Mom’s Christmas Cookies

If Dad produced odd German spicy treats every year (as my recent post talked about), my mother could be depended on for the kinds of cookies you could give to the postman without imagining his puzzled look. Mostly sweet, best eaten fresh, and decorative.

Some were super-sweet, like her “Matrimonials.” She produced decorated butter cookies, of course (usually with margarine—butter was a rare visitor to my childhood table) that were rolled out, iced with background white buttercream frosting (margarine-cream?) and decorated with a frosting gun to emphasize the outlines of the boot, the Santa, or the star cookie cutters. And Spritz cookies, a recipe that probably came from Betty Crocker, that were pushed through a cookie press to make trees or wreaths, then sprinkled with colored sugar.

She liked to make “candy  cane” cookies, using a basic sugar cookie dough, half of it dyed red (or rather, pink, since she’d never seen the proper, intense dye used by professional bakers) and shaped on the board into rolls the thickness of crayons, then twisted round a roll of the white dough and finished with the top curled over.

Later she discovered a lovely Finnish almond-cookie recipe whose name she relished pronouncing (or more likely, mispronouncing)—Suomalaiset Puikot—that became a great hit with postman and family alike.

And later yet, a bar cookie that combined the best qualities of pumpkin and pecan pies. One of the few Christmas cookies my grown kids still like, and even ask for. In fact, I’m making a batch of those tomorrow. Assuming I can still decipher her handwriting….

So, what do you give your postman this time of year?

Posted in , , ,


  1. Emily R. Nickel on December 23, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    I don’t believe I’ve ever shared holiday baked goods with the postman before, though I know my grandparents managed to remember every year (he was always given a stick of Banket, a Dutch pastry filled with almond paste). Plumbers, mechanics, and college professors were the ones I baked for, but even then only while I lived in Sacramento, CA. Since my husband and I moved to WA state and started a family we have gained an enormous respect for those who are able to continue holiday traditions in the midst of being self-employed, having small children (ours are 4yrs and 2.5yrs), or being uprooted from their family and friends… We certainly haven’t managed to do so since moving in 2017. Granted, my mother’s example of what proper Christmas baking included may be a tad excessive.

    • Laurie King on December 23, 2022 at 6:36 pm

      I agree–looking back at what people used to do is daunting!

  2. Laura on December 24, 2022 at 9:40 am

    I’m 70 this year, and tried to “do it all” and gave up!! Fortunately, my daughter has inherited my mother’s recipe and has a “cookie party” with her friends every year. She bakes the cookies and they get together to frost. I love traditions like this, that carry on from one generation to the next.

  3. Mark Daly on December 24, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    The best recipes in my Mom’s Recipe box and Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks were encrusted with the spills. Some of the pages were so good, they stuck together. She wrote comments and changes in pencil. We had the wartime edition suggesting substitutes for rationed ingredient s-bacon fat in the spice cake, and the “The Better Homes New Cookbook” from the 60s, with a lot of mixes and canned/frozen food) The cookbook was published with red ink that was water soluble for the names. I guessed a lot and remembered what used to be there until I found a reprint of the “vintage” version complete with yellowed edges to the pages and printed stains.

    • Laurie King on January 12, 2023 at 12:25 am

      Really? A vintage reprint? I love it!
      Happy cooking,

  4. Linda Hay on January 4, 2023 at 10:39 pm

    Bless you for creating such amazing books. Always a perfect gift too. I re-read Back to Garden six times before sending it to my sister in law “for Christmas”. We stopped doing gifts after my Mother died, but books can be mailed back and forth, so it’s really sharing. Cookies, stollen, and fruitcake are excepted from the gift ban. All brought on by your cookie post.

    Your memories made me think your mother perhaps had the Betty Crocker Cookie Cookbook … red cover, spiral bound ( gift from Nana, 1963). I became the family baker thanks to it and still use it, as do many others in my church who are in their 70s. I never got the hang of Springerli, but found less fussy recipes for cooky molds, and decided that Pfefferneuse were best left to the pros. I too love the Scandinavian recipes. Aldi markets carry a vast array of German baked goods which are quite authentic. But the best was the December I spent touring Christmas Markets in Austria and Munich !

    I am another of Penna. Dutch ancestry and sand tarts, so thin you could read a newspaper thru the unbaked dough, are musts and then a similar cut out cookie called chocolate jumbles. Those began a cookie cutter collection which passed 100 shapes and sizes long ago and includes some from a great grandmother. She was famed for baking bushel baskets of cookies to share with all the neighbors, the ice man, the bread man and milk man, as well as the mailman.

    I am so grateful to have had foremothers who passed onto only the stories and recipes, but even the needed tools.

    • Laurie King on January 12, 2023 at 12:19 am

      Hi Linda, I love the idea of just taking a pre-look at a Christmas present (just so you haven’t read it in the steamy bath too many times…) I think that book was indeed around the house, though I can’t say that my mother experimented too much with it.
      I hope you find many great books in 2023, so you have to pick which to give your sister!

  5. Drew Templeton on January 14, 2023 at 1:55 am

    My grandmother would come from North Carolina to Michigan on the train for Christmas when I was little, and our tradition was for the two of us to make Divinity. The candy is made from sugar, white karo syrup and egg whites, and takes a tremendous amount of beating to get the right consistency. And then you scoop out the blobs onto waxed paper in a frenzy before the mixture hardens in the mixing bowl. Sometimes we’d add a pecan (that’s a pee-can, y’all), but I liked them best smooth and shiny on top. Shes’ been gone for 45 years, but I still have her handwritten recipe. Thanks for the memories, Laurie! Looking forward to your next visit to the Poisoned Pen.

    • Laurie King on January 14, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Divinity is indeed, er, divine! (and a good upper-body workout, as well.)

  6. Lisa on February 1, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    Hmmm, never give cookies to the postman. I think my folks put out a bottle of wine lol.
    But my Nanny was the baker and made lots of different confections like divinity, thumbprints and these date tarts. I adore the spidery handwritten recipes.

    • Laurie King on February 7, 2023 at 12:27 pm

      Old hand-written recipes are a family treasure, aren’t they?


Leave a Comment