It’s a Christmas Miracle Cookie!


This is the only recipe that I offer every year, because these cookies are spectacularly, astonishingly delicious.

But their very humble looks are infinitely deceiving. Finished, they look less like the cover girl of a food magazine, and more like a demented Kindergarten art project. They are simple round, lightly golden, a little-too-thick sugar cookies. They are then spread with way too much garishly hued frosting and sprinkled haphazardly with store-bought jimmies, sprinkles, and/or colored sugar.

Somehow though, these cookies pack a flavor punch that will make even the most jaded cookie-lover melt.

The Kid and I discuss them each time we’re lucky enough to get our mitts on some. We can’t figure them out. How is it that this little, nondescript baked good can pack such an extraordinary punch? We joke that maybe she puts crack in them, or fairy dust.

While our little scholar was in college, Gramma baked a batch freshman year and shipped them up to the school in Vermont.

Those NECI (New England Culinary Institute) people had no idea what they were in for.

There were probably four dozen cookies in the box. The Kid ate some and then decided to share with a few lucky souls.

Nobody was very enthused to be offered boring baked goods from some random grandmother in North Carolina. My child didn’t try to talk anyone into a sample. If they didn’t want one, it was just more for The Kid.

Then one person took one. Eyes lit up, and word got around. People came out of the woodwork wanting these miraculous confections. Chef-instructors approached The Kid to ask when Gramma would send more.

So, welcome, Gentle Reader, to my family’s most treasured holiday tradition. Although your participation will be by way of proxy, I am still very pleased you will be joining us.

It is time for the 46th annual cookie frosting party. And honestly, I couldn’t be more excited.

Each year, my mother and father bake dozens (this year it’s 13 dozen) of her famous sugar cookies. The recipe origin has been lost to the mists of time. Then they’re frosted using a recipe which came from a cake decorating class she took in the 70’s when we lived in Puerto Rico. It was taught by Winnie Chazaroo (I’ve always thought her name sounded like the moniker of a sassy cartoon horse from Australia).

A couple of weeks before Christmas we go to my parent’s house for their annual frosting party.

Three or four trunk-sized bins are full of freshly baked cookies, awaiting their prom dresses in the form of ridiculous amounts of Chazaroo frosting topped with a corsage of sprinkles.

The mixer almost never stops whipping frosting, making the kitchen hazy with powdered sugar, leaving a sweet taste when you inhale. Everyone’s fingers are stained with the various food colors used to dye all of that creamy American butter cream. Each cookie artist sits in front of their own rimmed baking sheet so the stray sprinkles stray no further than the pan.

As the cookies are finished, they are carefully laid on the wax-papered dining room table to cure the frosting and give it the stability to be re-stacked into the bins. Then they will rest until they are gifted and served to guests.

They really shouldn’t be disturbed until at least the next morning. But the final step in our process is to negotiate for a supply to take home with us. Once Christmas gets closer, Mom will beg us to take home as many as we carry. But as an Italian girl from Jersey, she never thinks, that first day, that there will be enough to go around.

So, this recipe is my Christmas present to you. And once you taste them you will know that it is a gift of far more value than any expensive, colossal-bow-clad car, shiny jewelry featuring stones formerly known as carbon, or even a pony.

Just make a batch, you’ll understand.

A few notes about the recipes:

• You might want to fanci-fy the ingredients or procedure. Don’t do it!

• The recipe is some brand of alchemy that only works if made as written. I’ve tried changing both ingredients and technique and was rewarded with mediocre cookies and regret. If you’re an unrepentant fiddler, can’t make it as written, with a tweak here and a nudge there, please, just make a different cookie.

• The frosting is really good and works on anything that needs frosting, and even stuff that doesn’t. My dad and I have been known to eat a bowl of it, on nothing more than a spoon.

Thanks for your time, and from the Matthews Family Band to you and yours, have the happiest of Holidays, and a joyful and uncomplicated 2022.

Contact debbie at

Mom’s Christmas Cookies

Preheat oven to 400°.

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup sugar

½ cup butter-flavored Crisco

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk (whole or 2%)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift dry ingredients into bowl. With mixer, cut in shortening until it resembles coarse meal. Blend in egg, milk, and vanilla.

Roll out to 1/8 inch and cut into shapes.

Bake on parchment-lined cookie sheet for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Remove to cooling rack.

Frost cookies when completely cooled. Makes about 1 ½ dozen.

Winnie Chazaroo frosting

1-pound box powdered sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 scant teaspoon cream of tartar

1/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco

1 egg white

¼ cup of water (or less)

1 tablespoon vanilla

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

*For decoration: colored sugars, sprinkles, and jimmies food coloring

Dump all ingredients, except water, into mixer. Beat ingredients at low until it starts to come together. Put water in now, so you can judge how much to use. Beat until it’s creamy, fluffy, and spreadable. Then very heavily frost each cookie (a 50/50 ratio is just about right), and decorate. Let cookies sit out overnight so frosting can set up and harden slightly. Then stack with parchment between layers. Lasts 3-4 weeks in airtight container.


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