Juneteenth Tea Cakes

June 19: Juneteenth

We stumbled upon a nearby tea cake café in our town when we had a hankering for boba tea. But we were pleasantly surprised when we walked in and found that it was completely different from one of the dozen or so (yes—that many!) Taiwanese tea shops in our culturally diverse area. This tiny tea cake café was an actual bakery that sold Southern-style tea cakes, which aren’t cakes but more like a cake-like sugar cookie: soft to the bite and slightly sweet. The display case had an array of tea cake flavors, from berries to citrus and spiced to iced (frosted tops). The hospitable owner, an Afro-Caribbean lady whose forebears settled in the Gulf Coast of Texas, suggested we try the traditional flavor as a starting point and then taste the others (like glazed lemon, pink strawberry, nutmeg and Caribbean rum, of course). We ordered a few for our afternoon snack and still got our cold tea drink—not boba but iced hibiscus tea (the owner said the red color represents the blood of the slaves)—plus an edible education! We appreciated learning about tea cakes as much as eating them!

Tea cakes are the quintessential Juneteenth dessert. Now that it is an official federal holiday in the United States, more people can commemorate the emancipation of slaves and celebrate African American culture. We are fortunate to live an hour’s drive from Galveston, Texas, where Juneteenth began. But there have been a variety of events for many years before (it has been a state holiday since 1980) closer to home and we try to attend the freedom festivities to sample Soul and Southern food!

For our blog post, we made simple tea cakes, as the ingredients represent what most of the original plantation cooks may have had on hand in their meager pantries. For example, sometimes they had to do without real butter and used lard or vegetable shortening or had to substitute refined sugar for molasses instead. Now household staples, those ingredients were considered luxury items for the poor slaves. We kept things straightforward and followed an easy and adaptable recipe. Tea cakes are simple but have a special meaning and are now part of our observation of Juneteenth.

Recipe
(Adapted from Food Network)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 1/3 – ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups flour, all purpose
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter with white and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla, molasses and egg.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Gradually add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until a dough comes together. Avoid overmixing. Scoop into balls (1 inch for mini tea cakes or 2 inches for larger). Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Slightly press down on the dough balls. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly sealed container until ready to serve.

Notes

  • The tea cake café has had to close permanently, another small business that was the victim of the pandemic era’s economics. That is why it was important for us to learn how to make tea cakes so we could continue to eat them and share its historical and cultural significance with others (Islander gives them to her ESL students and food club friends and explains the snack’s significance).
  • The original Food Network chef rolled the dough into a log and sliced them before baking. We formed them into balls, as suggested by some Southern members of the food club. They turned out just like the tea cakes sold at the café we used to go to—slightly domed with a soft center.

HI Cookery is 12!

A dozen years later…we are still around cooking ethnic and eclectic recipes!

This past year has been especially difficult, though, as Islander developed a rare blood clot in her lung following a procedure in her leg last spring (Highlander himself had a pulmonary embolism back in 2016). Fortunately, there were a few hospital beds still available for her during the pandemic to get excellent but expensive medical treatment. It was a long road to recovery and getting healthy took priority over food blogging and other aspects of our lives. We are grateful for your patience as we slowly return to this little hobby of ours.

HI Cookery started out simply as an online cook “book” to share recipes and memories with family and friends. The encouragement and prayers we receive from 200+ followers have been enough appreciation and motivation throughout the 12 years we have been posting on this website.

So cheers to a dozen years…and, God willing, many more for HI Cookery!

Tapadh leat! Mahalo! Thanks!

Highlander and Islander

Bailey’s Chips Brownies

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day

What a fun find at the grocery store—Bailey’s baking chips! They add a subtle bittersweetness of Irish whiskey and cream to brownies without much of the booziness. There is also a quarter cup of Bailey’s in these brownies. But the alcohol bakes out so this food is family friendly as well as festive, especially on the Feast Day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Recipe
(Adapted from Clabber Girl)

For the brownies

  • 1 cup water, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup Bailey’s baking chips
  • ¼ cup Bailey’s Irish cream
  • 1 ½ cups flour, all purpose
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk

Directions

Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on the edges as handles to pick up the brownies from the pan after baking. Mist with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and Bailey’s baking chips. Microwave for a minute then mix until smooth. Stir in Irish cream. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and white sugar.

Mix in the cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In the melted Bailey’s bowl, beat in the vanilla, eggs and buttermilk.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven. Pick up the brownies with the foil handles. Set on a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze/ganache.

For the glaze/ganache

  • 1 cup Bailey’s baking chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup Bailey’s Irish cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

In a microwave safe mixing bowl, combine Bailey’s baking chips, Irish cream, whipping cream and butter. Microwave in 20 second intervals for 3-4 times, stirring until smooth and melted.

Let the glaze/ganache cool slightly until thickened but still somewhat warm and runny. Spread evenly over the cooled brownies. Refrigerate to set the top. Slice into 9 large or 15 small squares, wiping the blade of the knife for each cut. Let the brownies come to room temperature before serving.

Notes

  • If Bailey’s baking chips are unavailable at local grocery stores, order them online. Or simply substitute with regular chocolate chips.
  • Search our blog for other Irish-inspired recipes for St. Patrick’s Day.