{gluten-free} Italian Wedding Cookies (Lemon Cake Cookies)

There are a few gluten-full recipes I miss from long ago and haven’t yet tackled, and Christmas is the perfect time for playing with them!

Growing up, my Auntie Jo always brought lemony Italian Wedding Cookies to our summer family functions. Bursting with lemon oil and encased in a thin layer of powdered sugar icing, they were a simple cookie, and one of my favorites. I now have Auntie Jo, my cousin Diane and my mother’s versions of the recipe, and the other day tried my own hand at them for a little shindig I was throwing.

They didn’t quite come out like the cookies I remember from childhood — they were a little too cakey for that, and didn’t have the crumble of their classic counterparts. But the more I found them traveling to my mouth, the more I realized how much I love them. I’ll still try again to get them closer to home, but these little bites are worthy of the making as it is.

More cake than cookie, I still couldn't stop noshing these!

More cake than cookie, I still couldn’t stop noshing these!

They get most of their flavor from lemon oil, which leaves a bit of an alcoholic taste to them that I actually enjoy, as it reminds me of other classic Italian and Portuguese pastries I’ve inherited and made in the past. I used hazelnut oil, as I didn’t have almond or anise on me, but basically the addition of any second oil gives them some dimension. Other than that, it’s a simple recipe that’s quick to pull together, and the construction of the final step simple on its own as well. I tossed cute little candy confections on top as well, as that reminded me even more of those little silver balls Italians are fond of tossing on their sweets.

Lots of cookie recipes are coming up in the next two weeks — lace, chewy molasses, cranberry biscotti, peanut butter chocolate — but I’m psyched this is the first up for now.

Happy Holidays,

Jacqueline xoxo

Gluten-Free Italian Wedding Cookies - The Dusty Baker-1

{gluten-free} Italian Wedding Cookies

  • Servings: About 40 cookies
  • Print

I used my cookie flour mix plus a little more xanthan gum for these, since my cookie mix is light on it and I add more as needed. These would most likely work well enough with a mix you have on hand, as they’re pretty forgiving. So, while I can’t guarantee the texture of yours with a different flour, just make sure you have enough gum in them to pull them together, and don’t worry too much about it.

I use butter, as I can tolerate it, but not regular cow’s milk, as I can’t. Any milk will work in these, both in the cookie and for the glaze. I just suggest using an unsweetened one so that the cookies don’t take on an additional sweetness from a milk.


  • 1/4 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or preferred milk of choice) plus more for glaze
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon extract, divided
  • 1 tsp almond, hazelnut or another nut extract of choice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 cups gluten-free cookie flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 8 tsp baking powder (yes!)
  • zest of one lemon
  • about 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • any candy decoration of your choosing

In a measuring cup, mix 3/4 cup milk, 1 tsp lemon extract, 1 tsp nut extract, and 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice. Set aside.

Zest lemon and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat in until mixture is smooth and creamy, and no graininess from the sugar remains.

Whisk flour with xanthan gum and baking powder.

Starting and ending with dry ingredients, alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beating just until incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula between additions. So, add 1/3 the flour mixture, then 1/2 the milk mixture, and repeat until the last of the flour is mixed in. Quickly stir in the lemon zest.

Let batter sit for about 20 minutes. It will be a bit sticky.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line three sheet pans with parchment or Silpat.

When the 20 minutes is up, wet your hand slightly and roll the dough into walnut-sized balls. Bake 12 to a sheet for 12-15 minutes, until they just start to brown on top. Cool completely as you continue with the rest of the batter.

When all cookies are cool, whisk together 1/2 cup or so of confectioners sugar with the last 1/2 tsp lemon oil (or fresh lemon juice!) and just enough milk to make it into a thick glaze; add slowly, because the sugar takes a few seconds to absorb but then deflates quickly, accidentally thinning the glaze far too much. If this happens, just add more sugar. You want the glaze to run off a spoon and ribbon in the bowl, but not too thinly.

Dunk each cookie top in the glaze and set to dry, about 6 or so cookies at a time, pausing to sprinkle with any decorating candies. If desired, sift additional confectioners sugar over the tops to set and make look a bit snowy!


  1. Debbie Smith says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. These are one of my most missed cookies ever. I’ll be baking up batch tomorrow.

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