Monday, February 12, 2018

Grandma's Sugar Cookies for Valentine's Day

Happy Birthday to Abraham Lincoln!

And since it's Lincoln's Birthday, we all know that Valentine's Day is just around the corner. :-)

Jan here, with a special Valentine's Day cookie. I shared this post five years ago here at the Cafe, and in it I revealed the cover of my debut novel.

For you non-writerly types, a debut novel is just what it sounds like - This was my first book! Not only the first book that was published, but the first book that I wrote.

"The Prodigal Son Returns" was released in May 2013, and was re-released a few months ago in a two-book volume with Emma Miller's "Redeeming Grace."

You can order this book here!

And today, we're almost to the release day for my eighth book, "The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart."

You can order this book here!

But celebrating book anniversaries isn't why we're here - It's time to celebrate the loved ones in our lives!

So let's go back five years as I share the recipe for a very special cookie:

Grandma's Sugar Cookies


 (drum roll, please!)

......the cover of my debut novel!

(Streamers! Confetti! Cheering! Dogs barking!)

Wait, wait, wait! Is that MY name on the cover of that book? I'm just too stinkin' tickled for words!

Yes, it's time for another shameless plug here at the cafe - not quite party time, since the release date for "The Prodigal Son Returns" is still a few months away - but still, we can still have fun with a cover reveal, can't we?

And in honor of all this fun stuff, I'm taking today's post to share the recipe for some cookies that play a part in the story.

These are known around our house as "Grandma's Sugar Cookies," although I know other people call these "Amish Sugar Cookies" or even "those soft cookies you can buy at Walmart."

But you and I know there's no way you can buy Grandma's Sugar Cookies at Walmart. Don't even look down that rabbit trail.

Oh no, because there's a secret ingredient in Grandma's Sugar Cookies...see if you can guess what it is.

Here's the recipe:


2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
5 rounded teaspoons baking powder
7-8 cups flour to make a stiff batter
1 1/2 cups milk

note: notice there is no salt in this recipe - that isn't a typo. There is no salt.

Cream together the butter and sugar, and then add the vanilla and the eggs. Stir together the baking powder and FIVE cups of the flour (the rest is to add later, if needed). Add in the flour mixture and the milk, alternately - this part is important - beating after each addition.

While you're mixing in the flour and milk, keep telling yourself you're making cake, not cookies. With cookies you're trying to make a dough - with cake you're making a delicate batter.

Believe me, you want a batter for these cookies. Grandma told me "the softer the batter, the better." But at the same time, it needs to be a bit thicker than a regular cake batter. You can add more flour than the original five cups if you need to - the amount of flour depends on your air temperature, humidity, altitude, etc. When we lived in the humid lowlands, I used more flour than I do now in the semi-arid highlands.

Since it's almost Valentine's Day, I split the batter into two bowls, and colored one with pink food coloring. (Grandma never did that - it's my own invention).

Refrigerate the batter for a couple hours.

While we're waiting for the batter to chill, I'll tell you what part these cookies play in my story.

Ellie Miller is a widow with three children, and among the people in her life are her husband's elderly aunt and uncle, Miriam and Hezekiah Miller. They had provided a home for Ellie's husband from the time he was sixteen until he married, and they were the closest thing he had to parents after being orphaned as a young boy.

Every time Ellie takes her children to visit Grossmutti and Grossdawdi (Grandma and Grandpa), Grossmutti Miriam always has a container of these soft sugar cookies waiting for them. Sometimes four-year-old Susan is afraid Grossmutti will forget to make the cookies, but seven-year-old Johnny knows better. After all, what would Grossdawdi Hezekiah eat if there weren't any cookies?

But of course Miriam, just like my own Grandma, never forgot to have a fresh batch of these delicious cookies waiting whenever her grandchildren came to visit.

My Grandma always kept the cookies in a big round tin on top of her refrigerator, waiting for us. She never forgot to make them. When I was little, I was convinced she always had those cookies there for her and Grandpa to eat every day. But as I grew older I learned the truth - she made them just for us.

I worked for years to be able to make these cookies the right way. I knew I had done it when I took a batch to my brother one time. He took one bite and said "Now these are Grandma's cookies!"

Oh, and speaking of cookies!!! Has the dough been in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours? Then it's time to get that oven going!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3/8" thick...or between 1/4" and 1/2" if you like to guesstimate :)

And be generous with the flour - remember that you made a cake batter, not a cookie dough. Treat the soft batter gently, and use plenty of flour while you're rolling.

Cut out round cookies, or whatever shape you like. I use my great-grandmother's biscuit cutter just seems right to do it that way.

And of course, the pink dough is cut out in heart shapes!

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they're done. You can tell they're done by lightly touching the top of one of them with your finger. If the depression stays, the cookie needs another minute of baking. But if it springs back, it's done. And don't let the edges get brown - that means they're too well done.

If you find your cookies are browning before the spring test says they're done, lower the heat on your oven a bit.

Grandma and Grandpa
Have you guessed the secret ingredient yet?

It's love.

My grandma had a hard time talking about love, but those cookies spoke for her.

Happy Valentine's Day!

What is your favorite Valentine to give to the ones you love?

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan


  1. Oh, this is beyond charming. I remember that first release... and how thrilled we were for you! YAY!!!! And now 8 books in, you're just as wonderful and I want to eat A LOT OF COOKIES to celebrate that.

    Congratulations, Jan! On writing... on life... on cookies... on everything!

    1. Thank you, Ruthy! You and the Seekerville team were a big part in making my publishing dream a reality. :-) I'm beyond thankful...

      And I'm with you on the cookie eating! There's really nothing better than sharing a batch of cookies with friends, is there?

      Unless it's pie. Pie might be better...

  2. 8 books. Can you believe it, Jan? Are you just pinching yourself?

    I do love me some sugar cookies, especially when they're nice and soft like those frosted ones you get in a box at the grocery store. Perhaps I will try these for Valentine's Day. Would you suggest using only the 5 cups of flour then, instead of 7?

    1. Okay, I'm a dork. As I was printing your recipe I saw the part about these being "those soft cookies you buy at Walmart." Now I'm even more excited to make these. My 19 yo will be so happy. At least I think he will. It's hard to tell these days. Teenagers!

    2. I hope this recipe works for you, Mindy!

      I made pies this weekend for the first time in...well...a long time. Eight books in five years = very little time for pie baking! (And yes, I'm still pinching myself!)

      But what I found is that I had lost that...thing. That indescribable *something* that makes a recipe sing. (My son actually had a term for it - it's like trying to describe the color red to a blind person.) I know I'll get it back, but it comes with practice (much to my family's delight.)

      It's the same thing for these cookies. You just *know* when they're right.

      So yes, start with 5 cups of flour, then add more if you need it. It might take some work and experimentation to get the knack, but once you do, they're worth it!

  3. Oh yum -- I haven't had a sugar cookie in a lllloooonnngggg time. Didn't even make any at Christmas. And I have a super heart cookie cutter so I might just have to make them for Wednesday.

    And I have The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart on my TBR pile right now! Eeeep. It would go well with the cookies, I think!

    1. I saw the picture you posted on Facebook of your sweet box of books! I hope you enjoy The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart!

      And sugar cookies...there's just something so homey about them!

  4. How fun to see a debut release post!! Does it seem like a hundred years ago?? :)

    You've got me hungry for cookies!

    1. Also meant to congratulate you on the upcoming 8th book!

    2. Thanks, Missy! And yes - it seems like such a long time ago! So much has happened in that time. :-)