Classic Tea "Thumbprint" Cookies

I have more than a few posts that should have been gotten out before the holidays, but better late than never? It feels a bit like post-Holidayliptic Fall Out to share them now!

Classic Tea "Thumbprint"  Cookies
Classic Tea “Thumbprint” Cookies

These are absolutely simple and simply delish little shortbread Thumbprint cookies. So much fun to make, especially if you have
“littles” at home to make the indentation and fun fillings.

I’ve been using this recipe for decades, and it’s not so much the recipe that makes them so good. Well, it is, but the quality of ingredients and technique make or break these classic cookies.

Only use real butter and the absolute key to this recipe is to make certain the butter is at the proper temperature. Too warm and the cookies don’t keep shape, too cold and the flour will never mix in properly. The butter should be able to be bent without cracking and without losing its shape. I’m going to refer you to Haniela’s Blog where she’s detailed this out wonderfully!

Classic Tea "Thumbprint"  Cookies

Classic Tea “Thumbprint” CookiesFill these with anything! Raspberry jam is a fave, and believe it or not leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving is perfect! In these, I used Blackcurrant Jam, Cranberry Sauce, and made a few with my leftover compote of Winter Fruits in Spiced Wine compote. The beauty of this is you can use any filling you’d like.

Thumbprints can be “striped” with a powdered sugar glaze (yes, it’s powdered sugar with a bit of water) piped across the cookies. Try putting the glaze in a Ziploc and snipping the corner if you don’t have a pastry bag.

A few nuts, complementary to the filling sprinkled over the top of the filling before baking are fantastic, and slivered almonds look beautiful on raspberry filled Tea Cookies.  A 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract in the cookie itself takes this combo over the top.

More Christmas “fall-out.” Gibson seemed a bit unsure of Christmas morning at my daughter’s house! I’ve never seen him “shy” from anything, but he was on the couch next to me, safe from the commotion (read this as out of the way!) and he ducked his head behind my back! I think he thought he was going to be blamed for the mess that was the aftermath of present opening! Bless his heart!

Gibson seemed a bit relieved when the commotion was over!
Gibson seemed a bit relieved when the commotion was over!

I think he was stress eating, too, as a loaf of bread disappeared off the counter the night before and I don’t think it was Santa…Gibby is a notorious “counter-cruiser” and nearly got the leftover ham at my brother’s house, too. Maybe he thought it would go good with the bread?

Classic Tea Thumbprint Cookies

  • Servings: abt 30
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
  • 2 sticks butter, 8 ounces, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (sift if there are lumps)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla (a little orange, almond or other extract may be used to complement the filling, although the amount may need to be cut back)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup or so of filling, jam, jelly, etc.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter until light and fluffy and pale in color, several minutes. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn mixer down and slowly incorporate the flour and salt, beating until just mixed, scraping the bowl now and then.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop. Roll into a ball shape (flour hands if necessary) place on cookie sheet about two inches apart and gently and very slightly flatten just a little.  Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball or use the back of a measuring spoon to make an indentation about 3/8 inch or so deep. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon jam.

Bake cookies until set and only until a slight bit of coloration is visible on the bottom edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking. Cool cookies on the baking sheets. Serve.

Store cookies in a tightly sealed container for several days.


  • I find it easiest to scoop all the cookies onto a sheet or clean counter first, then pick each up to roll and put on the cookie sheet. Then I press them, indent them and fill them.
  • Because these are a shortbread and have no leavening, any imperfection in the cookie shows when they are done, so it’s best to take a bit of care to try to keep them smooth.

Classic Tea or Thumbprint Cookies - Been making these for decades! I love this recipe!


15 Comments on “Classic Tea “Thumbprint” Cookies & Holiday Fall Out

  1. Indeed, these look like the perfect tea cookie! And man, Gibson is adorable! A cookie (or two) and some snuggle time with Gibson and my day would be complete! 🙂

  2. Loving it – alone for the sentence ‘do not use anything but butter’. Couldn’t agree more 😉

  3. These look so pretty! I love shortbread, and just realized that I have never made any sort of thumbprint cookie before…it seems that it’s about time that I fill that gap in my baking repertoire, so thank you for sharing the recipe!

    • Well I’m a sucker for Shortbread and hope you enjoy these. By the way, I’ve been enjoying your blog. You had me at “Bailey’s Cake!” 🙂

  4. I love thumbprint cookies though I make mine with the same butter/cream cheese dough that I used for rugelach.

    • I bet those are great, too. These do have to be watched like a hawk or they can get dry – cream cheese keeps things so rich & moist.

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