Although Juneteenth has passed, it is important that we continue to recognize this important point in history throughout the year. As mentioned in my previous recipe, Texas has been celebrating Juneteenth for a while now, and you can find tea cakes at many of those celebrations. Enslaved people made tea cakes for their slaves to welcome guests, after returning from a long day’s trip, or just as a nice snack. Many decades later, you can find tea cakes at many African and Soul food spots in Houston.
Seven years ago, while cleaning my grandmother’s house, I found a tin box. Inside were letters from my grandfather in World War I and pieces of paper inscribed with decades-old notes and recipes – the rabbit and okra soup was apparently a family favorite. Eventually, I stuck to my great-grandmother’s tea cake recipe. Her recipe required simpler ingredients than today because it was over 100 years old. For example, instead of butter and sugar, she used lard and molasses. Her recipe was inscribed with the notes: “Good with fruit,” “For the master, no lemon,” “Extra seasoning for Jimmy.” As was typical for the time, there were no real “instructions”, only weights and “pinch”.
It wasn’t until I found this recipe that I started trying to make my own tea cakes. I had a lot of fun interpreting my great-grandmother’s instructions. How does using modern things like butter change a recipe? what was his taste like?
What I reached made me happy. It was perfectly spiced, and went very well with coffee. For this recipe, I used an updated version of my great-grandmother’s recipe. Don’t worry, I’m not going to find you fat! Good old butter will work just fine. Taking a page out of the book of my ancestors, I’m pairing it with strawberry marmalade.
If you attended the Juneteenth festivities last weekend, you may have noticed a lot of red food, especially strawberries, a common crop picked by enslaved people (you can still find some of these in Louisiana and Texas). Can see some berry fields). It is meant to pay tribute to the original festivities that sprung up in Galveston: red food and drink symbolizing the blood shed before us by enslaved people who did not live to see this day. While the name may sound the same, these tea cakes are more pillowy and cake-like than their English cousins. They are perfect with tea, coffee or on their own.
Tea Cake and Strawberry Marmalade
preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 11-30 minutes
Servings: 20-24 cookies
- 4 cups self-rising flour (or 4 cups all-purpose flour plus 4 teaspoons baking powder)
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- cup dark brown sugar
- 1 stick butter, melted
- cup whole milk
- lemon zest from 1 large lemon
- 1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract
- 32 oz strawberries, green part removed, and roughly chopped. (I like chunky jam, so I cut in half.)
- 1½-2 cups white sugar
- zest from lemon
- orange juice
- juice from a blood orange
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Sift the flour and nutmeg (and baking powder if using flour) in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, butter, milk, lemon zest and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Mix the dry ingredients into the wet using a rubber spatula. Work in small batches, turning until just combined. Make sure not to overwork.
- The dough will become sticky; Lightly flour your hands, pinch the dough into a ball, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet and flatten slightly.
- Bake for 8-11 minutes or until lightly browned.
- In large pot, add all ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula.
- Keep on medium heat. Bring to a boil and let it cook for 20 minutes, while stirring occasionally. If you wish, break off pieces of strawberries as they soften.
- When the marmalade can coat the back of a spoon, it’s done. Remove from heat, let cool and store in an airtight container.