Lemon “Swig” Sugar Cookies with Divine Lemon Frosting {No Rolling or Cutting Out!}

Lemon sugar cookies! And wow, they are delicious. No rolling or cutting out, these lemon Swig sugar cookies are fantastic and so easy (+ that frosting! yum!).

Frosted lemon swig sugar cookies on wire cooling rack.

After I posted this best-ever Swig-style sugar cookie recipe a few months ago, I learned a few insightful things: a) many of you have never heard of Swig, never been to a Swig, don’t know what it is or what it means (and frankly don’t care a whole lot) and b) the rest of you are either raving Swig fans or will fight to the death that Sodalicious or Crumbl or {insert another trendy cookie shop} is waaaaay better.

And me? As always, I’m just in it for the cookies. The homemade cookies, in this case – I’ve never lived very close to any of the aforementioned soda pop + cookie shops, and I wasn’t about to let distance cause any kind of cookie deprivation. 

All passionate opinions aside, what I mean when I title a recipe “Swig” or “Swig-style” is that the homemade sugar cookie is deliciously soft and buttery, and it is scooped and flattened (with a glass dipped in sugar) rather than rolled and cut with cookie cutters. Hello! So much easier. 

Stack of three lemon swig sugar cookies with pile of frosting on top.

Since I already have a chocolate Swig recipe and a classic Swig recipe, lemon was the next obvious variation. This idea was ultimately born after my friend Amy W. snuck two of her famous lemon Swig-style cookies into a conference we were both attending and slipped them to me via a one-handed sneaky pass off in a dark hallway so I could taste them. 

Whoa. So good. They were unfrosted, slightly underbaked (always), and totally, totally lemony and delicious. 

I swear you don’t even have to be a lemon fan to love and appreciate the yumminess of these cookies. But if you are a lemon fan. Hold on to your shoelaces, because your life is about to get infinitely more enjoyable. 

No Secrets Here

Actually, I lied. There is one little itty bitty secret. But it’s simple. Before you do anything else, take a second, commit to washing one  extra bowl and combine the granulated sugar and lemon zest together on their own. Dig in with your fingers and rub the mixture together until it smells like you’re about to drown in a bath of melted lemon drops. Doing this releases the divine oils in the zest and helps amp up the lemon flavor in the cookies. 

It’s worth it. Just do it. Don’t argue. Trust me. 

Mixing dough for lemon swig sugar cookies.

Other than that, this dough comes together lickety split. 

When you mix in the flour, the dough may look a bit crumbly. At this point, I usually abandon the mixer and knead a little bit until the dough is smooth and combined (you can see what I mean in the two pictures below). You don’t necessarily want to overmix the dough, but it should be evenly smooth with no dry streaks or weird bumps. 

Weird bumps do not belong in our lemon sugar cookies.

Mixing dough for lemon swig sugar cookies.

Instead of rolling out the dough and cutting with cookie cutters, these cookies are flattened with a glass dipped in sugar. Don’t press them too thin! I go for a solid 1/4-inch or sometimes evenly slightly thicker than that. 

As the cookies are flattened with the glass, the edges will crack and crinkle a bit forming the signature ruffled look that Swig cookies are kind of known for. If you aren’t getting the crinkled-edge thing happening, you can try adding a bit more flour to the dough…or choose to let it go and not stress it. 

Crinkled edges or not, they’re going to taste amazing. 

Step by step of cookie dough, pressing with a glass.

Bright and citrusy, these sugar cookies prove that lemon can be a very strong contender for Mel’s Favorite Flavor Second to Dark Chocolate Only. 

I reserve the right to amend the above statement if/when I delve into the 53 other Swig variations I have swirling around in my mind. But for now, lemon sugar cookies are where it’s at. 

Make sure to read through the recipe thoroughly to glean other little tips and tricks to make these cookies absolutely perfect. I hope I’m not the only one who has basically committed today to bring frosted lemon Swig sugar cookies to every event I’m invited to* for the rest of the summer. 

*Note to self: figure out how to get invited to more things just to have an excuse to make these babies. 

Bite taken out of frosted lemon swig sugar cookies.

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Three Years Ago: Caramel Pecan White + Dark Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars
Four Years Ago: Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
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Lemon "Swig" Sugar Cookies with Lemon Frosting

Yield: 30 cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 12 minutes

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 1 1/4 cups (9.25 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (from about 3 medium lemons)
  • 1 cup butter (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons), softened
  • 3/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed, etc)
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 1/2 cups (27.5 ounces) all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • Granulated sugar for pressing the cookies

Frosting:

  • 1 cup (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 medium lemon)
  • 5 cups (20 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 degrees F for convection bake) and line several half sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the granulated sugar and lemon zest and rub the mixture together with your fingers until well-combined and it smells very lemony. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl using a handheld electric mixer), add the butter, oil, granulated sugar/lemon zest mixture, and powdered sugar. Sprinkle the baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt across the top of the sugars (don't add the baking soda and cream of tartar in one lump or it might clump while mixing). Mix until well-combined and super creamy, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Add the lemon juice and eggs and mix until well-combined, 1-2 minutes, again scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. Add the flour and mix until no dry streaks remain and the mixture is evenly combined; don't overmix.
  6. Scoop the dough into about 3-tablespoon sized portions (I use a #20 cookie scoop) and roll into balls. Place several inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Add about 1/2 cup granulated sugar to a shallow dish or bowl. Lightly spray the bottom of a flat-bottomed glass with cooking spray and dip the bottom of the glass into the sugar. Press each cookie into an even thickness dipping the bottom of the glass into the sugar between each press (no need to spray it again with cooking spray after the first time). The edges of the cookie will ruffle out a bit. It's really up to you how thick or thin to press the cookies. I like them between 1/4- and 1/2-inch thick.
  7. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until just set. Try not to let them get golden on the edges or very much on the bottom - that means they've baked too long and they may be dry and crumbly instead of creamy and soft.
  8. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. For the frosting, in a medium bowl (can use a handheld or stand mixer) combine the butter, sour cream and lemon zest. Mix until thick and smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and lemon juice, and mix until well-combined and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add additional lemon juice, sour cream or milk/cream, if needed, to adjust the consistency of the frosting so it is thick and creamy but still soft and spreadable.
  10. Frost the cooled cookies and decorate with a bit of fresh lemon zest or sprinkles (optional).

Notes

You can really amp up the lemon flavor if you add lemon extract to the dough and/or frosting.

Be careful not to overflour the dough or the cookies might be dry instead of soft after baking. If you don't weigh your ingredients, make sure to fluff the flour in the container before scooping in the measuring cup and leveling (don't pack or shake the flour into the cup!).

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Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (adapted from this Swig sugar cookie recipe after my friend Amy W. gave me a taste of a lemon cookie she made)