raspberry lemon lofthouse cookies

September 4, 2019 Portland, OR, USA

Lofthouse cookies are cakey sour cream sugar cookies with a texture between your favorite sugar cookie and a cupcake top. Each cookie is topped with a generous swirl of colorful buttercream frosting and rainbow sprinkles. My homemade version uses fresh raspberries and lemon zest for extra flavor—jump to the recipe.


Lofthouse Cookies

I know I'm supposed to be gushing about these lofthouse cookies right now, but here's the truth: a few weeks ago, I received a heartbreaking message from my mom. She found a small lump in her left breast. She went to the doctor for a mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy. The results came back. The tumor was malignant. She has Stage 1 breast cancer.

The news was especially devastating, because less than two weeks ago, she came to Portland for a quick visit. She was in town for a week, after having spent the last few weeks with some girlfriends hiking around Banff, Canada. We went to all my favorite restaurants, where we polished off bottles of wine and ate decadent meals every night. She even went to the rock climbing gym with me and Erlend. There had been no indication that she was unhealthy or sick in any way.

The good news is that the type of cancer she has a high survival rate. She's still relatively young and active to boot, increasing her chances of beating the cancer even more. Furthermore, during her lumpectomy, they discovered that the tumor was even smaller than the scans initially showed. Her lymph nodes were unaffected. She doesn't even need chemo—just 15 days of radiation treatments. She and my dad are even going to Europe before her treatment. Her oncologist puts her odds of survival very, very high because of my mom's early detection and high levels of fitness and activity for her age. It's all good news. Except for the fact that it's cancer.

Even though the prognosis is so positive, it's still hard not to feel helpless and scared. But I can give into that despair, or do other things to distract me instead. Like how I've been baking the same recipes over and over, because always, without fail, baking brings me joy and keeps me centered in the chaos of it all. I decided that I needed another big project like cracking Levain Bakery's blueberry muffin recipe. This time around, I decided to reverse-engineer lofthouse cookies.


Lofthouse Sugar Cookies

I have fond memories of lofthouse cookies from growing up; after soccer games, an enterprising parent would always bring a box of the sugar cookies for us to eat, regardless of whether we won or lost. But truthfully, lofthouse cookies didn't hold up in my adulthood. I bought a box to prepare for this blog post, and between you and me, I could only manage to eat one. It was oddly starchy yet soft, and artificially sweet. And indeed, looking at a store-bought lofthouse cookie's ingredients, I can confirm that the store-bought ones are made with a scary amount of chemicals. Which is sad, because in theory, a lofthouse cookie should have pretty basic ingredients. Lofthouse cookies start with a soft sugar cookie base; traditional recipes usually include sour cream to add tang and flavor to the cookies. The cookies are then topped off with a simple (but delicious!) vanilla American buttercream frosting.

Luckily, there were many recipes online that paid homage to what a good lofthouse cookie should be. Unfortunately, many of them required you to chill the dough for a few hours to prevent the cookies from overspreading. While I'm sure that those recipes yielded delicious cookies (in particular, I had my eye on my friend Cindy's lofthouse cookie recipe on Simply Recipes), I was too impatient to wait. Besides—lofthouse cookies need to be cooled to room temperature completely before frosting. I wanted to reduce wait time as much as possible!


How To Make Lofthouse Cookies

The trick to finding a fast lofthouse cookie recipe is to find a recipe that has a high flour to sugar/eggs/butter ratio to help prevent the cookies from overspreading. Because you're using so much flour, using cake flour (which contains cornstarch, one of the ingredients listed in the store-bought lofthouse cookie recipe) is key. Cake flour has less gluten than all-purpose flour, and will result in soft and tender sugar cookies that are a cross between a sugar cookie and a cupcake top.

Despite using the very best ingredients, my first few lofthouse cookies came out a little too bland. Although the flavor was infinitely less chemically, it was definitely missing that something that made "lofthouse cookies" lofthouse cookies. Swapping in almond extract for traditional vanilla and adding lemon zest to the cookie base recipe actually gave the cookies the lofthouse taste that I remember from my childhood.

And although lofthouse cookies typically come frosted in different colors like blue and yellow, I stuck with an all-pink color scheme with mine in honor of my mom's battle with breast cancer. A pink ribbon is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness (although I'm a month early, since National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is actually in October). If I lived in the same city as my mom, these are the cookies I would bake for her doctor and nurses as a small thank you for their incredible hard work. But for now, this recipe is the best I can do.


Best Lofthouse Cookies Recipe Tips

  • For this recipe, it's important to use a 2-tablespoon cookie dough scoop. Eyeballing the dough will lead to irregular and uneven cookies, defeating the whole point of a traditional lofthouse cookie! You can use a 3 tablespoon or 1 tablespoon cookie dough scoop too, but doing so will lead to bigger or smaller cookies. After portioning out the dough, you'll need to use something to press down each dough ball since they won't spread out too much on their own. Grease the bottom of a glass and dip it into flour and use it to press down each cookie dough ball into a traditional drop cookie shape. If the edges of the drop cookie end up rough and ragged, you can dip your finger into a bowl of cold water and "smoothen" the edges with the tip of your finger. If you're aiming for picture-perfect cookies, this is an absolutely necessary move since the cookies won't spread too much and smoothen out on their own.

  • True to my mission of avoiding unnecessary chemicals in my lofthouse sugar cookie recipe, I tinted the buttercream with a homemade raspberry syrup. The syrup is very subtle, but gives the cookies an extra unmistakable "something something" to take them to the next level. I also used these India Tree confetti quin sprinkles, which are made with all natural food coloring made from vegetable dyes.

Yield: makes 25 cookies
Author: Hummingbird High

Raspberry Lemon Lofthouse Cookies

ingredients:

Essential Equipment

For the Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • fresh zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract

For the Raspberry Buttercream
  • "heaping" 1/3 cup (2.25 ounces) fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1/3 cup (2.65 ounces) water
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted if necessary
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of kosher salt 
  • confetti quin sprinkles, for garnish

      instructions:

      How to make Raspberry Lemon Lofthouse Cookies

      For the Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
      1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 (F). Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
      2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
      3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and fresh zest. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until clumpy and aromatic—this will help release oils from the zest that will absorb into the sugar. Affix the bowl into the stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and add the butter. Beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer to its lowest setting and add the egg, sour cream, and almond extract, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer still on low, add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. 
      4. Use a 2-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the dough onto the prepared sheet pans, leaving at least 3 inches between each dough ball. Lightly spray the bottom of a glass with cooking spray and dip into the bag of cake flour. Gently press the bottom of the cup on top of each mound of dough and flatten until you get a 1 1/2-inch circle, flouring the bottom of the cup as needed and smoothening out the sides with a wet finger (see baker's notes).
      5. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are pale yellow and barely starting to brown on the bottoms. Cool the cookies on the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, before transferring to the rack to cool completely before frosting.

      For the Raspberry Buttercream
      1. In a small saucepan, combine the raspberries and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to mash the berries, and the mixture is reduced to about a third of its original volume. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl and pour the mixture into the sieve, pressing down on the fruit to extract the liquid. You should have at least 2 tablespoons of pink raspberry syrup. Discard the solids.
      2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the confectioners' sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the raspberry syrup. Beat on medium-high, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary, until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. 

      Assembly
      1. Scoop two teaspoons of the raspberry buttercream onto the center of each cookie. Use a small offset spatula to spread the buttercream towards the edges of the cookie, rotating the cookie as you spread to ensure an even layer of buttercream on top of each. Immediately sprinkle the top of each frosted cookie with confetti quin sprinkles. Enjoy!

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