When I was a kid, my father used to buy these boxes of citrus cookies that were doused in powdered sugar. They were these tiny, puckery-tart lemon cookies that were crisp and buttery. I absolutely adored them. And he never let us have any.
I would sneak them anyway, and because it never occurred to me that the box wasn’t bottomless, my father would, of course, find out. I was grounded and punished with hard labor (scrubbing the toilet and weeding the yard), but it was totally worth it.
Now, as a parent myself, I make this homemade version and happily share these cookies with my kiddos.
I changed the flavor from lemon to lime in my cookie version but maintained the same buttery warmth the contraband of my childhood had. I also made sure to duplicate the reason I found these cookies so penalty-worthy—that sugar coating, which always gave me away.
What Are Icebox Cookies?
The title “icebox” is a throwback to the days before refrigeration, when iceboxes (literal cabinets with a block of ice) were the method for preserving perishables. As refrigeration evolved, so did recipes.
Icebox or refrigerator cookies are made from dough that can be stored in the refrigerator (or icebox) for up to a week. (You can freeze them too!)
The dough is usually formed into a tube and wrapped in plastic, which makes them great for those of us who like to have freshly baked cookies on demand. When company drops by unexpectedly, the desired amount is cut from the log of dough and baked “to order."
Icebox cookies are the ultimate, “Oh, shoot! We have unexpected guests, but I’ve got this covered" cookie.
What Is the Best Lime for These Cookies?
I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to label something “lime,” there had better be a pucker factor involved. I want it to tickle the back of my jaw when I taste it. The zest and juice of lime is how I achieve that in the cookie dough, itself. I double up on the lime flavor by brushing the baked cookies with a tart lime simple syrup.
I recommend Persian limes. They are the most common lime found in grocery stores. Key limes are also a great lime to use in this recipe, although they require more time to juice, because they’re smaller than Persian limes and may not be easy to find in your area.
If you want to switch up the flavor completely, substitute lemon zest and juice for these cookies for a punchy, bright lemon icebox cookie.
How to Shape and Frost Icebox Cookies
For the sake of convenience, I find that forming the cookie dough into a log shape and wrapping it in plastic wrap is the way to go. It gives me easy-to-slice round cookies that get the job done.
If you want something different, you could use a terrine mold, line it with plastic wrap, and press your dough into the shape of your mold.
For the topping, a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar suits my sweet tooth just fine. If you like to experiment, top your cookies a drizzle of melted dark or white chocolate, instead. Dipping half of the cookie in melted chocolate creates a classy presentation when giving as gifts, too.
How to Store and Freeze Icebox Cookies
This recipe makes three dozen cookies, which is great for those of us who love having a dessert ready to bake when the nighttime craving hits us. If you’re not keen on having too much cookie dough in the fridge, you have options!
- Refrigerate the dough: Make the dough; wrap in plastic; keep it in the fridge for up to a week, then slice and bake as you see fit.
- Freeze the dough: Roll it into a log; wrap it in plastic, and pop it in the freezer. It will keep for up to two months. To bake the cookies, just allow the dough to thaw under refrigeration for three to four hours, or until you can slice through the dough with a knife.
- Freeze the baked cookies: Once baked, cool them, brush them with lime syrup, and freeze between layers of parchment paper in a freezer bag for up to six months. When ready to eat, thaw at room temperature and sprinkle with powdered sugar. (If a cookie emergency strikes, feel free to eat them straight from the freezer!)
Icebox Cookies Are Great for Gifting!
What I find most appealing about these lime icebox cookies is how well they store prior to, and stay fresh after, baking.
Even days after baking, they retain their soft, chewy texture, which makes them great for gift-giving. Wrapping them in colorful cellophane or packaging them in holiday-themed gift boxes is a sweet way to let someone know you care.
More Cookie Recipes!
- Simple Soft Sugar Cookies
- Slice-and-Bake Pistachio Butter Cookies
- Lofthouse-Style Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
- Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies
- Classic Shortbread Cookies
Lime Icebox Cookies
- 2 1/4 sticks (18 tablespoons, 250g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups (250g) powdered (icing) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest, from about 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 3/4 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
- For the lime syrup:
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (4 limes)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- To garnish:
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, or to taste
Cream the butter and sugar:
In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, sugar and salt. Blend together using a mixer on low speed until creamy. The mixture will appear sandy during the initial stages, but when it’s ready, it will resemble buttercream. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
Add the wet ingredients:
Into the bowl with the butter and sugar, add the eggs, lime zest, and juice, and blend together on low for 30 seconds. The mixture will look curdled when you add the juice. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium and beat for another minute and a half.
Add the flour:
Once the mixture looks fluffy, decrease the mixer’s speed to low and add half of the flour to the bowl. Blend in the flour, just until it’s incorporated into the wet ingredients. Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour. Mix again, on low, until the dough comes together. This stage should only take 5 minutes.
Form and chill the dough:
You should have a very sticky, soft dough. Lay a 1 1/2 foot long piece of plastic wrap on your countertop. Scrape the dough into the center of the sheet of plastic and use your spatula to form it into a crude tube shape that measures 14 inches long by 3 inches in diameter.
Wrap the plastic around the dough and twist the ends of the plastic to mold the dough into a tight, sausage-like log.
Chill the dough:
Prior to slicing, the dough needs to firm up in the refrigerator (a.k.a. icebox). Leave the dough to chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week, in the refrigerator.
Slice and bake the dough:
Once the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 375°F.
Remove the plastic wrap and slice half-inch thick rounds of dough from the log. Arrange the discs of cookie dough on a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the bottom edges of the cookies are golden brown.
Make the lime syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine the lime juice and granulated sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture begins to boil, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool.
This syrup can be made a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Glaze, then cool the cookies:
After the cookies have finished baking, remove the pan from the oven and immediately brush the top of each cookie with the lime syrup. Brushing them straight out of the oven “cooks” the glaze onto the surface of the cookies.
After glazing, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
Dust with powder sugar:
When the cookies have cooled completely, dust each with your desired amount of powdered sugar, or none at all.
Store the cookies in an air-tight container on the counter. Enjoy the cookies within 3 days.