Lemon Tea Cookies

by Sara on December 21, 2010

Lemon Tea Cookies

Happy Winter Solstice!!!

For years now, my mom has made these dainty little lemon cookies every Christmas. We call them girl cookies, because in my family, we’re the only ones who eat them!

They’re a nice addition to a holiday cookie platter. Bite-sized and refreshing, they are the perfect little treat with a cup of hot tea.

Even better yet, they are a slice-and-bake cookie, so there’s no rolling of dough, and you can bake them off as you like. For an alternative to frosting, simply toss baked cookies in confectioners’ sugar.

Lemon Tea Cookies

for the cookies
¾ cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ¼ cup flour
½ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

for the frosting
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ cup unsalted cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice

for the cookies
Cream butter, lemon zest and juice until fluffy. In separate bowl, sift dry ingredients and mix into butter on low speed.

Divide in half. Shape each half into an 8×1 inch log and roll in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Cut into ¼ inch rounds. Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes. Cool and frost.

for the frosting
On low speed, mix the cold butter with electric mixer (use paddle attachment for a stand mixer) until smooth. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar until blended. Beat in the lemon zest and juice.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Victoria (District Chocoholic) December 21, 2010 at 7:04 am

My mom used to make something similar around Christmastime, but her frosting was milk-based and made a big mess :D . I like your approach better.

Sara December 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

It doesn’t matter what kind of frosting we use in my family – my mom and I both can create a big mess in the kitchen!

Teresa December 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm

These looked so good, but they crumbled when I took them off the cookies sheet and the cookies tasted like they needed a lot more sugar than what the recipe called for. I was so disappointed because my family loves lemon.

cindy December 20, 2011 at 3:33 am

Love these……it was an OMG moment….wonderfully good…

Sara December 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

Teresa, I’m sorry to hear the cookies didn’t turn out for you. I haven’t had the crumbling issue with this recipe, but I have experienced it with other recipes, and I know how frustrating it can be.

Cindy, I’m happy to hear you like them – they are a holiday staple in my family, and I can’t imagine Christmas without them.

M January 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Making these! They are “chillin” in the fridge now. :) They sound and look sooo delicious, thank you for the recipe!

M January 5, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Just made the frosting… it tastes like… butter. lol maybe more lemon juice?

M January 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Mine crumbled, couldn’t even pick them up. What went wrong? :(

Karen February 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm

@M – I’ve had the same problem with similar recipes (haven’t tried this one yet, but it’s on my list!). I’ve found the problem is usually with the flour measurement when using a volume measure rather than measuring by weight. It’s easy to end up with too much flour or cornstarch, which makes the cookies fall apart once baked. I use a spoon to scoop flour/cornstarch into my measuring cup and then level it off (don’t pack or shake it down!) – this usually gives me the right amount. Hope that helps!

Jessika February 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Just made these. LOVE love LOVE them!! I’m gonna get another batch going now. The first batch won’t last long :)

~Nancy March 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I’m so sad that these cookies didn’t turn out. I was sooo looking forward to eating these… they ended up spreading out like pancakes and crumbled :( . What happened?

Emily March 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Is this recipe missing egg or something? Mine completely crumbled too! I love everything about these cookies too…the icing is amazing! I’m going to play around with the recipe a little.

Virginia April 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Love these little lemon shortbread cookies. I followed the recipe and they worked perfectly. I didn’t have any more lemon zest for the icing so I just added an extra half-teaspoon of lemon juice and that worked great. Perfect little cookie for our Easter picnic on Sunday (if they last that long!).

Jeanne April 4, 2012 at 9:20 am

Made these this morning and they came out beautifully. We’re huge lemon fans and I didn’t think the batter tasted very lemony, so I added a bit extra–first I doubled the juice and the zest, but even that did not seem like enough, so I put in the juice from one big lemon and the zest from that lemon and then some extract, and finally a few packets of “true lemon” because I was concerned that I might be adding too much extra liquid. Since I wanted something like a lemon cooler cookie, I used the powdered sugar on warm cookies. They were not crumbly at all and they are delicious. Thanks for the recipe.

Robyn April 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Had the same problem where the cookies kept falling apart. If you frost the cookies right away and put them in the fridge, it will keep the cookie from crumbling – and the cold temperature actually makes the cookies taste even more light and refreshing. Something to try as an alternative! Regardless, they are pretty delicious cookies!

sue in CA June 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Scrumptious … and my hubby would be ALL over these in a nano-second! And he will be doubly delighted that there is NO added sodium…YAY.

Christina June 14, 2012 at 9:12 am

I, too, had issues with the crumbling of the cookies. I discovered that if you remove them from the cookie sheet as soon as you take them out, without waiting for them to cool, that it helps. Other than that, I really liked these cookies–they were very light and yummy, although next time I would add more sugar and lemon flavoring to them.

Cindy August 22, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I have made these and I agree they do crumble pretty easily, but I baked them on my pampered chef cookie sheet then let them cool a bit on that. Then instead of frosting them I just dusted with powdered sugar..twice.. Awesome! They are great frozen or at room temp with a cup of tea!

Lea October 18, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I just made these and had to throw them in the trash. I followed the recipe to a T and when I baked them, they went completely flat and I couldn’t even scoop them up, they were a mass of crumbs. I put them on parchment paper for my second and third pans and the same thing happened. I used both the Pampered Chef stone as well as the Pampered Chef metal pan. What went wrong?

Very disappointed!!

Lígia November 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I got them right at the first time!
The only thing I didn’t understand s that they weren’t so white as they are in the picture. they look a little yellow, but not from too much oven, is really the dough color. what can i do to make it more white?

Trina December 7, 2012 at 11:09 am


Mine too were crumbly, but delicious. After much Googling, I think I figured out why we are all having issues. We are drying them out by cooking them too long. The powder sugar sucks up any moisture they may have easily, so we have to be careful. As soon as you pull them out of the oven, transfer off the pan and to a cooling rack. My personal mistake was baking them on convection bake, and not taking into account that I needed to decrease the baking time for that. Then I let them cool right on the pan when I could have easily slid the parchment paper onto the counter or a cooling rack. I can’t wait to try these again. They were easy to make, and they taste is amazing!

Mary December 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Just made the cookies for the first time. They are delicious! They are light and flaky with a hint of lemon.

Tiffany December 26, 2012 at 12:57 am

When you say flour do you mean all purpose, self rising, or cake flour?

Rhiannon December 28, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I have had problems with cookies crumbling as well, and it seems to be a problems with the recipes calling for cornstarch. I’m not sure why?? I have yet to give this recipe a try. Planning to pin it on Pinterest to try in the future.

Mandi January 30, 2013 at 11:24 pm

I have been craving a tea cookie and found this recipe on Pinterest. They were perfect! In reading the other reviews about them being too crumbly, I would suggest checking the temp on your oven and making sure that you’re not overbaking them. My oven cooks hot, so I decreased the temp to 325 F and baked 12 minutes on an insulated pan lined with parchment paper and they were perfectly flaky without crumbling. Make sure they are still slightly soft when you take them out and leave them on the sheet to cool.

lisa February 26, 2013 at 2:10 pm

If the cookies are crumbling, you’ve most likely used a little bit too much cornstarch. Cornstarch lightens the density of the cookie, and if you use too much, they will crumble.

Tiffany March 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

I made these for the first time and they turned out perfect in consistency. I have yet to frost them but I may just do powdered sugar. I cooked them on an airbake cookie sheet for 12 min on the first batch, and 11 min each after that (because the pan was hot. I transferred them right away to the cooling rack. They have a nice shortbread flavor. Mine are not as white as the picture either but I’m not that concerned. Thank you for a great recipe!

Kalea May 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Wow! These are so good! I just made a batch for my daughter’s birthday tea party. I had a taste and they seem to have just the right amount of lemon flavour. The icing is perfectly sweet. I baked them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and as soon as they came out of the oven I slid the paper onto some cooling racks. They turned out beautiful. Thanks for the recipe!

Kalea May 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Oh, I forgot to mention that I did substitute the cornstarch with arrowroot starch/flour.

Sarah May 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I just made these cookies. I think I am pretty late to the party! BUT, I have to tell you that since I had a bunch of fresh limes in my kitchen asking me to do something with them….I decided to use them instead of lemons in these cookies. They are so very yummy! They are perfect little shortbread cookies on their own…but with the lime zest and lime juice… My cuppa this afternoon is going to feel like it’s a tea party! Thanks for sharing your mom’s recipe.

Yetzy May 11, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for this recipie are so delicious.

Yetzy May 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Thanks for this recipie are so delicious and easy

charlene May 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I read the recipe and all the comments.
I have problems with citrus foods (sigh)
What other flavors could you make with this?

Denise May 27, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Sooo… will they be ok if I don’t chill them for 2 hours. I only have an hour….

Tammy May 27, 2013 at 8:46 pm

On the issue of crumbling, thought I’d mention: I’ve had a problem with crumbling and/or melting of cookies with similar ingredients. I have found the issue is the confectioner’s sugar. Some sugars are made from beet sugar, some are cane sugar. Make sure you use one made with cane sugar (like C&H). Your icing will turn out better, too. Also, the crumbling may be less if you let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Gale June 5, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Perfect little lemon cookie! I didn’t have two hours to chill so placed in freezer for 30 minutes…sliced beautifully! Thanks for a very light, yummy cookie!

Maxine June 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Hope to try these this week. Have made similar, but the recipe called for all cornstarch (in martha stewarts’s cookie book). You would need to get used to the taste, but the celiac guests I made them for (gluten-free) said they were delish. I too am allergic to citrus, try pineapple, or use an almond extract (I use artificial- we have nut allergies, too)

Emily June 9, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Just tried these. We like them! We added some blueberries and lemon zest to the top to give them a little something more. Thanks for the recipe!

LILIANA June 18, 2013 at 8:56 am


paola June 29, 2013 at 6:31 am

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SERENA HEALD HOLDER July 14, 2013 at 11:59 pm

After reading all the comments I think I will pass on making these until someone answers all the questions about the crumbling and going flat. Normally we love lemon sweets of any kind and I’d love to try these. Advice from the experts, please!

joanne August 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm

they have to be mixed quite well to avoid the crumly dough also dont cook them as hot or as long…but mainly mix the dough long enough for it to form

Heather August 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Maybe I missed this but could someone please tell me how many this makes?? Thanks

Bonnie September 9, 2013 at 4:17 am

Short breads can be difficult. However, when I make these it won’t matter so much if they crumble. I’ll just take the crumbs and make them into a pie crust and make a lemon meringue pie!

Rachel October 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I froze my dough instead of refrigerate :(
Hope they still turn out

Patty December 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I just made these for the first time and they are fabulous. No crumbling issues whatsoever and with the exception of using salted vs unsalted butter (didn’t have any and was too lazy to go the store), followed the recipe instructions exactly. They look very similar to the picture but my frosting is more yellow. I think I will probably add just a tad more zest to the cookie mix next time only because I love lemon so much and think I would like a little extra kick but the frosting is exquisite and so refreshing. Warning: they are extremely addictive and easily pop into your mouth without warning!

Mariam December 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Amazing. I followed your recipe exactly, and it came out perfectttt. Everyone loved it and the cookies were gone before you know it. I couldn’t do the frosting right, I dont know where I made a mistake. Thanks again for the recipe!! :)

Laura December 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Just made these for the first time after pinning a year ago… The finished product is soooo tasty! (Although I have to admit we were nervous after tasting the dough). I took the easy route and dusted in powdered sugar instead of frosting each one. This one’s a keeper!

Andrea December 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm

These turned out well! The frosting is a little buttery, but not to the point that it ruins the overall taste. I almost burned them though because they didn’t look brown even though they were done. I also followed the advice of others and removed them immediately from the pan so they wouldn’t overcook. They crumbled in your mouth but not on the sheet.

Diane January 18, 2014 at 11:17 pm

I too was worried about the crumbling before I decided to go ahead and try. I did not follow the recipe exactly. I added just an little extra butter (about a pat size and and extra teaspoon of lemon juice) because the dough looked a little too dry before I rolled it up. I cooked them on the rack in the center of the oven for 12 min. They came out great! They are delicate and deliciously melt in your mouth.

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