Great-Grandma Herman’s Christmas Sugar Cakes Recipe

From the way my mom describes my great-grandmother, she was an impressive hostess. You couldn’t walk through the door of her home without being served an elaborate spread of savory cheeses, meats, crackers, and drinks. I know her face only from a photograph that sits on a shelf in my parents’ living room; she smiles knowingly from the gold frame, wearing a floral blouse and a matching cobalt blue necklace and earrings set. She loved jewelry that made a statement; I know this because my sisters and I inherited upwards of 25 pieces from her massive collection of Sarah Coventry and Avon.

Her home-making and life maxims were as orderly and pleasant as that photograph: always be prepared for guests, dress well, and (in the words of my mother) don’t take any sass.

Nearly every holiday season since I can remember, my mom has brought out recipe cards written in Great-Grandma Herman’s scrolling, spidery hand. One of those recipes is for these Christmas Sugar Cakes, classic sugar cookies that can be ready to serve warm to guests in less than half an hour.

These cookies are pillowy and dense, and—a bonus for me—surprisingly easy to make. Though not for the gluten-free or faint-of-sugar, they’re well-suited for the Christmas dessert table or as gifts for your neighbors.

Great-Grandma Herman’s Christmas Sugar Cakes

  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Bake time: 12 minutes
  • Total: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 48 cookies



  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla


  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

Start by combining your wet ingredients in a medium-size bowl.

combine wet ingredients

Then sift together your dry ingredients in a smaller bowl.

sift dry ingredients

Finally, add the two together in the larger bowl and stir until just combined.

stir two together

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. I roll them by hand into uniform balls.

scoop in rounded teaspoon

Sprinkle with sugar—colored if you’d like a festive look.

sprinkle with sugar

Bake at 350 ̊ for 12 minutes.

bake for 12 minutes

This recipe is as ready to entertain as my great grandmother was, so take caution if you’re thinking of doubling. Using rounded tablespoonfuls, I can make over 48 cookies with this recipe.


Complete Directions

Preheat oven to 350 ̊ F. Combine wet ingredients in medium-sized bowl and set aside. Sift dry ingredients together in separate bowl.

Stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with colored or plain sugar, or chocolate sprinkles. Bake at 350 ̊ for 12 minutes or until set.

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