Sugar Cookies from Iowa, 1949

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Wyoming 1949 cookbook with cookies


This is a well-loved cookbook as you can see.  It’s splattered and held together with old masking tape and paper clips.  It belonged to my beloved Great Aunt Margie who used it often.  She made the world’s best sugar cookies, but unfortunately it’s not the ones pictured here.  That recipe was never written down as far as I know; it was only in her head.  I had to try for second best and decided a good place to start was with her old 1949 church cookbook.  There were many sugar cookies from which to choose and since I grew up with great Iowa cooks, I knew any one that I selected would be good.  I also decided to go into the Culinary Cellar and find Aunt Margie’s Willow Ware that I haven’t used in a while.

Sugar cookies next to Willow Ware


While looking for the Willow Ware I also came across something wrapped in a kitchen towel.  I had forgotten about Aunt Margie’s old ceramic measuring spoons.  I can still see these hanging next to the sink in her tiny, happy kitchen.  She must have dropped them numerous times but always glued them back together.  I wish I knew where she got them or who gave them to her, because they obviously were very special.

Aunt Margie's old measuring spoons


The sugar cookies turned out great and my cookie monster husband was very happy.

Sugar cookies with glass of milk


These are not rolled cookies and cut into shapes but formed into balls and the tops pressed down with a sugared glass bottom, or the recipe said they could also be crisscrossed with a fork.  I did both, but prefer the glass method.

It wasn’t until after I made the cookies that I looked at the name and town of the person who submitted the recipe.  The cookbook had recipes from Wyoming, Iowa but also those living in surrounding communities and all from Jones County.  The submitter, Mrs. J.G. Mardorf was from Monticello, 19 miles away.  It occurred to me that Monticello and Jones County had been in the news in the last week but I couldn’t remember what it was so I Googled it.  Of course… it was the Iowa town and county where Hillary Clinton decided to begin her presidential campaign.  I then recalled back in 1992 when Family Circle magazine initiated its “Presidential First Lady Cookie Contest,” which they were inspired to start when Hillary once remarked that she “didn’t want to stay home and bake cookies.”  So in the 1992 election, Family Circle asked their readers to choose between a favorite cookie from Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush.  Hillary’s cookie won and the magazine has continued the tradition of this cookie war.  And apparently all but one winner went on to live in the White House.  Does this mean that Bill Clinton must submit a cookie recipe this time?  Anyone see Bill as a cookie baker?   Well, if you do need a cookie recipe Mr. President, I suggest you use Mrs. Mardorf’s sugar cookies.

Sugar cookies on milk bottle


5.0 from 2 reviews
Soft Sugar Cookies
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup shortening *
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in ½ teaspoon hot water
  • 3 cups (all-purpose) flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Note: Use Crisco sticks for the shortening, but I wonder if Mrs. Mardorf used lard as many cooks did back then. Also, if you want a crispier cookie, use ½ cup softened unsalted butter and ½ cup solid Crisco instead of all Crisco.
  1. Mix in order given. Roll into small balls and press down with a glass dipped in sugar or press with a sugared fork. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until cookies are golden around the edges.
  2. This is how the instructions are written in the book. I lined cookie sheets with parchment paper and used a Kitchen Aid mixer!


I found this old photo of Aunt Margie’s Pontiac.  I don’t think she drove it much except to and from church, the store, the library in town where she was the only librarian, or to visit her friends out on the farms.  That’s me on the front left with my brother and cousins.  I loved washing that old car until it sparkled, but not as much as I enjoyed making cookies with Aunt Margie.

Aunt Margie's car copy

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16 Responses to Sugar Cookies from Iowa, 1949

  1. April 24, 2015 at 4:38 am #

    Love sugar cookies–Below is a recipe for sugar cookies that was originally used at Senn High School in Chicago (maybe even at all the CPS kitchens long ago–but originated at Senn High School) that is really so easy and fantastic. I made these cookies each time I had to make something for a grade or high school function for my kids. As with many fantastic recipes they are surprisingly simple.

    Senn High School Cookies

    1 pound unsalted butter
    1 1/2 cups sugar, plus extra for topping cookies
    3 1/2 cups flour
    2 teaspoons vanilla

    1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla and beat until no granules remain. Add flour, a little at a time, at low speed of electric mixer. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough and place on ungreased cookie sheet, allowing about 9 balls per sheet. Press palm of hand onto a plate of granulated sugar and then press down on one ball of dough. Repeat for each ball of dough. Dough should flatten to circle 3 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick.

    2. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

    • April 24, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

      Thanks, Barb! I remember seeing the famous Senn High cookie recipe in the Chicago newspapers over the years. Readers were always requesting it. I’m going to finally try these!

    • January 23, 2024 at 5:43 pm #

      I went to Senn in the late 70’s, and I loved these yummy cookies. I remember sitting in the cafeteria before school started and watched the lunch ladies making them. The cafeteria would smell heavenly. I have made this recipe before and they are spot on. Tastes just like sophomore year.

  2. April 24, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    Those look very much like my mom’s sugar cookies, which were also my grandmother’s sugar cookies. They both used the sugared glass to press the cookies instead of rolling and cutting them.

    My grandmother hated “new fangled stuff,” and cooked on a wood stove until she died at age 91.I’m amazed at how well she could bake using that ancient monstrosity. I’m pretty sure she used lard in her cookies. My mom used Crisco.

    • April 24, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

      Madonna, I would have loved to have met your grandmother!

      • April 25, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

        She was quite a character. Six feet tall and tough as nails. I think having 13 kids will do that to you. Also a great cook. She made the best biscuits ever. She had a couple of milk cows and churned her own butter, made her own buttermilk, etc. She had chickens, too, so there were always fresh eggs and a really fresh chicken for Sunday dinner.. I loved to hang out with her in the kitchen. The only bad thing about visiting my grandparents was that the no new-fangled stuff also applied to plumbing.

        • April 26, 2015 at 12:19 am #

          All I can say is Wow!

  3. April 24, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    Omigosh, those remind me of the first cookies I ever made when I was about 8 years old. They were called Aunt Jane’s Sugar Cookies and they made about 8 doz. It seemed like I was in that kitchen forever. LOL Do you know how many this recipe makes?

    • April 24, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

      Pat, the recipe didn’t say and I forgot to count how many, but I am guessing at least 6 dozen. My husband truly is the original cookie monster and I’m not sure how many he has eaten already!

  4. April 24, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    I did a search and came up with this one that is an Aunt Jane’s Sugar Cookie recipe. It could well have been the same as I don’t know whatever happened to it. It was a newspaper clipping as I recall.

    • April 24, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

      Thanks for the link, Pat. I love that this blog generated more recipes!

  5. April 2, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    I would love to have this cookbook Debbie, I have googled it but the exact info on the page you are showing doesn’t come up. Could you please give me the name of the book, hopefully I can find it!!

    • April 2, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

      Lisa, since this is an old church cookbook from 1949, I doubt you will even be able to find it. Church cookbooks especially back then, and especially from such a small town, had very limited printings. The photo of the book is actually the cover. Nothing fancy; it’s simply called Cook Book! If you find it somehow, please let me know. I would be shocked! My great-aunt had the book in her kitchen as long as I can remember, and it was printed before I was born.

  6. June 23, 2018 at 1:05 pm #

    Zion American is my childhood church and would love to find this cookbook. My mother had one, but sisters have idea where it was lost!! The sugar cookie recipe you shared is very similar to our family’s, which again is lost!!!

    • June 25, 2018 at 10:35 pm #

      Aaron, you lived in Wyoming, Iowa and your mother had this cookbook?! I am dumbfounded. It’s such a tiny town! What years did you live there? As far as the cookbook goes, I would give anything to have a copy again. Sadly, it was lost in a flood last year and remains one of my most devastating losses. If you have any idea how to find a copy, please let me know. I would love to hear from you and your thoughts of living in Wyoming. Some of my best childhood memories are of visiting my great-aunt in the summers. Thanks so much for writing.

  7. December 1, 2018 at 10:23 pm #

    This is similar to Mamaw cookies. I have 3-4 recipes all copied by her for these cookies… and each one is different. Any ideas ??

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