Lemon Cayenne Cookies for the Grown Up in You

Lemon Cayenne Cookies

These Lemon Cayenne Cookies are for grown ups. Nobody said cookies are just for kids (Trix are for kids. Cap’n Crunch is for kids. Kids without grown up guidance some might say). But cookies, when they’re done right, can have sophisticated flavor profiles that appeal to the grown ups among us.

The trend may have started a few years ago when sea salt and caramel began to push the sweet and salty envelope. This was followed by an explosion of “sweet” bacon treats– including cookies. Pretty soon we adults were all munching on Parmesan crisps, sesame brittle and jalapeño popcorn balls. But if you’re like me there’ s a small part of you that misses plain old cookies straight from the cookie jar.

But cayenne cookies– really? Cayenne?

Despite the expectations people usually have about cayenne, these Lemon Cayenne Cookies are not savory cookies. They’re not spicy little cocktail bites designed to set the palate for a bracing belt of something strong. They’re not conversation starters playfully shocking the sensibilities of traditionalists. Little savory delights like that have a place in grown up life, of course they do. But so do sweet treats– straight from the cookie jar. As long as they’re not too sweet, and not too cloying. Sprinkles are for kids. So pull up your big boy (or girl) pants and learn a little bit about these Lemon Cayenne Cookies. They were created to intrigue and satisfy both sides of the adult palate.

These sweet, crumbly lemon crackle cookies lash the tongue with the unusual combination of tart lemon and spicy cayenne. But don’t worry it’s a gentle tongue lashing, and an intriguing combination. Just as you’re finishing one of these Lemon Cayenne Cookies– the cayenne flickers on the tip of your tongue, reminding you that this is a cookie for grown ups. GREG

Lemon Cayenne Cookies

Lemon Crackle Cookies with Cayenne 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 48Published

*You may substitute another type of lemon. In which case add another teaspoon of granulated sugar to the creamed butter mixture.

lemon crackle cookies with cayenne


  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest (finely grated)
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cup all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda (scooped and leveled)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (scooped and leveled)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (plus more for optional sprinkling)
  • ½ cup Meyer lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar (for rolling)


Place the oven racks in the top and center positions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl beat the butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and add eggs and vanilla until just blended.

In a separate large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cayenne pepper; add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternating with the lemon juice, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Continue mixing until just combined. Do not over-mix.

Place the confectioners sugar in a separate bowl. You may re-use the bowl that held the flour mixture if you like. Scoop the dough by generous tablespoons, and shape into 1 ½‑inch balls; roll in the powdered sugar. Place cookies 2‑inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Add a very light sprinkling of cayenne for an extra kick if you like. Be sparing.

Bake in the heated oven for 16 to 18 minutes, switching the sheets between racks halfway through baking. The cookies are done when they barely begin to brown at the edges. Cookies will still be soft in the middle. Cool on the baking sheets a few minutes then slide the parchment sheet with the cookies in place onto a wire rack to cool completely.