When Life Gives You Cookie Dough, Make Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

Lemon cheesecake cookies - the first of many sugar cookie experiments.

When life gives you lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, but what about ten pounds of sugar cookie dough? The excess dough I had left over from last week’s TogoRun cookies presented me with quite a dilemma. As I’ve mentioned before, this dough failed to hold its shape, making it unsuitable for last week’s cookie project.

Since I rarely ever make sugar cookies – I usually find them too sweet for my taste – I turned to Twitter for ideas. The lovely Alejandra sent me this Real Simple article about creative uses for sugar cookie dough, which gave me the idea to make thumbprint cookies. I also had a lot of pre-zested lemons left over, and I already knew I wanted to use them for lemon curd. So I decided that, if life gave me lemon curd and cookie dough, I would make lemon cheesecake thumbprints.

I need to digress here for a moment, because you really need to know just how wonderful this lemon curd is. This is the third time that I’ve made this particular lemon curd using a recipe from The Cake Bible, and each time I make it I fall a little more in love. While some lemon curds can be cloying, this is tart and fresh, and really tastes of lemons. Mixed with cream cheese and a little sugar, it made a pungent, creamy, refreshing filling that was good enough to eat on its own.

My other little twist on these cookies is that I rolled each of the sugar cookies in orange scented sugar before baking them, which gave them a deeper citrus note and a nice sparkle. But in the end, the problem with these cookies was the dough – although I shaped them into little thumbprints and even froze them before hand, they still spread out like crazy and my perfect little indentations were lost. I ended up spooning the filling in circles on top of the cookies. Instead of perfect little thumbprints, they looked like a sugar cookie crossed with a lemon danish.

I can’t in good conscience call these thumbprint cookies, although that’s what they were intended to be. But they were still pretty tasty – I liked the tartness of the filling set against the sweet cookie base (which is still too sweet for my taste, but whatever). Were I to make these again I’d bake the cookies slightly less – the brown edges were crispier than I wanted them to be. And I’ll definitely be using the filling again – hopefully in proper thumbprints next time.

Only nine pounds of dough to go.

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies 2

Man, I'm going to be really sick of sugar cookies by the end of this.

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com and The Cake Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

For the cookies:
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and more if needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest

For the lemon cheesecake filling:

1/2 cup lemon curd, at room temperature (recipe follows)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbs sugar

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and two cups of the sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Turn out dough and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and orange zest until well blended (sugar will turn a light orange color). Place in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove dough from fridge and place on a lightly floured work surface. With a knife or bench scraper, cut dough into 24 equal portions (this is easiest with the aid of a kitchen scale – each dough portion should weigh 1/2 oz). Using your hands, roll a piece of dough into a ball. Gently roll the ball of dough in the orange sugar, until evenly coated. Place the ball of dough on a baking sheet and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Repeat with remaining 23 pieces of dough, placing cookies approximately 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Freeze cookies for 15 minutes before baking.

While the dough is chilling, make the filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat together all ingredients until smooth and creamy.

Bake cookies for 9 minutes – they will be pale and just barely set. Remove from oven and spoon a circle of the filling on top of each cookie. Return cookies to oven and bake until the edges are golden brown and the filling is slightly puffy – about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

Lemon curd
Makes approximately 1 cup

4 large egg yolks
1/2 + 2 tbs sugar
3 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 and 1/2 lemons)
4 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch salt
2 tps lemon zest

In a heavy, non reactive saucepan, beat yolks and sugar until well blended. Stir in all other ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until thickened (it will thickly coat the back of a spoon, but will still be pourable). Do not allow to boil, or it will curdle (if it begins to steam, remove from heat and stir vigorously until it cools down). When thickened, strain into a clean bowl, pushing through strainer with the back of a spoon. Let cool and then chill in the refrigerator.



  1. Yummy, they look super moist and tasty!

  2. They look awesome! I like how you can see sugar granuals in the last photo. You know what you can do? Use the dough as a pie crust….and just smoosh it inside a pie pan, and add some toppings. (here’s my grape pie http://mangotomato.blogspot.com/2009/03/mini-grape-pie.html)

    • moderndomestic said

      Thanks for the pie tip! And the grape pie looks delicious.

  3. Bonnie said

    I don’t care what you call these cookies, they look and sound fantastic. You know how much I love lemon desserts.

    Why don’t you drop 6 or 7 pounds of sugar cookie dough off at a soup kitchen?

    • moderndomestic said

      I kind of like the challenge of figuring out what to do with it all – as much as I complain 😉

  4. Yum! They look like the perfect antidote to a rainy day like today.

  5. Dina said

    lemon curd and cream cheese. omg, that sounds delicious. great idea!

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