R.L.’s Old Fashioned Tea Cakes with a Twist

“For it is up to you and me
       to take solace
       in nostalgia’s arms

​       and our ability
       to create 
       the everlasting
       from fleeting moments.
– Sanober Khan

I remember looking at this painting in our house and thinking of how it reminded me so much of him. His calm yet strong demeanor, and the fleeting moments that showcased his grace, intelligence, and love for his family. Descendent of Allford Miller who in the 1910s did the unthinkable, buying 98 acres of land in Cobb County, Georgia, R.L. carried that determination and resolve in being the first black man to own a home in the downtown area of Indianapolis -29th and Broadway- (now on the historic register). His strength, resolve, and love for his family was unmatched and clear in his respect for his wife Helen. They affectionately called each other momma and daddy and were devoted to each other from day one. A devotion that I hope to emulate with Mister, come November 12th. ​​

Thinking of my grandad today I recall the many stories my aunts and uncles had of the meals and treats he would make for them. It has always amazed me how he was able to provide for all of them with abundance. My mom recently sent me a newspaper clipping for some old fashioned tea cakes. “Like daddy used to make” she said. We lost R.L. when I was only 5 years old, so I have very few first-hand memories of him. My connection to him resides mainly in the stories my family tells of his dedication to his wife Helen, his hard work to support and guide the Miller 9, his love of cooking, and many days I spent sitting in his arm chair on his lap as he re-read Marvin (Morgan) K. Mooney by Dr. Seuss for the millionth time. The recipe below is an ode to phenomenal man and wonderful papaw.
Replacing white sugar with coconut sugar and softened butter with coconut oil left me with a (ironically) buttery taste and pillow like texture. Here’s hoping that my updated version of your tea cakes are half a great as your legacy papaw.  

Grandad’s Tea Cakes


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 coconut sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Mix together all of the dry ingredients and the lemon zest until evenly distributed.
  2. Whisk together the coconut oil, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth. Then combine with the dry ingredients.
  3. Shape each cookie into 1/3 cup portions (approximately 12 cookies) and place on a well- greased cookie sheet or parchment paper.
  4. Bake on 350F for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to undercook them a bit as they will continue to cook when you pull them out of the oven.

Its that simple… and they are so good. Mister devoured half before I told him he needs to slow down. Ha! Enjoy my loves.

Papaw's tea cakes
Papaw’s tea cakes with a twist.

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