Mamaw’s Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Fifty percent of my double-name comes from my Mamaw, my Mom’s mom, Mary Robinson. I inherited a lot from my Mamaw including her talent for painting, her fierce independence, and her love for sugar cookies.  I don’t remember a Thanksgiving or Christmas at her house without her Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies cut into the shape of turkeys, pilgrims, reindeer, stockings, Christmas trees, and snowflakes.  Each was carefully sprinkled with an array of colored sugars, jimmies and nonpareils—and even those little silver balls called Dragees (the ones you’re not supposed to eat but I always crunched down on them anyway).

When I graduated college in 2004 and got my first apartment, I asked Mamaw for her sugar cookie recipe.  From memory, she wrote it down for me on a card, in her lovely, scripty penmanship.  For years I attempted to re-create her crunchy, flavorful cookies, following the recipe perfectly.  I’d always complain that my cookies were never as good as hers, that something seemed a bit off.  My Mom also made multiple attempts to replicate the cookies, but shared in my complaint that Mamaw must be holding out on us somehow.

Shortly before her death in December of 2008, Mom and I were sitting with her in the assisted living center, again bemoaning our failed attempts and dense cookies.  Mamaw grins at us and said, “Well, I don’t follow the recipe I gave you. I use All-Purpose Flour instead of Swan’s Down Cake Flour.  I also add a bit of almond extract and lemon extract.”  Mom and I just laughed.  Of course.

Yesterday, Mom and I made Mamaw’s Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies at my house. We had fun with a variety of cookie cutters—our favorite is the dog cutter that looks like our family’s Golden Retriever, Stella.

I’m happy to share Mamaw’s sugar cookie recipe with you, in hopes that maybe you will create your own cookie-cutting tradition with your children or grandchildren.  These cookies are best when rolled thin and baked for a sweet crunch.

Mary Robinson’s Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
(makes 2.5 dozen)

2 & 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 & 3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Butter; at room temperature
1 cup Sugar
2 large eggs; well beaten
1 tsp Real Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Lemon Extract
1 tsp Almond Extract

Sift flour once into large bowl.  Add baking powder and salt and sift again.  In another bowl, cream butter thoroughly.  Add sugar gradually and cream together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well.  Add vanilla, lemon and almond extracts. Pour mixture into bowl with flour and blend.  Chill dough until firm enough to roll.  Roll 1/8 inch thick on slightly floured board. Cut with cookie cutters of your choice and sprinkle with colored sugars.  Bake on cooking stone or parchment-lined cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.


Mary Anna Brown is a Marketing Strategist for LifeWay Women who spends her days marketing the Women’s brand and Bible study product lines for Women, Marriage, Family and Film. Mary Anna always has a bag packed – and she’s ready to travel at a moment’s notice.

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