Lemon Shortbread (UCLA March Madness) Cookies

Desserts | March 16, 2014 | By

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

The MADNESS has arrived!! One of my favorite times of year is upon us, the NCAA tournament. Going to a school with such a huge basketball legacy (UCLA still holds more championships historically than any other team), March Madness is a big deal…especially this year. In our 4 years at UCLA, despite a lot of promise, our team did not go far; I don’t believe we even broke the Sweet 16. Although this season we’ve had our ups and downs, we just beat the #1 team in the country this past Sunday to clinch the PAC-12 Title. Yes, hope is in the air!

So get out your brackets, mark the Bruins going far this year (I’m hoping for a Final Four) and make some cookies!! To celebrate our recent victory and optimism for Madness, I adapted a family recipe into…the ultimate Bruin cookie! I wanted to make something that embodied basketball, UCLA colors and madness (I was imagining Mad Hatter tea party?). Yeah, sometimes I have a lot of crazy ideas and it’s hard to bring them all together! However, it all came together in the end. I started with my grandmother’s shortbread cookie recipe (normally used for a Scottish sandwich cookie called Empire Biscuits). I added a homemade lemon-cream cheese frosting for the sandwich filling, and a lemon glaze on-top, followed by chocolate basketball lines. The cookies usually have raspberry jam in the middle, but I thought lemon might be a good combination…and I sporadically added cream cheese because well, cream cheese frosting is just better. Since we hate artificial things here at A La Main, I used a plant-based food coloring I came across called India Tree. It actually worked pretty well!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies (Assembly inspired by The Preppy Planner)

Shortbread Cookies:

6 oz Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 Cups Flour

5 Tbsp Sugar


Preheat oven to 350 deg F. In a medium sized bowl, cream butter, salt and sugar together with an electric or stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add flour, and remove electic mixer once it becomes too thick. Continue to add the rest of the flour, pressing into the mixture with a wooden spoon or your hands until a dough forms. (Note: dough should be slightly crumbly, but solid enough to stick together). Take the dough out of the bowl and kneed on a lightly floured surface for about 1-2 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and can be formed into a ball.

Roll the dough with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 1/8 – 1/4 inch. Use a cookie cutter (or glass!) to cut the dough into circles. Use a spatula to transport the circles to an ungreased cookie sheet. Prick each cookie once with a fork to prevent air bubbles from forming. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden. Remove cookies from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Lemon-Cream Cheese Filling:

3 Oz Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

3 Oz Cream Cheese

2 Cups Powdered Sugar, sifted

1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice


Cream the butter and cream cheese with an electric or stand mixer until creamy. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and blend. Sift the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, into the mixture and blend until an icing consistency forms. Add blue or yellow food coloring (or the colors of any other team!).

Lemon Glaze:

1 Cup Powdered Sugar, sifted

1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice


Sift powdered sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice. Stir and add powdered sugar or lemon juice until desired consistency is reached. (Note: this should be much more liquidy than normal frosting). Add red and yellow food coloring until desired basketball color is reached.


Glaze half of the cookies with the orange lemon glaze with the back of a spoon, and let dry. Fill piping bags (or large ziplock bags) with the lemon cream cheese frosting and cut a medium hole. Pipe the frosting into the middle of each non-glazed cookies, and press together with a glazed cookie to form a sandwich. Draw the lines of a basketball in brown or black (I used melted dark chocolate chips poured into a piping bag).

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

If you don’t have a round cookie cutter, no problem! Just use a wine glass or champagne flute!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I actually turned the cookies upside-down into the bowl of glaze and then spread it around with a spoon for optimal covering!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Do you like the blue and yellow sprinkles? Guess what, they are HOMEMADE! This is just a sneak preview, but I will be posting my DIY sprinkle recipe in the near future ;).

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies


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