Taste-wise, these are my best sugar cookies yet.
Honestly, in terms of taste I never was really a fan of sugar cookies, I just enjoyed decorating them. But over the years, and with the help of my okaasan’s recipe, I was able to improve on the flavor, and now I’ve reached what may be the top of the top. I adore lemon desserts, and these are just as lemony and delicious as I was hoping they would turn out. My only tips: don’t over bake, and use fresh lemons.
I was recruited/hired to bake up some treats for a Boy Scout court of honor ceremony this past week. Originally they wanted a cake and cupcakes, but since I have little experience with cakes and zero experience with fondant, I referred them to someone better suited for that and instead volunteered to do the cupcakes along with cookies. Boy did that keep me busy all week (do you follow my Insta stories??) and I was sure happy it did. I was satisfied with how they looked AND how they tasted, so I’m sharing the recipe with you, as well as some decorating tips if you’re interested. Check it out.
For the most part I tried to keep the cookies fairly simple so that I could focus a good chunk of time and energy on a select few complicated ones. But just an FYI, “simple” cookies are still time-consuming. Perhaps that’s why I like royal icing, it’s not necessarily difficult, only takes patience and time. So most of the cookies are pretty straightforward, like flood the cookie, then add some star sprinkles. But here are some quick tips:
For the striped ones, I often used a ruler and clean pin to scratch marks into the cookie so that the stripes were evenly placed, and I would do one color first, then the next color. That way the first color would have some time to dry so that they wouldn’t run together. Not necessary, but I like the effect better. Also, use toothpicks to fill in holes or make corners sharper.
For the Boy Scout symbol ones this is what I did: First I flooded the cookies with white and let them dry overnight. Then I prepped by taking my cookie cutter and tracing it on cardstock. Inside, I drew the symbol so I knew what size they had to be. Then I cut out a fleur de lis shape (that red symbol behind the eagle). Then I placed my drawing underneath a piece of parchment paper and traced it to make the shields only. Again, toothpicks are necessary when working with those tiny details. Use them to make sharp corners, and for the tiny stars I dipped a toothpick in white, then dotted the stars. I let those dry about 4 hours, and then did the same for the eagles: put my drawing underneath parchment paper and traced it with the royal icing. That one is tricky because you need to make sure everything is connected, and the lines are as thick as possible so that they will not break later. While they were still wet, I took the shields and placed them on top of the eagles. Those I let dry for about 5 hours. The last step was the fleur de lis: I took my cutout and using a clean pin, scratched the shape into the icing on my cookie. Then I followed that to make the shape in red, filled it with white, and while it was still wet, I very carefully peeled the eagle from the parchment paper and placed it on top of the fleur de lis. The poor eagle’s feet broke off on all of them so I abandoned those, and one of their beaks actually broke too, but I was able to place it so that you couldn’t tell. Whew. So that’s how it’s done! Time-consuming but very doable.
If all of that sounds like too much work, these cookies are quite delicious without any icing too 🙂
Lemon Sugar Cookies
Makes about 48 three-inch cookies
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- zest of 2 lemons
- powdered sugar for dusting
- 5 Tbsp meringue powder*
- 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)**
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted
- food coloring gel (opt.)
- extra lemon juice
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Then add the vanilla extract and lemon extract and combine. Beat in the baking powder and salt. Add the zest of your two lemons. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour and mix until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Your dough should be pliable like soft clay. Divide it into 2-3 parts, form them into disc shapes, and wrap in plastic wrap. Let chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375F and fit two baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper.
Prep a clean surface by dusting with powdered sugar. Take one disc out of the fridge and begin flattening it with a rolling pin. Continuously dust your surface, the dough, and your rolling pin to keep from sticking. Roll out the dough until about 1/4-1/3 of an inch thick. Cut out shapes and place them on your baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are just beginning to brown. Do not over bake. Let cool for a few minutes on the pan, then once they’re hard enough, remove to a rack to cool completely. Squeeze and shape your leftover dough into a disc again, wrap it back up in the plastic wrap and place it back in the fridge to chill while you work on the next section of dough. Continue to cycle through all your dough until done. Make sure the cookies are completely cool before icing.
For the royal icing:
In the bowl of a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the lemon juice and meringue powder. Whisk on medium to combine, then add the cream of tartar. Drop the powdered sugar in all at once, and whisk on low. Scrap down the sides once or twice, then continue to beat on low for 10 minutes. It will probably be too thick, so add more lemon juice a little at a time until you get the right consistency. Be patience during this step, so that you don’t overdo it. This is the consistency you want: when you run your spatula or a butter knife through it, the icing smooths out in 10 seconds (I do fast Mississippis). So once you reach that consistency, you’re icing is ready. Separate it into different bowls to add food coloring, and cover any icing you’re not using right away with a damp towel to keep it from crusting over.
Fill pastry bags fitted with tips to decorate. For basic flooding, I use a #2 or #3 tip, and for details a #1. And a couple last decorating tips: take tall glasses and fill them with just a cm of water. Place the icing bags your not using into those glasses, and it will keep your tips from crusting over. Just dry off the water before reusing. If you also fold over and tie off the ends of the bags with rubber bands, then the icing should stay wet and ready to use for a few days, though at some point it will start to separate.
*I have found meringue powder both at Michael’s as well as the baking/craft section of Walmart.
**I used the juice from the 2 lemons for the cookies, then filled in the gaps with the bottled stuff.
Cookie recipe adapted from my okaasan’s recipe. Icing recipe adapted from Sweetopia.