Summer is right around the corner, and now that I’ve finished all of my AP exams, I’m completely stress-free and ready to relax! Actually, I guess I have to admit that there wasn’t much stress in the first place; especially since everything is online (and my work ethic has been at an all time low lol) and my school district has made passing classes so easy, this last part of the semester has flown by so quickly and easily. But now that my schoolwork is officially over, it’s time to get in the summer mindset: for me, that includes reading a book while lounging by the poolside, eating watermelon almost every day, and honestly just having the nice feeling of doing nothing.
These lemon cookies are the perfect way to kick off summer 2020… everything about them screams warm weather and relaxation! They’re so bright and colorful and adorable, but they’re also the perfect balance of sweet and tangy lemon flavor. I piped a lemon pattern on some of them, just for fun, which further enhances their summery appearance! They’re also slice-and-bake cookies, which are honestly some of my favorite to make – you roll the dough into a log, and slice them into cookies, and they all turn out roughly the same size without the hassle of a cookie scooper.
These lemon cookies have a magic ingredient: cream cheese! This was the first time I have used cream cheese in a cookie recipe, and I was so pleasantly surprised. It compliments the tanginess of the lemon juice perfectly, while adding another layer of unexpected flavor. The amounts of each ingredient are relatively low, so they don’t overpower the cookie at all! Also, this recipe is based loosely around a classic shortbread recipe: it doesn’t have any leavening ingredients, but it’s slightly buttery, soft, and slightly crumbly instead. I’m not typically the biggest fan of shortbread–I think it’s too buttery and plain–but with the cream cheese, these cookies don’t have as much butter, and with the lemon zest and juice, there’s an element of sweet-sour flavor that I can’t get enough of!
Side note: can we appreciate the fact that I finally have my nails done for once? I was going through some old blog posts yesterday, and I realized that in a lot of my pictures my nails are both a) old and chipped and b) the exact same shade of blue. I’ve had the same Essie nail polish for like 3 years already, and I guess I’ve just been too lazy to go and buy some new colors!
Also, if you’re wondering where I got the cute tongs from, I found them on Amazon. They come with a plate and they’re adorable!
How to make the Slice n’ Bake Lemon Cookies:
- The cream cheese: 4 oz for the cookie, 4 oz for the frosting! By only adding half the block to the cookies, it doesn’t overpower the main lemon flavor at all! Make sure the cream cheese & butter are both softened to room temperature to start, so that everything combines nicely and smoothly.
- Egg yolks only: this gives the cookies an extra-rich flavor and dense texture. The whites aren’t needed, because the yolks contain most of the ingredient-binding properties anyways!
- The lemon: I used approximately 1/2 of a large lemon, but depending on how juicy yours is, it might depend on how much you’ll end up using. If you like your cookies on the tangier side, you should add 3 tsp of lemon juice instead of 2; that’s what I did :)
- Cornstarch: adding cornstarch helps damage the proteins that form gluten in flour, leaving you with a softer, more tender cookie. The defining characteristic of any shortbread-style cookie is a moist, soft consistency that still holds its shape well. If you don’t have any on hand, you could substitute with flour instead (I haven’t tried this recipe with substitutions, so just adjust the amounts until you get the right consistency).
- The slice-n-bake method is super easy, but it requires the dough to be chilled for around 2 hours! After that, dump the dough onto your counter and roll it into a log; then, using a sharp knife, cut the log into 1/4 inch pieces and put on the prepared baking sheet. It’s really that easy, and you don’t have to worry about using a cookie scoop! I was able to make around 20 cookies with this recipe, but it depends on how big/small you cut them.
- The frosting: I reached my ideal consistency with just the powdered sugar and room-temp cream cheese, because I wanted a thicker consistency that I could easily pipe patterns with. However, if you want a smooth, thinner glaze, just add in small portions of milk until you reach the desired consistency!
- To make the lemon patterns, I divided the frosting into two portions and added yellow dye to one of them. Then, I added the frostings each to separate ziploc bags and cut off one corner to act as a makeshift piping bag. Using the white, I piped a pizza pattern on the cookie, and filled in the centers with the yellow frosting. I also outlined the edges with some additional yellow. It’s super easy and makes the cookies look so cute!
I see some of y’all making my peanut butter donuts and posting on Pinterest, and I love seeing your recreations! Celebrate the start of summer by making a batch of these lemon cookies, and as always, be sure to tag me @mysouthernsweettooth on Instagram!
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened (1/2 cup)
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened (half of the block)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2-3 tsp lemon juice
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 4 oz cream cheese (the other half of the block)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- milk (optional; to thin out the frosting)
- yellow food coloring (optional)
- In a large bowl, add softened butter and cream cheese, and beat for a minute to combine. Then, add the granulated sugar and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, salt, and vanilla, and whisk to combine. Mix in the lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Add the flour and cornstarch, mixing until completely incorporated. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, until the dough is firm and no longer sticky to the touch.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll the dough into a log (approximately 2 inches in diameter; doesn't have to be accurate). Slice into ¼ inch pieces and place on a tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 15 minutes; after baking, set aside for 30 minutes to cool completely.
- While cookies are cooling, make the icing. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and food coloring (if desired); stir to combine. If you want more of a glaze-like consistency, add a little bit of milk. I decorated mine by placing in a ziploc bag and snipping off the tip to pipe, but you could also just dip them. Enjoy!!