Katie Hooker's Klutz-proof Cookies

also called "Aunt Kate's Cookies"
and "Miles Beard's Grandma's Cookies"

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, lard, margarine, or solid shortening
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla, nutmeg, or lemon)
powered sugar


  1. Cream sugar and butter together.
  2. Stir soda into buttermilk; add to creamed sugar and butter.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder together; add to above
  4. Add flavoring to above.
  5. Mix well!
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up the cookie dough.
  7. Drop by spoon onto greased baking sheet or onto baking parchment paper.
  8. If you want to use cookie cutters, add more flour, roll, and cut out.
  9. Bake in 350-degree oven on middle rack about 12 minutes. (Ovens vary. Determine exact time with first sheet of cookies.)
  10. When you take the cookies out of the oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  11. Let the cookies cool before removing them from the cookie sheet or parchment paper; otherwise, the cookies will "wrinkle."
  12. Store in a tight container to keep soft.

Extra hints:

  • Sift the flour even if it was pre-sifted. Remember: Sift BEFORE measuring
  • For a different flavor & texture, you can use whole wheat flour.
  • You can use butter, lard, margarine, or solid shortening, or any combination to make up the cup of fat. However, do NOT use liquid shortening or oil! Lard adds some special texture and flakiness; butter adds flavor. Katie Hooker used 100% lard; her school-teacher daughter-in-law used half lard and half butter.
  • By using parchment paper rather than greased cookie sheets, you avoid adding more fat to the recipe, and it already has plenty of fat! Also by using parchment paper, you can take more of an assembly-line approach to making lots of cookies.
  • For creaming the sugar and butter, clean hands work fine! That's especially good to remember when children or someone with poor hand/wrist coordination is helping with the recipe.
  • You can tell that the cookies are done when they are light golden with little "air holes" on the top, and a little darker golden edge around the cookies. Some folks like the cookies a little crispier. If you bake them just a bit too long, so long as they're not burnt, powdered sugar evens out everything for appearances.
  • If you want to make more than one batch at a time, don't double the recipe. Make as many batches as you want, one at a time; then combine them all and mix together. That will even out any minor mis-measurement you might have made.
  • Baking two sheets at a time just doesn't work. What works is one sheet at a time, right in the middle of the oven.
  • The cookie dough can be stored in the refrigerator, for freshly baked cookies whenever you want.

To get the real feel of how Katie Hooker prepared this recipe, you'd need to have obtained the sugar, baking powder, and flavoring by trading chicken eggs on a buggy trip into town; you'd need to have churned the butter from milk you got from your cow that you'd nursed thru sickness; and you'd need to use flour made from winter wheat that your husband had grown and that you'd taken to the local miller to grind. You'd need to bake the cookies in a wood burning stove fueled by wood that one of your sons had cut as part of his chores. If it were summer, you'd be doing the baking in your "summer kitchen," an airy and open area just outside the house proper. And when you got done with all the baking, you'd have to clean up with water that you had carried to the house from the well.

Katie's recipe is forgiving enough that even a child will feel like a success. Katie was my great-grandma. I met her only once. I had to have been less than 17 months old when I met her in the home of
my Grandma Beard. A kind man looked down and said, "This is Grandma Beard." He meant, of course, that the woman was HIS "Grandma Beard," making her my great-grandma, but it confused me because my Grandma Beard was standing three feet away and still existed. I managed to communicate my confusion: "Grandma's mommy?" And the answer was, "No." At my young age, I could not figure out how this tiny lady fit into the family, but she stood there so small and so polite and held out a plate of cookies for me. COOKIES! The cookies were good enough that she won my heart.

The recipe came to me in a moment of genealogy serendipity. I had stopped in to see an older woman, my father's second cousin, because it seemed the polite thing to do as I began a genealogy hunt in the small, rural area where my grandfather had been born and reared. The lady not only was gracious, she didn't seem "old." I'd expected only a social call; instead, I was given two treasures: First, she gave me my grandfather's baby picture; she'd acquired it from her mother, who'd likely acquired it from her mother, who'd likely been handed the photo by my great-grandma. Second, she gave me the cookie recipe that she called, "Aunt Kate's Cookies."

Katie was born in 1871, married her childhood sweetheart in 1891, and birthed their first child a proper ten months after their wedding. She died in 1952, and people still remember that she was kind and that she offered kindness when others did not.

For Katie's picture and a step into my world of genealogy, check this page:
Jesse Beard & Sarah Catherine Hooker

Other cookie recipes at Alice's Place:
(1) Mrs. Simon's Hungarian keflies
Camp Fire candy cookies
Easter cookies: a parent & child recipe



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by Alice Marie Beard
Bethesda, MD