Christmas Baking (Part Two of Three): Buttery Lemon Tea Cakes

Depending on which part of the world you’re in, small, dome-shaped cookies made with butter and rolled in spiced sugar may be called snickerdoodles, Mexican wedding cakes or Russian Tea Cakes. What they are is actually a much richer, moreish variation on shortbread. Traditionally, these are flavored with vanilla or almond extract and either nutmeg or clove. The cookies are then rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking.

My version of these cookies, however, tastes lighter than those made using traditional recipes. For one thing, the seeming heaviness of vanilla is replaced by the perkier taste of lemon. For another, I prefer to use nutty-tasting ground cardamom for both flavoring and rolling in. The lemon-cardamom combo is a wonderful contrast: a nutty tanginess that balances the buttery-rich sweetness of the cookies.

Citrusy Tea Cakes


  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 grams + additional 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4. In a shallow dish, combine 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon cardamom; set aside.

Cream together the butter and 100 grams sugar till light and fluffy. Whisk in the egg and the lemon extract and mix till well-combined. Add the flour, baking powder, and cardamom and mix till the mixture is about the texture of mashed potatoes. Roll level tablespoons of the dough into balls and roll in the cardamom sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for fifteen minutes.

Makes 30 tea cakes.

These are wonderful for giving away as gifts or for munching alongside a hot cuppa tea. (Earl Grey with lemon or English Breakfast with milk are perfect with these cookies.)

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