It’s almost spring time which means lemon desserts! 🍋 Lots of them. After a cold winter, it’s always fun to start baking light springy desserts and these cookies are easy, delicious, and very lemon-y! The crisp and buttery cookies have just a hint of lemon, but the icing has a good pop of tangy citrus. They’re the perfect balance of sweet and tart!
It’s a simple shortbread cookie recipe, but made with fresh lemon juice and a little bit of lemon zest, then glazed with a fresh lemon juice icing. They are so pretty just sprinkled with decorating sugar crystals but also fun to add some colorful sprinkles for Easter.
The key to amazing shortbread is to use great quality ingredients, so don’t skimp on the butter. You can use salted or unsalted, but be sure to compensate by either adding or omitting salt from the cookie recipe. I use unsalted and then add in pink Himalayan salt, because we love that kind of salt. Then, be sure to chill the cut cookies for 30 minutes, or even overnight before baking them. I also chill the dough before I roll it out to shape the cookies if it has become too soft while making the dough. Then I refrigerate the shaped cookies again. This helps firm up the dough and prevents the cookies from spreading too much when you bake them.
You can choose whatever sprinkles you like for on top of the icing from colorful sprinkles to plain crystal sugar sprinkles, or even no sprinkles at all. Or, you can try a little sweetened lemon zest on top if you love that flavor.
These shortbread cookies freeze well in an airtight container. Be sure to allow the icing to harden before packing them up!
Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- 1 large cookie sheet
- handheld beater or standing mixer
- Parchment paper
- 8 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature (8 oz. = 2 sticks = 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 3 tbsp. lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 1 tbsp. milk you may or may not need this to get to the right consistency for the icing
Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Sift flour with baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, (or using a handheld beater) beat the butter, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla on low speed to blend. Increase speed and Beat until fluffy and well-blended.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, keeping the speed on low. Mix just until combined. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate to firm up just a bit, maybe 10-15 minutes. (Dough can be refrigerated overnight or for several days before baking it, too.)
- Remove dough from the plastic wrap and roll out onto a floured cloth or board to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Using a cookie cutter of any shape, or the top of a glass, cut the dough into the desired shapes. You may need to dip the cutters or glass top in flour between cutting every few cookies to keep the dough from sticking.
- Place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate on the baking sheet for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are just beginning to turn golden-brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before icing and decorating.
- Using a whisk, blend sifted powered sugar with lemon juice until well blended. Add enough milk to arrive at a good spreadable icing consistency.
- Using a spoon, drizzle icing over each cookie, or simply dip the tops of the cookies into the bowl of icing. Add sprinkles immediately before the icing starts to harden up.
- Allow icing to dry completely before storing cookies.
- If you want to make shortbread sandwich cookies, roll out the cookie a little bit thinner than 1/4-inch and bake for slightly less time. When you assemble the cookies, simply spread the frosting on top of one cookie and place another cookie on top.
- These cookies are delicious dipped into lemon curd, or even better lemon mousse. We have our recipe for lemon curd mousse here.