Challenged to an office cookie swap, I did what any capable adult woman would do—I ran to Mama. She is the baker of many cakes, cookies, pies, and brownies. She also holds in her possession the recipe for Mrs. Gracie Sewell’s Old-Fashioned Tea Cakes, which I figured she could talk me through. Anything our neighbor Mrs. Sewell made was special, and her tea cakes were a year-round treat.Mrs. Sewell’s recipe calls for baking the tea cakes 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees, but my oven is quirky, so it took about 13 minutes to get them done and a little golden around the edges. I sprinkled on some sanding sugar, which looked festive until a lot of it fell off because I should’ve done it when the cookies were warmer (or used an egg wash, but that’s way too advanced for me, so I’m happy to let the fallen sugar decorate my cookie plate).

Southern Living


Credit: Valerie Fraser Luesse

Recipe Summary test

10 mins
20 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Using an electric mixer, cream Crisco and sugar together until well blended. Add eggs and beat until combined.

  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add flour mixture to Crisco mixture while beating; add vanilla and milk, blending into dough.

  • Use a tablespoon to drop dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

  • Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until tea cakes are slightly gold around the edges. Sprinkle with sanding sugar while tea cakes are still warm (optional). Cool completely before storing in airtight container.