Summer Citrus Sparkles

I don’t know about you guys, but summer is pretty much in full swing in the Caribbean. The frangipani are exploding with color again, and the pool has warmed up with the hot sun. Best of all, our lime tree is heavy with bright green, fragrant limes. I’ve never had a fruit tree in my yard before, and I gotta say, I love it. There’s nothing quite like walking into your back yard and picking fresh fruit to bite into right then and there, or to cook with later on. We’ve had beautiful vegetable gardens before – we even grew watermelons once, but never fruit trees. Our Caribbean experience has taught me that I want to have fresh fruit growing in my garden some day.

The first thing that I’ve made with the first limes of the season is one of the best things I’ve made in a while. These are lemon lime sugar cookies that I’ve coated in a zesty lemon lime sugar…or Summer Citrus Sparkles. See? Cause they sparkle. From the sugar. Alright, I just like the cutesy name, but they do sparkle a little bit. 🙂

These are mild, basic sugar cookies that I spruced up with fresh lemon and lime zests and juices. The cookie itself is sweet and mild, with just a hint of lemon-lime taste, while the sugar adds a sweet, zesty pop of flavor to each bite. I made two different versions of these – one was simple, fast, and easy while the other was … simple, fast, and easy. 😉 Seriously, both versions really are all those things, but the second version has a glaze involved, so there’s a tiny amount of cooking. It is so very worth it, though! I love the glaze version. It’s not an icing, but rather a fine syrup that you brush on the cookies before dipping them into the citrus sugar. Holy yum, it”s good!

The star ingredients for the cookies are all-purpose flour, unsalted butter (at room temperature), an egg, vanilla extract, sugar, finely grated lime and lemon zests, baking soda, baking powder, salt, fresh lime juice, and fresh lemon juice. Check out the vegan/dairy free substitutions in the recipe below.

The secret to making these sparkle, and to the big citrusy flavor, is in the citrus sugar. It’s just regular sugar (I mixed in a dash of yellow and a sprinkle of green sanding sugar for fun) combined with finely grated lime and lemon zests. If you feel like investing an extra 10 minutes into making these, you’ll need a little extra sugar and some fresh lemon and lime juices for the sweet and sour glaze.

I love the way this looks, and it has such a great flavor. I”ve even mixed this up to use in tea on occasion and it’s fabulous.

Once the dough was mixed up (directions below) and chilled for 30 minutes, I rolled one tablespoon portions into balls and coated them in the citrus sugar.

These don’t spread too much, because they are a bit on the puffy side, but I still gave them a good three inches or so of space between each cookie.

The cookies smell so good when they come out of the oven…it’s incredibly difficult not to start snacking on them right away (but I learned that they taste much better, once cooled, than they do while hot).

I love the crunchy sugar and pretty zest on the outside. For such a simple cookie, they look so lovely.

This is such an excellent summer cookie recipe. The cookies are crisp, sweet, and zesty on the outside and soft and light with a mild citrus flavor inside. They’re fast and easy to make, too, so you won’t be slaving away in a hot kitchen with them.

I prefer to make these using the glazed variation that I included below, but it is slightly more time consuming (an additional 10 minutes or so in front of the stove), so you can skip it for the easier, but still just as tasty version.

Since it’s been so hot here already, I decided to pair the cookies with some fresh lemon-lime ice water. Wowee, it was good. It’s just too hot for coffee or tea with these right now, and milk can be so heavy in summer weather. The lemon-lime water was a great complement and perfectly refreshing.

Whether you make the simple, sugar-coated version of these, or the ever-so-slightly less simple glazed and sugar-coated version, you won”t be disappointed. If a cookie can be described as refreshing, then these are the cookies to earn the description. They only take about 15 minutes to make, plus a 30 minutes chill time and a 10 to 15 minute bake time, so you can easily make them at the last minute. They keep well in a covered container for several days too. Just one warning: they’re so delicious, and so easy to make and eat, you might have trouble sharing. Enjoy!

Summer Citrus Sparkles
Makes 2 dozen

FOR THE CITRUS SUGAR (excellent in tea!)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (for vegan/dairy free, replace with 1 tablespoon corn starch)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder (for vegan/dairy free version, increase to 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (margarine for vegan/dairy free)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg (for vegan/dairy free, replace with 3 tablespoons almond or soy milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make the sugar: Combine the sugar and both zest in a small bowl until the zest is evenly distributed; set aside.

To make the cookies: In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined, then stir in both zests and juices, as well as the vanilla. Once everything is combined, sprinkle half of the flour mixture over the top and gently mix in. Add the remaining flour mixture, mixing until no streaks of flour remain. If the dough is very sticky, add more flour, as needed, until the dough is barely tacky. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Once the dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll one tablespoon portions of dough into balls. Roll each dough ball in the citrus sugar to coat it completely, then evenly space the cookies on the prepared baking sheet(s). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges turn light golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before serving.

Glaze Variation (I prefer them this way, but there is more work involved)

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Make the citrus sugar and the cookie dough the same way. **Do not roll the cookies in the sugar before baking.**

While the cookies are baking, combine the sugar and the juices in a small saucepan set over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar and continue simmering until the mixture becomes syrupy.

Once the cookies have cooled for at least 5 minutes, generously brush the tops of the muffins with the citrus glaze. Once all of the cookies are glazed, dip each one into the citrus sugar, being sure to get them covered well.

Recipe by Darla

Leave a comment


    • says

      I haven’t made these particular cookies vegan, but I’ve made a very similar recipe using the same vegan substitutions and they turned out great. I hope you like them!

    • says

      Start with 1 1/2 cups. I explain in the directions that you can add more, as needed. I live somewhere very humid, so I need to add more flour to get my dough to the right consistency and ended up using 2 full cups. The dough shouldn’t be sticky, because you’re going to roll it into balls, so just add flour (up to 2 cups, but not more) until the dough is just barely tacky.

    • says

      That’s ok, it helps everybody else too! 🙂

      The corn starch will add structure to the dough and act as a binding agent in place of the egg, which would normally do it. I remove the soda and increase the baking powder for a little extra lift, while the soy/almond milk and corn starch sort of become the egg. I suppose you could leave the soda in…I just learned to do it this way. 🙂

  1. says

    Lovely bursts of summery goodness!

    Woke up to 4 degrees C here in sunny Melbourne so a Caribbean summer is sounding mighty nice right now. Might have to satisfy myself with some summery cooking instead.

  2. says

    These cookies look great. I wish I could get some lemons and make them. Have you thought about serving them with lemon sweet tea. I noticed you mostly lived in the North, so maybe you forget about the ridiculous indulgence that is Southern sweet tea. To me, it’s the perfect summer drink.

  3. says

    My sister and I are making desserts for our niece’s HS Graduation party this weekend, and I realized that all of the request that we’ve had involved chocolate to one extent or another. That’s A-OK with me, but there are those that don’t like chocolate (**the horror!**). These will make a great non-chocolate addition!

  4. says

    I just made these and they were phenomenal! Thank you for posting. I made a vegan version with shortening and I kept the baking soda and baking powder ratios the same as the original because I didn’t have any corn starch to sub in, so I’m wondering what the reasoning was for those alterations? I have no complaints with the way mine turned out, but if they could be even better, than I definitely want to know about it!

  5. Raymond says

    Yup. These were pretty tasty. Easy too. They spread a bit more than I was expecting, but then again, in reading the directions (again), I could have added more flour. Made exactly 2 dozen. Light & tangy….& sparkly 🙂

  6. ZarahPDX says

    I made these tonight for road trip snacks tomorrow. I skipped the glaze and just did the sugar. I got about 20 cookies from my batch, and had to cook them a bit longer than the recipe. They are FANTASTIC though – I will definitely make them again!