Heirloom Recipe: Colonial Queen Cakes


I found this recipe for tea cakes in a cookbook called Southern Cakes.  It features some of the most delightful and delicious desserts associated with Southern baking:  everything from sweet potato pound cake to red velvet cake.  Reading this cookbook and admiring the lovely photographs of beautifully baked cakes so reminded me of Grandma Rieley.  My grandma was a wonderful Southern cook, and she loved to bake.  She also appreciated a well-baked cake.  I can still hear her saying what to do or not do for a cake to turn out just right–not too dry, but perfectly moist with good texture. Watching and helping Grandma Rieley bake was one of my fondest memories.  I think she would have approved of these small, elegant tea cakes.

According to Southern Cakes, Colonial Queen Cakes were enjoyed in Virginia homes during Colonial times.  Popular long before baking soda and baking powder debuted in the kitchens of the mid-nineteenth century, queen cakes depend on well-beaten eggs to make them rise, just as pound cakes do.  Their texture is dense, closer to a delicate corn bread than to today’s muffins and cupcakes.  This tea time treat is scrumptious and simple to make.  So, go ahead and put on the kettle, they’ll be ready before you know it!

Colonial Queen Cakes:

This recipe is from Southern Cakes.

* Use organic ingredients when possible.


1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg

1/4 cup currants or raisins

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons rosewater or orange flower water, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract



HEAT THE OVEN to 325 degrees F. or 165 degrees C., and grease and lightly flour two 12-cup muffin pans.  (Don’t use paper muffin cups–these small cakes work best cooked right in the pan.)

COMBINE the flour, salt, and mace in a medium bowl, and stir with a  fork to mix well.  Stir in the currants or raisins, breaking up any clumps, so that they are coated with flour.

IN A LARGE BOWL, stir the butter with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add the sugar, pressing and scraping with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine them well.  Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well each time, until the batter is thick and smooth.  Stir in the rosewater, and then add the flour mixture, stirring only enough to make the flour disappear into the batter.

DIVIDE THE BATTER quickly among the muffin cups:  First spoon only a tablespoonful of batter into each cup, and then divide the remaining batter among the cups.  Bake at 325 degrees F. or 165 degrees C. for 15 to 20 minutes, until the little cakes are golden around the edges, and rounded, firm, and shiny on top.  Let stand for 5 minutes, and then carefully loosen the cakes with a table knife and transfer them to a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel to cool completely.

Serves 24


    • Thanks, Donna! You’re right. Most people probably have all the ingredients on hand for this easy recipe. This dessert reminded me a lot of a mini pound cake–fairly dense. And, it’s not too sweet. I’m glad you liked the pictures. Scott was my helper with those ‘action shots’ of the sugar & egg going into the batter. 😉


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