Mama’s Tea Cakes

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A dish of tea cakes beside a teapot.

Do you ever crave a simple homemade cookie made with lots of tasty flavors? This recipe fits the bill! It’s an old fashioned tea cake made with Steen’s Syrup for a sweet molasses-like taste. The original instructions say to mix the dough with your bare hands. A little messy, yes, but worth the extra cleanup.

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A friend recently asked if I had a recipe for Tea Cakes and I told her, “No, but I know who does!”

These Tea Cakes are a flat, dense, large cookie. These “Mama’s Tea Cakes” were introduced to me by my mother-in-law, Clarice Hartshorn. She often gets asked for her to make more by those who taste them.

Mom found the recipe for these traditional southern molasses (or syrup) flavored pastries from a cookbook published in 1978. It was by the Women of First Assembly of God in Minden, LA. So this recipe comes from Louisiana by way of my Mississippi mother-in-law.

Here’s a picture of her find taken from that cookbook.

Copy of Mama's Tea Cakes recipe.

As you can see, the amount of flour is not listed in the ingredients but rather it says to mix in a large bowl of sifted flour (by hand).

Hand Mixing

When I asked Mom what this meant she said that’s how they used to mix their cookie dough. I thought about her mother and how I used to watch Mamaw make biscuits in a wooden bowl full of self-rising flour.

Mamaw would take the bowl out from the cabinet, remove the dishtowel that covered it and make a well in the center with the back of her hand. Then she’d add shortening and buttermilk (without measuring) into the well and work them into the flour until the dough was the consistency she desired. Those biscuits were a work of art as she’d pat them into rounds and lay them onto an iron skillet before popping them into a hot oven.

After covering the bowl of flour back up and returning it to the cabinet she’d then retrieve the skillet from the oven and turn those cooked biscuits onto a plate to serve with butter and her homemade cane syrup. It was always an intimidating process that kept me from even attempting to make homemade biscuits until later in my married life.

Well, I did finally learn how to master making biscuits and I share the recipe here in this Foolproof Biscuit Making 101. You should give them a try. So easy and less mess since I use a spoon to mix!

I regret not letting Mamaw teach me her way. I can still hear her giggle when I’d decline her offer. So don’t be like me and shrink back from making these “Mama’s Tea Cakes” the way this recipe gives instructions to.

Let’s get our hands dirty and work with the dough until it’s stiff enough to roll into a ball.

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A dish of teacakes beside a teapot.

Mama’s Tea Cakes

Cookies flavored with Steen’s Syrup for an old fashioned molasses taste.

  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 72 cookies 1x



7  1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

3 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons ground ginger

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups pure cane syrup (molasses may be substituted)

1 cup salted butter, softened


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, and ginger.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs, butter, and syrup.

Mix together the ingredients with your hands until well blended.

Roll dough in between hands to make 1″ – 1 1/2″ balls then place onto a cookie sheet and flatten with fingers into round disk.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes.

Remove cookies from cookie sheets and place on cooling rack to cool.


Make balls small or large, according to your preference.

  • Author: Louisiana Woman
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12-15 minutes
  • Category: Sweets, Desserts
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Tea Cakes

My mother-in-law rolls them into a 1 to 1-1/2 inch ball in her hands before flattening them to bake. They do expand a little after baking.

When I asked her what kind of syrup she uses I was so happy to hear her say Steen’s Syrup. You know that made my Louisiana heart smile!

Can of Steen's Syrup.

“That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.”

Abraham Lincoln

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    • Thanks for letting me know! My husband is not a fan of ginger so I’m glad to know that’s a good option. Glad you enjoyed them!

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