This is one of my favorite dessert recipes of all time–cookie or otherwise. And I’m so happy to get to share it here. I would love to offer you some insight into the origin of this icing cookies recipe. But I have no idea where they came from. My hand written copy of the recipe is copied from a small card covered with my mother’s precise printing. She believes she copied it from a family recipe card. It’s just one of those recipes our whole family associates with the Holiday season, only nobody knows why.
Some Christmas cookie history
A culinary scholar, I’ve tried many times to find a similar cookie on the internet but no luck. I can tell you from baking experience that this type of icing cookies are really little more than a variation on Russian Tea Cakes, also called Snowballs or Mexican Wedding Cookies. (These are different from sugar cookies with icing, a more common type of Christmas cookie.)
According to Wikipedia, these cookies are one and the same and may have origins in Eastern Europe…or possibly Mexico. And since it’s apparently impossible to trace the origin of the base cookie, I don’t think I have any hope of ever discovering the history of the Icing Cookie.
So I’ve credited my mom and our Web Editor, Ronie Reiley as the originator of this recipe. As far as I’m concerned, they come from her kitchen. And now that I share them with you, I hope that they will become part of your Holiday tradition, to be passed on as they are in our family.
What makes this cookie recipe special?
I love these cookies because of their rich, nutty and buttery flavor and the fact that they’re not too sweet. (Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that they feature walnuts, which make my list of the world’s greatest aphrodisiacs.) You might think of cookies with icing as a buttery sugar cookie-type cookie topped with a powdered sugar icing. But the cookie icing and the excellent use of butter are really the only things these cookies share with frosted sugar cookies.
The crunch of nuts in combination with a shot of colorful sugar icing are what make these cookies so special to me. Even just thinking about these cookies conjures up that smell of roasting nuts with butter and flour and the feeling of carefully spooning the icing. To me, those are the memories of Christmas.
How to make the icing for your Icing Cookies
You don’t have to color the icing, as is our tradition. In fact, they look more sophisticated when topped with white icing, then sprinkled with a topping of colorful sanding sugars. However, if you are going to color the icing, there are some all-natural food coloring dyes out there that work very well. I’ve been using those from Color Garden for several years. Just note that you may need to use a few extra drops of coloring to get the right shade for your icing.
Want to try another one of my favorite cookie recipes? Check out my Flourless Salted Peanut Cookies, (they’re naturally gluten-free!)
- 1 cup salted butter melted
- 2 cup flour sifted
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup walnuts finely chopped
for the icing
- 1 tbsp butter softened
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 2-4 drops red and green food coloring
- 1-2 tsp milk as needed
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine the butter, flour, baking powder, vanilla and crushed nuts in a mixing bowl.
- Scoop dough by the rounded tablespoon full and roll each scoop into a ball.
- Arrange the cookie balls on an ungreased baking sheet and make a depression in the center of each with your thumb.
- Bake 10-14 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden.
- While cookies are cooling, make the icing.
- Melt the butter in a small mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and stir to combine. Add milk 1 tsp at a time to make a smooth but reasonably thick icing.
- Divide icing into two small bowls and add a couple of drops of red food coloring to one, green to the other, mixing each thoroughly. Add milk, 1 tsp at a time, as needed, to thin the icing out.
- Drizzle icing into the depression at the center of each cookie, alternating red and green. (Make additional icing if desired).
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