Made with fresh lemon juice and zest, these Lemon Scones are light and flaky with a slightly crispy, golden exterior. They're easy to make and the perfect combination of tart and sweet, especially when drizzled with vanilla icing.
Is it just a universally understood fact that the older we get, the more we like lemon desserts and baked goods?
I swear, as a kid you want all sugar and chocolate. Then you grow up and start craving lighter, tart flavors. And though I'm a huge lover of lime, lemon seems to reign supreme.
I'm pretty sure scones are also a baked good that is beloved by older generations and most kids aren't hankering for homemade scones... At least not in the United States.
And if that's the case then I am officially happy to be of the age where I crave both citrus and scones. And I'm thrilled to be combining them together with this recipe for lemon scones.
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
Well, if you're of the lemon loving age, this recipe is going to be right up your alley. But seriously, if you're a fan of lemon or sweet scones at all, I think you're going to love this recipe (if you like savory scones, try these ones!).
Scones can sometimes have a poor reputation and are thought of as being dry and hard as rocks. But these ones are anything but! They're light and tender with the perfect lemony sweet and buttery flavor.
Plus, they're incredibly easy to make with no mixer required!
You really only need simple ingredients for these lemon scones... Ingredients you may already have in your fridge and pantry.
Here's everything needed (be sure to see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for ingredient amounts and full recipe directions):
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Unsalted butter: chilled and cut into cubes
- Fresh lemon zest
- Buttermilk: if you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute with heavy cream
- Large egg
- Fresh lemon juice
- Vanilla extract
And for the vanilla icing (which isn't a requirement for these scones, but definitely makes them even tastier), you need:
- Confectioners' sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Buttermilk: you can also substitute heavy cream or even milk here, too
🍋 How to make lemon scones
To start, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork (or your hands), until pea-size pieces form with some larger chunks remaining.
Remember, it's important to use really cold butter here. You should either cut it into pieces right before using or cut and then put back in the fridge or freezer to chill until ready to use.
If your butter isn't cold enough, the scones will end up pretty dense and not as flaky as you want.
That also means that once your butter is blended into the flour, you want to work fast to get your scone dough finished and in the oven.
First, stir in the lemon zest.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttercream, egg, fresh lemon juice, and vanilla.
Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, taking care not to over-mix.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't really want to knead your scone dough. Instead of kneading, I like to fold the dough over on itself a couple times, kind of like what you would do with croissant dough (though not nearly as many times as you would for croissants!).
This process is like a very abbreviated version of the lamination technique and results in a flakier scone with a higher rise.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and flatten it into a rough rectangular shape. Fold the dough in half and press on it to flatten layers together and re-shape into a rectangle. Now, fold the dough in half again going in the opposite direction.
Make sure you're not working the dough too much and/or letting the butter get too warm.
Now, form the dough into a circle about 1" thick. Slice dough into 8 triangles.
I like to use a bench scraper to cut my scones, but you could also use a sharp knife.
Place scones on prepared baking sheet and brush the tops of the scones lightly with buttermilk or heavy cream.
Bake at 400 degrees for 14-17 minutes, until scones are just turning golden brown.
Move to a wire rack to cool completely before adding icing.
🧁 How to make vanilla icing
You don't need to add icing to these lemon scones, but I think a nice drizzle of vanilla icing makes a big difference and adds a nice extra sweetness to the scones.
If you prefer an extra burst of lemon flavor, you can add extra fresh juice to the icing to make it a lemon glaze instead.
It's incredibly easy to make! Just whisk confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, an buttermilk (or heavy cream or milk) together in a small bowl.
Once the scones are cooled, drizzle the icing over them.
And enjoy! Your scones should have a slightly crispy exterior, but will be soft and flaky on the inside.
And absolutely packed with delicious lemon flavor. They definitely have some sweetness to them, but not too much at all. They're absolutely perfect with your morning coffee or a cup of afternoon tea.
⏲️ How to store
Storing these lemon scones is easy! Just put them in an airtight container at room temperature. They should keep fresh for about 3 days when stored properly.
💁♀️ Scone making tips
Did your scones not come out like you hoped? There are lots of variables that go into scone making and I'm hoping some of these tips will help you get the perfect bake!
- Make sure your butter is chilled before adding to the dough; this will make a huge difference in how your scones turn out!
- Once adding butter, work quickly. This goes with the tip above, but you want your butter to stay cold until your scones go into the oven. So once you add in the butter, work quickly to get scones formed and try not to handle the dough too much as your hands will warm it.
- Don't over-work dough. Not only will over-working the dough cause the butter to warm, but it will lead to too much gluten development and may result in scones that are tough and chewy instead of light and tender.
🎉 Flavor add-ins
I love the simplicity of these lemon scones, but there are lots of fun add-ins you could include that will complement the lemon flavor perfectly. Here are some ideas:
- Chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
- White chocolate chips or chunks
- Shredded coconut
- Blueberries or diced fresh strawberries (for blueberry lemonade scones or strawberry lemonade scones)
- Raisins or chopped dates
- Ground cinnamon
- Minced fresh basil or mint
- Almond extract
- Poppy seeds
You could also try substituting the buttermilk with coconut cream for a tropical flavor.
And you can top the scones with anything you want. I like spreading on some raspberry jam or strawberry jam.... But lemon curd would also be delicious.
👩🍳 Can I add more lemon flavor?
Yes! You can add more lemon juice and/or zest if you want and this shouldn't effect the consistency of the dough too much.
🧃 Can I use bottled juice?
You can use bottled lemon juice if you're in a pinch, but I highly recommend using fresh lemon juice if you can.
Fresh lemon juice has a brighter, more vibrant flavor as opposed to the more tart flavor of bottled juice. Bottled lemon juice also has a lot of preservatives in it, which I like to avoid if I can.
🥛 Can I use non-dairy milk?
I have only made these scones with buttermilk and heavy cream and I do know that they tend to work best for scones.
Thinner milks can often result in harder tougher scones, so if you use a non-dairy milk like almond milk or oat milk, the scones might have a different consistency than these.
If you want a non-dairy option with similar results to these scones, you can try canned coconut milk, though it will change the flavor a little bit (in a good way!).
😥 Why are my scones hard instead of fluffy?
If your finished scones are hard instead of light and flaky, I'm willing to bet you either worked the dough too much or your butter got too warm before baking. Or potentially both!
Remember to use cold butter and not too knead the dough too much.
If you follow this recipe exactly, you should get nice light and fluffy scones instead of tough scones!
While I love making these scones for every day (really, the best part of my day!), they'd also be perfect for an occasion like Mother's Day or a celebration like a bridal shower or a tea party.
I hope you enjoy this easy scone recipe that this lemon version becomes one of your favorite sweet scones!
Do you prefer sweet or savory scones?
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
- ½ cup buttermilk (can substitute with cream)
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 Tbsp buttermilk (can substitute with cream or milk)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork (or your hands), until pea-size pieces form with some larger chunks remaining. Stir in lemon zest.
- In a small bowl, whisk together buttercream, egg, fresh lemon juice, and vanilla. Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry mixture until just combined.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface and flatten it into a rough rectangle. Fold the dough in half and press on it to flatten layers together and re-shape into a rectangle. Now, fold the dough in half again going in the opposite direction. Try to work quickly as you don't want butter to get warm.
- Form the dough into a circle about 1" thick. Slice dough into 8 triangles (I like to use a bench scraper to do this) and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush scones lightly with buttercream or heavy cream.
- Bake for 14-17 minutes, until scones are just turning golden around edges.
- Let scones cool before drizzling with vanilla icing.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla extract until smooth.