Secret Cookies

July 2, 2009

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: This recipe has truly been kept a "Secret" for 30 years but now is the time to release it. It was given to me by an elderly lady who had been given it by an even more elderly Swedish lady. The proviso: "After I'm 'gone', you may give out the recipe." The same proviso was given to, here it is.

Be sure to use salted butter!

Makes: about 80 cookies


  • 3/4 pound salted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • Red, green or multi-colored sugar
In This Recipe


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Add the yolks and vanilla, mixing well. Add the flour and combine thoroughly.
  2. Use mounded teaspoonfuls and make balls of dough with your hands. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, then flatten the dough with the bottom of a patterned glass dipped in colored sugar (don't mix the red and green!).
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes (watch carefully as they burn easily), until the cookies are lightly golden just around the edges. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for a minute or two and then gently transfer to baking racks to cool -- they're fragile.

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Reviews (32) Questions (2)

32 Reviews

Howard L. December 10, 2017
I used home made vanilla sugar (1 bean/2 cups sugar), shaped into log, refrigerated and cut 1/4 inch slices. Baked them plain. They were described as "astounding". Great crunch and the vanilla lingers on the tongue.
Willi G. December 2, 2017
I added the zest of a Meyer lemon and massaged it into the sugar and subbed in 1 tsp lemon extract (and took out 1tsp vanilla) and the result was delicious. Also my dough was not dry at all!
Sarah K. October 12, 2017
I was very happy with these cookies! I think they would be an excellent choice to make with small children because the dough comes together quickly and easily and kids would probably love the stamping and sprinkling process. I can't wait to try them with my three-year-old niece. Are used a small ice cream scoop to form the Dow into balls and found that I didn't even need to roll them. The cookies are a bit sweet for my taste, so I may try a little less sugar next time.
Kathy C. December 11, 2016
These are delicious and really easy. I rolled half of the balls in the sugar and then flattened them with a regular glass, seemed to be less messier that way and worked just as well.
jifferb November 2, 2015
These are amazing- so so easy, in the mixer, into the oven. Everyone asked for the recipe. Wonderful wonderful- thank you!!
JosieD December 17, 2013
I just made these--the flavor is great, but the dough is very crumbly and difficult to work with, as others have mentioned. I'm going to try and roll them into logs for slice-and-bake and see how that goes.
Greenstuff December 17, 2013
These cookies are so good, they are worth some effort. I posted a similar recipe that I adapted during last year's Piglet, Food52's annual celebration of cookbooks, <br /><br />What I learned in adapting that recipe was that it was important to blend the butter with the flour slowly and carefully, using my fingers instead of a mixer. I've thought I'd try that same technique the next time I make these Secret cookies.
JosieD December 18, 2013
hmmm, interesting, Greenstuff! I'm having no luck with pressing these, so maybe I'll do some thumbprints!
lisas156 December 6, 2013
These cookies were absolutely delicious. I was disappointed, however, that the pretty shaped I pressed into them did not hold up. I even tried chilling the dough before pressing. No matter as they taste great, but I don't know how you get them to look like the picture!
markie April 21, 2013
I usually like cookies w/ lots of bells and whistles, but my mom requested a butter cookie so I thought I'd try this one. It's delicious!! No need for any bells or whistles b/c the dough itself is so good in its simplicity. All the comments were very helpful. I took jane.pilcher1's suggestion and used almond good! (I used just 1 tsp almond and 1 tsp vanilla, I think 2 tsp of almond would be too strong). Thank you for sharing the "secret"!
Whitney G. December 15, 2012
These - are - so - good. Buttery, crispy, light and rich at the same time. I made the dough ahead and rolled it into a log, cut, sprinkle, bake. This is a great go to buttery cookie.
Lmschwarz December 8, 2012
we just put our first batch in the oven--my 13 year old is taking these to a cookie swap this afternoon. We couldn't find a glass anywhere with anything but a flat bottom--finally, we tried the bottom of a heavy, cut-glass decanter. So far, so good. Can't wait to try these. Thank you!
jane.pilcher1 December 2, 2012
I love the flavor of almond so much that I think I might substitute almond extract for the vanilla the next time. Yum!
jane.pilcher1 December 2, 2012
Just made these yummy cookies. Actually, I made the dough last evening, divided it in half, rolled each half into a log, and wrapped each in parchment paper. Put both into a "jumbo" Ziploc bag overnight. Today I just sliced & baked. DELICIOUS!! I didn"t have any sprinkles or colored sugar. Didn't matter. Try these! They couldn't be easier.
Manhattan T. February 18, 2012
I made these for my daughter's lunches and used pink, lavendar and green sugar for spring (if you BAKE for it, it will come!). I had very little success using the glass bottom method and switched to 3-finger smooshing then sprinkling w/ sugar. I baked them until lightly golden but would warn against baking them too long, as they got crispier than I wanted on day 2. Don't get me wrong: they were eaten, every last one, but next time (and there will be a next time) I'll bake them slightly less. Fabulous flavor, very pretty, super-easy. Love them!
jbj3114 December 31, 2011
These are delicious. Seriously rich! <br />I flattened the balls of dough slightly with my fingers, sprinkled the sugar, then flattened with the glass. <br />This helped keep the dough from sticking to the glass. <br />I used raw sugar, because, the label on the stuff available at our local market, said that it was colored crystals ................ crystals of what???
Spork December 22, 2011
so easy and so delicious! love them :)
Sly B. December 20, 2011
LynndaSB & Greenstuff, <br />Thank you so much for your comments!! You helped me to make up my mind! I will be baking these cookies this weekend!
LynndaSB December 20, 2011
OMG! These cookies are delicious! so delicate and the buttery taste just sweetens the moderate sugar that melts in your mouth! <br />I changed the recipe a bit...I used very high quality imported butter but only have 1/2 I cut the rest of the recipe by 1/3.....I added a bit more vanilla than was asked for and used 1 1/2 yolks. <br />no trouble with the was mellow and pliable and easy to work with.... <br />I cooked the little lovelies at a little lower temp...around 300 and for about 5 minutes longer than required in the recipe. <br />I loved squishing the red sugar into the top of the cookie....I dipped the bottom of the glass in water before pressing down...this prevented any sticking! <br />when I popped one into my mouth.....heavenly! <br />The secret is to hide a few for yourself ! <br />
Greenstuff December 16, 2011
I make a lot of Swedish cookies with the same basic ingredients, just slightly different amounts. I decided to add these to the mix so that I could use some old punch cups and a pretty French mustard jar as my presses. I decreased the flour a little, as I'd seen the jagged edges in the photo and thought I'd like to avoid them. (I also used white sugar instead of colored, as my Swedish cookies are pretty monchromatic.) <br /> <br />Anyway, even with less flour, I did have a little problem with crumbly dough, as others have mentioned. That was solved by carefully pushing it together as I worked, not unlike working with pie crust or other pastry. Then, perhaps because the dough was actually not dry enough, some of my imprinted patterns blurred a bit. But not all. The mustard jar pattern was particularly nice, better than the antique punch cups that had served up a lot of glogg in their times. <br /> <br />The bottom line--these cookies are delicious!! I'm astounded by how slightly varying amounts of butter, sugar, egg, and flour produce different flavors. And I love the imprints. I wish I had all the time in the world, I'd experiment with them more.
hennef7 December 14, 2011
Just made these again and they are every bit as good as I remembered from last year.....thanks again for the recipe...
handmade December 12, 2011
I just made these beautiful, buttery cookies, which I was looking forward to doing after tasting them at a Food52 cookbook signing a few weeks ago. I didn't have any trouble with the dough at all. My problem was that I tried unsuccessfully using a cookie press without letting the dough chill first, and that was my own fault; the dough stuck to the press. I got around it by flattening the cookie a bit with my palm, then liberally sprinkling very safe raspberry red decorating sugar (by India Tree) directly on the cookie before pressing.