Tea cakes mean something different anywhere you go, or depending on who you talk to, or where you go, even within the States. To me, there’s only one kind of tea cake and it’s all that matters, and it comes from a little place in Nashville, Tennessee called Ham’n’Goodys. The name alone says it all (the tea cakes can be classified in the latter part, or a ‘goody’). I used to live in Nashville and I don’t think through all my four years there I had something savory; it was hard to go and not crack under the display of cookies and cakes and freshly glazed tea cakes. Even their strawberry cake was delicious (and I’m a chocolate girl).
But these tea cakes are really the draw at Ham’n’Goodys. They are literally the talk of the town, at least the limited college community I was involved in, but man, they leave a mark on you. They were thick, round patties of cake-like cookies that were always so soft, and turned to liquid in your mouth, and they were iced with almond flavor glaze. These could change your day, your week, or possibly your life. They’re also perfect fresh, but keep pretty well, it’s not necessary to have a hot one because they somehow retain that ability to melt in contact with your tongue.
So now the problem, after not living near them, becomes recreating them. I was desperate one time and searched for them on the internet, but of course got all kinds of recipes for tea cakes. Then I searched for ingredients and found something called ‘sweetie cookies’ or something like that, and I think it’s close enough. These are pretty dang good. You got to remember to roll the dough out thick though, so the cookie’s not too thin and crispy, and it’ll end up being more of a cakey cookie.
One note about the shape of these cookies: I realize I was inspired by a place in Tennessee, but I am in fact a Texan, so any chance I get to display that and make it known to others, I take advantage of it.
Texas Tea Cakes
1 cup butter (227 g)
2 cups sugar (400 g)
2 tsp almond extract (which I couldn’t find here, so I used Amaretto di Saronno)
4 cups flour (500 g)
1 Tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar (120 g)
½ tsp almond extract (once again, Amaretto, which was a pretty good substitute)
2 tsp plus 1 Tbsp evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add almond extract, flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Chill dough thoroughly (I know how hard it is to wait for this, and I was thinking it’s not necessary, but it’s really hard to roll if you don’t. Blast it in the freezer for a few minutes while you clean up and take out portions as you roll).
Roll chilled dough into sheets and use your favorite cookie cutter (if it so happens to be the state of Texas, all the better), cut and put on baking tray, but not too close together, because they spread a lot. Bake until the edges are set, but not very dark, you want them to be very soft. Take out, let cool slightly, and mix the glaze ingredients together. You can glaze the cookies while still warm. At first I tried to keep the glaze within the state borders, but as it was very runny, it would sometime run over the edges, so it’s up to you it you glaze the whole state and let it cover every inch, or if you’re a bit cleaner in your icing. Enjoy, and god bless tea cakes (and Texas!).