Italian Christmas Cookies

Italian Christmas Cookies

These traditional Italian lemon cookies are a favorite Christmas treat! With their soft and cakey texture, bright lemon flavor and pretty frosting, they are sure to be a hit for cookie exchanges or holiday gifting. The lemon extract can be substituted for anise extract for a different take on this classic recipe.

Can I use vegetable shortening instead of regular shortening?

It’s best to avoid vegetable shortening as it can make the cookies taste off. Stick with regular shortening for the authentic flavor.

My dough is really sticky and hard to handle. What should I do?

If the dough seems overly sticky, you can add a bit more flour, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until it becomes workable. The amount of flour needed may vary based on things like humidity.

How long do these cookies keep for?

Properly stored in an airtight container at room temperature, these cookies will keep fresh for up to 1 week. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Can I use a different extract instead of lemon?

Yes, anise or almond extract can be substituted in for the lemon if desired. Reduce to 1-2 teaspoons since they have stronger flavors.

Yield: 60 cookies


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) melted shortening (not vegetable shortening)
  • 4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons lemon extract (or anise extract)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

For Frosting:

  • 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • Sprinkles for decorating


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, melted shortening and lemon extract until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms. If needed, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time if dough is too sticky.
  5. Roll dough into 1 tablespoon sized balls and place onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 7-9 minutes until lightly golden brown on the bottom. Allow to cool completely on baking sheet.
  7. Make frosting by mixing powdered sugar with lemon extract and 1-2 tablespoons milk until a thick glaze forms. Add more powdered sugar to thicken or more milk to thin, if needed.
  8. Dip tops of cooled cookies into frosting allowing excess to drip off. Decorate with sprinkles.
  9. Allow frosted cookies to set completely before storing or serving. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


  • Be sure your baking powder is fresh for the cookies to rise properly. Check the expiry date.
  • Do not overbake the cookies or they will be dry. They should still look soft in the center when removed from the oven.
  • If frosting seems too thin, add more powdered sugar. Too thick, add a touch more milk. Adjust to get the right piping consistency.
  • Colorful sprinkles make these cookies festive for the holidays but you can decorate them however you like.
  • Chill dough for 30 minutes before rolling if it’s very soft and sticky. This makes it easier to handle.
  • Store frosted cookies between layers of parchment or wax paper so they don’t stick together.

Nutrition Facts Per Cookie (Unfrosted):

105 calories, 3g fat, 17g carbs, 1g protein


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