• Making The Tea Cakes Of The 1800s Vintage Recipe

    Janella Hendon is a historian from Dublin, Texas. Today she sends us a vintage recipe from the 1800s. If you’ve done any reading at all from that period, you know that tea cakes graced the table whenever possible. My own grandmother went to her grave talking about “tea cakes.”

    Thanks for reminding us, Janella!


    The following recipe was hand written in a cookbook, giving instructions on how to make tea cakes. This was the recipe of Louisa Jane White Barbee of Edna Hill. She would have been making these in the late 1800s. Her grandchildren all remembered her cookies as wonderful, kept under a cloth spread over the table.

    Louisa Jane live from 1865 –1947 — She married 1883. Her parents also lived in Edna Hill – close to the old gin.

    There are stories the grandchildren told about stopping by Grandma’s (Jane’s mother who lived until 1910) to get cookies on the way home from school. This recipe could have easily come from the 1870’s or 1880’s.

    I found it written in an old cookbook that was her oldest daughter. Lena, the daughter, married in 1810 – but it may have been written before that. I have a long list of items that Lena had to accumulate before she was considered ready to marry – number of quilts, dish cabinets (sets of cooking and dish items.)

    Those girls really had to be prepared to set up a household when they married! Louisa Jane was known to be a writer, as she ballads and hymns.

    2 cups of buttermilk*
    2 teaspoons of cloves
    2 teaspoons of soda
    2 cups of currants
    4 cups of flour
    2 teaspoons of spices *?
    2 eggs
    2 teaspoons of nutmeg
    2 cups of lard

    * Not sure if this meant 2 teaspoons of other spices or it it meant 2 teaspoons of total spices. Also, the “cups” would have been whatever she was using for cups at the time since this was before standardized measuring cups.

    No mixing instructions were given. -Janella Hendon

    This is the house where John F Barbee and Louisa Jane White Barbee reared their children. What remains of it sits near the Comanche and Erath County line – down the Edna Hill Road.

    About Fredda Jones

    Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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    6 Responses to Making The Tea Cakes Of The 1800s Vintage Recipe

    1. Debbie says:

      I love the memories this recipe brings to me. Just exactly like the one my great grandmother used. There used to be a spice mixture available called “cake spice”. This is what my great grandmother used in her recipe. It is a mixture of Cinnamon, Star Anise, Ginger, Cloves, Allspice and Nutmeg. Cake spice can still be purchased on line at various places like this http://www.myspicesage.com/cake-spice-p-72.html . Hope this info is helpful

    2. Laura says:

      I love everything about this recipe & its story – I would love to try & make it – can you tell me what temperature you cook them at & for how long you cook them – I am grateful for the e-mail about the “cake spice” I would love to use them in other things too, they sound delicious. Thank You for the recipe. Laura

    3. Janella Hendon says:

      This is the way it was passed down to me — I would think this meant 2 teaspoons of spices totally — that would be a lot of cloves. I do know she loved cinnamon. I have not tried to experiment with this, but should! She was known all over the Edna Hill area for these cookies. I would think that about 350 F. would be a safe temperature; she would have waved her hand inside the wood oven and decided if it needed a stick of oak, or pine or maybe pecan. These old time cooks certainly had an ability that I do not have. Things like this make us realize why cooking was considered such an art! If trying them, I would definitely use the lard and experiment a bit with the spices.

    4. Priscilla Weston says:

      My Grandmother also made tea cakes. She kept them under white tablecloth on kitchen tables so us grandkids knew where to find them. There would always be a fresh batch every time the gangs visited. She was an Australian immigrate living in North Carolina.

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