to make you happy

iced lemon cookies

It has been said that some people don’t like chocolate, which is very strange, I think. It gives me the same feeling as when my dog barks at 7:30 AM, while he looks at empty grass from his perch atop the sofa. The same feeling as when people say they don’t have time to read books or watch LOST. There’s something very not right about it—No sense. It’s hard to trust those kind of people, if you know what I mean.

And come Valentine’s Day, it’s also hard to believe them—especially when there are things like Maria’s chocolate-mint brownies, Joy’s layered devil’s food cake with raspberries and, oh my gosh, Nick’s chocolate lava cakes floating around the Internet. It’s true that I like my desserts chocolate—the more fudgey the better, most of the time. I would eat the New York Times chocolate-chip cookies every day if it weren’t for the preliminary planning that’s required of the three-day chilling period. And all it took for me to make my grandma’s oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies this weekend was a quick message from my friend Lan, who said she’d made them, and, immediately when I read it, I do not exaggerate, I went down to the kitchen and pulled out ingredients.

But just to show there are no hard feelings for those of you who still swear you don’t like chocolate, here’s something you will appreciate. If you’re looking for a reliable stand-in for the endorphins brought by chocolate or, say, a romantic holiday coming up tomorrow, you should look to lemons. Did you know they are proven mood enhancers? It’s true. Lemons make people happy. And these cookies? Lovely and lemon, with no chocolate at all, filled with sweet and tart flavor, topped by shimmering vanilla icing: Suddenly the word happy doesn’t seem strong enough.

Freshly glazed, these buttery cookies are soft and almost creamy, melting in your mouth as you bite in. A few days later, they stay that way, and, really, I thank the 1/2 cup of lemon juice.

ice lemon cookies on blue

Here’s another fact about lemons, which, true, are wonderful mixed with garlic on baby potatoes or smothered on slow-roasted chickens: lemons do something almost magical to baking.

The zest, scraped off in flaky, curly bits, gives concentrated flavor and a fresh, citrus smell, and complemented by the juice, squeezed fresh from the lemon, makes these cookies just as moist as they are fragrant. How else can you explain that three days after I made them, when I pulled one out of the sad little plastic baggie it had been relegated to, almost forgotten, it was just as soft and succulent as the day it had been baked?

Truly, this is a victory for non-chocolate-lovers everywhere. After eating a couple of these, the rest of us will start to understand.

Sam’s Glazed Lavish Lemon Cookies & Vanilla Glaze

Lightly adapted from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies

These are named Sam’s for Carole’s granddaughter Samantha, who says she l-o-o-v-es lemon cookies. I see what she means. Even if the shimmering white icing and fragrant lemon scent aren’t enough to tempt you, I bet the rich, buttery flavor of the dough will.

Ingredients for the cookies:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 cup strained cake flour, spooned and leveled
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 Tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (I used some Meyer and some regular)
1 1/2 cups sugar*
4 large egg yolks*
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (don’t skimp: this is the best part!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Ingredients for the glaze:
2 cups strained confectioners’ sugar, spooned in and leveled
3 Tablespoons hot milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Directions for cookies:
Strain the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt together three times. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter with the lemon zest on medium-low speed until creamy and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream, mixing again for 1 to 2 minutes. Blend in the egg yolks, mix for 45 to 60 seconds, then pour in the lemon juice and the vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until blended. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

Before removing the bowl from the fridge, position the shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Working with one half of the dough at a time, place it on a floured surface. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into a disk, coating it with a light dusting of flour. Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife, divide the dough into eight pie-shaped wedges. Flour your hands again and shape each wedge into a ball, being careful not to overwork the dough. Place the balls on a cookie sheet 3 inches apart (six balls per sheet) and, using the heel of your hand, gently flatten each into 3- to 3 1/2-inch disks. Repeat with remaining dough to form eight more disks.

Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. To ensure even browning, two-thirds of the way through baking, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Remove the cookies from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then carefully loosen with a large, metal spatula. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks and set over waxed paper.


Place the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir with a small whisk or spoon until very smooth. The glaze should pour from a spoon in a steady stream. Use additional liquid sparingly – a little goes a long way. While the cookies are still warm, spoon the glaze onto the cookies using a spatula or the back of
a spoon. Set aside and let the cookies cool/air-dry until the glaze hardens.

*My sincere apologies that the sugar and eggs were somehow omitted from this original post. THANK YOU, Molly, for letting me know!


  1. says

    i agree with you on so many points in this post: not trusting those who don’t have time to read or don’t like chocolate. (wtf?!) and lemons are such a great addition to cooking and baking. i like the freshness that the taste of lemons give to anything and you’re right, it’s a happy taste.

  2. says

    !!! I loved this…”It has been said that some people don’t like chocolate, which is very strange, I think. It gives me the same feeling as when my dog barks at 7:30 AM, while he looks at empty grass from his perch atop the sofa. The same feeling as when people say they don’t have time to read books or watch LOST. There’s something very not right about it—No sense. It’s hard to trust those kind of people, if you know what I mean.”

    YES! I know exactly what you mean.

  3. says

    I love chocolate, but love citrus flavors a whole lot more – I’ll trade anything chocolate for anything lemon/lime. Or orange. 😀
    Your cookies look so beautiful!

  4. Donna Azure says

    Hi Shannalee!!
    I see we have some other things in common besides being friends of Kelley Bruss!! I also love “Lost” and while I do appreciate chocolate, the lemon cookies sound fabulous!! I love books by Food Writers and I understand you and Kelley are reading one of those together right now. She and have enjoyed quite a few books that way, including some “foodie” books. My favorite movie right now is ” No Reservations”, a must see for “foodies”!
    I think Kelley said she met you when you were going to Northland??? Not sure about that but my kids went to Northland also. We are living in Green Bay right now.
    I am glad Kelley told me about your blog. I will look forward to checking in to see what’s new!!
    Donna Azure

  5. says

    i was too sick and tired to watch lost this past wed…. dont be mad :( when i make fruit flavored cookies i use a box of jello :) neat huh?!
    love your pictures… i want to take a bite!

  6. says

    My go-to cookie recipe is Cook’s Illustrated’s classic sugar cookies, but they’re stale within days. I’ll have to give this a shot!

  7. says

    I always love your comments, Lan. So glad you agree about reading and chocolate AND lemons. No wonder I like you!

    LOL, Chessa! You get it!

    Thank you, Patricia! While chocolate still has my heart, citrus is a close runner up, especially in cookies like these.

    Donna, Like I e-mailed you, you’re lovely. It’s so nice to meet people who know people I already like. I declare we are friends – I mean, how can we not be when we have LOST and food and books and Kelley in common? Thanks for your sweet comment.

    DD, Me too!

    It’s OK, Rae. I still love ya (as if I would ever stop). Have you watched it by now, though? It’s more brilliant than ever.

    Belle, See, that’s so how it is with a lot of cookies! I was really impressed with the moistness of these. I hope you like them!

  8. says

    I finally made these (or something resembling them) yesterday and they are tasty. One question though–neither the sugar or the egg yolks made it onto the ingredients list, so I estimated my own proportions – 3/4 c. grandulated sugar and 2 egg yolks.

    What did you use? Based on the crumblyness of my cookies I’m guessing they could use at least one more egg yolk.

  9. says

    Well, Molly, if I were the type to blush, that’s exactly what I’d be doing right now. As it is, my ears are burning, and I feel absolutely horrible, and I’m wishing I could send you a dozen homemade cookies in an emergency overnight package to compensate.

    I am so sorry! Somehow when I was retyping the ingredients, my eyes must have glossed over the sugar and eggs, and I didn’t even realize it until you said something. THANK YOU so much for letting me know, and I really do apologize. Hopefully this will be the rarity here.

    PS: Your guess was very good, much better than I’d have done, and if you try this again, just double what you’d used. That should make them hold up a little better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *