Thumbprint Cookies

March 06, 2024

Thumbprint Cookies

Recipe Source: The Favorite Recipes of the Lower Cape Fear

This recipe was submitted by Mrs. Emmett H. Durham. She calls them “Lily Cookies.” I call them delicious!

About the Dish

Thumbprint cookies are a traditional holiday treat in many regions around the world, but they’re just as tasty in June as December! They’re an American take on hallongrotta (“raspberry cave”), a popular Swedish shortbread cookie traditionally made with a dollop of raspberry jam spooned into a thumb-sized depression.

They’ve been around since at least the 19th century, but their exact origin is unknown. Sweden, Poland, and Eastern European Jews all take credit. They go by many other names, including jam drops, jelly tots, butter balls, and pits of love.

lily cookie recipe book
Thumbprint Cookies on Rack

Best Thumbprint Cookies Tips

Thumbprint cookies are easy to make. Even if you don’t get them perfect, is there such a thing as a bad cookie? Still, these tips will help make them as tasty as possible:

  • Plan ahead. Because this recipe calls for room temperature butter, you’ll need to take it out of the fridge or freezer a few hours before you start baking. Melting it in the microwave may be quick and convenient, but it will cause your cookies to spread. Trust me, I know!
  • Use a spoon. Despite their name, don’t actually use your thumb when making these cookies. Pressing down with the back of a 1-teaspoon measuring spoon instead creates a perfectly round, wide indentation perfect for filling with jam. Your cookies will look nicer and more even, too.
  • Get the jam:cookie ratio right. A proper thumbprint cookie has a decent amount of jam. To avoid ending up with too little, use a rounded tablespoon of dough for each cookie, and fill with ½ teaspoon of jam. This is the perfect jam:coolie ratio. Again, based on experience!

How to Store Cookies with Jam

Thumbprint cookies stay fresh for up to three days when stored in an airtight container at room temperature. If you’re like me and make a huge batch that won’t get eaten that quickly (though it’s tempting!), you can freeze them for up to a month. Just thaw them at room temperature for a little while and they’ll taste just as fresh as the day you made them.

Alternatively, you can freeze the dough. I like to form the dough into cookies and make the thumb imprint before freezing to save time when I’m ready to bake them again. If you do this, wrap them up tightly and freeze for up to three months. Best of all, they can be baked without thawing out first; simply fill the centers with your jam of choice and bake from frozen. Give them a few extra minutes of baking time to ensure they cook through.

Original Recipe

Cream 4 ½ ounces cream cheese, 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sifted flour, and marmalade.
Roll, cut with 2” round cutter, roll into cornucopia by bringing 2 round edges together, letting them overlap. Press them gently and shape them like a lily. Fill the opening part with jelly or orange marmalade. Bake 375° for about 15 minutes. Cool and drench with powdered sugar. Yields about 6 dozen.

How I Cooked It

I wanted to try the recipe because I love jam cookies. I have eaten far too many Pepperidge Farm Linzer cookies. You can use any kind of jam or preservative you want. I love Lanier’s Christmas jam, a blend of strawberry and cranberry. It’s sweet, bright, and delicious.

This recipe is simple. However, I was never able to get the dozen count it promised. I usually ended up with closer to three dozen. I tested this recipe three times before I really got it right.

During the first bake I attempted to make the lily shape. That was a disaster. The jam melted all over the parchment paper and the cookie fell apart. I’m pretty sure I know how to fix this. I’ll try again for Easter.

For the second bake, I didn’t bother with the lily shape and went for a classic thumbprint cookie. I also refrigerated the dough for 2-3 hours before adding the jam and baking. This was perfection! The jam was jammy and the cookie melted in my mouth.

The third bake, I refrigerated the dough overnight. There was no big difference from the second bake, but refrigerating overnight is convenient. I was very liberal with the powdered sugar. Get it everywhere, even the bottom of the cookies. Don’t worry about using too much jam. The powdered sugar will dissolve into the jam and you’ll see that beautiful jewel-toned jam shining through.

Word to the wise: let the cookies cool completely before eating, no matter how good they look. That jam comes out of the oven HOT. I burned my mouth more times than I want to admit.


  • ½ package cream cheese, about 4 oz. at room temperature
  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • ½ jar Lanier’s Christmas jam (or any other flavor)


  1. Cream butter and cream cheese together
  2. Mix in sifted flour
  3. Roll dough to about ¼ inch thick
  4. Refrigerate dough a minimum of 2 hours, to overnight
  5. Preheat oven to 375°
  6. Cut dough with round cookie cutter
  7. Dollop a teaspoon of jam in the center of each cookie (Tip: cup the round cookie shape to keep the jam from cooking over the edge while in the oven)
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes — bottoms should be lightly browned
  9. Let cookies cool completely
  10. Coat top and bottom with powdered sugar

This yields about three dozen cookies. I know you’ll want to eat them all, but try to share!

Thumbprint Cookies on rack with Sugar

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