These lemon crinkle cookies are bursting with fresh lemon flavor and so meltingly tender you’d never guess they were made from cake mix! Tart, tangy, sweet and deliciously fluffy, these cookies are so easy to make and even easier to devour!
Made with just 8 simple ingredients, they’re the perfect cookie for any baker from beginner to expert! Whether you are craving freshly-baked cookies or need them for a birthday party, holiday cookie exchange or after-dinner dessert, this easy cake mix cookie recipe is for you!
If you are looking for epic, yet easy lemon cookies then I have got the perfect recipe for you!
Cake Mix Lemon Crinkle Cookies
These lemon cookies have got it going on, my friends! They’re a touch tangy, slightly sweet, subtly tart and absolutely bursting with fresh lemon flavor!
They are thick, incredibly moist and meltingly tender with slightly crisp edges and an airy, pillowy-soft interior. It’s like a hybrid of a soft and chewy cookie on the outside meets a moist and tender, cake-like cookie on the inside. Essentially, the texture is blissfully delicious!
If you like lemon, this is definitely the cookie recipe for you! There are three types of lemon flavor in these cookies: juice, zest and extract. The end result? Cookies that pack a punch of intense, bold, robust lemon flavor!
Plus, these cookies are so easy to make you literally can’t mess them up! It takes just 8 simple ingredients and 15 minutes to transform a box of cake mix into the best fluffy lemon cookies!
These cake mix cookies are perfect whether you are in a pinch or simply craving a freshly baked homemade treat!
What are lemon crinkle cookies?
Crinkle cookies are a classic holiday cookie! Chocolate crinkle cookies are more popular; however, lemon crinkle cookies are just as delicious!
Crinkle cookies are soft, cakey cookies with a distinct crackled appearance. The decorative cracked surface is created by rolling the cookie dough balls in powdered sugar before baking. As the cookies bake, the dough rises and the white powdered sugar-coating crinkles and cracks, exposing gaps of dough beneath the crinkled fissures. Hence the cute name – crinkle cookies!
Crinkle cookies were invented by Helen Fredell in Saint Paul, Minnesota. However, they were made popular in the early 1950’s by one of Betty Crocker’s cook booklets, the Cookie Carnival. Fredell’s original recipe was for molasses crinkle cookies, but nowadays you can find a wide variety of crinkles, such as red velvet, funfetti and (my favorite) lemon!
What makes the crinkle effect?
The crinkle effect comes from rolling the cookies in powdered sugar and properly baking. The crinkle appearance relies solely on the cookies expanding and spreading while baking in the oven. As the cookies expand, the powdered sugar pulls apart in a varied pattern which creates the crinkled effect.
Are crinkle cookies soft?
Crinkle cookies are thick and soft-baked in the center with crackly, crumbly edges. They have an overall cakey texture with a melt-in-your mouth, fluffy and soft interior.
What is in lemon crinkle cookies?
This lemon cookie recipe is made with a box of lemon cake mix and jazzed up with rich cream cheese and tart fresh lemon juice! I roll them in sugar before baking to create a crinkle effect. However, you can bake them plain and glaze them instead!
Ingredients for cake mix cookies:
- Cake Mix: You need 1 box of lemon cake mix for this recipe. The cake mix contains all of the dry ingredients needed to make cookies. (Scroll down to read more about cake mix.)
- Unsalted Butter: Butter adds moisture and creates a melt in your mouth texture!
- Cream Cheese: Use full-fat brick-style cream cheese. You need the variety sold in a box, not in a tub.
- Egg: One large egg binds all the ingredients together and provides structure.
- Lemon: You need fresh lemon juice and zest! Fresh lemon provides the perfect bright, tart flavor! Do not try to substitute bottled lemon juice! If you aren’t a fan of lemon, swap it out for orange or lime!
- Extracts: Vanilla and Lemon extract provide delicious, complex flavor. Make sure you don’t skimp on the extracts and ensure you are using pure (not imitation) extracts.
- Sugars: Granulated and powdered sugar are used for rolling the cookie dough balls before baking.
What type of cake mix should I use?
You can use any 15.25-ounce box of cake mix. I highly recommend using a ‘moist-style’ cake mix for the best soft, fluffy texture. I’ve used Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme and Betty Crocker Delights with great success!
Since these cookies are lemon, I recommend using a lemon-flavored cake mix. However, you can use a different flavor, such as funfetti, strawberry, yellow cake, butter pecan or orange if you want to shake things up!
Is powdered sugar the same thing as confectioners’ sugar?
Sugar is an integral part of crinkle cookies!
Confectioners’ sugar and powdered sugar are used interchangeably because they are the same thing. Powdered, or confectioners’ sugar is granulated sugar that has been finely ground and mixed with a small amount of cornstarch to prevent caking.
Powdered sugar, along with granulated sugar, is used in this recipe to coat the cookie dough balls.
How to make lemon cookies from cake mix?
Why slave over making cookies from scratch when you can whip up these deliciously soft, wonderfully fluffy, intensely lemony cookies in a flash!? These crinkle cookies require just 8 simple ingredients and they’re so easy to make! It’s the perfect cookie recipe for beginner bakers and kids!
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Make cookie dough: In a large bowl with a handheld mixer, or a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed. Add the cream cheese and continue to beat until well incorporated. Add the egg, lemon juice, zest and both extracts. Beat well until combined and fluffy. Sift the cake mix into the bowl. Beat on low or stir until just combined.
- Chill: Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerator for at least 1 ½ hours. The dough should be completely chilled.
- Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Pour powdered sugar into a shallow bowl and granulated sugar onto a plate.
- Portion cookies: Use your hands, or a cookie scoop, to portion out the dough. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls.
- Coat in sugars: Place each ball into the granulated sugar and lightly roll to coat. Transfer to the powdered sugar and roll it around so it’s heavily coated. Arrange the cookie balls 2-inches apart on the cookie sheet.
- Bake: Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for 8 minutes. Immediately transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
- Serve: Dust the tops of cookies with powdered sugar or dip the tops of the cookies gently in powdered sugar for a snow-capped cookie effect. Enjoy!
How to tell when crinkle cookies are done baking?
A lemon cookie needs to be perfectly cooked in order to have that signature melt-in-your-mouth, fluffy texture. So, how can you tell when a cookie is done baking? Simply look at them! You can tell cookies are finished baking by their appearance.
- Cracks: The entire top of the cookies will be cracked and crinkly. An underbaked cookie will only have cracks around the perimeter.
- Color: The cookies will be overall pale in color and look ever-so-slightly browned on the bottom only. If you wait until the cookies change to a darker, golden color, you’ve waited too long and over baked your cookies.
- Under-baked: Lemon crinkle cookies will still appear soft and under-baked in the middle. Do not ever over bake your cookies! They will continue to bake and harden as they cool on the pan.
How to make a glaze for lemon cookies?
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of rolling your cookie dough in sugar before baking, you can glaze the baked cookies instead! I’m not going to lie – the cookie dough is sticky. If you don’t properly chill the dough or coat your hands in sugar, the cookies will be a pain to roll and coat. If you are looking for a super easy route, I recommend skipping the powdered sugar coating; simply glaze them instead!
Lemon glaze for cookies:
- Combine sugar and lemon: In a medium bowl combine ¾ cup powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.
- Mix: Whisk until the glaze is thoroughly combined. Add more lemon juice, a teaspoon at a time, for a thinner glaze.
- Glaze: Drizzle the glaze over the cookies, or dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze.
- Sit: Allow glazed cookies to sit for an hour so glaze can harden.
Why are my cake mix cookies flat?
There’s nothing worse than a hard, flat cookie. You take the time to make cookie dough, roll the cookies, bake them and patiently wait, so you want them perfect, right?! As long as you follow a few simple tips and tricks (and the recipe of course), you will bake up light and airy cookies every single time!
Reasons your cookies are flat:
- Room temperature ingredients: Your butter, cream cheese and egg must be at room temperature. It all comes down to science. When you cream ingredients together, you are trapping air inside the dough. Trapped air creates a light, airy cookie. Cold ingredients don’t trap air as well, which results in dense, flat cookies.
- Expired ingredients: The leavening ingredients in the cake mix help your cookies rise. If they are too old, they will become inactive. Double check the box of cake mix for an expiration date.
- Chill dough: A cold dough equals less spreading. When you chill the dough, it solidifies the fat (butter). The longer the fat stays in a solid state in the hot oven, the less your cookies will spread.
- Preheat your oven: Placing cookies in a cold oven will drastically affect your cookies. Always properly preheat your oven.
- Oven temperature: Make sure your oven temperature is correct! An oven that is too hot, or too cold, will affect the cookies. A hot oven will melt the butter in your dough too quickly and cause the cookies to spread. A cold oven will prevent the cookies from baking and spreading at all. Use an oven thermometer and double check to ensure your oven is specified to the recipe’s temperature.
- Quality cookie sheets: You need a heavy duty cookie sheet! Cheap cookie sheets do not heat evenly. Also, look for light colored aluminum cookie sheets versus darker ones. Dark cookie sheets tend to heat up too quickly.
- Prepare your cookie sheet: Use a sheet of parchment paper to line your cookie sheets. Do not grease your pans!
- Bake on the middle rack: For even baking, bake your cookies on the middle rack! You need even heat on both the top and the bottom for cookies to spread uniformly.
How to store cookies?
Even though these cookies contain cream cheese, you do not need to refrigerate them!
Store lemon cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Cookies will stay soft and fresh for up to 5 days.
Can I freeze lemon cookies?
Both unbaked cookie dough and freshly baked cookies freeze beautifully! I recommend doubling the recipe and storing half the dough in the freezer so you have quick freezer-to-oven cookies on hand whenever a cookie craving strikes!
- Cookie dough: Store cookie dough in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Proceed to portion, roll and bake cookie dough as directed in the recipe.
- Portioned cookie dough: Scoop and roll cookie dough into balls according to the recipe instructions. Place the balls on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and flash freeze in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until frozen. Transfer the frozen cookie balls to a freezer-safe resealable bag. When ready to enjoy, bake from frozen for 13-15 minutes.
- Baked cookies: Allow baked cookies to cool completely. Arrange cooled cookies in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Flash freeze for 30 minutes, or until cookies harden. Transfer cookies to a freezer-safe resealable bag and store in the freezer for up to 1 month. When ready to eat, remove as many cookies as you would like to enjoy. Place cookies in an airtight container and thaw at room temperature for 2 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight prior to serving.
Grab a box of cake mix and get ready for incredibly soft crinkle cookies bursting with fresh lemon flavor!
Looking for more cookie recipes?
If you love these cake mix cookies, try one of these dessert recipes next:
How to make the best Lemon Cake Mix Cookies recipe👇
Lemon Cake Mix Crinkle Cookies
- Large Bowl or Stand Mixer
- Cookie Sheet
- Shallow Bowl (2)
- Wire Cooling Rack
- 1 (15.25 ounce) Box Lemon Cake Mix - (SEE NOTES)
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter – softened to room temperature (1 stick)
- 1 (8 ounce) brick Cream Cheese – softened to room temperature
- 1 large Egg – at room temperature
- 2 TBS Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 2 tsp Freshly Grated Lemon Zest
- ½ tsp EACH: Vanilla Extract & Lemon Extract
- 1 cup Powdered Sugar - DIVIDED
- 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- Prepare cookie dough: In a large bowl or a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the softened cream cheese and continue to beat until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the egg, lemon juice, zest and both extracts. Beat well until combined and fluffy, about 1 minute. Sift the cake mix into the bowl. Beat on low or stir until just combined. Don’t beat too much or your cookie dough will become tough. The dough should be sticky.
- Chill: Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator for 1 ½ hours (or overnight), or in the freezer for 45 minutes. The dough should be completely chilled.
- Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Pour ¾ cup powdered sugar into a shallow bowl and pour the granulated sugar onto a plate.
- Portion cookies: Use your hands, or a cookie scoop, to scoop out the dough. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls (roughly 1 ½ tablespoon each).
- Coat in sugars: Place each ball into the granulated sugar and roll to very lightly coat. Transfer to the powdered sugar and roll it around so it’s heavily coated; this is what gives the cookies their cracked appearance. Arrange the cookie balls 2-inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. (SEE NOTES)
- Bake: Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes, or until just barely browned on the bottom only (they should be overall pale in color and they will look soft in the middle). Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for 8 minutes. Immediately transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
- Serve: Dust the tops of cookies with remaining powdered sugar or dip the tops of the cookies gently in powdered sugar for a snow-capped cookie effect. Enjoy!
- Cake mix: Use a moist-style cake mix for best results. Make sure you SIFT the cake mix into the bowl. Sifting the cake mix will result in cookies that taste more homemade.
- Chilling dough: Chilling the dough makes it much easier to work with! Plus, it prevents the cookies from flattening out too much! And, if you want the classic crinkle appearance, the dough must be cold before baking! If you are in a hurry, split the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Chilling the dough in smaller portions will help the process go faster!
- Rolling dough: Cookie dough will be sticky. To prevent it from sticking, coat your hands lightly with powdered sugar.
- Portioning dough: You should be able to fit 12 cookie dough balls on a cookie sheet. I do not recommend baking more than one sheet at a time. The dough needs to be cold when it goes into the oven in order to crack. I recommend portioning half the dough, rolling it in sugar and then baking. You can portion out the remaining dough while the first batch bakes, but do NOT roll it in powdered sugar until ready to bake. Store the portioned dough in the refrigerator.
- Baking: Do NOT overbake the cookies. The edges and tops should not be browned at all.
- Storage: Even though these cookies contain cream cheese, you do not need to refrigerate them! Store lemon cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Cookies will stay soft and fresh for up to 5 days.
- Freezer: Allow baked cookies to cool completely on wire rack. Place cookies on a cool cookie sheet. Transfer them to the freezer and flash freeze for 30 minutes. Once frozen, stack the cookies in a freezer-safe resealable bag or container. Store in freezer for up to 3 months. To serve, remove cookies from freezer at least 2 hours before enjoying.
- Glaze: Instead of rolling the cookies in powdered sugar before baking, you can finish them with a lemon glaze! In a medium bowl whisk ¾ cup powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Either drizzle over baked and cooled cookies or dip cookie tops into the glaze. Allow glazed cookies to sit for an hour so glaze can harden.
©No Spoon Necessary. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use any images without prior permission. Do not publish this recipe. If you want to reference this recipe, please link directly back to this post.