High Tea Lemon Cookies Recipe

High Tea Lemon Cookies are what I call my signature cookies.  I used to take them to all my book signing for my first cookbook called What’s Cooking America.  I tell everyone one they are to bribe their stomachs so they will know how great my book is.  The corn starch in these cookies makes them incredibly delicate.  They are tender, delicate, and lemony.  As their name suggests, they make the perfect cookie to serve at a tea party.

These High Tea Lemon Cookies are an old-fashion recipe that is very rich and delicious.  If you love lemon, you will absolutely adore these cookies!  Be prepared though, all your friends will want this recipe after they taste these delicious cookies.  I usually do not give this recipe out (I want to sell books).   But for all of you – here it is.

This wonderful photo of my High Tea Lemon Cookies was send to me by Food Stylist, Kristine Duran-Thiessen, of Bronte, NSW Australia.  Kristine says, “I hope you like this photo.  It was taken by a wonderful photographer, Emma Reilly, who works for the big magazines in Australia.  I needed to get some picture done to demonstrate how I style shoots, etc.  This is a fabulous recipe!  I have passed on your website to some friends already (the ones who I have made these cookie for), and everyone wants the recipe.  They are to die for!   I let the icing drop down the sides and garnished the tops with lemon zest for looks”.

High Tea Lemon Cookies on a glass cake platter

Check out my American Afternoon Tea Menu (with recipes) which includes Linda’s delicious High Tea Lemon Cookies.

More favorite Cookie Recipes and Secrets To Making Perfect Cookies.  Also learn How To Have A Successful Holiday Cookie Exchange or Cookie Swap.

High Tea Lemon Cookies Recipe:
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
40 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: High Tea Lemon Cookies Recipe
Servings: 6 dozen
High Tea Lemon Cookie:
  • 2 cups butter, room temperature*
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch**
Lemon Frosting:
High Tea Lemon Cookie Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. High Tea Lemon CookiesIn a large bowl, beat butter until creamy looking.  Add powdered sugar; mix until light and fluffy.  Add lemon zest and vanilla extract; beat well.  Add flour and cornstarch into butter mixture and mix well until well combined.  NOTE: At first the dough will look dry - but don't worry, as the dough slowly comes together as you mix it and the butter melts into the dry ingredients.

  3. Do not refrigerate this dough, as the butter will harden and make the dough unmanageable for rolling to a ball.

  4. Using your hands, roll cookie dough into 1-inch balls.  Place onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 15 minutes or until bottoms are light brown.  Remove from oven, carefully remove from baking sheet, and cool on wire cooling racks (when warm the cookies are delicate).

  5. When cookies have cooled, spread Lemon Frosting onto top of cookies.

  6. Yields 6 dozen cookies.

Lemon Frosting Instructions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and powdered sugar; stir until well mixed. Additional lemon juice may be needed to get the frosting thin enough.

  2. After making many batches of Lemon Frosting, I now thin the frosting with additional lemon juice or water and dip the top of the cookie into it. This technique is much faster and easier.

Recipe Notes

* Very important - please read!  You must use room temperature butter (not softened or melted butter).  I get emails from bakers saying that their cookies turn out all crumbly.  It usually turns out that they have not used room temperature butter.  I, personally, make these cookie every year for our Spring Teas.  The recipe is correct.  These cookies are always the favorite at our teas.  

NOTE: If you live in a high humidity area, check out comments below.  See below for butter softening tricks if you absolutely do not have time to bring your butter to room temperature by letting it sit out on the counter for at least 1 hour to overnight.

** Yes, this is correct - use 1 1/2 cups cornstarch.

How to Get Butter to Room Temperature Quickly:

Butter softened properly is ready to use when it can be easily squished between your thumb and forefinger. I prefer that you let your butter soften up naturally, but if you absolutely do not have the time to let you butter sit out at least 1 hour or overnight, here are a few tricks to soften butter up fast:

Cut into small cubes:  Cut the butter into small cubes and let it sit out at room temperature for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  The smaller the cubes, the quicker the butter will soften.

Grating butter:  If the butter is frozen, try grating it. Grate the cold butter on the large side of a box grater (it may get messy).  The small pieces will soften almost immediately.

Pound the butter:  Put the butter in a resealable plastic bag and use a rolling pin or meat pounder to flatten the butter.  A few minutes on the counter and the butter will be up to room temperature.

Microwave:  Least desirable way to soften butter.  Microwave the butter in 5-second bursts, but there is a chance that it will melt completely.  So, watch carefully!

More Delicious Cornstarch Cookies:

Baby Button Cookies
Because of the relatively low sugar content, people who don’t normally love sweets are delighted with these.

Biscoitos de Maizena Cookies
These cookies are a favorite in Brazil.  They are named “Maizena” because that is the brand name of their cornstarch.  Delicious anytime of the year.

Lemon Melt Away Cookies
As the title says, “These cookies literally melt in your mouth!”  These cookies have a shortbread-like texture and taste wonderful!

Peppermint Melt Away Cookies
These cookies literally melt in your mouth!”  This version makes a beautiful Christmas cookie and will definitely make your cookie platter look very festive!

Comments from Readers:

I had to tell you I made your heavenly cookies last night – they are delicious!  I will be serving them at two events tonight and tomorrow.  I missed the part in the recipe where the frosting makes enough for two batches of cookies.  Oh well, guess I’ll have to make a chocolate bunt cake and finish it off!  Thank you so much for your fabulous recipes.  Also, giving a dinner party next month and am using your menus.  I am officially obsessed with your site. Thanks again! – Tricia Thompson, Sonora, CA (2/11/11)

Alternative to hand rolling the cookie dough:

I just wanted to let you know that I have used this recipe for two teas at our church (Faith United Church in Springfield MA).  Everyone marveled at the flavor and ease of popping one in the mouth and the delightful flavor.  I have passed your recipe on to many others.

I also want to add that I used the small cookie scoop from Pampered Chef and it made it a lot easier to make.  I made sure that I pressed hard against the bowl (pressed the dough into the scoop) to make sure that they would stay together.  What a time saver!!  Last year I rolled the balls and this year used the scoop.  No one knew the difference.  I did not have to roll the balls out and I made over six (6) dozen cookies. – Jo Ann Smeltz,Springfield, MA

Comments regarding room temperature butter:

I have written you before, about three years ago, regarding your High Tea Lemon Cookies.  They are my absolute favorite cookie to make.  I’m planning a tea and these will again be my favorite cookie on the table.  I’m crazy about your website, and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best!  I am having fun planning a tea for my mom’s 90th birthday and besides the cookies, will be using some of your sandwich recipes.

Since I live in Houston, the lemon cookies gave me fits the first few times I used them because I let the butter get to “room” temperature.  Room temperature in Houston is high humidity, and even with the air conditioning turned down low the butter will get too soft.  I’ve found the best way to make these cookies where they don’t spread out thin is to use the butter right out of the fridge, cutting it in chunks and immediately put in the mixer and blend with the sugar, etc. Thank you for continuing to encourage us with your great recipes and website! – Barbara Hamilton,Houston, TX

I will be making your cookies for a tea I’m having, and want to make sure I get it right.  You said that the butter should be “room temp” but not “softened”.  My question is, what is the difference?  I heard once that “room temp” usually means around 60 degrees, as this is the temp that used to be “room temp” many years ago.  But nowadays, we tend to think of room temp as being around 70 to 72 degrees (due to better construction, insulation, etc).  So, maybe that’s the difference.  Anyway, FYI (in case it’s relevant), I will be making them in late October in San Jose, which means the weather could be anywhere from the low 60s to the mid 80s.  However, I usually keep my home closer to 70 or so.  Humidity will not be a factor unless it rains, which is unlikely.  Also, can these be made in advance (frosted or unfrosted), and frozen for a week or two? – Terri Pinder, San Jose, CA (10/11/08)

Interesting question about room temperature.  Why I say room temperature and not softened, is that usually people will soften (or even melt) the butter too much.  I just let the butter sit on my counter over night before using.

Yes, you can freeze the cookies frosted!  They freeze beautifully!  I have kept them frozen for 6 months (and even more), and they still tasted like I had just made them when thawed out.  Your guests are going to love these cookies!  If you are able, how about taking a photo of your High Tea Lemon Cookies?  I would really like for you to share any photos with me. – Linda Stradley


Dessert Recipes    Lemons    Tea Cookies   

Comments and Reviews

7 Responses to “High Tea Lemon Cookies Recipe”

  1. Jamie D

    I just made these for the first time for Christmas. My family adores lemon cookies and so I thought it’d be a good time to make these. They turned out great, except for one batch that just kind of flattened out in the oven. I noticed that if I didn’t get them in the oven right away they’d get a bit too warm, so I’d put them in the fridge til I could get them in. I’d then let them sit out just long enough to not be cold going in the oven. The only batch I didn’t do that with was the one that flattened out.

  2. Terry

    These cookies sound delicious. I guess technically they should be called afternoon tea cookies since high tea is five to 7 o’clock in the afternoon

  3. Anne Marie

    Can these be frozen for serving 2-3 days later?

    • Nancy

      Personally, I never have enough left over to freeze, but here are some tips on freezing cookies: Freezing Baked Cookies:

      For a longer storage you should freeze baked cookies in airtight freezer containers, freezer bags, or aluminum foil. NOTE: Do not use cardboard containers because they pick up freezer odors. T hey can be frozen up to twelve months.

      First put a piece of waxed paper or foil in the bottom of the container. Then place the cookies so they are not touching and separate the layers with waxed paper or foil to protect. Seal tightly.

      Before serving the cookies make sure you thaw them in their original freezer wrappings (so that condensation forms on the wrapping, not on the cookie). Crisp cookies may soften when thawed after freezing; to re-crisp, put them in a 300 degree F. oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
      You can find more cookie tips here: https://whatscookingamerica.net/Cookie/CookieTips.htm


  4. Dorraine

    I have been making these for years and they are a favorite every time I make them…no matter the age of who is eating them. I have one question and one tip.
    Question: How does humidity affect the recipe? I have moved from a dry climate to a humid one.
    Tip: I fill a pastry bag about 1/2 full of dough with a large star tip to make star shaped cookies. These tend to be smaller but yield more cookies and is much quicker.

  5. Megan

    Should the butter be salted or unsalted? I know typically unsalted is used for baking, but I see that there’s no salt at all in this recipe, which is different from most cookie recipes I’ve tried.

  6. Stephanie

    Can the dough balls be frozen?


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