Yellow, tart, juicy, flavorful, sour. All words to describe a lemon, but notice how “sweet” didn’t make the list. It can be tricky to bake with lemons because most baked desserts are appealing to the sweet senses. And on top of that, it’s often difficult to bake with any fruit because of a natural lack of consistency. Soft lemon cookies may come out hard one day, and gooey lemon squares can turn out cakey the next. At Whisked, we’ve perfected the art of baking vegan lemon cookies. Our Vegan Lemon Poppy Seed cookies are a huge hit both online and in stores across the DMV and Philadelphia areas. Check out or tips below for baking with lemon zest, lemon juice, and whole lemons.
- Here in the Whisked kitchen, we use lemon zest in our cookies to add a subtle citrus flavor as well as lemon flavor.
- You can use lemon zest in lemon cookies, but it also adds a nice bright flavor to sugar cookies, cheesecake, or other vanilla-flavored baked goods. Here’s a great recipe for cream cheese lemon cookies that includes lemon zest as a major ingredient.
- If you have extra zest or a lot of lemons on hand, you can always freeze extra zest and save for later!
- For a rounder, full-flavored citrus flavor, you can combine other citrus zests (like lemon, orange, and grapefruit) and use in your favorite baked foods. Check out this citrus cookie recipe to learn how to combine flavors for a well-rounded cookie.
We also use lemon juice in the following ways:
- To balance flavors: Lemon juice can play a great balancing role in baked goods. We sometimes use it in our cookies to balance out a sweet flavor profile. For instance, our CAVA Apricot Cookies contain a small amount of lemon juice to balance the sweetness of the honey-flavored cookie dough.
- To bring a citrus profile to baked goods: like lemon zest, adding a little lemon juice to a lemon cake or cookie recipe can dial up the citrus flavor.
- To bring out flavors of fresh fruit - we like adding a little lemon juice to a fruit pie filling to bring out the natural flavors of the fruit. A little lemon juice in your cherry or apple pie will intensify the fruit flavor of the filling, and help balance the sugar in the pie filling.
- Remember to use fresh juice: bottled lemon juice from the store is very different from using fresh lemon juice. Those juices have preservatives to increase their shelf life, which gives them a strange, chemical flavor that you don’t want in your baked goods. Instead, use fresh lemon juice for your baking needs. You don’t need any fancy equipment to juice lemons - we like to juice ours with a fork. And remember, you can always freeze leftover lemon juice and use later!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try baking with whole lemons. Recipes using the whole lemon - the pith, the peel, and the fruit - usually use a good amount of sugar to help balance the bitterness and sourness of the lemon itself. But baked goods with whole lemons have an intense, fragrant lemon flavor that is a revelation for true citrus lovers. Here are some whole lemon baked goods that we’ve loved:
- Shaker Lemon Pie: This pie features whole lemons, sliced very thinly, mixed with sugar and eggs, and then baked until set. The marmalade-like filling is sweet, tart, and deeply lemon flavored. This pie is great with Meyer lemons, which are a little less tart than regular lemons, and have a complex citrus flavor that shines in this pie. Find a great Shaker Lemon Pie recipe here!
- Sicilian Whole Lemon Cake: This moist, dense, and delicious whole lemon cake is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. This flavorful cake uses an entire lemon- peel, juice and pulp, for an amazingly lemony dessert! Check out this recipe to learn how to use an entire lemon for this yummy cake.
- Whole Lemon Pudding: This unique dessert is full of tart lemon flavor paired with sweet butter and sugar. They are easy to make - and vegetarian! The Great British Bake Off says, “These little puddings are surely the epitome of Britishness and the very definition of comfort food.” Find out how to make your own here.