When I think of old Southern delights, I think of tea cakes. Tea cakes are likely the comfort food your granny thinks of when she thinks of home. Many culinary historians believe the treat has roots during the time of slavery, when enslaved people were looking for an economical version of the English tea cake served in high tea gatherings among whites. Tea cakes became a cultural comfort food that was particularly meaningful during periods like the time between Christmas and New Years, as well as Juneteenth.
For those in the know, these tender little disks of greatness are always included in an afternoon tea set up. The tea cakes do go well with tea, but they also pair deliciously with coffee. I like to devour tea cakes by themselves.
I've always been taught to keep tea cakes simple. Add some extract. Add some nutmeg. But for the most part, don't get too extra. In the great words of our sovereign diva Mariah Carey, I can't read suddenly. I love to be extra and elevate flavors, so I decided to add lavender to these tea cakes.
In the times of Ms. Rona, a comfort treat infused with the peaceful healing properties of lavender is very much welcomed. Making these was my little moment of self-care during chaotic times. I sincerely hope this recipe provides some level of comfort to you during these changing times and beyond.
Lavender Tea Cakes
2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. lemon extract*
½ tsp. almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. lavender buds
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. nutmeg
*Alternatively, you can zest one small lemon.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes
Total Time: 23-25 minutes, plus refrigeration time
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
In a large bowl or standing mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Mix in eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix in extracts.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Now add the lavender. For extra flavor, you can mildly crush the lavender buds in a mortar and pestle before adding to the flour mixture.
Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients by thirds into the wet ingredients, giving a good stir in between.
Turn dough onto a smooth surface and knead lightly a few times. If too sticky, you can add a light dusting of flour, though the dough is going to be slightly wet compared to traditional cookie dough.
Shape into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour. I like to chill the dough for at least three hours, but it's even better if you chill overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Remove dough from the refrigerator and plastic wrap. If you left it in overnight, let it sit out for about 5 minutes. Roll dough to ¼-inch thick. Cut out desired shapes (I just used a biscuit cutter) and place cookies on baking sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until bottoms are lightly golden. The tops will not brown so it's best to look for slight browning at the edge.
Let the cookies sit for 3 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack to finish cooling off.
Once cooled, store in an airtight container. The tea cakes will last up to 3 days.