Tennessee T Cakes for a British Tea Party

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The 5 Star Foodie Makeover took us to Greece last month in honor of the Olympics and to England this month, still in honor of the Olympics.

Cheers to London; they did an outstanding job and triple cheers to our American athletes.

Did you know that America won 46 gold out of their 104 medals in London 2012?

Did you know that Great Britain wasn’t far behind with 29 out of 65 medals?

Job. Well. Done.

Speaking of gold,  I’ve gotten a sneak peek and the roundup is going to be amazing this time. Expect to see some champion posting.

British Tea Fascinates All of Us

Did you know that high tea is not really fancy tea like it sounds, but is served later at night between 5 and 7. Customarily, it is served on a “high” table and includes meat pies, sliced meat, and any dish that would be served at supper.

Did you know it is considered improper to slice through  a scone in it’s entirety? One should break off a little piece at a time and doctor it with jam and butter. But do not use a fork to eat it.

Did you know that tea is never served with cream, but with milk, as cream would overpower the tea? Milk used to be poured into the cup first to temper it when porcelain was a more fragile quality. That is no longer true, and it’s a better idea to pour the milk in after the tea.

Did you know that when lemon is preferred, it should be lemon slices which can float in the tea, not wedges? It used to be served with a clove in the center of the slice.

Did you know afternoon tea may possibly be related to the advent of electricity? People that could afford to light their homes in the evening began eating dinner later at night, perhaps  8:30 or 9:00.  There are many theories on the start of afternoon tea, but legend has it that in the early 19th century, the Duchess of Bedford ordered what we would call snacks  to her room at 4:00 because she was too hungry to wait for that late night supper. Eventually she began inviting  her lady friends in the early afternoon, serving sweets, bread and butter sandwiches, and tea.

London is the New Paris

We Americans tend to be smitten right now with all things British because finally Madonna moved out and Prince William and Kate moved in. Not only that, but Downton Abbey has stolen our hearts.

Who else is waiting for the Season 3? If you need a fix, follow Downton Abbey on Pinterest. If you don’t know what I’m talking about catch up on Seasons 1 and 2 and thank me later.

 Tennessee Tea Party?

I had many ideas in my head for a tea party, but somehow the Tennessee T Cake won my heart.

The Tennessee T Cake shot to fame when Frances Barkley opened a business in Nashville,  and the business landed on  Oprah Winfrey’s radar. It was featured in O Magazine, the Food Network, and other food related documentaries.

Like the Olympic gold champions, Frances  Barkely zoomed in on what she loved and passionately put her heart and soul into the Tennessee T Cake business, producing 2,000 T cakes a day. Sadly, Ms. Barkley  passed away and the tea cakes are no longer available.  No one but Ms. Barkley’s twin son and daughter know the real recipe,  and they are sworn to secrecy. I did some research and found  a hopeful recipe that stood out from all the copy cats.

It uses cream cheese. If you love the flavor of tassies or blondies,  you’ll love these. It’s the combination of brown sugar and cream cheese baked into the batter that make you think of Christmas as soon as you take a bite. The texture is dense and moist and makes one feel like they just stepped into their childhood home.

The legend goes that the original tea cake was make for a civil war beau.  There were not enough pantry items  for a real cake, but enough for a tea cake.  I’m not sure how the recipe with the cream cheese was developed, but I think it’s the secret ingredient and funny enough the blog I found it on is called, Being the Secret Ingredient.

If I were doing a true tea party, I would have sandwiches. My latest creation is thinly shaved raw beetroot sandwiched with a lavender salt cream cheese  on one side and butter on the other side. I’ve used red and yellow beetroot and it’s beetutiful!

Tell me have you ever been to an afternoon tea or are you just too busy to fuss with such old fashioned traditions?

Please check out the round-up on Friday, hosted by Lazaro Cooks!

Print Recipe
3.50 from 2 votes

Tennessee T Cakes for a British Tea Party

A recipe for the legendary Tennessee T Cake.
Servings: 12


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large egg


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • You can use cupcake liners in a muffin pan, or just a muffin. Pan. I used a brioche pan, filled 1/4 of the way up, because I wanted that design.
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder. Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over med-low heat, whisking to combine.
  • Lower heat to very low and add cream cheese, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat, add vinegar and vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Thoroughly whisk in the egg. Whisk in the dry ingredients.
  • Divide the mixture evenly among the 12 muffin cups in the prepared pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 16 minutes.
  • Cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

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  1. I’m an afternoon tea enthusiast! In fact I did know those facts about afternoon tea and they make it all that much more interesting! πŸ˜€ I really must try these cakes, they sound great and I usually find that if it is an Oprah favourite, they’re really good! πŸ˜€

  2. Hi Angela!
    Super contribution to the TEA PARTY! I bet the cakes taste heavenly.
    Love your “did you know” section.
    And I really like the sandwiches, the colors are so pretty and the lavender cream cheese sounds delightful…

  3. Lots of great info! I’m an afternoon tea aficionado, and you shared some info that even I didn’t know (like the slices of lemons with cloves in the middle). Your T cakes look really delicious and I love the story behind them! Your beet sandwiches look really awesome as well. This has been such a fun challenge to be a part of πŸ™‚

  4. This is such a beautiful post…so much thought went into it! I love that you shared some proper tea etiquette and history with us. Next time I brew an Earl Grey I will defintely be adding a slice of lemon studded with clove. πŸ™‚

    The Tennessee Tea Cakes sound divine!

  5. What a lovely post. I do love all things high Tea. Your sandwiches are wonderful and I will have to make them at my next tea. I love your China pattern too!

  6. I can see why these little cakes are Oprah’s favorites! I have never tried them, and need to change that.

  7. The tea cakes sound scrumptious and i love the sound of the beetroot sandwich. Thanks for all the facts, great to learn!

  8. I feel like I stumbled on wikipedia here. There’s so much I.did.not.know!

    Loved your comment about Madonna and your tea party dishes. Lavender salt cc … awesome!

  9. Ohh, Angela, I would hug you right now!! I have such fond memories of making these little delights with my Grandmother.. she made them a little flatter than this and I can taste and smell them as I type this comment!! Ahhh..
    My daughter and I took part in an old fashioned tea party with the other Moms and daughters in her Girl Scout Troop and it by far has been one of our most special times spent together .. well other than her birth. :O)

  10. i normally am not one for old-fashioned, but this challenge made me crave the experience πŸ™‚ what a great cake, and that beet sandwich– lavender salt cream cheese? yum!

  11. I have been to several high teas at fancy hotels in different parts of the world. The food served would have some serious competition with both these wonderful treats. I am not a beet fan but I would try that sandwich in a heartbeat and that tea cake looks lovely.

3.50 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

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