Lemon Sugar Cookies

May 26th, 2010 by Gemma

Last week in Time For Tea I mentioned making lemon sugar cookies to garnish the cupcakes with. I’ve made various lemon cookies before, but I was looking for something a little different this time. Previous lemon cookies have been either drop cookies (place a dollop of dough on the sheet) or refrigerated cookies (form the dough into a log and chill then slice). But I wanted something I could roll out and cut to shape, and that would hold it’s shape and not spread out. Like a sugar cookie.

I’m not a fan of straight up sugar cookies, I find them sickeningly sweet and with not enough flavour. But a lemon sugar cookie… that was an idea. The tart of the lemon would fix both flaws there, adding flavour and counteracting the sweetness. So recipes were found, and fiddled with, until I had something that looked like it would work.. on paper at least!

I started like any sugar cookie, softening the butter and creaming in the sugar. It’s a fine balance there, creaming enough to lighten the cookies but not so much that the excess air causes them to spread. Then I added the first taste of lemon, zest, and lots of it. I love my microplane grater, used properly it takes just the zest so you get none of the bitter pith, and it grates it into small enough pieces to just add, no need to chop it up smaller.

Next came the eggs and then all other liquids in the dough I replaced with lemon juice.  Mixed until it came together I wrapped the dough up and placed it in the fridge. I actually ended up leaving the dough chilling overnight, a good 12 hours. While this long isn’t strictly necessary (and happened more by chance than design) I felt that the extra period of time helped the zest to thoroughly infuse it’s flavour, giving it a nice strong lemon taste.

Of course, the flip side of this was that I needed to work the dough a little so I was able to roll it out. You want to be careful, as the amount of butter in the dough means that if it gets too warm it will get all sticky and hard to roll out, and even spread in the oven while it’s baking. Just knead it enough to make it workable, you can always do it in batches and leave the rest in the fridge.

Pick your cutters and roll the dough out to a desired thickness. I prefer them nice and thick so they’re soft in the centre once baked. Cut them out and arrange on sheets. You can knead all the scraps together and re-roll, take care not to do this too much or you will develop lots of gluten in the dough which makes for tough cookies! I got fed up of rolling it all out and saved some dough in the freezer for a later date, I’m happy to say it defrosted and cooked up well. A good thing to know!

These cookies don’t take long to bake, you want them just turning golden at the edges. Once they reach that point take them out quickly, it won’t take long for them to burn and become crunchy and inedible.

Leave them to cool and then here comes the fun part – decorating!

I made up a batch of royal icing with some lemon juice added in place of some of the water to continue the lemon theme. Mix up all the colours you want and place in bowls, with a layer of cling wrap on top to stop it from drying out. I make mini piping bags from parchment, I find them easier to do fine detail work with.

The method I used for decorating here is known as flooding. I outlined everything in the desired colour and left it to dry. Then I came back with the colour, thinned out a tiny bit more so it flows easily, and “flooded” inside the lines, filling it up.

The outline of the margarita glasses got some coloured sugar sprinkled on, to rim the glasses. And the ice cream and cupcakes had sprinkles added while the icing was still wet so they would stick on.

This is the part where you can have fun, creativity can fly free and you can do whatever you like to the cookies, enjoy it!


  1. Curious Confections » Crawfish Cookies said:

    […] lemon sugar cookies are my favourite for cut-out cookies, they hold their shape well when baked out. This time I […]

  2. Curious Confections » Halloween Cookies said:

    […] in the summer when I did the lemon sugar cookies I used a technique known as flooding to decorate them. These were a little simpler. Because all the […]