From the way my mom describes my great-grandmother, she was an impressive hostess. You couldn’t walk through the door of her home without being served an elaborate spread of savory cheeses, meats, crackers, and drinks. I know her face only from a photograph that sits on a shelf in my parents’ living room; she smiles knowingly from the gold frame, wearing a floral blouse and a matching cobalt blue necklace and earrings set. She loved jewelry that made a statement; I know this because my sisters and I inherited upwards of 25 pieces from her massive collection of Sarah Coventry and Avon.
Her home-making and life maxims were as orderly and pleasant as that photograph: always be prepared for guests, dress well, and (in the words of my mother) don’t take any sass.
Nearly every holiday season since I can remember, my mom has brought out recipe cards written in Great-Grandma Herman’s scrolling, spidery hand. One of those recipes is for these Christmas Sugar Cakes, classic sugar cookies that can be ready to serve warm to guests in less than half an hour.
These cookies are pillowy and dense, and—a bonus for me—surprisingly easy to make. Though not for the gluten-free or faint-of-sugar, they’re well-suited for the Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert table or gifts for your neighbors.
Start by combining your wet ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
Then sift together your dry ingredients in a smaller bowl.
Finally, add the two together in the larger bowl and stir until just combined.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. I roll them by hand into uniform balls.
Sprinkle with sugar—colored if you’d like a festive look.
Bake at 350˚ for 12 minutes.
This recipe is as ready to entertain as my great grandmother was, so take caution if you’re thinking of doubling. Using rounded tablespoonfuls, I can make over 48 cookies with this recipe.
Great-Grandma Herman’s Christmas Sugar Cakes
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake time: 12 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Yield: 48 cookies
1 1/3 cups oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Combine wet ingredients in medium-sized bowl and set aside. Sift dry ingredients together in separate bowl.
Stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with colored or plain sugar, or chocolate sprinkles. Bake at 350˚ for 12 minutes or until set.