This is a refreshing lemonade sugar cookies recipe that will satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard. Bright, tangy and sweet, these lemonade sugar cookies are a nice way to brighten anyone’s day. These cookies are perfectly balanced with sweet lemonade icing and a buttery tender sugar cookie.
The sugar cookie base is one that I like to use for all of my rolled cookies because it’s simple to roll, shape and decorate. I incorporated fresh lemon peel to the recipe to provide extra lemon flavor in the cookie and not just the icing. Making rolled sugar cookies are easy if you follow my step by step sugar cookie guide! If you are looking for more fun ways to decorate rolled sugar cookies, my sugar cookie decorating how-to post provides some easy and fun ideas!
There are various ways you can decorate sugar cookies, however it all starts with a good royal icing recipe that is easy to use and dries relatively quickly. I use Wilton Gel Icing Colors for decorating my icing, a little bit goes a long way! Some sugar cookie decorating techniques I like to use are “lining and dragging” which creates beautiful mosaic designs. You can also paint images directly on the cookie with some diluted gel coloring and a brush on the dried icing surface. Although stylizing sugar cookies can be time consuming depending on how elaborate the design, but it’s a great way to get creative in the kitchen and unleash your inner Picasso!
TIP: Traditional royal icing recipes call for pasteurized egg whites. The egg whites help to add a bit of volume and shine to the icing while the proteins in the egg whites help to firm and dry the icing into a harder design. I prefer to use meringue powder because it uses dried egg whites (instead of raw) and doesn’t pose a food safety risk. Meringue powder does a great job in quickly providing stiffness the royal icing as it dries.
- 2½ cups (12½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (5⅔ ounces) superfine sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and softened
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
- 1 pound (4 cups) confectioners sugar, sifted
- ¼ cup meringue powder
- ¼ cup water, more if needed to thin the icing
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- To make superfine sugar, process 1 cup granulated sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds, then measure out ¾ cup for the recipe.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the butter into the flour mixture, one piece at a time. Continue to beat the flour-butter mixture until it looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Beat in the cream cheese, vanilla and lemon peel until the dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Knead the dough in the bowl by hand a few times until it forms a large cohesive mass.
- Transfer the dough to a clean counter and divide it into 2 even pieces. Press each piece into a 4-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the dough is firm yet malleable, about 30 minutes.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out between 2 large sheets of parchment paper to an even ⅛ -inch to ¼-inch thickness. With the dough sandwiched between the parchment, slide it onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes. The dough scraps can be patted together, chilled, and rerolled one time only.
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 °F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with one sheet of dough at a time, remove the top piece of parchment and stamp out cookies using cookie cutters. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet with a thin metal spatula, spaced about 1 inch apart.
- Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until light golden brown, about 7-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating as desired. Repeat with the remaining dough using freshly lined baking sheets.
- To double the rolled sugar cookie recipe, double all of the ingredients and prepare the dough as directed, being sure to add the butter one piece at a time.
- With an electric mixer on low speed, beat all ingredients until smooth, about 7 minutes. If icing is too thick, add more water, a teaspoon at a time until icing holds a ribbon on the surface for a few seconds when the beater is lifter. If it is too thin, continue to beat for 2 to 3 minutes, or add more powdered sugar a tablespoon at the time until the desired consistency is reached.
- Add a small amount of icing to the center of the cookie, using the back of a spoon to evenly spread the icing on the surface. You can also use a piping bag to draw the borders (allowing to dry slightly), then fill in the center with icing. If you are painting a design on the cookie, let the icing surface to completely dry before decorating. If you are doing a drag design, immediately create horizontal lines across the surface of the icing (you want the base icing to still be wet). Then gently drag the toothpick down and across the horizontal lines until a design is formed, allow to dry completely.
- Leave the cookies undisturbed for at least 1 to 2 hours to fully dry. When the cookies are dry, the surface of the cookies will be completely smooth, dry, and resistant to nicks or smudges.
- Store in an airtight container, cookies with last 5 days.