The Speckled Palate
March 30, 2019

Lemon Tea Cakes

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This post is sponsored in conjunction with #SpringSweetsWeek. I received product samples from sponsor companies to help in the creation of the #SpringSweetsWeek recipes. All opinions are mine alone.

Light and soft Lemon Tea Cakes make the perfect springtime cookie because aren’t too sweet or too tart. No matter the occasion, these cut out lemon sugar cookies are perfect for sharing. Depending on the cookie cutter size, makes 52 cookies.

A bunny lemon cookie is decorated

I’ve been a sucker for lemon desserts since I hit my mid-20s and discovered the lemon bar. (I meaaaaaaaan… late is better than never, right?)

So when I was trying to decide what I wanted to make with Adams Extracts and Sprinkle Pop as my third and final #SpringSweetsRecipe, my mind went in a lemon direction.

And what better way to go than a light, lemony sugar cookie that is mild, easy to cut out, fun to decorate and scrumptious to nibble? I took inspiration from my All-Butter Tea Cake Cookies recipe and ran with it, adding lemon everywhere for a delightful result.

More springtime dessert recipes you will adore: Funfetti CookiesStrawberry and Blueberry Hand PiesMargarita Cupcakes with Salted Tequila FrostingRoasted Strawberry Cheesecake Popsicles

Adams Extract and other ingredients for lemon cookies are shown on an aqua background

What you’ll need to make these Lemon Tea Cake Cookies

  • Stand Mixer
  • Zester
  • Citrus juicer
  • Baking sheet
  • Baking mat or parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Springtime sugar cookie cutters

Adams Best Vanilla Flavor is poured into cookie dough

Specialty ingredients you’ll need to make Lemon Tea Cakes (and to decorate them for springtime fun!)

Cookie dough is shown on a dough beater in the stand mixer before going into the fridge for chilling

How to make Lemon Tea Cakes

Combine the wet ingredients.

In a stand mixer, add the softened butter and sugar. Cream them together, stopping once the butter is a light yellow and fluffy.

Add in the vanilla, egg, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix until smooth.

Combine the dry ingredients, then add them to the wet ingredients.

In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Whisk until combined.

Fold dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and continue mixing with the hand or stand mixer until just combined.

A girl touches lemon sugar cookies as they cool on wire racks

Chill the dough.

Stretch a long piece of plastic wrap out on the countertop. Scoop the cookie dough into it, and carefully wrap the plastic around it. Press into a round shape. (This will help you when you’re rolling it out later.)

Chill the dough in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight, as well, but you’ll need to take it out 30-45 minutes before rolling because the dough is challenging to roll out when it’s super cold.

A man and a girl decorate Soft Lemon Tea Cakes in a kitchen

Cut out the cookies and BAKE!

Preheat the oven, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Flour a flat surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1/2″ thick round, and then cut into shapes using cookie cutters. (This step is particularly fun to do with kids. Our older daughter adores cutting out various shapes and rolling it, so if you have time and don’t mind the inevitable mess, let your kids join in on the fun!)

Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet, and bake.

Once baked through (and not brown), the cookies cool on a wire cooling rack.

Then decorate with Lemon Icing!

A girl uses food coloring to color Lemon Icing

FAQs about Lemon Tea Cake Cookies

What are Tea Cakes?

Tea cakes are fluffy and light, barely sweetened cookies! They’re similar to sugar cookies, but they’re softer and less sweet. And—surprise, surprise—they pair nicely with a cup of tea because they’re a very mild and simple cookie.

According to Southern Living, they most likely hail from the rural South and date back to times when rations were meager. If pantries were stocked, they included basics like flour, salt, etc. (In fact, our family’s original recipe calls for vegetable shortening and water.)

These cookies are pretty simple, but I love them all the same because they remind me of my childhood with a lemony twist. And when iced, they’re lovely for the whole family and for sharing.

A man and a girl decorate Soft Lemon Tea Cakes in a kitchen

Do I really have to chill the dough? If so, why?

YES, you must chill the dough. (Sorry if you were looking for a Tea Cake recipe that requires no chilling—this is not what you’re looking for.)

When you chill the dough, you’re giving the flour and gluten a time to rest, as well as time to firm up before baking. While you could probably roll these out immediately after making the dough, the cookies wouldn’t hold their shape, and that would be sad since you’re putting in the effort to roll ‘em out and cut them into individual cookies.

A girl places decorative sprinkles onto lemon sugar cookies

Quick tips for making these Soft Lemon Sugar Cookies

  • Make this cookie dough 1-2 days in advance, and let it hang out in the fridge before rolling it out and baking!
  • Make these cookies dairy free by swapping the butter with vegetable shortening and the milk with unsweetened nondairy milk.
  • Keep the dough from sticking to your surface by sprinkling flour on the countertop, as well as on top of the chilled dough and your rolling pin. If the dough starts sticking, reapply flour as many times necessary. While you don’t want the dough to be completely covered in flour, you also don’t want it to stick.
  • Unsure if you’ll like the lemon twist on these cookies? Hop on over to my classic Greek Yogurt Cut Out Sugar Cookies and All-Butter Tea Cake Cookies. Those might be better for your tastebuds!

Decorated Lemon Tea Cake Cookies sit on wax paper, cooling

Saturday #SpringSweetsWeek Recipes

Decorated Lemon Tea Cake Cookies are shown on wax paper with Pinterest text

Lemon Tea Cake Cookies
Yield: 52 2" cookies

Lemon Tea Cake Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 28 minutes

Soft Lemon Tea Cake Cookies are a scrumptious treat! This twist on a traditional Southern tea cakes makes for a perfectly balanced and light lemon cookie that aren't too sweet or too tart. The dough puffs up in the oven and holds its shape beautifully, so these sugar cookies are perfect for cutting out and decorating with homemade Lemon Icing and sprinkles. No matter the occasion, Lemon Tea Cakes are perfect cut out cookies for sharing.


Lemon Tea Cake Cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Adams Best Vanilla Flavor
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Lemon Icing



Make the Cookies

  1. In a stand mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar together.
  2. Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add the vanilla extract, egg, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Blend until smooth and incorporated
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into another large bowl.
  4. Fold dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing with the stand mixer, and stirring until just combined.
  5. Stretch a long piece of plastic wrap out on the countertop. Scoop the cookie dough onto it, and wrap the plastic around it. Press into a round shape. 
  6. Chill the dough in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. (You can refrigerate the dough overnight, but you'll need to take it out 30-45 minutes before rolling because the dough is challenging to roll out when it's super cold.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
  8. Flour a flat surface. (I like to use a countertop, but a cutting board would work if it’s large enough, too.)
  9. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1/2" thick round, then cut it into shapes using cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Repeat the process as many times as necessary to cut out all your cookies.
  11. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies have firmed up. You do not want them to brown.
  12. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Make the Icing

  1. While the cookies cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, lemon extract, vanilla extract, lemon juice and milk to create the icing.
  2. Whisk until smooth, then separate out into individual bowls for coloring.
  3. Once colored, set aside until time to ice the cookies.

Ice and Decorate the Cookies

  1. Line a portion of the counter (or a table) with wax paper.
  2. Once the cookies have completely cooled, use butter knives or offset spatulas to spread the icing on them.
  3. Decorate the cookies with sprinkles, too.
  4. Let the cookies sit for 1-2 hours to allow the icing time to harden, then enjoy!

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving:Calories: 77 Total Fat: 2g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 9mg Sodium: 54mg Carbohydrates: 14g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 10g Protein: 1g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.


  1. Cindy

    These tea cakes would look so nice on an Easter brunch table!

    • Erin

      Wouldn’t they be lovely? Thanks, Cindy!

  2. Blair

    The Perfect cookies for Easter! I’m on it, Thanks!

    • Erin

      Yes, they are! ENJOY!

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