Italian Lemon Cookies

I grew up just north of Boston, close to incredible Italian bakeries.  If you couldn’t find something where we lived,  you could be in Boston in 30 minutes, go to the North End and find almost anything.  I have to confess, I took it for granted.  I know, I know.  How could I take something like that for granted? I guess I just thought they were everywhere.  If you live in an area of the country where there are authentic Italian bakeries, first don’t take it for granted and second, please have an anginetti cookie for me!

When we moved to a city north of the Atlanta, 17 years ago I couldn’t find a single free standing bakery in a 10 mile radius.   I looked.  When I asked friends where they would go to buy nice pastries or a special dessert the answer was always Publix or Kroger.  The grocery store?   Yeah. Uh… that’s not the answer I was hoping for.  (Thank Goodness there was a Dunkin’ Donuts in the next town.  No DD, no bakeries, as a Bostonian, I can’t even…;)

Fast forward to this weekend. I was going through some old recipe cards my mom had given me over the years, and I had totally forgotten about one from an elderly Italian woman who lived across the street when I was growing up – Mrs. DeBurro.  It was for her lemon cookies.  My mom loved them.  I was so excited I decided to make them right away and figured I’d drop some off for mom.   I had to run to the store for the lemon extract, but other than that I couldn’t believe how simple they were.  They only thing that made it a little difficult were words like “a pinch of salt” and “some confectionary sugar”.  She passed away a long time ago, so, without any way to clarify, I’d just have to see how it went.

I made the cookies according to her recipe (only with a little more flour because she said to add flour so the dough wasn’t too sticky).  I was so excited when they came out of the oven. I broke one open, let it cool for 30 seconds, and popped it into my mouth.  And….not exactly what I expected.  It tasted more like a little warm lemon bread than a cookie. (Important Note:  If you’ve made it this far, you need to read to the end of this post…because as John Lennon said…”Everything will be okay in the end.  If it’s not okay.  Then it’s not the end.”)

At this point I was really craving the Italian lemon cookie I had in my mind.  So, of course,  I went on Pinterest.   I was convinced Mrs. D  must have just left out an ingredient!  If I could figure out what it was I could make them again and add it.

I came across a few recipes that looked similar.   One was made by Proud Italian Cook and used butter instead of oil like Mrs. D.  (Here is a link to the Proud Italian Cook’s recipe.) But that was the big difference.  Maybe I just needed to make a whole new cookie.  I decided to try the Proud Italian Cook’s recipe as I was really looking for an authentic Italian cookie.  So, back to the grocery store I went for more flour, butter and lemon extract.   A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon;)

The second recipe came together pretty quickly as well.  (If you decide to make it, definitely take the time to cool the butter and then put it in your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment for about 6-8 minutes and you will see the butter and sugar start getting really creamy!  I thought a few minutes in nothing was going to happen, but it does.)

While the second lemon cookies were baking I figured I’d at least frost the first cookies as directed with “some confectionary sugar, a little milk and a little lemon extract”.  (I promise, word for word, those were the directions. You’ll see.)  I had to finish them -OCD;)  I dipped the two dozen cookies I had made into the glaze and set them aside to dry.  (I didn’t finish baking all the dough at that point. They easily made two dozen more cookies.) Then, I finished baking the Proud Italian Cook’s cookies and then put her frosting together – very specific measurements – confectionary sugar and limoncello.  Very nice.

At this point my husband came in the kitchen, and just stood there, staring at all the cookies I had made, with a look that pretty much said, have you gone completely crazy?  So, I told him the short version.  First ones – not what I expected.  Second ones – I think better.  I told him he was welcome to try them and let me know what he thought.

So, he tried the first ones, and he said, “what’s wrong with them?”  Huh?  “What do you mean?  Don’t they taste like lemon bread?”   “No.  They taste like cookies…just softer. ”   So, I picked one up and bit into it  (I am definitely going to gain weight blogging. LOL!)   At that point, several hours out of the oven, completely cooled,  with a nice glaze soaked in…he was right!  They were really good!  No way!   In fact, they reminded me of the cookies from the bakery!  Way to go Mrs. DeBurro!  I’m so sorry I ever doubted you!

So, now I have two lemon cookie recipes! And I will definitely visit The Proud Italian Cook again – just followed her on Pinterest;)  Below is the recipe Mrs. DeBurro used for so many years.   Just don’t add too much extra flour… frost them well… and let them cool for a few hours before you try them.

Buon Appetito!


Mrs. DeBurro's Italian Lemon Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Cookies
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 dozen
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 Tablespoons Oil
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt (I used ¼ teaspoon salt)
  • 4 Cups of flour
  • FOR FROSTING...(See my notes below)
  • Confectionary Sugar
  • Milk
  • Dash of lemon extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs, oil and sugar together. Add the milk, vanilla and lemon extract.
  2. In another large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.
  3. Gradually add the flour to the egg mixture until the dough is firm, but not sticky
  4. Roll small pieces of dough into walnut sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper)
  5. Bake at 375 for approximately 10 minutes. Until bottoms are light brown.
  6. For frosting - mix some confectionary sugar and some milk with a dash of lemon extract. Brush cookies with glaze. It will have a smooth glaze over the whole cookie (I used 2 cups of confectionary sugar, 4 TBSP of milk and ½ teaspoon of lemon extract - beat ingredients together with a whisk until smooth and then dip the cookies and put on a cookie rack to dry.) You can dip twice or just make the glaze thicker if you like more frosting.
  7. NOTE: Cover cookies loosely as they will stay wet if you cover completely with Saran Wrap. They tastes even better day 2!!


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