Try the tea cake and strawberry jam recipe for a delicious slice of black date

Although Juneteenth has passed, it is crucial that we continue to recognize this important point in history throughout the year. As mentioned in my last recipe, Texans have been celebrating past tenths for quite some time, and in many of those celebrations you can find tea cakes. The enslaved would make tea cakes for their slaves, as a welcome treat for guests, after returning from a long day’s journey, or as a nice snack. Several decades later, you can find tea cakes in many of Houston’s African food and spiritual spots.

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 scraps of paper scrawled with decades-old notes and recipes — rabbit and okra soup seemed to have been a family favourite. Finally, I found my grandmother’s tea cake recipe. Her recipe called for simpler ingredients than it is today since it was over 100 years old. And instead of butter and sugar, I used lard and molasses for example. Her recipe was written with notes: “Good with preserves of fruit”, “For the master, without lemon”, “Extra seasoning for Jimmy”. As was common at the time, there were no real “instructions”, only weights and “pinches”.

I didn’t find this recipe until I started trying to make my own tea cakes. I enjoyed trying to explain my grandmother’s instructions. How does using modern things like butter change the recipe? What did it taste like?

What I got made me happy. It was perfectly spiced, and it goes well with coffee. For this recipe, I used an updated version of my grandmother’s recipe. Don’t worry, I won’t make you find lard! Good old butter will work just fine. Taking a page from my predecessor’s book, I pair this with strawberry jam.

If you attended the Juneteenth celebration this past weekend, you might have noticed a lot of red food, especially strawberries, which were a popular crop chosen by slaves (you can still see some of these berry fields in Louisiana and Texas). This is a tribute to the original festivities that originated in Galveston: the red food and drink symbolizes the blood shed by slaves before us who were not alive to see this day. While the name may be the same, these tea cakes are more mainstream and more like their English cousins. It’s perfect with tea, coffee or on its own.


Tea cake and strawberry jam

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 11-30 minutes

stakes: 20-24 cookies


tea cakes

  • 4 cups self-raising flour (or 4 cups all-purpose flour and 4 teaspoons baking powder)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Half a cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • Half a cup of whole milk
  • Lemon peel from 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract

Strawberry jam

  • 32 ounces strawberries, green part removed and coarsely chopped. (I like chunky jam, so I cut it in half.)
  • 1½2 cups white sugar
  • Lemon flavor
  • Juice from ½ orange
  • One blood orange juice

tea cakes

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line baking paper with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour and nutmeg (and baking powder if you’re using all-purpose flour) into a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, butter, milk, lemon peel, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients until moist with a rubber spatula. Working in small batches, fold until smooth. Make sure you don’t get tired.
  4. The dough will be sticky. Flour your hands a little, pinch the dough and form a ball, then drop it on the prepared baking sheet and flatten it a little.
  5. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until lightly browned.

Strawberry jam

  1. In a large bowl, add all ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula.
  2. Put it on a medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil over low heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash the strawberries, if you will, as they soften.
  3. When the marmalade can cover the back of the spoon, it’s done. Remove from heat, allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

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