Needless to say, there were several variations of tea cakes - some called for a flavoring such as nutmeg, cinnamon or rosewater. Others used yeast and/or milk to make the dough rise, resulting in a lighter confection, more like a true cake or light biscuit.
But others were on the basic side like Pierre Blot’s recipe - not too sweet, almost like a scone. A nice change for breakfast or an afternoon tea or coffee break. I think Blot’s version is delicious (as did my taste testers), but any number of flavor enhancements could be added if desired, such as vanilla, lemon or almond extract or the above mentioned cinnamon, nutmeg or rosewater.
Blot’s recipe calls for mixing the ingredients on a pasteboard, but I found it easier to mix them in a bowl and then transfer the dough to the pasteboard or counter. The recipe’s instructions also call for rolling out the dough and cutting it into shapes (like a rolled cookie), but I ended up rolling the dough into a log shape and then slicing into circles, which resulted in petite biscuit-like cakes. Either would be fine.
Here's the original recipe: Tea Cake.—Put half a pound of flour on the pasteboard, and in the middle of it a pinch of salt, half an ounce of sugar, two eggs, four ounces of melted butter, and cold water enough to make a rather stiff paste. Knead well, roll down to about a quarter of an inch in thickness; cut it in pieces with a knife or paste-cutter; moisten the top with water by means of a brush, dust with sugar, and bake in an oven at about 370 degrees Fahr. Serve cold.
And my adapted version:
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 stick melted butter
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Cold water
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Sift the flour with the salt into a bowl. Add the sugar and then the eggs and melted butter. Stir together, adding cold water a tablespoon at a time to make a rather stiff paste.
- Transfer to a pasteboard or clean counter dusted with flour. Knead the dough into a ball and then either roll to about a quarter inch thickness and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter; or roll into a log shape and slice into circles. Brush the top of each with water or egg yolk and then sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake in a 375 oven for 10-12 min. Serve cold.
For more on Pierre Blot, see my previous post on Roast Chicken, Au Jus.
Sources: Handbook of Practical Cookery (1868) by Pierre Blot; What to Eat and How to Cook it (1863) by Pierre Blot