Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

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Leomon teacake on red plate Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

I was tempted to name these delectable cookies, The Chagrined Postman’s Super Tart Lemon Balls. Well, of course there is a story behind this.

A few years ago in December, we had a crew of guys working at the house, installing a shiny new metal roof. I was, as is usual at this time of year, deep into Christmas cookie baking. So each day, I would load up a cookie tin before heading off to the day job and leave it, along with a large thermos of hot cider, on a small table on the covered front porch.

When the roof was at last done, I forgot about the final tin of cookies that remained on the porch. We always enter the house through the garage and rarely have unexpected visitors at our little house in the country foothills, so it’s easy to forget about the official front entry.

Lemon teackae in red box Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

Then one Saturday, there was a timid knock at the front door. It was the postman, and he looked decidedly uneasy. Stammering, he said, “I want to apologize to you. I delivered a package a while back and saw the Christmas tin and before I even realized what I was doing, I opened the tin and ate a few of the cookies. They were so good that I couldn’t stop thinking about them, so I came back the next day and took several more so that my wife could taste them as well. This is really embarrassing. My wife insists that I ask you for the recipe.”

I laughed and laughed until tears began to stream down my face. I loaded up a new tin of those cookies for him to take home to his wife and promised that I would work up the recipe for him soon. It was one of those experiments that I scribbled illegibly and incompletely on a random scrap of paper.

I am only just this year getting around to recording it. I do hope the cookie-loving postman, wherever he is by now, somehow gets this recipe.

Lemon teacake balls Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

During one of my Christmas cookie baking lunacy periods, I got the idea for a super-lemony Mexican Wedding Cake cookie. I tried a number of versions, increasing the lemon aspect each time, but could not get the OVER-THE-TOP lemony flavor I was after. Then inspiration hit! The flavor I was trying to achieve is actually contained in a little packet of, can you guess? Kool-Aid.

These demur little cookies with the surprising flavor are now always part of my holiday cookie baking. Put them into silver mini-muffin cups for extra drama.

2½ cups King Arthur’s all-purpose flour

½ cup cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups unsalted butter (3 cubes), cool room temperature

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¾ teaspoon lemon oil (or 1½ teaspoons lemon extract)

Finishing

2 cups sifted powdered sugar, sifted

1 (.23 ounce) package unsweetened Lemonade Kool-Aid powder

1.In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Reserve.

2.In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, thoroughly cream the butter and powdered sugar. Blend in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon oil.

3.Add the flour mixture and mix into the dough until it is just evenly distributed.

4.Using your hands, form rounded teaspoons of dough into smooth balls, about 1-inch in diameter and layer into a large clean bowl. (A one-tablespoon commercial scoop can also be used to portion the dough. To get the correct amount of dough, scrape the dough level with the upper edge of the scoop.)

5.Cover and chill the cookie balls for at least 1 hour (longer is even better).

6.Set the cookie balls ½-inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

7.Bake at 375° for 11-13 minutes, or until set but only very lightly browned around the edges and on the bottom.

8.Remove the cookies from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

9.While still warm, but not too hot to the touch, roll each cookie in the powdered sugar and Kool-Aid mixture. Set back on the wire rack to cool completely.

10.Before packing for storage, dust again with powdered sugar, and then arrange in wax paper separated layers in metal cookie tins.

These cookies keep well for weeks if stored airtight in a cool, dry place.

Makes between 100 and 120 small cookies (Usually fills two 9½-inch diameter by 3½-inch deep cookie tins; each tin holds 60 cookies in three 20-cookie layers.)

Lemon teacake bagged Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

Come Back for More

Here is the LunaCafe Christmas 2008 Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies initial post and game plan.

Beginning on December 1st, I will post daily until we complete the list on December 12th. If you bake along, one cookie a day, you will have a wonderful selection of holiday cookies to share with family and friends, with time to spare.

On the 1st day of Christmas: Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz

On the 2nd day of Christmas: Orange Vanilla Sugar Cookies

On the 3rd day of Christmas: Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

On the 4th day of Christmas: Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies

On the 5th day of Christmas: Peppermint Stick Shortbread

On the 6th day of Christmas: Lemon-Lime Clove Sugar Cookies

On the 7th day of Christmas: Almond Black Cherry Shortbread

On the 8th day of Christmas: Green Tea and Rose Spritz

On the 9th day of Christmas: Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies

On the 10th day of Christmas: Lemon OrangePecan Thumbprints

On the 11th day of Christmas: Candy Cane Butter Cookies

On the 12th day of Christmas: Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

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  2. I’ll be trying out the lemon cakes today, thanks for the recipe!

  3. Hello :D

    I just made these for the first time today and they are super fantastic! They were even better after I realized how much I misjudged an inch diameter in cookie doughball size ;). Also, for the finishing, I used TrueLemon (I couldn’t find lemonade kool-aid, and I really enjoy the True Citrus packets :D) – such a splendid idea for, as you said, that ‘over-the-top’ lemon flavour (though you spelled it the U.S. way, of course ;)).

    I, as Mary Sue has also hinted :), can’t wait to try it with lime… or orange?? :D

    Thank you for the super recipe!

  4. Hi Susan,
    Can I substitute lime juice and rind for the lemon? I LOVE the sound of your very unique recipes, this will be my first to try…

  5. I am new to your site and loving it! I made the lemon teacakes and they spread in the oven running into each other and very crumbly! Did I do something wrong?

    • Rose, were the cookie balls COLD when you put them in the oven? That’s critical. If they are room temperature, the butter melts before the structure is set. Since several folks have had this issue, it might make a good post to show the difference with the same cookie dough at room temperature and frig temperature after baking. The temperature of the oven also makes a difference here. If your oven is running hot, the butter will also melt before the structure is set. Try lowering the temperature by 25 degrees on the next batch. Hope this helps…Susan

  6. i tried these today! it took a little longer than expected for me, but the outcome is terrific! :)
    (besides my sister feeling not-so-well because of the “over-the-top” lemony flavor, but i suppose that’s her problem)
    these actually made about 40 for me, but i’ll check the size/diameter more carefully next time

    • Claire, so glad you liked them. Yes, these are not for the lemon adverse. :-) You only got 40 cookies? In checking another cookie recipe I just posted with similar quantity of ingredients and same shaping technique, I see that the quantity is about 5 dozen or 60 cookies. Not sure how I arrived at 100-120 cookies for the lemon teacakes then. I will revise the recipe after making a batch this holiday season. Thanks for the heads up on that!

  7. Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  8. What a great story! These cookies sound really nice, and I like that the size is on the small side.

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