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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: My Soft Lemon Cookies with Zesty Lemon Glaze recipe will give you soft, tender cookies perfectly paired with a luscious lemon glaze. Every bite is packed with big, bold tang and sweetness—all the best parts of a lemon!
Although this recipe is a celebration of fresh lemon flavor, it’s a lovely cookie in its own right. The Soft Lemon Cookies have a subtle buttery richness and a gorgeous crumbly texture, and the glossy glaze adds an extra touch of sweetness without being overwhelming. All of the components of this recipe complement each other, making it a very well-balanced and absolutely delectable treat.
My Soft Lemon Cookies with Zesty Lemon Glaze are the perfect refreshing snack or dessert for spring and summer, but they’re so irresistible, you’ll want to have them all year round. If you enjoy these cookies, check out my Crazy Cookie Dough post where you can use one easy cookie recipe to make endless flavor variations!
Table Of Contents
- What Are Soft Lemon Cookies With Zesty Lemon Glaze?
- Tools You Need
- Ingredients You Need
- How to Make Soft Lemon Cookies and Lemon Glaze
- Can I Make Lemon Cookies and Lemon Glaze In Advance?
- How To Store Lemon Cookies and Lemon Glaze
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- More Lemon Recipes
What Are Soft Lemon Cookies With Zesty Lemon Glaze?
Soft Lemon Cookies with Zesty Lemon Glaze are made with a classic sweet and buttery dough topped with a tangy glaze. They get a refreshing kick from the addition of lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon extract!
While the origin of these cookies is unclear, Lemon Cookies with Lemon Glaze is a very popular variation of cookies in the United States. Especially when lemons are in season during the spring, it’s the most opportune time for bakers to make this simple yet timely recipe.
This treat is often paired with tea, as it’s the perfect floral and grassy complement to a bright citrus dessert!
Tools You Need To Make Lemon Cookies and Lemon Glaze:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Stand mixer with a paddle attachment
- Silicone spatula
- Mixing bowls
- Parchment paper
- Baking sheets
- Plastic wrap
- Wire cooling rack
Ingredients You Need To Make Lemon Cookies and Lemon Glaze
For The Cookie Dough:
- Butter contains around 80% milk fat which adds richness to cookies.
- Softened butter can retain air when creamed with sugar which expands under heat to add lightness, yielding a tender texture.
- Salted butter adds extra flavor and is what I always use, but unsalted butter works too.
Granulated sugar (AKA White Sugar):
- Sugar sweetens cookies.
- Sugar binds easily with water not only to lock in water making cookies moist but also to inhibit gluten formation keeping cookies soft.
- Sugar rubs against fat from softened butter during creaming, creating air pockets to incorporate air. In the meanwhile, sugar also coats air pockets to prevent them from drying out, retaining air to make cookies light and melt in your mouth.
- Sugar contributes to Maillard Reaction resulting in fragrance and lightly golden color.
Dark brown sugar:
- Dark brown sugar not only creates a deeper, caramel-like flavor but it also adds a ton of moisture.
- If you don’t have any on hand, check out my How To Make Brown Sugar recipe to make it at home.
- The peel of the lemon holds the most flavor, and will add a burst of citrusy freshness. You can’t have Lemon Cookies without lemon zest!
Salt: A pinch of salt will enhance your cookies’ flavor by balancing out the sweetness.
- Eggs always need to be at room temperature in baking unless specified otherwise.
- Eggs enrich flavors. The yolks act as an emulsifier to bind all ingredients homogeneously, and the egg whites incorporate and retain air to make the cookies soft.
- Lemon juice only adds a tangy and acidic citrus flavor but also provides extra moisture, so is a must in this recipe.
- I recommend using freshly squeezed lemons for the ultimate lemon flavor.
- Lemon extract elevates the lemon flavor without adding extra acidity and an overwhelming tang.
- All-purpose flour has 9-11% protein content which will help bind all of your wet and dry ingredients together and create the base of your cookies.
- Cornstarch lowers the gluten content to create a soft, delicate cookie.
- Baking soda doesn’t contain acid, so it activates ONLY when mixed with acidic ingredients like lemon juice.
- Baking soda reacts with acid from lemon juice and also eggs to release gas, which creates air pockets to make cookies rise.
- Baking soda also reacts with hot sugar to give the cookies a delicate crust.
For The Lemon Glaze:
- Powdered sugar is finely ground granulated sugar that forms the base of your delicious Lemon Glaze. Try making your own using my recipe for Powdered Sugar!
- Make sure to ALWAYS sift powdered sugar before use for a smooth consistency.
- For extra lemony flavor, add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to your powdered sugar!
How To Make Soft Lemon Cookies with Lemon Glaze
Make cookie dough:
- Mixing wet ingredients:
- Make sure to cream the butter, both sugars, lemon zest, and salt until light and fluffy first so the egg won’t weigh down the structure. This will ensure the cookies have a soft texture.
- Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and lemon extract JUST until combined—over mixing will make the cookies tough.
- Adding dry ingredients: whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and baking soda. Then turn the mixer down and gradually stir in the flour mixture until evenly combined.
Prepare & bake:
- Chilling cookie dough: refrigerate equally-sized cookie dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet until firm to prevent overspreading in baking. Note to cover cookie dough with plastic wrap to prevent a dry surface.
- Note to place cookie dough balls 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until the tops and edges are JUST set. Do not over bake.
- Let cool on the baking sheet before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely. This helps cookies set properly without falling apart.
Make The Lemon Glaze:
- Combine the sifted powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. If a thinner glaze is desired, add the extra tablespoon of lemon juice.
- Dip the top of each cookie in the glaze, then return to the wire rack until the glaze is set.
Enjoy with a cup of tea!
Can I Make Lemon Cookies and Lemon Glaze Ahead Of Time?
Yes, you can! You can make both the cookie dough and glaze in advance:
- Cookie Dough: This recipe calls for refrigerating your cookie dough.
- You can make and refrigerate your dough up to 3 days in advance. When you’re ready, roll the dough into mounds and bake them off as usual!
- You can even freeze the dough for up to 2 months for impromptu cookie needs! When ready to bake, leave cookie dough balls at room temperature while the oven is preheating. This will help cookies expand properly.
- Feel free to make your lemon glaze up to 5 days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- If the glaze is too thick straight out of the refrigerator, pop it in the microwave in 20 to 30-second intervals, stirring in between.
How To Store Lemon Cookies and Lemon Glaze
Leftovers are always delicious! However, note that flavors and textures may change the longer the cookies are stored.
- Room temperature: The best way to store Lemon Cookies with Lemon Glaze is to keep them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
- Refrigerator: For longer storage, you can refrigerate your cookies in an airtight container for a week.
- Freezer: You can also freeze your cookies for 2 to 3 months!
- Freeze glazed cookies in one layer on a flat tray until solid. Then transfer them into an airtight container or freezer-safe bag with layers of parchment paper in between each cookie.
- You can also freeze these cookies without the glaze using the same method.
- To defrost, let your cookies thaw at room temperature for a few hours. The glaze may have a stickier consistency, but you can always re-dip it into some fresh glaze.
Why should I refrigerate cookie dough?
Refrigerating cookie dough is the ultimate trick to the most delicious cookies! Here are a few reasons why you should never skip chilling your cookie dough:
- Texture: Chilling the cookie dough allows the fats (butter) in the cookies to solidify. When baking, it takes longer for the fats to melt which results in less spreading and chewier cookies.
- Flavor: Allowing your cookie dough to rest gives the ingredients time to meld together, yielding tastier cookies.
- Handling: This dough leans more on the soft side, so popping it in the refrigerator for a bit makes it less sticky and much easier to roll into mounds.
Why add cornstarch to cookie dough?
It may seem like an odd ingredient to put in cookie dough, but cornstarch is actually the secret ingredient behind gorgeously tender, crumbly cookies.
- Gluten is a protein found in flour, and high levels of gluten can result in tough and dense desserts.
- Cornstarch inhibits gluten formation in cookie dough. With the addition of cornstarch, you’re decreasing that level of gluten. The result? Unbelievably tender, delicate cookies.
Can I use just lemon juice to flavor my cookies?
The key to my very lemony cookies and glaze is by using lemon juice, zest, and extract.
- First, lemon juice has a very acidic and tangy flavor that will add that classic sour lemon taste to your cookies.
- Second, lemon zest comes from the flavorful peel, giving a highly aromatic lemon fragrance and bright overall taste.
- Last but definitely not least, lemon extract is going to enhance the natural flavors of your juice and zest by adding more flavor with less acidity.
These three ingredients work hand-in-hand to give you all facets of a lemon, and I highly recommend using them all to elevate the lemony flavor of your cookies.
Should I use fresh lemon juice or bottled lemon juice? Should I use fresh lemon zest or store-bought?
- Since this recipe requires the zest of a lemon and lemon juice, you might as well take the time to juice the lemon since you’ll be zesting it too. As a baker, I am always going to prefer using fresh lemon over bottled lemon juice because it packs a better sour punch and flavor compared to the latter. However, if you’re in a pinch, you can definitely use the bottled version.
- The same goes for the zest. Store-bought versions aren’t as fresh and aromatic, but if you’ve got that on hand, you can go ahead and use it.
What can I use instead of lemons?
The beauty of this recipe is that you can completely personalize the type of citrus you use to your liking!
I recommend using oranges and limes for these cookies and glaze, as they’re very similar to lemons. Be sure to go for ripe oranges, they are much sweeter and juicier!
What do I do if I don’t have a stand mixer?
No worries! If you don’t have a stand mixer, I suggest using a hand-handled electric mixer with a large mixing bowl, a food processor, or simply a whisk! All of these options will result in amazing Lemon Cookies. Just be sure to thoroughly combine all of your ingredients.
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips:
- Always use freshly squeezed lemon juice and freshly grated zest for the best flavor.
- When using lemon zest, try to use organic lemons to avoid pesticide residues.
- I don’t pack my brown sugar – make sure to fill the measuring cup loosely or use a scale for the most accurate measurement.
- Lemon juice tends to have a very light yellow, almost clear color. If you want to make these lemon cookies pop, you can put a few drops of yellow food coloring and keep mixing until you reach the desired color.
- If you want a vanilla-flavored glaze instead of a lemon-flavored glaze, substitute the lemon juice with vanilla extract at a 1:1 ratio.
- Instead of refrigerating the dough, you can freeze it for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before baking.
- For a different look, you can drizzle the glaze over your cookies instead of dipping them.
- Make ice cream sandwiches with these cookies and some Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream!
Looking For More Lemon Recipes? Check Out:
- Gemma’s “The Whole Lemon” Tart Recipe
- Gemma’s Whole Lemon Curd (Made With Meyer Lemons)
- Lemon Cake With Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- Lemon Yogurt Loaf Cake
- Easy Lemon Bars Recipe
- One-Bowl Lemon Cupcakes
And don’t miss more everyday baking recipes in my NEW Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day Cookbook!
Soft Lemon Cookies with Zesty Lemon Glaze Recipe
For The Cookie Dough
- ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) butter, softened
- ¾ cup (6 oz/170g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (1½ oz/43 g) dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1½ teaspoons lemon extract
- 2 cups (10 oz/284 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
For The Lemon Glaze
- 1 cup (4 oz/115 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make The Cookie Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, both sugars, lemon zest and salt on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add in the egg, lemon juice and lemon extract and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and baking soda, then turn the mixer to low speed and gradually stir in the flour mixture until evenly combined.
- Divide the dough into 12 equally sized mounds (about ¼ cup/60 ml) and roll into balls. Place the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the dough mounds 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until the tops and edges are just set (don’t overbake).
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make The Lemon Glaze
- In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. If a thinner glaze is desired, add the extra tablespoon of lemon juice.
- Dip the top of each cookie in the glaze, then return to the wire rack until the glaze is set.
- Enjoy with a cup of tea. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.