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Incredibly tasty and just as pretty too!
Lemon shortbread cookies filled with fruit spread are a delicate, bite-sized treat! Add a drizzle of sweet almond glaze as a finishing touch.
Thumbprint cookies get their name because you make an indentation into the dough before baking, usually with your thumb, then fill the center with jam once they come out of the oven.
My original recipe was for lemon raspberry cookies, but I decided to try orange marmalade in the center as well — oh my, did they turn out to be delicious! I think having a mix of both flavors creates a lovely combination of colors for your plate.
Jam thumbprints have always been one of my all-time favorites. So much so, you’ll also find caramel pecan and peanut butter toffee turtle versions here as well! There are even Gingerbread Gems, which are a fun twist on peanut butter blossoms.
Have some leftover marmalade? Whip up a batch of my Orange French Toast for brunch!
Key ingredients & substitutions for Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Unsalted butter — Don’t be tempted to use margarine as you will not get the same taste or baking results. The exception would be plant-based baking sticks for a dairy-free version since these are designed to mimic butter.
- All-purpose flour — Since you do not want these lemon raspberry cookies to rise or spread too much, avoid self-rising flour.
- Lemon zest — This is added to the dough for a burst of fresh lemon flavor. Grate the outer, colorful layer of the citrus and stop as soon as you see white. That layer underneath the yellow is called pith, and it has an unpleasant bitter taste.
- Almond glaze — Create a smooth mixture of powdered sugar, almond extract, and just enough milk to reach the desired consistency. You could also substitute vanilla or lemon extract for a different flavor.
- I used a combination of raspberry jam and orange marmalade for the center of these lemon shortbread cookies. Homemade or jarred is fine – and you can certainly use one or the other if you prefer.
How to make jam thumbprints?
STEP 1 | Shape the base
Mix together the ingredients as directed until the dough comes together. Scoop out equally sized amounts and roll each into a ball. Then, press down into the center to form an indentation.
STEP 2 | Bake and cool
Bake until set and the edges are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
STEP 3 | Fill the centers
Use a measuring spoon to add fruit spread to each indentation. It should be just enough to follow the natural dome of the cookie.
STEP 4 | Drizzle with glaze
A piping bag will give you more control than a spoon. I used a round piping tip, but you can simply snip off the pointed tip instead. Or, create your own piping bag out of a ziptop storage bag.
Tip for shaping thumbprint cookies
- Chill the dough. You can use the dough right after you mix it up, but for the best results, I recommend first chilling it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This will give the lemon shortbread cookies a smoother edge.
- Use a round cookie scoop. Measure out the cookie dough with a small round cookie or ice cream scoop to ensure the treats are a uniform size.
- Make an impression right away. As you roll each dough ball, place it on the baking sheet and immediately press in your thumb — before rolling out the next one.
- All thumbs? Adjust the size of your impression depending on what size you roll the cookie dough balls. For smaller ones, you will want to use the tip of your forefinger instead of your entire thumb.
Frequently asked questions
Actually, you can make them either way. If you choose to fill them before baking, avoid overfilling the middles since the jam will melt in the oven. Otherwise, fill them once they have cooled a bit so you know exactly how much to add.
Yes! You can shape the unbaked dough and place it in a resealable freezer bag for up to a month or bake it off and freeze once cooled. Either way, wait until you are ready to serve them before filling with the jam and drizzling with the glaze.
These will stay fresh for up to a week when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Jam filled shortbread cookies: behind the recipe
I went back and forth deciding if these are better described as shortbread or butter cookies. So, I did a little research to see which made more sense.
I learned that shortbread is a traditional Scottish biscuit (cookie for us Americans) that is made with one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour.
A butter cookie, on the other hand, is made with one part sugar, one part butter, and three parts flour.
With those ratios, it seems to me that the names should be switched — don’t you agree? Turns out, these aren’t technically shortbread, but that description fits the closest as far as texture and flavor.
Jam Thumbprint Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup raspberry jam
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, lemon rind, vanilla, and salt together until very light. Add in the egg and mix well.
- Stir in the flour until well blended and the dough begins to hold together.
- Using a cookie scoop, measure out the cookies, roll the cookie dough into a smooth ball, and place onto the baking sheets 2 inches apart. Use your fingertip (for smaller cookies) or thumb (for larger cookies) to put an indentation into the center of each.
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before moving from baking sheet to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Fill each cookie indentation with raspberry jam, using about 1/4 teaspoon for smaller cookies or 1/2 teaspoon for larger cookies.
- In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, almond extract, and milk until smooth and the desired consistency. Drizzle over the jam-filled cooled cookies. Allow the glaze to set before storing the cookies in an air-tight container.
- To make shaping the cookies easier, place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out the cookie balls in your hands.
- Thumbprint cookies will stay fresh for up to a week when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- You can freeze thumbprint cookies either after they are baked or after you shape the cookie dough for up to a month in a resealable freezer bag. If you do freeze the baked cookies, wait until you are ready to serve them to fill with jam and to drizzle with the glaze.
About Sheila Thigpen
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.