By Lorrie Baumann
Crunchy like a cookie, but not a cookie. Gooey like a brownie, but not a brownie. Shaped like a cupcake, but not a cupcake either. It’s a Tennessee Teacake.
Tennessee Teacakes are a southern tradition that, legend has it, originated during the Civil War as a result of severe food shortages in the Old South. According to the legend, a young Southern belle, known for her multi-layered party cakes, wanted to bake one of those when her brother, a Confederate officer, brought home a friend of his to visit. The young woman wanted to make him a cake for his birthday, which happened during the visit, but because food was in short supply during the war, she could only make several small teacakes. They were such a hit with the young man that he returned after the war to marry her.
Jeff Stewart, Director of Marketing – and most everything else – for Mountain Jim’s Tennessee Teacakes, won’t swear to the veracity of the legend, but he says that’s how he heard it when he was growing up, and the tale is popular among Tennesseans who enjoy the treats.
Mountain Jim’s Tennessee Teacakes came to be after Mountain Jim’s, which had been buying its teacakes from another baker to mix into ice cream, had to find a new source. “We were using her teacakes with ice cream that we made, Mountain Jim’s Ice Cream’s Whistling Dixie, which was vanilla ice cream with inclusions of teacakes and praline pecans,” Stewart said. “It was crunchy; it was chewy; it was creamy. It was very popular.”
After the baker’s death in 2011, Stewart couldn’t find anyone else making the teacakes he needed for the popular ice cream flavor. “I had to go into a kitchen and learn how to make tea cakes – and it wasn’t easy. Baking is chemistry, and I failed chemistry in high school,” he said.
Stewart’s three sons, now 14 and a pair of 11-year-olds, were the product testers – and the disposers of the rejects – during the two years that it took him to perfect the recipe. “They would come home from school and ask if I’d made any failures,” he said.
By 2013, his recipe was ready to go. “Everybody says these are delicious. They love the flavor and the mouth feel,” he said. “We’ve been steadily growing since then.” The teacakes have proved so popular that these days, Mountain Jim’s makes ice cream only for special occasions so the company can concentrate on the teacake business.
Mountain Jim’s Tennessee Teacakes are sold in a tin of a dozen that retails for $20 for all vanilla flavor and $22 for assorted flavors and in a glossy white decorated gift box. The box with a dozen vanilla teacakes retails for $12 and the assortment is $14.
For further information, visit www.tnteacakes.com or send orders to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Packaged in a tin of a dozen is $20 for vanilla and $22 for assorted flavors.