If I had to name my mom’s favorite foods, at least as far as I know, lemon and coconut would top the list—so when I saw this recipe at Two Peas and Their Pod, I knew it would be the perfect treat to bake for her birthday. Frosted cookies don’t mail well, but I was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate with Mom in person, as her birthday happened to be the first day of my parents’ annual California visit. I’m glad I had this idea, not only because everyone (and especially my mother) really enjoyed the cookies, but also because I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to making them if I hadn’t had such a festive semi-selfless excuse; frosted cookies are just so much more of a hassle than regular ones. Missing out on these tender, sunny sugar cookies with fluffy coconut-flavored frosting and crispy toasted coconut would have been a shame. After all, lemon and coconut are fave flavors of mine too…it must be genetic.
I used regular milk in the frosting because I didn’t want to open a whole can of coconut milk just for a spoonful of it, but if you happened to have some just sitting around, it would amp up the flavor even more—a triple coconut dose. The frosting turned out on the soft side, which, combined with the flakes of coconut on top, makes eating these a rather messy endeavor (they’re a little more tractable when frozen), but I didn’t want to add any more sugar to stiffen it because it was already quite sweet. It might have been cloying on its own, but the cookies themselves aren’t overly sugary, so together they balance out.
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 tablespoon coconut milk (or regular milk)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk and set aside.
- In another small bowl, add granulated sugar and lemon zest. Rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until fragrant.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer), beat butter and sugar/lemon mixture together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and fresh lemon juice. Mix until smooth.
- Slowly beat in flour mixture on low speed until blended.
- Drop dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Gently flatten dough with the palm of your hand.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are just set and slightly golden brown. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes and transfer to cooking racks. Cool completely.
- While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting. In a stand mixer (or using a hand-held mixer), mix together butter and sugar. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add coconut extract and coconut milk (or regular milk). Beat on medium speed for 1 minute or until frosting is smooth and creamy. You may need to add a little more sugar or coconut milk, depending on your desired consistency.
- Once the cookies are out of the oven, turn the heat down to 325 and spread the coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet. Put it in the oven just until light brown and fragrant, 5-10 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Frost the cooled cookies and sprinkle toasted coconut on top.
Yields: About 2 dozen
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great; store in an airtight container for several days at room temperature or indefinitely in the freezer.