Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Clubs & Tea Cakes



My 7-year-old loves to read.  So does her mom.  I am thrilled to have a bookworm daughter.   At any given moment, you can find her in a room with her nose in a book – standing, sitting, lying down, perched on the side of the sofa, in the bathroom.  Then, if you walk into another room, you will find another book opened and turned over, marking the page where she left off. (I am trying to teach her the use of bookmarks – a ribbon, slip of paper, gum wrapper, whatever – as a more effective way of marking the book than her technique).  The other day I caught her reading and playing the piano simultaneously and snapped this photo! I know... multi-tasking at its finest!


So last year I decided that maybe she and I should help start a mom/daughter book club.  One of my heros, BrenĂ© Brown, whom I wrote about a while back, has a wonderful blog called Ordinary Courage.  It is a wealth of resources, information, thought-provoking challenges and a fresh perspective on living a courageously, whole-hearted life.  I read on her blog about a mom/daughter group that she and her daughter have done with several peers of theirs and I was so inspired that I sought out how I might be able to emulate what she has done.  After a few conversations and several emails, we had an excited group of women and their 1st grade daughters gathered together to begin a book club.  We chose The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, as our first book, following Brene's example for our first read.  If you haven't read it, you must.  It is a simple, heartfelt book from the 1944 and yet the themes are timeless and poignant.

One mother, a professor of English (how convenient), facilitated our discussion as we sat around our large oval table and talked about the author, the period in which it was written, the imagery, the scenes that stuck with us, the conflict in the plot, the less-than-ideal-ending and how we had wished the book had ended.  We discussed the great opportunity that reading provides in our lives, to give us insight into our own lives, and even the chance to "write our own ending" to the story of our situations, perhaps influenced and enlightened by the characters in a book.

Another mother and her daughter gathered fun art supplies for the girls to make their own bookmarks with dress-themed adornments.  The girls loved this component of the gathering.  The women even had the unexpected chance to visit while the girls were busy with their art project!

We had fresh berries, salty snacks, raspberry lemonade and tea cakes.  These tea cakes are one of my most treasured recipes.  The recipe came from my friend, Connie.  She got it from her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  There is a bakery, Ham'N Goodys, in Knoxville that makes these. They had a location in Nashville also, but, sadly, it closed several years ago. It was such a disappointment, because their lemon sugar cookies and tea cakes with thick almond glaze are out of this world.

It's hard to find a good recipe for a tea cake.  That term, "tea cake", can be interpreted a lot of ways.  Some cookbooks see it more like a Mexican wedding cookie, others think of it as a quick bread with dried fruit and nuts.  I think of tea cakes in the Ham'N Goodys Bakery way:  a soft, puffy, cakey sugar cookie with a thick almond glaze covering the top.  This recipe accomplishes it!

It is bigger than a cookie and easier to serve, transport and eat than a cupcake!  People love them! Kids and adults alike.  And they are so pretty.  My friend, Melissa (the florist) makes them also and I have seen her pipe a monogram or initial on the top with some buttercream icing.  They are lovely!

The recipe only has a few ingredients and I find it interesting that whipping cream serves as both the oil (fat) and the liquid of the recipe.  The only trick to this recipe is getting them the correct thickness and doneness.  You really must try them!



1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (you choose)
3 1/2 cups of self-rising flour

Glaze- 4 cups powdered sugar, a few drops almond extract & a few spoons of water

Mix together sugar, whipping cream, egg and extract in a bowl.  Add flour one cup at a time (because it can become stiff), stirring in between.  Add flour until incorporated and not too sticky to handle.  Roll out on floured surface.  It should be 1 inch thick – thicker than you would do for cookies.  Cut and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. (I sometimes stack two rounds on top of each other to achieve the thickness that I want, if I rolled it out too thin).  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Watch closely- they typically do not brown on the top, only on the bottom.

[you can also make balls and flatten them out a bit with a wooden spoon instead of rolling out the dough and cutting it]

After they are fully cooked, remove from pans and let cool on wire racks.  While cooling, mix together powdered sugar with a few drops of almond extract and a few Tablespoons of water.  Continue stirring, adding water as needed to get the desired consistency.  You want it to be thick enough to stay on the cookie but thin enough to spread  easily. Let them rest until glaze is firm. (If you want to add sprinkles, do so while they are still wet.  If you want pipe a design on top, wait until they are dry and set). 

(I make them with almond extract but you can exchange that with vanilla or lemon if you want.)
doughy-goodness!




I often double-layer the dough to insure the right thickness









smoothing on glaze with the back of a spoon

sprinkles (if you want) and then drying on a rack















And I can't think of anything more delightful than curling up with one of these Tea Cakes, a cup of coffee or tea, and a good book. Sigh – take me there!

7 comments:

  1. Angela and I were just talking about these last week. I'm SO glad you posted this. LOVE THEM!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a lovely book club idea! I'm sure it's something that your daughter will cherish. The tea cake recipe sounds amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is one of my favorite recipes that I've gotten from you! I'm so glad you posted about these tea cakes! I do the "roll into balls" method and it works great. If you pipe on a design, you can add sprinkles while the design is still wet for an extra touch. Since the base layer of icing is dry, the sprinkles will only stick to the design and it's so pretty!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was so excited to see this recipe!! I've missed these! Also, I'm in a search to try to replicate my Mamaw's teacake and/or find one that is my own to carry on the family tradition. I've already made this today for the football tailgate. Amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's so great to hear about your new mother-daughter book club. When you get a chance you may want to stop by my website http://motherdaughterbookclub.com for ideas on books to read, activities for your meeting, interviews with authors and more.

    I love that you got started when the girls are so young. I'm sure you'll find that the experience gets even better as the girls grow.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can taste them in my mouth right now! Yum!

    ReplyDelete