead the dough to soften it, but don’t over knead and make it too soft.  Roll dough back into your log. I typically roll the dough on parchment to prevent sticking.  Use a very sharp knife and cut your dough at about ¼ inch. You might want to wipe down your knife each time to keep the dough cookie-perfect round.

Place cookies on prepared pan about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms are lightly golden.  Do not overcook the cookies.   Remove from pan and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling and enjoy!