Two Days of Tea Cakes: Day 1, Mama’s Tea Cakes
A friend recently asked if I had a Tea Cake recipe and I told her, “No, but my mother-in-law does!” These flat, dense, large cookies made with flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and flavoring quickly becomes a frequent request from those my mother-in-law, Clarice Hartshorn (I call her Mom), shares them with. When she first set out to find a recipe for these traditional southern molasses (or syrup here) flavored pastry she went to a cookbook that was published in 1978 by 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. As you can see the amount of flour is not listed in the ingredients but rather it says to mix in large bowl of sifted flour (by hand).
When I asked Mom what this meant she said that’s how they used to mix the ingredients with flour. I thought about her mother and how I used to watch Mamaw make biscuits in a wooden bowl full of self-rising flour. She’d take that bowl out from the cabinet, remove the dish towel that covered it and make a well in the middle of the flour 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 disks 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 and 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. Thanks to my friend Louise from Monroe who took the time to give me a measured ingredient recipe and walk me through her homemade biscuits 101 tutorial. So easy! 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 teacakes the way this recipe gives instruction to. Let’s get our hands dirty and work with the dough until it’s stiff enough to roll into a ball. Here’s the recipe:
3 1/2 teaspoon soda
4 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups syrup (molasses may be substituted)
3/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ginger
1 cup butter, softened
Mix in large bowl of sifted flour (by hand). I measured how much flour I sifted into the bowl and it came to about 7-1/2 cups of sifted all-purpose flour. I ended up incorporating all of the flour into the dough.
Make dough stiff enough to roll into a small ball; pat out flat and bake.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 – 15 minutes.
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!
That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well. Abraham Lincoln