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Easy Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies

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Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies are a simple buttery, soft vanilla tea cookies perfect for afternoon tea. Much like Scottish Shortbread, the ingredients are simple, but the texture and vanilla flavors are deliciously unforgettable.

Vanilla Tea Cookies on a Christmas Platter

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It’s a classic, old-fashioned, perfect cookie. Whether you serve it with tea… or milk.

Easy Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies on a Glass Platter

Make them ahead for the holidays, they are a crowd-favorite Christmas cookie

Or simply to save for that rare quiet moment with a cup of tea and bite of something sweet. 

Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies with a Red Rose

Pinterest Reviews:

I love these tea cookies, but I thought you might want to hear from others who like them too. These comments are on Pinterest:

“I tried it! It came out fantastic!! Light and delicious and did not take a lot of time! I WILL be making these again!!!”

“I never knew such a perfect cookie recipe could exist, but here we are eating the best cookie ever. My favorite cookie is chocolate chip, but this beats it.”

Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies Ingredients

This is a simple tea cake recipe made with pantry ingredients including butter, eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, and cream of tartar.

Baked Vanilla Tea Cakes on a Baking Sheet

Is There a Substitute for Cream of Tartar?

This old family recipe does call for cream of tartar. This is what cream of tartar is, and a quick ingredient substitute if you don’t have it.

Cream of tartar is a great addition to pantry baking ingredients. And part of what makes Snickerdoodles so incredibly delicious.

Technically, cream of tartar is an acid and is most commonly used as a leavener and stabilizer. 

If you need to substitute cream of tartar, here is a good rule of thumb. For every 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar in a recipe, use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. 

Closeup View of Vanilla Tea Cakes

When to Serve Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies

There’s never a wrong time to serve these cookies… in my book.

But I particularly like to serve them for afternoon tea. They make a great accompaniment to other sweets or are delicious enough to serve simply with a cup of tea.

And, they are always a favorite on the cookie tray during the holidays. From Thanksgiving through Christmas. In fact, I make them ahead early in October and freeze them in an airtight container. 

Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies Served as Christmas Cookies


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Top view of Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies
Easy Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies on a Glass Platter

Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies

Yield: 36 cookies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Vanilla Tea Cake Cookies are a simple buttery, soft vanilla tea cookie perfect for afternoon tea. Much like Scottish Shortbread, the ingredients are simple, but the texture and vanilla flavors are deliciously unforgettable.


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer; beat until creamy, about 3 minutes. Then add the egg and vanilla; mix until combined.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix well.
  4. Shape the dough into balls, roll in additional granulated sugar if desired, and then transfer to the prepared baking pan.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 36 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 112Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 107mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 1g

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  1. Hi I just tried the cookies and were delicious. I was confused with the amount of sugar, usually 1 1/2 cups of sugar would be listed in the ingredients then in the instructions perhaps the 1/2 cup would be the sugar you roll your cookie dough in. I guess I’m concerned that I used too much sugar?

    1. Hi Diane, thank you so much for your question. The sugar is correct but I completely agree it was unclear in the instructions. I’ve updated that! It is 1 1/2 cups sugar in the cookie dough. Rolling the dough in sugar is optional but gives it a nice texture. That sugar is in addition to the sugar listed in the ingredients. So… you did it exactly right! Thank you so much for trying the recipe!

    1. Hi Rosa— yes you can. Refrigerate for 24 – 48 hours and let it soften a bit before scooping the cookie dough.

  2. I just got done baking these for the first time. I was out of Vanilla extract so I used 2 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste. I also had 1/2 cup unsalted American butter and 1/2 cup salted Irish butter on hane. Even with those minor changes, they were great. Thia recipe is a keeper. Thank you so much for sharing it. I read all the comments and your replys and I found that doing that was extremely helpful. I will be following you on Pintrest. Kindest regards, Mary

    1. Hi Mary! I’m so glad you enjoyed these. I have a few in my freezer for teatime breaks now and again. I love them! The comments are always such a great source of additional information, I’m glad you found them helpful. Thank you so much for trying the recipe and letting me know how it works and any changes you made. Have a great day!

  3. Can I triple this recipe or is it better to make 3 single batches? I’m baking for a large Afternoon Tea fundraiser, expecting about 120 people.

    1. Hi Heather! In theory, you should be able to easily triple this recipe. All of the ingredients can easily scale (1 egg to 3 eggs). While I have never tripled this recipe, I have doubled it. The biggest thing to consider is if your mixer will handle a triple batch. I would love to hear what you decide!

    1. This recipe makes about 36 cookies, depending on how large you make them. It doesn’t contain cardamom, although some readers have added it from 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp and loved it.

  4. Am I reading this correctly??
    Does the recipe call for 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar?
    Thank you for your reply!

    1. Yum! I love the sound of cardamom — it’s one of my favorite spices! I’m so glad you liked them!

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