My mother was the youngest of 14 children (I can’t even comprehend that!). And I was her younger child. So by the time I came along my grandmother, always referred to as “Grannie,” didn’t do much of anything but sit beside the fire and crochet. My older cousins remember making tea cakes with her. One of them sent me the recipe long ago. I didn’t even remember I had it until we moved. But there it was … not just the recipe but also a sweet note about the memory of making them with Grannie. My mother taught me so much about cooking and always let me “help.” For some reason she never made Grannie’s Tea Cakes with me. So, although they’ve skipped a generation, I decided to start the tradition again this year by making them with my grandchildren.
I still have Grannie’s mixing bowls that I remember seeing in her corner cupboard as I was growing up. I’ve never used them, but I pulled them out for this special occasion.
Grannie’s Recipe for Tea Cakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift dry ingredients together.
Cut in butter.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix well with your hands.
Roll it up in balls in your hands and place it on a greased baking sheet and make a fingerprint in the middle.
Bake until edges are golden, about 12-15 minutes.
I thought it was strange at first to mix it with your hands, but it’s necessary because the batter is more like biscuit dough than cookie. We enjoyed making and eating them but did find them a little dry. I’m not sure how to correct that in the recipe.
The memory my cousin Dot included on the back of the card was of making them with Grannie and my older brother. She remembers fighting with him over who got to make fingerprints in the dough. I can easily visualize them in Grannie’s large kitchen as children doing that. My brother died tragically in 1981. None of my children ever got to meet him and know how intelligent he was and what a good sense of humor he had. So this was a very bittersweet experience for me. I felt such a strong connection with a grandmother I didn’t know well, a brother I dearly loved and still miss, and a favorite cousin with whom I’ve lost contact. Yet I had such a good time watching my daughter and one son’s family revive the tradition.
DiAnna Paulk is an award-winning Certified Professional Photographer specializing in weddings and portraiture in Montgomery, Alabama and the River Region (Montgomery, Prattville, Wetumpka, Millbrook).
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