In the Kitchen: On a Quest for the Perfect Sugar Cookie

Lemon Sugar Cookies

From the sugar cookie recipes in the  The Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1941 edition)

by Ellen Stafford, Managing Editor, LKNConnect


Fearless baking – on a quest for the perfect sugar cookie

I have become fearless when trying new recipes over the past few months. I’ve made all kinds of new things and all of them have been edible, some even delicious!


Two things that make baking easier

My first batch of lemon sugar cookies were flat as a pancake and burnt.

Baking time

 I had never made sugar cookies before and I didn’t realize that when the directions say bake for 8 minutes, they mean 8 minutes! The cookies are pale when you take them out of the oven and smooshy if you touch them. They harden as they cool. Leave them on the tray to cool otherwise they will wrinkle or crumble if you take them off the tray while hot.

That is the potential problem and the reason my first batch burned around the edges. I waited until I thought the cookies looked “browned” and then they cooked more while they cooled and ultimately, were hard with burnt edges instead of soft with crunchy sugar crystals on top.

Baking powder — how old is yours?

The other problem with my first batch is that the cookies didn’t rise at all. I checked the baking powder that I used and realized that it had a best by 2017 on the bottom. While baking powder has life in it beyond the date (usually 1 year if it remains sealed), it certainly isn’t good 3 years later. Also, it is best to replace baking powder that has been opened, 6 months after you’ve opened it.



The recipe

I have a 1941 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook that I inherited from my mother-in-law, Mary Beckerman. There is a recipe for sugar cookies, but it also lists several variations including lemon. I have updated the ingredients list and combined the instructions for the Lemon Sugar Cookie variation. If you follow the instructions and make them small, you should easily achieve 40 or more beautiful cookies that are perfect for a summer afternoon with iced tea.







½ cup butter (room temperature)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 Tablespoon cream (you can use milk)

½ teaspoon lemon extract

2 teaspoons lemon zest (grated lemon rind)

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder (check the best buy date)

1 ½ cups flour

Yellow or Gold sparkling sugar for decorating

Additional butter or cooking spray for the baking sheet



Dry ingredients mixed on left. Wet ingredients mixed on right. Add dry to wet and mix well.



Beat in butter, sugar, egg, cream, lemon extract and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. (Sift or use a whisk to mix and fluff.) Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix well.







Using a spoon, drop a small amount of dough onto a lightly buttered cookie sheet 1 or 2 inches apart depending upon how small you make the cookie. (Parchment paper or cooking spray also works well.) For flat, smooth cookies, use a spoon or fork dipped in cold water to flatten each cookie before cooking. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.


Cookie dough dropped on sheet.

Cookie dough, rolled into small balls, then flattened.











Sparkling sugar on flattened cookies.













Preheat your oven and bake at 375F for 8 minutes. The cookies will appear pale (not brown) when you remove them from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack.

Note: it is easiest to many very tiny balls of dough, wet your clean-washed finger to flatten the ball, and then sprinkle with sparkling sugar.



Cookies baked for 10 minutes instead of 8 minutes. Note burnt edges.

Beautiful and delicious lemon sugar cookies.











I hope you give this recipe a try — it is truly quick and easy to make. You can really have 40 cookies in about 30 minutes. Enjoy!


Printable version of this recipe

In the Kitchen series – Lemon Sugar Cookies



Recipe preparation and photos by Ellen (EH) Stafford




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