How to Make: Jenny Lind Tea Cakes


This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more info.

Welcome to Tenacious Genealogy! Today, I have a historical recipe that is pretty fun and relatively easy to try. Jenny Lind Tea Cakes. I love it because of the context behind the name. Very few people today know who Jenny Lind is and how awesome she was. (Click here  for my blog post on her.)

Anyway, this is a pretty basic (and old) tea cake recipe from the early 1800s, published in an old cookbook over a hundred years ago.

Cookbook: Things Mother Used to Make: A Collection of Old Time Recipes, Some Nearly One Hundred Years Old and Never Published Before 
Author: Lydia Maria Gurney

Published: 1914

Original Recipe:

3 Cupfuls of Flour
1/2 Cupful of Sugar
1 Egg
1 Teaspoonful of Soda
1 Tablespoonful of Melted Butter

2 Teaspoonfuls of Cream of Tartar

Stir salt, soda and cream of tartar into the dry flour.
Beat the egg, add sugar and butter.
Stir into the flour and mix with enough milk to make batter as thick as a cake.
Bake in a moderate oven.

To be eaten hot with butter.

My translation of the recipe:

 3 Cups of Flour
1/2 Cup of Sugar
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon of Melted Butter
2 Teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
Dash Of Salt

1 1/2 cups Milk (Whole)

Stir salt, soda, and cream of tartar into the dry flour.
Beat the egg, add sugar and butter until well mixed. (I used my KitchenAid mixer)
Stir into the flour and mix the milk in at 1/2 cup intervals.
Continue mixing until everything is well combined. The dough should be thick, but scoopable with a spoon.
Grease up a muffin tin with oil, melted butter, or cooking spray.
Spoon in the dough so it fills each muffin cup. If it heaps over, that’s fine.
Bake at 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) for 15 minutes.

To be eaten hot with butter (and/or jam).

As you can see, the original recipe is a bit basic and incomplete compared to those in cookbooks of today. This is because the main audience of the cookbook (middle-class women or the kitchen help for upper-class families) would have had prior knowledge of certain things such as how much salt or milk to put in a cake recipe, how hot a ‘moderate’ oven was, or how long to cook a cake in the oven. (Freakin’ wizards, I tell you…)

Most people (myself included) don’t have that kind of knowledge memorized nowadays-which is why recreating these recipes is always a bit of an adventure.

 Example: My first attempt at making this recipe…

It tasted good (my husband actually wanted his own plate, which says something), but wasn’t the prettiest.

It also still had a random doughy bubble after 40 minutes of cooking at 365 degrees and as you can see, busted out on top.

Which meant…

 Take 2

Much Better!
A nice shot showing the browning/ puffiness of the finished product.

As you can see, my second attempt at this recipe was much more successful. Not only was there no weird uncooked/doughy lump in the middle of any of the muffins, but they were more aesthetically pleasing. They also cut nicely and were delicious with some butter and jam. (My husband tried another one and gave his approval.)

The big differences between my two attempts (and what I recommend) were these:
  • Milk – use 1 1/2 cups whole milk – the original recipe says to use milk in the recipe, but doesn’t say how much. I found that 1 1/2 cups added into the dough at 1/2 cup intervals made for the right texture.
  • Muffin tins instead of a bread pan – This helped the dough bake more evenly and made the dish less messy. While the dough still did technically ‘split’, it wasn’t as much as in my initial attempt.
  • 15 minutes versus 40 minutes – With making these in a muffin pan instead of a bread pan, I was able to shorten the cooking time and drop the temperature to 350 degrees.

Overall, I think that the original recipe may have worked back during the 19th century when some of the missing information was probably just assumed to be known. But with all our ‘newfangled’ contraptions/ideas like electric ovens, standardized measurements, and needing to know all of the ingredients beforehand, this recipe definitely needed to be enhanced to be successfully made in the 21st century.

Questions? Comments?

Questions? Comments? Pictures of tea cakes you’ve made or ideas for recipes I should try? Let me know down in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!


4 thoughts on “How to Make: Jenny Lind Tea Cakes

  1. JaniceM. says:

    I believe that the Jenny Lind was a renaming of the even older Sally Lunn, as it is the same recipe basically just made in a different pan. My Sally Lunn recipe is made in a loaf and is designed to have that distinctive crack and foldover on the top. A moderate oven in the American Woman’s cookbook of 1938 was 375 degrees F. They didn’t give degrees obviously because that requires electric or gas and they had woodburning. My grandmother made Jenny Linds as muffins for me because I was born in Sweden to a military family. She made Sally Lunn as sandwich bread. Thank you for the background info on this recipe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *