Old-fashioned Lemon Star Cookies

frosted star-shaped cookies on plate

Cut-out cookies are so much fun to make, and it’s a wonderful family activity, so I’m always on the look-out for hundred-year-old recipes for cut-out cookies. I recently found a wonderful recipe in a 1919 magazine for Lemon Star Cookies. The frosted cookies are sprinkled with chopped walnuts, and have a delicate lemon flavor.

I used buttercream frosting, though other types of frosting could be used. Any type of walnuts would work well in this recipe, but I had some black walnuts so used them. The bold, richness of the black walnuts combined perfectly with the sweetness of the frosting and the lemon in the cookies. This cookie is a winner – whether the cookies are cut into stars or some other shape.

Here’s photo of the cookies in the old magazine:

Frosted star-shaped cookies on plate
Source: Good Housekeeping (December, 1919)

All was good. The cookies tasted wonderful, and they looked similar to the photo of Lemon Star Cookies in the old magazine. Then the Saturday newspaper arrived on my doorstep. There was a beautiful feature showing how to make decorated cut-out cookies. It included directions for making royal icing, piping the icing to make an outline around the edge of the cookie, and then “flooding” the cookie with additional icing.

I suddenly realized that my cookies weren’t as awesome and picture-perfect as I’d thought a few minutes earlier. That said, the buttercream frosting I smeared on the top of the cookies with a knife is probably very similar to what cooks did a hundred years ago – so I keep telling myself that at least my cookies are authentic even if they aren’t Instagram perfect.

Here’s the original recipe:

Recipe for Lemon Star Cookies
Source: Good Housekeeping (December, 1919)

Lemon Star Cookies

  • Servings: 50 - 60 cookies
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

3/4 cup butter or margarine (I used butter.)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 cups pastry flour (all-purpose flour can be substituted)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon lemon extract

white frosting (I used buttercream frosting.)

chopped walnuts (I used black walnuts, but the typical walnuts that are sold in stores also would work well.)

Preheat oven to 400° F. In a mixing bowl, cream the  butter (or margarine) together. Stir in the eggs, then add the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon extract. Stir until well-mixed. Refrigerate dough 1/2 hour or until chilled.

On well-floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into shapes using a star cookie cutter (or use other shaped cutters, if preferred). Place on greased baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove from oven, and cool on wire racks. Ice the cookies with the frosting, and then sprinkle chopped walnuts in the center of each cookie.

35 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Lemon Star Cookies

    1. hmm. . . I’d say that they are medium – not real crispy, but not particularly soft either. I think that the thickness of the dough and the length of time baked would affect how crispy they are. Thinner dough would make crispier cookies.

  1. Your cookies look (and I bet taste) delicious! I often recall, when my daughters were young, watching a Martha Stewart TV show. They said since Martha could make (from scratch) a triple-layer chocolate cake with icing & decorations, in a half-hour, why couldn’t we? When I stopped laughing, I replied: her elves in the back made that ; ) So please don’t worry about Instagram “worthiness”.

  2. Those look really good! I shall have to try and make them! I have a friend who loves lemon so I need to make these as a gift for her! Happy Holidays sweetie

  3. “Instagram Worthiness”. Bwahahahahahahaha! Unbeknownst to you, Sheryl, that is the EXACT phrase that I use with my landscape clients. Many people are perplexed as to “just when do you cut fading blooms from plants?” I simply tell them, “if you take a photo of the flower in question and DON’T POST IT ON FACEBOOK OR INSTAGRAM, it’s time to cut it off!” Interestingly, everyone “gets” the analogy!

    Now, back to the Lemon Cookie. Your post hit my IN BOX at 6:03 a.m. I’m already on my 2nd batch of making these cookies! I had no lemon extract on hand (never did) so I grated a lemon into the dough and another lemon into the icing. The kitchen smells sublime. Instead of walnuts, which my family hates, I used chopped almonds, which is a favourite combination here, of lemon and almond.

    Thanks, Sheryl, for adding an new cookie to my cookie tray! It came in the nick of time. 😀

    1. It’s wonderful to hear that this post hit your inbox at just the right time – and that you’re enjoying these cookies. And, I love the flower analogy.

  4. I so enjoy looking at the original recipe from 1919, Sheryl, and to see the photo was a treat, too. Interesting that the baker used margarine instead of butter, I had always thought margarine came along in the 1940s or so. Also interesting to see the ingredients written with the addition of “ful” on the words cup and teaspoon. Wonderful look back. Your version looks and sounds very yummy.

    1. I occasionally see recipes, like this one, from 1919 that call for margarine – so apparently was available that long ago. It’s nice to hear that you enjoyed the original recipe. I find them fascinating – and they provide so many clues about the ingredients that were available a hundred years ago, cooking methods, etc.

  5. I’m putting this on the list for cookie baking this year. My husband when asked to buy some lemon juice (the little plastic lemon) instead bought a huge quart bottle… Now besides lemon bars I’m planning on these cookies!

    1. It sounds like you have lots of lemon recipes in your future. 🙂 For this recipe I used lemon extract rather than lemon juice. The extract is more concentrated. According to the Our Everyday Life website, twice as much lemon juice is needed as extract to get the same flavor. You may also need to use a little extra flour since the juice would contain more liquid than the extract.

  6. Just the word lemon gets my attention! 😋 I agree with another commenter who thinks these would be perfect for all seasons! Maybe change the icings to match the season… butter cream, lemon , maybe some sprinkled with some poppyseeds…chocolate icing? That might not work..😊

    1. Black walnut trees grow wild in many areas. My husband and I always gather a few each fall. It’s a process to hull, dry, and crack them – but we have a lot of fun doing it; and love the way they taste (though it’s definitely a bolder taste the typical English walnut). Some places you can buy black walnuts – though they can be difficult to find in a store.

    1. Wow, it’s awesome that you can remember your grandmother making these cookies. I wonderful if she got the recipe from the December, 1919 issue of Good Housekeeping.

      1. It is possible, she was always cutting recipes from newspapers and magazines. She made dozens and dozens of cookies at Christmas time. She never wrote her recipes down so there was nothing handed down. My mother didn’t cook like my grandmother and never made any cookies. I think because she didn’t have to.

        1. Someone once made a comment on this blog expressing a similar sentiment. She stated that every other generation in a family tends to have great cooks.

          1. I believe this 100%. My Gran raised me and was a superior cook and baker. She had to be, feeding up to 20 farm hands when it was planting and haying time on the farm. My mother had utter disdain for the farm and ALL cooking! She felt that “Women’s Work” was beneath her. She always married men who just wanted to go out for dinner at a restaurant versus eating at home. If my mother was hungry, she’d eat an apple or a peach, using a paper napkin as her “plate.”

            I, on the otherhand, picked up where my Gran left off, making her 100+ year old recipes for waffles, tomato jelly, elderberry jam, gingerbread, etc.

  7. These piqued my interest not just because they sound and look tasty, but because I didn’t know margarine went back that far (turns out the French invented it even farther back, in 1869 —”Sacre bleu!” What irony!)

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