St. Clement's Orange and Lemon Cookies

December 15, 2009
6 Ratings
Photo by Nicole Franzen
  • Makes 2 - 3 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters
Author Notes

“’Oranges and Lemons’ say the Bells of St. Clement's,” begins an English nursery rhyme about the bells of London's oldest churches. No one knows which of two London's St. Clements churches inspired the rhyme. Both were near the wharves where citrus cargo was unloaded. These orange-and-lemon cut-out cookies are based on my mother’s basic sugar cookie recipe, which I’ve adapted to give the cookies a citrus-y zing. Instead of vanilla, I use the juice from a Meyer lemon (though any kind of lemon will do). Zest of both oranges and lemons are added to the dough. You can decorate them just with the lemon icing that I suggest, or with a lemon and orange zest sugar, or both! As with so many of my favorite cookies, the dough for these keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days or about a month in the freezer, if tightly wrapped. What I love about these is that they are wonderful for the holidays, but don't declare any particular winter holiday, making them perfect for sharing with everyone. Enjoy!! ;o)


Test Kitchen Notes

Antoniajames has taken sugar cookies and give them a lovely citrus twist. The orange and lemon don't overpower and the cookies have the perfect level of sweetness. The cookies' delicate and tender texture is spot on too. I preferred the ones with icing made from lemon juice, but feel free to play around with all of the options that antoniajames gives you. —Stephanie Bourgeois

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed, after you've zested the lemon)
  • Zest of two or three oranges, finely chopped (See note, below.)
  • Zest of two or three lemons, finely chopped (I use Meyer lemons)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough for cutting
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • More lemon juice, for icing (if you want it)
  • Regular white sugar, for making the zested sugar (if you want it)
  • Confectioners' sugar (for icing, if you want it)
  • Cointreau or orange juice, for decorating (if you want it)
  1. To make the “zested” sugar for decorating, use one teaspoon each of lemon and orange zest for each 4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of regular white sugar. Stir together in a shallow bowl until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar. Add egg and citrus juices; beat well.
  3. Add 2 Tablespoons (combined and firmly packed) of lemon and orange zest to the dough and using a spoon, stir well. I recommend that you do it at this point, and that you use a spoon, to minimize the amount of zest wasted on your mixer beaters.
  4. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add them to the creamed mixture of butter, sugar, etc. The dough should be easy to handle. If it isn't, chill it for an hour or so.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Farenheit for a regular oven, or 350 degrees for a convection oven.
  6. Roll out the dough on a very lightly floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Place the cut shapes of dough on a cookie sheet covered with parchment (or lightly oiled, if you don’t have parchment).
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven, your cookie sheets, etc. The cookies are done when the edges are very light brown.
  8. While the cookies are baking, if you are going to ice the cookies, mix 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or other liquid) with 1/3 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar. Add more sugar or liquid to get it to the consistency you want. I prefer a very thin layer of icing -- a glaze, actually -- so mine tends to be somewhat runny. You can also put some more lemon zest in the icing, if you want a more lemony taste, or make the icing using Cointreau or any other liqueur that you like, instead of lemon or orange juice.
  9. Once the cookies have cooled, paint the icing on them and sprinkle them lightly with a pinch or two of the zested sugar mixture, or not, depending on your preference. (If the sugar mixture if fairly dry, I use the end of a dinner knife to pick the sugar up out of the shallow dish where I’ve mixed it, then gently tap the dull side of the blade with my index finger to drop the sugar mixture onto the cookies, as one would do when using a salt dish at the table. Otherwise, just take a pinch of the mixture and rub your fingers together gently as you drop it onto the cookie.)
  10. If you prefer just to sprinkle on the zested sugar, paint the cookies lightly with Cointreau and/or orange juice that has been strained (if you're using both, combine in a 1 to 1 ratio) and then sprinkle on the sugar mixture.
  11. You could also put plain white sugar on, or sugar mixed with a spice such as allspice, cardamom or coriander, if you don't want to use zest. Of course, you can also sprinkle on purchased decorating products, if you like.
  12. These don't have to be cut-out cookies, by the way. To make a round cookie, simply roll a piece of dough about the size of a large walnut into a ball, roll the ball in white granulated sugar to coat (this is optional), flatten with the bottom of a glass or jar, and bake in the oven as noted above.
  13. Enjoy!! ;o)
  14. Note: If you choose to use the Orange and Lemon Zest Sugar to decorate, make it before you start the cookie dough. The mixture is much easier to handle, and tastes stronger, if it’s had some time to sit, which allows the sugar to absorb the juices from the zest and then to dry slightly.
  15. Also, you can make these with just lemons, or just oranges, if you prefer. I really like the two different flavors together, so I recommend using both.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Ms. T
    Ms. T
  • lorigoldsby
  • Niknud
  • hardlikearmour
  • cowgirlculture

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

25 Reviews

emcsull December 20, 2014
Antonia just wanted to say thanks for the recipe, made these this afternoon and they are wonderful. The dough was a bit sticky, just put it in the refrigerator as you suggested. And the zest sugar was VERY wet, although I made it before let it absorb aromas and citrus oils. That it did ! Daubed it on instead of sprinkling. great holiday cookies, citrus is always so refreshing.
AntoniaJames December 22, 2014
You're welcome and thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad you liked them, emcsull! ;o)
emcsull December 1, 2014
how long would you think one could keep these ? I am fixin' to make an assortment of different cookies and wanted to start a week or two before christmas.
AntoniaJames December 1, 2014
After baking, they hold for 5 or 6 days, but are best within 4. You can make the dough and refrigerate, tightly wrapped, up to three days ahead of time. Hope this helps! ;o)
Ms. T. November 11, 2011
Congrats on the EP! These sound delicious and delicate and I LOVE your head notes.
lorigoldsby October 27, 2011
I am going to have to break out the cookie cutters now...thanks for the note that the dough keeps--perfect for just cooking a mini batch.
AntoniaJames November 11, 2011
Thanks so much, lorigoldsby! You can also make them by rolling the chilled dough in balls, then in sugar, then flattening, for a less festive cookie, if you want. ;o)
Niknud October 24, 2011
THese are amazing - what everyone else says and then some! The picture is just wonderful too!
AntoniaJames November 11, 2011
Thank you, Niknud. Much appreciated. ;o)
hardlikearmour October 20, 2011
These are just beautiful, AJ! I mean the photo as well as the recipe.
AntoniaJames November 11, 2011
Thanks, HLA. Hard to believe I posted this one nearly two years ago . . . one of my first recipes here. This was the photo in which I discovered yet another good use for my century-old matte black Steinway. ;o)
K'sCupcakes June 25, 2011
Can't wait to make these. I have never heard of flavored sugars. Please please tell me, they sounds wonderful especially for these and other sugar cookies. Thanks!
AntoniaJames June 28, 2011
Thank you so much! Yes, the sugar and zest combination is perfectly delightful. It gives a nice boost of bright flavor to any cookie, or cupcake, or cake, or cheesecake . . . though with the latter, and many butter based frostings, the brilliant color of orange zest in particular can bleed a bit, so test well in advance!! ;o)
cowgirlculture December 17, 2010
My three year old and I just made these for Christmas cookies! They were super easy to handle and taste great! Thanks for the recipe and Merry Christmas!
AntoniaJames December 17, 2010
I'm so glad to hear that! I have a batch of this dough, patiently waiting in my refrigerator for me to roll it out and bake it up. Thank you for your kind words, and I hope you have a very, very Merry Christmas. And with a three year old, I have no doubt that it will be!! ;o)
AntoniaJames December 19, 2009
Ooops. I forgot to mention when you add the dry ingredients. At the end of Step 2, please insert this: Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add them to the creamed mixture of butter, sugar, etc. But you all knew that, right? ;o) Also, flours differ in the amount of moisture that's in them so the 2 c. is approximate. You might need more, but you want to avoid adding too much; otherwise the cookies can get tough and taste a little flat. It's best to chill the dough, even if it seems too wet, before adding more flour. Have fun!!
Maria T. December 19, 2009
Yes, definately a fabulous recipe, beautifully decorated and great photo. Oh, if I had the time these would be made and put in celophane whraps for xmas gifts. And I already have my flavoured sugars. The problem is that I have already put them in Christmas gifts for the family. Somebody is going to be missing one little jar if I have the time to bake them before Christmas.
Babette's F. December 18, 2009
These are award winning! Could use my zesty sugars here!
mrslarkin December 17, 2009
These look so delicious!! I love citrus icing.
AntoniaJames December 17, 2009
Thank you. I love citrus icing, too. I'm going to play around with an alternative tomorrow. My younger son is coming home from school in CT and I'm going to make up another batch of these. Stay tuned . . . . . ;o)
SueG December 17, 2009
These look like they would be just to my taste. Really festive, too. Mmmmmm.
AntoniaJames December 17, 2009
Thanks! They are really tasty, too, and almost surprising when you bite into them -- you see what looks a bit like a sugar cookie, but you sink your teeth into one, and you smell and taste that zest and fresh juice.
AntoniaJames December 16, 2009
Thank you!, Ladies! I love these not only because lemon and orange taste so good together, but also because lemons and oranges are just in season in mid-December, when the days here are so short, and the weather can consistently be bleak and cold. Oranges and lemons give us a boost of bright flavor and happy colors, right when we need them most!
Kelsey B. December 16, 2009
This is a great idea. I sometimes add citrus extract, or lemon juice to my spritzer cookies. I love the citrusy taste during the holidays. I love the way you put the zest and sugar on the top of these too, it is so attractive and flavorful. how I wish Meyer lemon trees grew in NYC!! :)
Loves F. December 16, 2009
These are a beautiful & simple take on the traditional cutout cookie! They remind me of the lemony sugar cookies my Hungarian grandma sends every Christmas!