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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Edith Bolling Wilson’s Tea Cakes

Weekend Cooking

This weekend’s cooking was designed to enhance my feature this past week of President Woodrow Wilson – with a recipe from his wife, Edith’s, collection. I happened across the recipe entirely on accident. While I was looking for some information about the last house that Wilson lived in I came across their newsletter, which happened to include this little recipe along the side. Mrs. Wilson is noted for frequently serving these tea cakes at White House events until WWI and rationing came around.


Edith Bolling Wilson’s Tea Cakes
Makes approximately 5-6 dozen (depending on size & thickness)

¼ cup butter (½ stick)
2 cups brown sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
8 cups (un-sifted flour)
Sugar for dusting

1) In a large bowl, cream butter with brown sugar.

2) Beat in eggs, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.

3) Stir in flour until dough is smooth; chill for 4 hours.

4) Preheat oven to 375°F.

5) Place dough on a floured surface and roll out thin (¼ to ½ inch thickness); cut out shapes with cookie cutters.

6) Dust cookies with sugar.

7) Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 6 to 10 minutes.

*Serve with fruit or a flavorful ice cream.


I have never had a tea cake before, and after much time online searching for “tea cakes” I found a vast variety as to what a tea cake could be. So quite frankly, I have no idea if these came out right or not! I found one other person who indicated their tea cakes were Edith Wilsons, but they look very different – and they didn’t post their recipe.

In my uneducated opinion on tea cakes, these were ok. I think they would probably be good served as described with a “flavorful ice cream”. I would probably place the ice cream on top and it would provide moisture to the cake. They came out sort of like a gingerbread cookie consistency, but the dough was much drier and that made it very difficult to roll out. It has a very mild spice taste. Also, I could have entirely ruined the recipe by cutting the ingredients amounts in half (since I didn’t have 8 cups of flour).

I would love to hear if any of you have experience with a tea cake and could tell me what they are supposed to come out like. Maybe mine weren’t so bad after all! Also, if anyone tries out this recipe, I would love to hear how yours come out.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Any post remotely related to cooking can participate.


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Good for you for baking a historical recipe! And I wouldn't have made up an 8-cup batch either. Seems like that'd be a lot of cookies.

  2. I have a photocopy of this recipe, been meaning to make it for ages. Looks like your version has a typo- it should be 5 cups of flour, not 8.

    1. Maybe that is why I thought they were extremely dry? I got the recipe from a publication by the Woodrow Wilson House - I did go double check it to make sure I didn't just type the wrong number when transcribing it - but their copy says 8 cups too... Interesting. Thanks for the info.


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