Great-Great-Grandma McCracken's Sugar Cookies

November 28, 2016
7 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Author Notes

This recipe was given to me by my grandma Jeanne—though it originally belonged to her grandma (so my great-great-grandma, Clara). The cookies are perfectly crisp at the edges and chewy in the center. The dough is lightly spiced—but these are not spice cookies! The small addition of baking spices makes the cookies smell and taste warm, the perfect holiday cookie. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg together to combine.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. With the mixer running on low speed, add the milk slowly and mix to combine.
  5. Add the remaining flour and mix until a smooth dough forms. Divide the dough into 2-3 pieces, form into discs, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
  6. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut out shapes with a floured cookie cutter (bonus points for a scalloped circle!), and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. The cookies don’t spread, so you can bake them pretty close together.
  8. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden at the edges, 9-11 minutes (if you bake them longer, they get nicely crisp all over, but I like them a little chewy in the center). Cool on racks before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Laura Lear
    Laura Lear
  • Carol Bell
    Carol Bell
  • Rachel James
    Rachel James
  • Linda Michaluk
    Linda Michaluk
  • drbabs
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

17 Reviews

Sgraf December 27, 2023
I love sugar cookies. But the ones I find at coffee shops are heavily iced and the cookie has no flavor. NOT THIS ONE! This is the best sugar cookie I've ever tasted and made. My husband and I are still eating the uniced ones because they're delicious! I'm not an avid baker but the recipe was easy to follow, all of the spices added the perfect amount of dimension to the flavor. And best of all, it's not super sweet.

I didn't realize that I should cream the butter first and then add the sugar and cream again. Once incorporated with the other ingredients, I was still concerned. But I watched Erin's video on royal icing, which uses this dough, so I had some visual frame of reference. Followed the steps to chill (prefer overnight) and rolled and baked the next day. Truthfylly couldn't be happier with the whole process. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Erin, and thank goodness your GGGM (or some family member) captured the recipe.
Narnia077 October 29, 2022
Where have you been my whole life! I just found you recently and now you are my go to guru for everything baking.....thank you
TMG April 28, 2020
These are a new holiday favorite for my kids -- enough spice to be interesting but not overwhelming. For a faster and colorful version, we refrigerate the dough, the roll into balls that we coat in sprinkles or sanding sugar. They are like Christmas spiced snickerdoodles that way.
Lauri November 11, 2017
I made these last year after reading the wonderful and touching story. I wanted to reread the story this year, but I can't seem to find it, only the recipe. Any idea how to find the original story? And I do recall that the baking powder was too much so I adjusted it, but now I don't remember what the adjustment was. A teaspoon perhaps? Does anyone know what the adjustment should be?
Laura L. December 22, 2016
I echo Rachel's question. Before I make these, is 1 tablespoon of baking powder correct?
Carol B. December 5, 2016
I might just have to try these. Thanks.
Rachel J. December 2, 2016
1 tablespoon of baking powder? Is that correct?
Katie December 18, 2016
Was wondering the same thing when I peeked in the oven and saw they have blown up!
GeekKnitter November 30, 2016
And just like that I've got my recipe for this year's cookie swap! Thanks for the wonderful story. I've got some of the cards from my granny's recipe collection, and not long ago she saved the day when I found I'd run out of ingredients for brownies. Zelma Hudson (and her pecan bars) to the rescue!
susan November 30, 2016
Awe Thank you Erin McDowell It is a blessing to pass them along....I'm glad you are okay with it and approve!!!!! Susan
magpiebaker November 30, 2016
This was really wonderful to read. As a child of immigrant parents I don't have too many "heirlooms" that have been passed down, but what a lovely thing to have from long-gone relatives :) These cookies look wonderful and might well end up on our table for Christmas!
susan November 30, 2016
Thank you so much for sharing your "touching story" and this recipe!!!! I am going to try to make some of these as gifts for Christmas!!!! I hope it will be alrit to share your recipe ( Your Grandma's recipe with them/ if they ask. The cookies sound wonderful with all the yummy spices in them! (Missing my Granny today even more as I read your sweet story) Susan
Erin J. November 30, 2016
Of course! Share away. Knowing it's a part of someone else's life makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside :)
N November 30, 2016
Beautiful story. Brought a tear to my eye that all had come full circle.
Linda M. November 30, 2016
What a great story and recipe. While it may sound like sacrilege, the change I will make when I do these cookies is to add the spices to the butter rather than with the flour. As a pastry chef drilled into me, fat carries flavour and mixing the spices with the butter ensures that they are distributed evenly throughout the dough.
Blanca O. February 8, 2017
Thanks for that tip! I'll take it into account for any future baking endeavours!
drbabs November 30, 2016
I'm craving these right now.