Aunt Da’s Tea Cakes, reimagined

Summary: Aunt Da was the much-older sister of my favorite grandmother, Nanny. We all lived in the same town when I was growing up, and she was a great cook with a few distinct specialties. I mostly remember her desserts: French Silk pie, lemon meringue pie and wonderfully simple tea cakes that seemed simultaneously substantial and light. She always made huge batches and stored them in a silver canister that seemed bottomless. Here, I've reimagined them to be even lighter (using a combo of cake and whole wheat pastry flour) and slightly spiced with Irish Breakfast tea, Meyer lemon zest and a nice dose of marzipan (rather than the originally called for vanilla). These are absolutely delightful, subtly flavored pillows of comfort. 

Yield: 38-40 cookies


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 bags Irish Breakfast tea, carefully opened, tea reserved, bags discarded
  • 1 stick butter, slightly chilled, cut into 1 tablespoon chunks
  • 3 ounces marzipan
  • 2 eggs
  • zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups (or slightly more) whole wheat pastry flour


In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the sugar and loose tea. Add the butter chunks, and with your fingers begin to incorporate it (this is optional but I like to get it started before beating). Put the paddle attachment on the mixer, add the marzipan to the bowl, and cream the butter, marzipan and tea-sugar until well-combined. Add in the zest and then the eggs, one at a time.

Add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and when evenly incorporated, add in the milk and 2 cups of the pastry flour. When that's well incorporated, slowly add the remaining cup of pastry flour.

The dough will be a bit sticky and this is OK. If it seems wet though, add a bit more flour (you're going to be rolling this out on a generously floured surface after chilling so keep that in mind). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.

When the dough is chilled, place it on a generously floured work surface (I use a silpat covered with flour) and roll it out to about 1/2" thickness (I use a rolling pin and pastry sock). Cut into your desired shape, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly tanned on top and darker brown on bottom. Store in an airtight container.