Lemon Tea Cakes

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?

Why I love this recipe:

I took inspiration from my All-Butter Tea Cake Cookies recipe and ran with it, adding lemon everywhere for a delightful result.

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    These Lemon Tea Cake Cookies strike the perfect balance. The cookies themselves hold their shape when cut out, but they are beautifully soft when baked.

    They have the best lemon flavor… without any of it feeling artificial. (You know how that goes with some lemony desserts.)

    To be quite honest, these are just the perfect spring cookie, if you’re into lemon. And when paired with the zippy Lemon Icing, they are hard to stop eating!

    More lemon cookie recipes to try: Lemon Crinkle Cookies | Lemon Cooler Cookies | Lemon Drop Cookies | Lemon Shortbread Cookies with Honey

    What are Tea Cakes?

    Tea cakes are fluffy and light, barely sweetened cookies! No, they are not a cake!

    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 cut out 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.

    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 this recipe:

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    Let’s talk ingredients!

    In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.

    You’ll also need to grab some ingredients from the grocery store…

    • Unsalted butter — this needs to be softened to room temperature, so remove it from the fridge 30-45 minutes before you plan to make the cookie dough
    • Granulated sugar — also known as white sugar, this is our sweetener for the cookie dough. We use this instead of brown sugar to keep the dough a lighter color.
    • Vanilla extract — the real deal stuff brings such lovely flavor and harmony to the recipe. We’ll also need a splash for the icing.
    • Egg — large or extra large eggs are my go-to at the grocery store. Make sure it’s at room temperature.
    • Milk — you can use whatever milk you have at your house for this recipe. I prefer to bake with whole milk, but it’s not the end of the world if you use a lower fat or nonfat milk. You could even use a nondairy milk, too.
    • Lemons — we need a lemon or two for their juice (freshly squeezed!) and zest. Bottled juice won’t bring the same flavor.
    • All-purpose flour — we keep unbleached AP flour at our house, but the regular kind works just fine. Make sure to measure it properly. I have not tried this recipe with a gluten free flour blend and do not recommend that at this time.
    • Leaveners — we use a combination of baking powder and baking soda for this recipe. Make sure yours is fresh.
    • Kosher salt — medium grain kosher salt is my kitchen go-to. Diamond Crystal is my favorite. A similarly sized sea salt could also work. Table salt is saltier, so if that’s all you have, you might need to use less.
    • Powdered sugar — also known as confectioner’s sugar, this is going to be the base for our lemon icing.
    • Lemon extract — this adds extra lemon flavor to the frosting without overwhelming it. Make sure not to overmeasure!
    • Food coloring — to dye your frosting colors, if desired
    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. Add the softened butter and sugar to the base of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. 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. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a separate large bowl. Whisk until combined.

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

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

    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. (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

    Bake Lemon Tea Cookies

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

    Flour a flat surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 1/2″ thick round.

    Cut it into shapes using your favorite 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 in the preheated oven.

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

    Then decorate with Lemon Icing!

    A girl uses food coloring to color Lemon Icing

    How to store and freeze:

    Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Place the cookies in a single layer and then add sheets of wax paper to separate the layers.

    This cookie batter is an excellent one to make in advance. You can chill it for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, or you can pop the disc of dough into the freezer to freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge, then let it sit out for 30-45 minutes before rolling.

    You can also freeze the baked cookies that have not been frosted. Freeze on a sheet pan in a single layer until frozen solid, then transfer to a freezer baggie. Defrost in the fridge and ice!

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

    Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips

    These tea cake cookies are perfect for… you guessed it… tea parties!

    They’re also the perfect springtime dessert, so they would not be out of place at the Easter table. These would also be lovely for a playdate or an interactive party with kids, like a cookie decorating party.

    Here are some things I would do if I were making these cookies for an occasion:

    • Make the cookie dough early. Since it keeps in the fridge, you can make this 1-2 weeks early.
    • Double the recipe. If you’re sharing this with a large crowd, more cookies is always a better idea. You can also freeze baked cookies that have not been frosted.
    • Let guests do the decorating! Set out small bowls of the icing and sprinkles and let them decorate their own cookies!

    A girl places decorative sprinkles onto lemon sugar cookies

    Frequently Asked Questions

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

    YES, you must chill the dough. 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 cookies wouldn’t hold their shape in the oven. This would be sad since you’re putting in the effort to roll ‘em out and cut them into individual cookies.

    Decorated Lemon Tea Cake Cookies sit on wax paper, cooling

    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!

    More treats from #SpringSweetsWeek:

    Love strawberries? I cannot wait to have a slice of Fresh Strawberry Pie or a bite of these No Bake Mini Strawberry Cheesecake Cups.

    Looking for an Easter treat featuring PEEPs? These Pastel PEEPS Mini Pudding Pies and PB Marshmallow Peep Blondies are precious. If you want something with chocolate, check out PEEP S’Mores Skillet. Peeptinis and White Chocolate Hot Cocoa with Peeps Marshmallows are fun sippers!

    Love citrus? You should try Aquavit-Scented Blood Orange Galette, Vegan Blood Orange Dark Chocolate Loaf Cake and Orange Smoothie Recipe with Pineapple & Basil.

    Just want to bake? Check out Hummingbird Cupcakes, Springtime Rocky Road Blondies and this Super Moist Coffee Cake.

    And these White Chocolate Spring Candy Pops are so festive and fun for the springtime!

    Here’s how we make these cookies…

    A bunny lemon cookie is decorated

    Lemon Tea Cake Cookies

    Erin Parker, The Speckled Palate
    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.
    5 from 3 votes
    Servings 52 2″ cookies
    Calories 77 kcal
    Prep Time 20 minutes
    Cook Time 8 minutes
    Chilling Time 1 hour
    Total Time 1 hour 28 minutes


    Lemon Tea Cake Cookies

    • ½ cup unsalted butter softened (1 stick)
    • ¾ cup granulated sugar 150g
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • 3 tablespoons milk
    • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour 240g
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

    Lemon Icing


    • Sprinkles

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    Make the Cookies

    • Cream the softened butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer, about 2-3 minutes. They will be light yellow and fluffy.
    • Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add the vanilla extract, egg, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Blend until smooth and incorporated
    • Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into another large bowl. Whisk to combine.
    • Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing with the stand mixer, and stirring until just combined.
    • 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. 
    • 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.)
    • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
    • Flour a flat surface. I like to use a countertop, but a cutting board would work if it’s large enough, too.
    • Roll the dough into a ½" thick round with a rolling pin. Cut it into shapes using cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet.
    • Repeat the process as many times as necessary to cut out all your cookies.
    • Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies have firmed up. You do not want them to brown.
    • Transfer to a wire cooling rack.

    Make the Icing

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

    Ice and Decorate the Cookies

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


    Serving: 1 cookieCalories: 77kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 1gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 54mgSugar: 10g
    Keyword butter, Christmas cookie, cookie, cookie dough, cookie recipe, cookies, easy cookie recipe, easy sugar cookie recipe, fun cookies to bake, holiday cookie, lemon, lemon cookie, lemon cookies, sugar cookie, sugar cookie recipe, tea cake cookies, tea cakes
    Course Desserts & Sweet Treats
    Cuisine American
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
    A woman with dark curly hair wearing a black tank top in front of a white wall

    About the Author:

    Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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